January 21, 2014
HHS Website Decodes Long-Term Care
Every day, some 10,000 Americans are turning 65, and every day, more of them start thinking about their long-term care.
For help, try the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recently redesigned website, Longtermcare.gov. It’s very easy to navigate and is packed with reliable information to help visitors:
- Search for specific types of services in your area, by zip code.
- Learn whether your home and location are compatible with aging in place.
- Analyze long-term care costs, by type of service and state.
December 3, 2013
Estate Planning 101: Who Knew?
Boston trust attorney Michael Puzo has seen it time and again: people procrastinate about writing a will or putting their estate in order.
“It forces them to face their mortality, and they don’t want to,” he said.
Even those with modest assets – a house, a 401k, and maybe a life insurance policy – should carefully make an estate plan. But are the nuts and bolts of wills and estate planning widely understood?
This question loomed as Puzo translated these legal complexities in a way anyone could grasp during his presentation to employees of Boston College, where Squared Away is based. For readers who may not know where to start, here are 10 fundamentals gleaned from his talk:
A good estate plan achieves four goals:
- Distributes one’s assets to the desired person or people.
- Ensures beneficiaries receive the money when you want them to.
- Makes appropriate bequests either directly or indirectly through a trust, rather than a will.
- Minimizes taxes.
When thinking about a will, get out a blank sheet of paper and write down everything of value that you own, whether it’s a checking account, the house, a wedding ring, or life insurance policy – and who you want to receive each of them.
Many people may be surprised to learn they “have more money than they think they have,” Puzo said.
The difference between probate and non-probate property is critical: …Learn More
November 7, 2013
Healthcare Credits Reach Middle Class
Individuals earning nearly $46,000 a year and families of four earning $94,000 may be eligible for federal tax credits under the new health care law.
Tax credits are the mechanism by which the federal government caps how much people pay for health insurance premiums, which are set by the private market. The premium caps are based on how much someone earns, relative to the federal government’s definition of poverty.
Here’s an example of how premiums are calculated for, say, young, single workers who earn between $17,236 and $22,980 per year, which is between one-and-one-half and two times the poverty level. The premiums, which range from 4 percent to 6.3 percent of their income, start at about $57 a month for those at the low end of this income range and up to $121 at the high end.
In the following charts, Squared Away converted into dollars the income and premiums that the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, in its brief on the healthcare law, has expressed as percentages of the U.S. poverty thresholds: …Learn More
November 4, 2013
Affordable Care Act: Who Gets What
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation just released an excellent interactive slide show explaining how the Affordable Care Act addresses the various health insurance and financial challenges facing 47 million uninsured Americans.
Kaiser divided the uninsured into 10 groups – 28 million part-time workers, 8 million adults in their early 20s, and 3.5 million self-employed people, among others – with details about the specific provisions pertaining to each.
There’s a lot of detail here, so focus on the profiles that interest you most. Advance through the slides by clicking the arrow at the bottom of the screen. To return to the home page, click the “house.” …Learn More
October 1, 2013
There are now two reasons to postpone retirement.
The financial reason has been covered repeatedly in this blog: working longer increases a retiree’s savings and monthly Social Security income, while shortening the number of retirement years that their savings will have to fund.
If that doesn’t convince you, here’s the other reason: working longer may prevent dementia.
That’s the conclusion of a study on nearly 430,000 French retirees. After analyzing their health and insurance records, the researcher determined that each additional year an older worker remained in the labor forced further reduced the risk of being diagnosed with various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. …Learn More
September 26, 2013
Social Security Claiming and Psychology
It’s common for people to begin collecting their Social Security benefits soon after they turn 62, ignoring the financial planners and retirement experts urging them to postpone and increase the size of their monthly checks.
A new study has uncovered four powerful psychological traits that influence this decision: the individual’s expected longevity, his fear of loss, whether he perceives the Social Security system as fair, and patience.
The study surveyed some 3,000 people, primarily in their 40s and 50s. This is a good age to ask about Social Security, because claiming the benefit is a few years away, “but they’re thinking more about it,” researcher Suzanne Shu said when presenting the findings at an August meeting of the Retirement Research Consortium in Washington.
In an online survey, Shu, who is from the University California at Los Angeles, and John Payne, from Duke University, posed a series of questions designed to understand the psychology of the individuals they were studying. They also asked when they planned to claim their Social Security and then determined which psychological traits were linked to those who said they planned to file early.
Four influences on claiming came out of their preliminary findings:
Fear of loss. People who have a stronger aversion to financial loss also tended to say they would claim earlier. To them, the researchers said, a delay in receiving their benefit checks “looks like a potential loss.” …Learn More
September 17, 2013
Workers Struggle Day to Day
There’s a growing concern that working people aren’t saving for the future, but the reality is that many of them can barely get by in the here and now.
A sizable minority of Americans say they are spending more than they earn, have overdue medical bills, or pay only the minimum on their credit cards. These were among the findings in the 2012 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) conducted by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, its second survey to illuminate the day-to-day financial issues facing average working people.
Pulling together $2,000 may seem like only a modest challenge for someone with good pay and benefits. But 40 percent of the people surveyed also indicated they would be hard-pressed to find that much money if they needed it, according to a September report on the NFCS survey.
FINRA identified indicators of what it called the “financial fragility” of the average American:
• More than half of those surveyed were in a poor position to save: 19 percent spend more than they earn, and 36 percent just break even.
• More than half have no rainy day fund and live paycheck-to-paycheck. …Learn More