• Making & Keeping Financial New Year’s Resolutions

    What could you do (or do differently) in the months ahead?

     

    Provided by MidAmerica Financial Resources

      

    How will your money habits change in 2017? What decisions or behaviors might help your personal finances, your retirement prospects, or your net worth?

     

    Each year presents a “clean slate,” so as one year ebbs into another, it is natural to think about what you might do (or do differently) in the 12 months ahead.

     

    Financially speaking, what New Year’s resolutions might you want to make for 2017 – and what can you do to stick by such resolutions as 2017 unfolds?

       

    Strive to maximize your 2017 retirement plan contributions. Contribution limits are set at $18,000 for 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan; if you will be 50 or older in 2017, you can make an additional catch-up contribution of up to $6,000 to those accounts. The 2017 limit on IRA contributions is $5,500, and $6,500 if you will be 50 or older at some point in the year. (If your household income is in the six-figure range, you may not be able to make a full 2017 contribution to a Roth IRA.)1

     

    Under 40? Set up automatic contributions to retirement & investment accounts. There are two excellent reasons for doing this.

     

    One, time is on your side – in fact, time may be the greatest ally you have when it comes to succeeding as a retirement saver and an investor. An early start means more years of compounding for your invested assets. It also gives you more time to recover from a market downturn – a 60-year-old may not have such a luxury, but a 35-year-old certainly does.

     

    Two, scheduling regular account contributions makes saving for retirement a given in your life – month after month, year after year. You can contribute without having to think about it, and without having to wait months or years to amass a lump sum. Those two factors can become barriers for people who fail to automate their retirement saving and investing.

     

    Can you review & reduce your debt? Look at your debts, one by one. You may be able to renegotiate the terms of loans and interest rates with lenders and credit card firms. See if you can cut down the number of debts you have – either attack the one with the highest interest rate first or the smallest balance first, then repeat with the remaining debts.

     

    Rebalance your portfolio. If you have rebalanced recently, great. Many investors go years without rebalancing, which can be problematic if you own too much in a declining sector.

     

    See if you can solidify some retirement variables. Accumulating assets for retirement is great; doing so with a planned retirement age and an estimated retirement budget is even better. The older you get, the less hazy those variables start to become. See if you can define the “when” of retirement this year – that may make the “how” and “how much” clearer as well.

     

    The same applies to college planning. If your child has now reached his or her teens, see if you can get a ballpark figure on the cost of attending local and out-of-state colleges. Even better, inquire about their financial aid packages and any relevant scholarships and grants. If you have college savings built up, you can work with those numbers and determine how those savings need to grow in the next few years.

     

    How do you keep New Year’s resolutions from faltering? Often, New Year’s resolutions fail because there is only an end in mind – a clear goal, but no concrete steps toward realizing it.

     

    Mapping out the incremental steps can make the goal seem more achievable. So, can visualizing the goal – something as simple as a written or calendared daily or weekly reminder may reinforce your commitment to it. Two New York University psychology professors, Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer, have developed what they call the “WOOP” strategy for achievement. Its four steps: pinpoint a challenging objective that can be met; think about the best result that could come from trying to reach the goal; identify any obstacles in your way; and distinguish the “if-then” positive steps you could take that would help you realize it.2

        

    Financial new year’s resolutions tend to boil down to a common goal – the goal of paying yourself first. That means saving and investing money for your future rather than paying your creditors or buying expensive consumer items bound to depreciate. Think ahead – five, ten, or even twenty or thirty years ahead – and make this the year to plan to accomplish money goals, both big and small.

          

    MidAmerica Financial Resources may be reached at 618.548.4777 or greg.malan@natplan.com. www.mid-america.us

     

    This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

     

    Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.
    MidAmerica Financial Resources and Malan Financial Group are separate and unrelated companies to NPC.

     

       

    Citations.

