Can Doctors Afford to Retire Early – TODAY?

By Staff Reporters

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You’ve got a sense of your ideal retirement age. And you’ve probably made certain plans based on that timeline. But what if you’re forced to retire sooner than you expect? Aging baby-boomers, corporate medicine, the medical practice great resignation and/or the pandemic, etc?

RESIGNATION: https://medicalexecutivepost.com/2021/12/12/healthcare-industry-hit-with-the-great-resignation-retirement/

Early retirement is nothing new, but it’s clear how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected an aging workforce. Whether due to downsizing, objections to vaccine mandates, concerns about exposure risks, other health issues, or the desire for more leisure time, the retired general population grew by 3.5 million over the past two years—compared to an annual average of 1 million between 2008 and 2019—according to the Pew Research Center.1 At the same time, a survey conducted by the National Institute on Retirement Security revealed that more than half of Americans are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their ability to achieve a secure retirement.2

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There’s no need to panic, but those numbers make one thing clear, says Rob Williams, managing director of financial planning, retirement income, and wealth management for the Schwab Center for Financial Research. Flexible and personalized financial planning that addresses how you’d cope if you had to retire early can help you make the best use of all your resources. 

So – Here are six steps to follow. We’ll use as an example a person who’s seeing if they could retire five years early, but the steps remain the same regardless of your individual time frame.

Step 1: Think strategically about pension and Social Security benefits

For most retirees, Social Security and (to a lesser degree) pensions are the two primary sources of regular income in retirement. You usually can collect these payments early—at age 62 for Social Security and sometimes as early as age 55 with a pension. However, taking benefits early will mean that you get smaller monthly benefits for the rest of your life. That can matter to your bottom line, even if you expect Social Security to be merely the icing on your retirement cake.

On the Social Security website, you can find a projection of what your benefits would be if you were pushed to claim them several years early. But if you’re part of a two-income couple, you may want to make an appointment at a Social Security office or with a financial professional to weigh the potential options.

For example, when you die, your spouse is eligible to receive your monthly benefit if it’s higher than his or her own. But if you claim your benefits early, thus receiving a reduced amount, you’re likewise limiting your spouse’s potential survivor benefit.

If you have a pension, your employer’s pension administrator can help estimate your monthly pension payments at various ages. Once you have these estimates, you’ll have a good idea of how much monthly income you can count on at any given point in time.

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Step 2: Pressure-test your 401(k)

In addition to weighing different strategies to maximize your Social Security and/or pension, evaluate how much income you could potentially derive from your personal retirement savings—and there’s a silver lining here if you’re forced to retire early. 

Rule of 55

Let’s say you leave your job at any time during or after the calendar year you turn 55 (or age 50 if you’re a public safety employee with a government defined-benefit plan). Under a little-known separation-of-service provision, often referred to as the “rule of 55,” you may be able take distributions (though some plans may allow only one lump-sum withdrawal) from your 401(k), 403(b), or other qualified retirement plan free of the usual 10% early-withdrawal penalties. However, be aware that you’ll still owe ordinary income taxes on the amount distributed. 

This exception applies only to the plan (including any consolidated accounts) that you were contributing to when you separated from service. It does not extend to IRAs. 

4% rule

There’s also a simple rule of thumb suggesting that if you spend 4% or less of your savings in your first year of retirement and then adjust for inflation each year following, your savings are likely to last for at least 30 years—given that you make no other changes to your withdrawals, such as a lump sum withdrawal for a one-time expense or a slight reduction in withdrawals during a down market. 

To see how much monthly income you could count on if you retired as expected in five years, multiply your current savings by 4% and divide by 12. For example, $1 million x .04 = $40,000. Divide that by 12 to get $3,333 per month in year one of retirement. (Again, you could increase that amount with inflation each year thereafter.) Then do the same calculation based on your current savings to see how much you’d have to live on if you retired today. Keep in mind that your money will have to last five years longer in this instance.

Knowing the monthly amount your current savings can generate will give you a clearer sense of whether you’ll have a shortfall—and how large or small it might be. Use our retirement savings calculator to test different saving amounts and time frames.

Step 3: Don’t forget about health insurance, doctor!

Nobody wants to spend down a big chunk of their retirement savings on unanticipated healthcare costs in the years between early retirement and Medicare eligibility at age 65. If you lose your employer-sponsored health insurance, you’ll want to find some coverage until you can apply for Medicare. 

