The Elderly Are Facing Financial Challenges

Financial difficulties are a reality for many older Americans. One article addressed some of the seniors’ biggest financial challenges and what they can do to fight back. What follows is a summary of the article.

Historically Low-Interest Rates

For almost a decade, the Federal Reserve has kept the federal funds rate at a record low. This might be good if you are refinancing debt, but it is disastrous for those who stay in fixed-income investments such as certificates of deposit, money market accounts, savings accounts, and bonds—all long-time favorites of seniors who are more risk-averse than other investors.

Low Trust in the Stock Market

The recession provided an opportunity for long-term investors to snap up stocks at attractive lower prices. But for many seniors, it was a reminder of the volatile nature of the stock market which is contrary to their more conservative investing approach. Many of them stayed in their low-yielding fixed-income investments and lost out on the subsequent gains of the rebounding market.

Fight back: Be willing to invest a portion of your investments in the stock market. It’s one of the few places you can invest your money that, over the long term, will outperform inflation. And with people living longer today, your savings will need to last longer than before.

Rising Health Care Costs

Medicare doesn’t cover all medical costs, and out-of-pocket expenses can be substantial. One survey found that 20% of seniors did not see their doctor because of the out-of-pocket costs. Also, the costs of drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices continue to rise.

Fight back: Use some of your savings, investment income, or work income to purchase supplemental health insurance that will help cover medical expenses not covered by Medicare.

Social Security Issues

According to the Social Security Administration, more than half of all couples rely on Social Security for at least 50% of their retirement income, and almost half of unmarried seniors rely on it for at least 90% of their retirement income. But the cash reserves that supply this income are in trouble and, unless Congress addresses the problem soon, they could run out by 2033.

Unfavorable Job Market

Going back to work is an option for many seniors who have little retirement income or rely heavily on Social Security income. Yet it takes older workers longer to find employment and they are often competing with younger workers who are willing to accept lower wages.

Fight back: Working longer at your current job may be a viable option. You may also be able to find paying work in a hobby or avocation. You may even be able to start a small business to supplement your income.

Debt…and Feeling Obligated to Help Adult Kids

Fully 45% of all homeowners over the age of 62 still have a mortgage payment. Many have credit card and other consumer debt. Of those age 60 and over, who are no longer working, 43% admitted to helping their adult children pay their bills. Many seniors have student loan debt for themselves, their children, and dependents going to college.

Fight back: Learn to say “no,” especially if your retirement funds are limited. This is your retirement, and your children and grandchildren need to respect that. If you are earning extra income, use some of it to pay off your debt.

Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your long-term care needs.

 

Baby Boomers Are Not Prepared For Retirement

Bankers Life Center for Secure Retirement commissioned The Blackstone Group, to perform a study of how prepared baby boomers really are for retirement, and the results are troubling. According to the survey above, the bleak financial reality of this demographic is that 79 percent of middle-income baby boomers have NO savings put aside to cover their retirement care. Couple this disaster savings scenario with the US government’s admission that for the first time since 1982 Social Security trust funds are being used to pay current benefits to recipients and Medicare’s reserves are being used to cover the costs of that program as well. It is the perfect storm of a looming retirement insolvency crisis.

Middle-income baby boomers for this study are defined as aged 53 to 72 with an annual income of $30,000 to $100,000 and less than one million dollars in investable assets. For those baby boomers in this demographic, a mere 4 percent of them have more than $100,000 saved for health care retirement planning, long-term care, and general retirement preparedness. While 65 percent of these survey respondents prefer to receive retirement care in their current homes only 55 percent of them expected to be able to do so, and there is a disconnect at what age these care services will be required. A full 45 percent thought that assisted living circumstances would be needed between the ages of 71 and 80 while 37 percent said it would be between the ages of 81 and 90. The problem with these hopes is the ever-increasing presence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia which can push retirees younger than ever into the need for assisted living and retirement care.

According to the survey, 40 percent of those surveyed consider retirement care planning to be a low priority or not one at all, 42 percent thought it to be a medium priority, and only 18 percent identified retirement care planning as a high or very high priority. Incredibly 56 percent expected that Medicare would pay for retirement care as needed, including long-term care needs which Medicare does not cover. The costs of long-term care policies are cited as the biggest reason for not making the prudent insurance purchase.

Dangerous misperceptions about how much retirement care costs and how to pay for it exist. It may seem incredible, but the truth is that baby boomers are better prepared to die than to live. Among middle-income baby boomers, 81 percent have formally made at least one preparation for when they pass away, usually in the form of a will or trust, while only 32 percent have a plan as to how they will receive retirement health care should it become necessary.

The message is unmistakable; middle-income baby boomers need to address their underfunded retirement plans pronto. There is overconfidence in this demographic that allows them to think they will be able to manage their and their spouse’s healthcare costs as they continue to age. The reality is that many of them are one bear stock market or health care crisis away from disaster. The federal government and its programs are just as unlikely to be able to stave off the financial crisis brought about by this willful ignorance of the costs of aging successfully.