    1 - kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C001-S003-making-ira-and-401-k-contributions-in-2017.html [11/7/16]

    2 - usatoday.com/story/money/2016/12/20/five-doable-strategies-financial-success-2017/95521556/ [12/20/16]

     

  • Could Education Debt Shrink Your Social Security Income?

     

    $1.1 billion has been garnished from retirement benefits to pay back old student loans.

     

    Provided by MidAmerica Financial Resources

     

    Do you have a federal student loan that needs to be repaid? You may be surprised at what the government might do to collect that money someday, if it is not paid back soon enough.

      

    If that debt lingers too long, you may find your Social Security income reduced. So far, the Department of the Treasury has carved $1.1 billion out of Social Security benefits to try and reduce outstanding student loan debt. It has a long way to go: of that $1.1 billion collected, more than 70% has simply been applied to fees and interest rather than principal.1,2

     

    How many baby boomers & elders are being affected by these garnishments? Roughly 114,000 Social Security recipients older than 50. In the big picture, that number may seem insignificant. After all, 22 million Americans have outstanding federal student loans.1,2,3

      

    What is not insignificant is how quickly the ranks of these seniors have increased. According to the Government Accountability Office, the number of Americans older than 65 who have been hit with these income cuts has risen 540% since 2006.2

     

    A college education is no longer an experience reserved for the young. As older adults have retrained themselves for new careers or sought advanced degrees, they have assumed more education debt.

     

    The financial strain of this mid-life college debt is showing. Since 2005, the population of Americans aged 65 or older with outstanding education loans has grown 385%. The GAO says roughly three-quarters of those loans have been arranged for the borrower’s own higher education.2

     

    Separately, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that student loan balances held by Americans older than 60 grew from $6 billion in 2004 to $58 billion in 2014. No other age group saw education debt accumulate so dramatically in that time.1

     

    In 2015, the GAO found that a majority of federally backed student loans held by borrowers older than 75 were in default – that is, a year or more had transpired without a payment. Overall, just one in six federal student loans are in default.1,3

     

    Paying off a student loan in retirement is a real challenge. Household cash flow may not readily allow it, and the debt may not be top of mind. Even declaring bankruptcy may not relieve you of the obligation. The Treasury has the authority to garnish as much as 15% of your Social Security income to attack the debt, and it can claim federal tax refunds and wages as well.1

     

    Is this the right way to solve this problem? It seems like cruel and unusual financial punishment to some. Taking a 5%, 10%, or 15% bite of a retiree’s monthly Social Security benefit is harsh – possibly harsh enough to induce poverty.

     

    In 2015, more than 67,000 people age 50 and older carrying unsettled federal student loans had their Social Security benefits taken below the poverty level because of these income reductions. A Social Security recipient is allowed to retain at least $750 of a garnished monthly benefit – but that $750 minimum has never been adjusted for inflation since that rule was established in 1996. Last year, the federal government defined the poverty level at monthly income of $990 for an individual.2

     

    Some people file for Social Security without knowing that they have unpaid student loans. As the GAO notes, 43% of the borrowers that had their Social Security incomes docked because of this issue had loans originated at least 20 years earlier.2

      

    Is some forgiveness in order? That can be debated. A student loan is not a gift, and a student borrower is tasked to understand its terms. On the other hand, it is a pity to see people go back to school or train themselves for new careers at 40 or 50 only to carry student debt past their peak income years into retirement. 

        

    MidAmerica Financial Resources may be reached at 618.548.4777 or greg.malan@natplan.com. www.mid-america.us

     

    This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

     

    Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.
    MidAmerica Financial Resources and Malan Financial Group are separate and unrelated companies to NPC.

     

         

    Citations.

    1 - time.com/money/3913676/student-debt-into-retirement/ [6/30/15]

    2 - marketwatch.com/story/more-borrowers-are-losing-social-security-benefits-over-old-student-loans-2016-12-20 [12/20/16]

    3 - time.com/money/4284940/student-loan-payments-debt-college/ [4/7/16]