Your options may include continuing employer-sponsored coverage through COBRA, insurance enrollment through the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, or joining your spouse’s health insurance plan. You may also find discounted coverage through organizations you belong to—for example, the AARP. 

Step 4: Create a post-retirement budget

To make sure your retirement savings will cover your expenses, add up the monthly income you could get from pensions, Social Security, and your savings. Then, compare the total to your anticipated monthly expenses (including income taxes) if you were to retire five years early and are eligible, and choose to file, for Social Security and pension benefits earlier. 

Take into account various life events and expenditures you may encounter. You may not pay off your mortgage by the date you’d planned. Your spouse might still be working (which can add income but also prolong certain expenses). Or your children might not be out of college yet. 

You’re probably fine if you anticipate that your monthly expenses will be lower than your income. But if you think your expenses would be higher than your early-retirement income, some suggest that you take one or more of these measures:

  • Retire later; practice longer.
  • Save more now to fill some of the potential gap.
  • Trim your budget so there’s less of a gap down the road.
  • Consider options for medical consulting or part-time work—and begin to explore some of those opportunities now.

To the last point, finding a physician job later in life can be challenging, but certain employment agencies specialize in this area. If you can find work you like that covers a portion of your expenses, you’ll have the option of delaying Social Security and your company pension to get higher payments later—and you can avoid dipping into your retirement savings prematurely. 

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Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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Step 5: Protect your portfolio

When you retire early, you have to walk a fine line with your portfolio’s asset allocation—investing aggressively enough that your money has the potential to grow over a long retirement, but also conservatively enough to minimize the chance of big losses, particularly at the outset.

“Risk management is especially important during the first few years of retirement or if you retire early,” Rob notes, because it can be difficult to bounce back from a loss when you’re drawing down income from your portfolio and reducing the overall number of shares you own.  

To strike a balance between growth and security, start by making sure you have enough money stashed in relatively liquid, relatively stable investments—such as money market accounts, CDs, or high-quality short-term bonds—to cover at least a year or two of living expenses. Divide the rest of your portfolio among stocks, bonds, and other fixed-income investments. And don’t hesitate to seek professional help to arrive at the right mix. 

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Many people are unaccustomed to thinking about their expenses because they simply spend what they make when working, Rob says. But one of the most valuable decisions you can make about your life in retirement is to reevaluate where your money is going now.

This serves two aims. First, it’s a reality check on the spending plan you’ve envisioned for retirement, which may be idealized (e.g., “I’ll do all the home maintenance and repairs!”). Second, it enables you to adjust your spending habits ahead of schedule—whichever schedule you end up following. This gives you more control and potentially more income. 

Step 6: Reevaluate your current spending

For example, if you’re not averse to downsizing, moving to a less expensive home could reduce your monthly mortgage, property tax, and insurance payments while freeing up equity that could also be invested to provide additional monthly income.

“When you are saving for retirement, time is on your side”. You lose that advantage when you’re forced to retire early, but having a backup plan that anticipates the possibility of an early retirement can make the unknowns you face a lot less daunting.

CITE: https://www.r2library.com/Resource/Title/082610254

References:

1Richard Fry, “Amid the Pandemic, A Rising Share Of Older U.S. Adults Are Now Retired”, Pew Research Center, 11/04/2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/11/04/amid-the-pandemic-a-rising-share-of-older-u-s-adults-are-now-retired/.

2Tyler Bond, Don Doonan and Kelly Kenneally, “Retirement Insecurity 2021: Americans’ Views of Retirement”, Nirsonline.Org, 02/2021, https://www.nirsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL-Retirement-Insecurity-2021-.pdf.

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A Social Security Taxation Synopsis

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By Vanguard Services

Infographic on Social Security Taxation

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social_security_infographic_112016

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Social Security Tax

Assessment:

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Macro-Economics and What the ‘Chained CPI’ Could Mean for Social Security?

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Definition of Chain-Weighted CPI

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

Dr David E Marcinko MBAAn alternative BLS measurement for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), removing the biases associated with new products, changes in quality and discounted prices.

The chain weighted CPI incorporates the average changes in the quantity of goods purchased, along with standard pricing effects. This allows the chain weighted CPI to reflect situations where customers shift the weight of their purchases from one area of spending to another.

Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chain-linked-cpi.asp#ixzz2FdiMs25f

information

Investopedia Example:

The chain weighted CPI incorporates changes in both the quantities and prices of products. For example, let’s examine clothing purchases between two years. Last year you bought a sweater for $40 and two t-shirts at $35 each. This year, two sweaters were purchased at $35 each and one t-shirt for $45.

Standard CPI calculations would produce an inflation level of 13.64% 

((1 x 35 + 2 x 45)/ (1 x 40 + 2 x 35)) =1.1364

The chain weighted approach estimates inflation to be 4.55%

((2 x 35 + 1 x 45)/ (1 x 40 + 2 x 35)) =1.0455.

Using the chain weighted approach reveals the impact of a customer purchasing more sweaters than t-shirts.

Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chain-linked-cpi.asp#ixzz2FdiceVyv

BLS Application

  • What is the C-CPI-U and when did the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) begin publishing it?

BLS began publishing the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers effective with the release of July 2002 CPI data. Designated the C-CPI-U, the index supplements the existing indexes already produced by the BLS: the CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

The C-CPI-U employs a formula that reflects the effect of substitution that consumers make across item categories in response to changes in relative prices.

Read more: C-CPI-U data can be found on the BLS web site at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?su

Substitution Bias

  • What is substitution and substitution bias? And does the C-CPI-U eliminate it?

Traditionally, the CPI was considered an upper bound on a cost-of-living index in that the CPI did not reflect the changes in consumption patterns that consumers make in response to changes in relative prices.

Since January 1999, a geometric mean formula has been used to calculate most basic indexes within the CPI; this formula allows for a modest amount of substitution within item categories as relative price changes.

The geometric mean formula, though, does not account for consumer substitution taking place between CPI item categories. For example, pork and beef are two separate CPI item categories. If the price of pork increases while the price of beef does not, consumers might shift away from pork to beef. The C-CPI-U is designed to account for this type of consumer substitution between CPI item categories. In this example, the C-CPI-U would rise, but not by as much as an index that was based on fixed purchase patterns.

With the geometric mean formula in place to account for consumer substitution within item categories, and the C-CPI-U designed to account for consumer substitution between item categories, any remaining substitution bias would be quite small.

Assessment 

Link: What ‘chained CPI’ could mean for Social Security

White Paper: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/super_paris.pdf

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What’s the Difference between a Millionaire and a Billionaire?

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Three Zeroes … and a Comma

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPNo, this isn’t a bad joke. It takes one thousand millions to make one billion. That’s a huge difference. And, how many doctors have arrived there?

A Political “Hot-Button”

Over the past couple of years, especially during the presidential election, one of the hot-button issues has been whether the wealthy are paying “their fair share” in taxes. A great deal of the media coverage and political rhetoric, from President Obama on down, has lumped “millionaires and billionaires” together.

That makes as much sense as putting a housecat and a tiger into the same cage and saying they’re just the same.

Who Wants to be a Billionaire?

The first issue to clarify is the definition of “millionaire” and “billionaire.” Is it someone with a net worth of $1 million or $1billion, or is it someone earning a million or a billion in a year?

According to wild.answers.com, only 80,000 Americans make $1 million or more a year. I couldn’t find a source listing how many people make over $1 billion a year, but I can guess. If you earned 6% on your investments, you would need a net worth of about $16 billion to provide an annual income of $1 billion. According to Forbes (March 2012), only 40 people in the entire world have a net worth of over $16 billion. Obviously, all those references we keep hearing to billionaires must refer to net worth, not income.

This is in line with the Merriam Webster dictionary, which defines millionaire (or billionaire) as “a person whose wealth is estimated at a million (or billion) or more.”

The Life-Style

What kind of lifestyle can you have with a net worth of a million as opposed to a billion dollars? Experts tell us the most reasonable sustainable withdrawal rate is 3%. That means your $1 million will provide $30,000 a year. Adding in Social Security of $18,000 a year means a millionaire can retire on an income of $48,000 a year. If you need assisted living, in-home care, or nursing home care in your later years, which at today’s rates cost a minimum of around $84,000 a year, you’ll be spending down your principal.

Three percent of $1 billion, on the other hand, will give you a retirement income of $30 million a year. At that rate, you could probably get by without bothering to file for Social Security.

MDs

Aiming High

Accumulating $1 million over a lifetime is certainly possible for middle-class earners who are willing to live on less than they make. If you started saving about $1,750 a month at age 25, you’d have your million by age 65. That’s about the same as a married couple each maximizing their 401(k) contributions.

To accumulate $1 billion by age 65, on the other hand, if you started at age 25 you’d need to save a mere $21 million a year.

Equating a millionaire with a billionaire is the same as equating the population of Rapid City, South Dakota (70,000) to the combined populations of California, Texas, and Virginia (70,000,000). There is simply no comparison.

Rich?

The point here is that in today’s world, a millionaire, especially one who is retired, isn’t “rich.” Accumulating a net worth of $1 million dollars by age 65 is a completely reasonable and achievable goal for anyone wanting a comfortable and secure retirement.

Assessment

Lumping “millionaires and billionaires” together might roll off the tongue with a rhythm that makes a nice sound bite. That doesn’t mean it makes sense. For anyone willing to do the math, the comparison is ludicrous. There’s a world of difference in earnings, wealth, and potential lifestyle in those extra three zeroes.

Conclusion

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A Social Security Owner’s Manual [Book Review]

A New Book by Jim Blankenship

By Staff Reporters

Who he is

Jim Blankenship is a Certified Financial Planner [CFP®], Enrolled Agent [EA] and the owner of Blankenship Financial Planning in Illinois.

Link: http://www.bfponline.com/

What he’s done

We’ve been following his blog Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row for some time now. We also have referred to his online publication The IRA Owner’s Manual from time to time, with questions about inherited IRAs, etc. Jim knows his stuff.

Our Omission

Now, we admit that we’ve not paid much attention to Social Security because we are all still far from being eligible for it, and at the ME-P, we assume it won’t be here for us.

The Book

Nevertheless, when Jim published a new book A Social Security Owner’s Manual, we took the opportunity to learn more about Social Security.

And, we think, so should all medical professionals and their financial advisors.

Assessment

Jim provides expert guidance for retirement, education funding, and income tax issues, too. In addition to this all this, you’ll find Jim’s writings all around the internet, as he is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, TheStreet.com, and FiGuide. Several other sites also republish his work.

Conclusion                

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How Lifetime Benefits and Contributions Point the Way Toward Reforming Our Senior Entitlement Programs

By Staff Reporters

From Expert Voices

By C. Eugene Steuerle PhD [Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair, The Urban Institute]
By Stephanie Rennane [University of Maryland]

For August 2011

Reforms to Medicare and Social Security will likely be debated over the next few months as the new “super committee” formed by the debt ceiling agreement works to develop its long-term deficit reduction plan.

The Essay

In this essay, Dr. Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane help to inform this debate by presenting findings from their newly updated analysis showing that seniors retiring today can expect to receive dramatically more in entitlement program benefits during retirement than they contributed to the programs while working.

For example, the average Medicare beneficiary can expect $3 in benefits for every $1 paid in payroll taxes.

Link: http://nihcm.org/images/stories/EV-Steuerle-Rennane-FINAL.pdf

Assessment

The authors posit that the magnitude of the resources involved when viewing these programs in tandem over a lifetime gives policymakers new impetus and flexibility to develop coordinated entitlement reforms that promote a coherent, equitable and sustainable support system for current and future generations of seniors.

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US Budget Deficits Require Both Spending Cuts and Tax Increases

The CRFB Speaks

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

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The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) has published a release on October 20 that discusses some of the options to tackle the federal deficit. According to a Bloomberg News poll, there are two major issues that are foremost in the minds of voters as they go to the polls on November 2nd. The first is jobs and the US economy. The second issue focuses on federal finances and the budget deficit.

CFRB Suggestions

The CFRB suggests that there are four potential options for reducing expenditures and one for increasing revenue.

1. Fraud, Waste and Abuse – A favorite comment of all political candidates is that he or she will reduce fraud, waste and abuse. While there may be some savings, this historically has been a fairly modest part of actual deficit reduction.

2. Strengthen Social Security – Congress will need to address methods for strengthening Social Security. The Social Security program used to run a substantial surplus each year. However, in 2010 the federal deficit will total approximately $40 billion. That is, the amounts received by Social Security will be $40 billion lower than the amounts distributed for benefits.

Social Security

By 2020, Social Security could be running a $100 billion deficit. Social Security Trustees have stated, “The projected trust fund shortfalls should be addressed in a timely way so that necessary changes can be phased in gradually and workers can be given time to plan for them.”

3. Healthcare – The Congressional Budget Office notes that the current healthcare programs could require nearly one-half of the federal budget by 2030 or 2040. Therefore, there will need to be further changes in healthcare in order to make the program fiscally sustainable.

4. Defense – Defense expenditures in 2010 were 4.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This amounted to $692 billion. Defense Secretary Gates has acknowledged that there may be opportunities to eliminate some weapons systems and reduce expenditures.

5. Increased Taxes – The CFRB release states, “It is very difficult to lay out a credible deficit plan that would not increase taxes. It is also very difficult to develop a comprehensive plan that would not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year.” The potential for increased taxes has focused on income taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes and a consumption tax such as a gas tax or a value added tax.

Assessment

The Fiscal Commission appointed by President Obama is expected to issue a report in December that discusses these issues.

Editor’s Note: Your editor and this organization take no position with respect to the many financial and tax options that are available to Congress. This information is offered as a public service to our readers.

Conclusion

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Should the Government Mandate 401(k) Annuities?

About the Guaranteed Retirement Accounts Proposal
By Robert Giese
bob.giese@chsfl.org

Recent hearings in the House and Senate have focused on the need for 401(k) and IRA accounts to provide better retirement income. Vice President Joe Biden referred to these discussions in the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He suggested creating “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts [GRAs].”

The guaranteed retirement accounts may replace conventional 401(k)s and could eventually provide annuity income to individuals.

Response to GAO Report

In response to a White House request, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report on April 28, 2010 that discussed some of these retirement issues. The GAO noted that a couple age 62 has at least a 47% probability that one of the two spouses will live to age 90. While life expectancy is in the mid-to-late 70s when one is born, the age at maturity increases as we grow older. Therefore, the average retirement age couple in America has a reasonable prospect that the survivor will live to be age 90.

GAO reports that Social Security is the primary support for lower income retired Americans. For the median retired person, Social Security is expected to provide approximately 47% of retirement income. The balance will come from savings or investments, a qualified plan such as a 401(k) or IRA and retirement earnings from employment.

Better than Conservative Investments?

The GAO report notes that an annuity may provide more income than a conservative investment, such as a bond or CD.

Assessment

Republican lawmakers this week wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and expressed concern about the guaranteed retirement accounts. They noted that a number of the witnesses before the various committees would “dismantle the present private-sector 401(k) system” and replace it with the GRA.
Their letter expressed concern and opposition to any effort to “nationalize” the 401(k) system. The Republican lawmakers continued by noting that over 90% of households have a favorable opinion of 401(k) or IRA accounts.

Conclusion

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Doctors – Are You Ready to Retire?

Moneywise?

By Somnath Basu; PhD, MBA

For those of us between the ages of 45 to 54, the thought of retirement should be popping up a few times these days. And, for doctors between ages 55 and 64, the thought may be taking on urgent tones. Many of us are reconciling to the idea that it may be a fact that we have to either postpone our retirements or live a much simpler life during retirement. Whatever the thoughts may be, what’s driving them is our preparedness to retire.

Preparedness Components

So, we will now examine what the component (dos and don’ts) may be for physicians, and others, to assess whether they are on the right path in their preparations to retire. It is somewhat easier if we consider the preparedness issues of the expectant retirees along the two age groups we tagged earlier. It is possible that we may find that the proper components of our retirement plans may already exist for us and we need to give them a good and disciplined effort to carry us through in the retirement years. It is also important to note, in this vein, that as a nation, our savings rate has gone from -0.6% in 2006 to about 5% today. While most of the increase in savings is the result of people building back an emergency nest egg, we can also take heart in the fact that the savings habit has not become obsolete or even rusty, and given the proper motivation (e.g. a sub-standard retired lifestyle), we can alter our destinies by riding on the same savings wave.

The Possibilities

Let us begin by describing the possibilities for the younger group (ages 45-54) doctors and employees pondering their retirement moves. There are two aspects of retirement that needs consideration. First is the contemplation of the needs associated with retirement lifestyles and the corresponding financial requirements required to sustain such lifestyles.

The second is to consider our current lifestyles, living standards (consumption), our income and savings and to assess whether we are set to achieve our retirement lifestyle targets. To understand the many possibilities, we will examine some typical scenarios using data from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI). Note that all calculations are only approximations for a typical individual.

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Example:

If you are about 50 years of age, have worked and saved for about 20 years [401(k), or 403(b)] or other pension plan) and earn about $100,000 a year, you should have about $200,000 in your retirement account today. Assuming that Social Security (if the organization remains viable and makes its required payouts), covers about 27% of your needed retirement expenses. You could expect a Social Security payment of about $30,000 per year at age 65. This would mean that in about 15 years, you would need to generate an additional $80,000 per year from your own savings. While you may think that you are not consuming $110,000 worth of lifestyle today, it is useful to note that this estimate is in future (and inflated) dollar terms.

This brings us back to the second question of how much you may be consuming today. If you are paying about 25% as taxes and saving another 5%, then you are currently spending about $70,000 today. At a 3% inflation rate, in 15 years this amounts to a spending of $110,000 on an income of approximately $160,000.

Thus, if your 403(b) balance does not change from now till retirement and you estimate to plan for a 25 year retirement phase, then your 403(b) account will be equivalent to about an additional $8,000 per year, which itself will grow every year minimally at the inflation rate.

If you assume the 403(b) plan will itself grow at about 7% a year over the next 40 years (from ages 50 to 90) then at retirement (age 65) you’ll have about $550,000 and be able to withdraw about $50,000 per year. This will leave you with a shortfall of $30,000 per year. To be able to afford retirement to its fullest, you’ll need to save an additional $15,000 per year for the next 15 years. Before you begin thinking that is a doable task and start assessing which parts of current lifestyle to pare, note that many of the assumptions above may not hold true.

Average Rates of Return

For example, earning a 7% average rate of return over 40 years is no simple task; Social Security may not be able to deliver on its promise. Physician income and job security is a political issue. Paring current lifestyle is a bigger issue. Healthcare and leisure types of costs during retirement may increase by more than 3%, even as you consume more of these retirement lifestyle services.

Therefore, you may want to continue enjoying your current medical practice lifestyle and consider worrying about retirement about 10 years (or more) later or you may take stock of your current situation. If your situation is worse than the average portrayed above, a big issue for you is to keep your physical and mental health well balanced and not depressed and medicated; plan to postpone retirement and practice or work longer, albeit in good health.

Assessment

If you are about 60 years of age, have worked for about 25-30 years, earn $100,00 per year and have about $350,000 in your retirement accounts, your problems are more exacerbated and your fears (of postponing retirement, paring current or future lifestyle or not being able to make up shortfalls) are much more real. The strategies remain the same from earlier in that you have to make some urgent and difficult decisions. These are decisions that cannot be postponed any longer.

Note: First released “All Things Financial Planning Blog” on December 18, 2009.

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Healthcare Reform and the US Constitution

Consider this Proposed 28th Amendment

Submitted by Cecelia T. Perez; RN

Author Unknown

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens have no idea that Congress members can retire with the same pay after only one term, that they didn’t pay into Social Security, and that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment); while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. 

The Healthcare Reform Exemption

The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform that is being considered … in all of its forms.  Somehow, that doesn’t seem logical.  We do not have an elite class that is above the law.  I truly don’t care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop. This is a good way to do that.  It is an idea whose time has come.

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies  to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”

Assessment

Each person contact a minimum of twenty people on their address list, in turn ask each of those to do  likewise. Then in three days, all people in The United States of America will have the Message. We ask you to pass this idea to your friends for their consideration.

Channel Surfing

Have you visited our other topic channels? Established to facilitate idea exchange and link our community together, the value of these topics is dependent upon your input. Please take a minute to visit. And, to prevent that annoying spam, we ask that you register. 

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Securitizing Social Security?

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Socialize Medicare, Too?

[By Staff Reporters]

Social security and Medicare are always topics of discussion by healthcare administrators, physicians, advisors and related financial executives.

Investing Off the Radar Screen

But, with stocks depressed, why has the idea vanished off the radar screen? If the idea is to buy low and sell high, why isn’t it now, in the middle of a bear market, an even better idea?

Buy Low

Financial writer Jim Jubak, who is not formally an economist or even involved in healthcare, brought this up in his web column recently. His specific question, sent in by a reader, was a good one: Why isn’t anyone talking about putting Social Security money into stocks now that they’re down 40% from their October 2007 highs?

Assessment

And, what about a portion of Medicare?

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