If you are in these incomes and age brackets, it is time to take a realistic look at what you can do to better prepare yourself for the coming years ahead. Being financially unprepared to age brings stress and family discord at a time when you should be living your best life. Be proactive, contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your long-term care needs.

Are Millennials Onboard with Financial Planning?

Living through this economic volatility, not seen since the Great Depression, gave rise to the fiscally conservative millennial mindset. Millennials include fiscally conservative, savings oriented, and future planners seeking financial freedom as core attributes. A large part of millennials’ formative years was influenced by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis beginning in 2007, shortly followed by an international banking crisis, which led to what became known as the Great Recession. The millennial generation would have ranged from ages 11 – 26 years of age when this economic downturn began. The other socio-economic force that continues to shape the millennial fiscal mindset is the student loan crisis. Cbinsights.com finds 41 percent of millennials carry student loan debt for which there is no personal bankruptcy relief. This debt crisis places unique financial pressures on nearly half of a generation, and many are seeking new ways to manage their income, debt, and future savings.

This conservative mindset has underpinnings of investment optimism about achieving financial goals according to reporting by the Union Bank of Switzerland Investor Watch report (UBS), and millennial goals are different from generations before them. The definitions of what being successful include a focus on personal success rather than maxing out returns on investments. This personal success is a balance of financial, relationship, and experiential factors, prioritizing long-term financial considerations like retirement or caregiving aging parents. Millennials understand their number one goal is to attain financial freedom, with a conscience. The UBS report goes on to say that 78 percent of millennials are more likely than other generations to believe income is a critical success factor and feel that income should be about 220,000 dollars to be considered a success. Millennials are also more apt to think money can buy happiness because their pursuit of money is geared toward financial freedom rather than excessive accumulation.

UBS Investor Watch Report

According to Forbes, many mid-life millennials (late 20’s and 30’s) are changing the order of, or opting out of traditional family and financial milestones of their predecessor generations. Some will have children before marriage; others will resolve all debt (think student loans) before entering into homeownership, and most will invest with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of decision making. As the oldest millennials turn age 40 in 2020, many are conducting personal financial checkups, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, and insurance needs. Re-evaluation of and adjustments to financial plans help to ensure financial goals can be met.

Though most millennials do not yet have a professional financial advisor, ten self-directed steps can help to evaluate your current financial plans and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Specifically, relist your financial goals and work backward from them to see what financial processes you need to put in place to achieve those goals. Embrace learning and be patient as you track your spending, pay yourself first, and break long term goals into short achievable steps.
  • Think about life insurance. What will happen to your family or loved ones in the event your family has to survive without you and the income you provide? A death benefit will provide financial stability and help them to survive.
  • If you have not already done so, make a will and include medical directives, and consider a durable power of attorney should you become incapacitated.
  • Revisit the parameters of your current budget, and if you are willing, get outside professional input as most people’s expenses are higher than they think. There is a human tendency to overlook some existing expenditures and not be aggressive enough when it is time to make cuts in spending.
  • Assess and update your investment choices. Particularly pay attention to your 401(k) plan and other retirement savings vehicles like IRAs. Confirm they are aligned to your risk tolerance and perhaps reduce the number of high-risk equities into slower, high-dividend stocks. Look at the advantages of adding an annuity into your 401(k) plan and other changes that the SECURE Act of 2020 brings to retirement planning. Understand that the old model of 60 – 40 equities to bond ratio is no longer deemed advisable.
  • If you have excessive credit card debt, address it now. Pay down the highest interest balance(s) first if you are servicing debt as opposed to attacking a principal payment.
  • Do you have student loans? Again, pay down the highest-interest loans first by monthly auto-deducting it from your checking account. Explore the possibility of consolidating multiple student loans into one payment and negotiate a lower rate and longer time to pay lower monthly payments.
  • Weigh the costs of homeownership. Some millennials, particularly those without children, may prefer not to be anchored to home real estate, maintaining the flexibility of movement for job opportunities. Those who want a home must assess financial responsibilities beyond the costs of a mortgage and real estate tax, considering the workload and cost of home upkeep.
  • Review your health insurance, and be sure it is adequate to cover your family’s needs. Children especially are subject to many doctor visits and requirements for attending school with proper vaccinations. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, check that the deductible and co-insurance options make the most sense for your situation.
  • Finally, take a good look at your health situation. While this doesn’t sound related to finances in the long run, it is. Is your diet unhealthy, and are you overweight? These factors potentially set you up for the likelihood of diabetes two and future joint and mobility problems. Are your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in a healthy range? Do you need to reduce alcohol intake? Do you work out consistently in the three formats you need, which are weight training (strength building), aerobic exercise, and a stretching routine like yoga? Being as physically healthy as possible reduces overall health costs.

Millennials are at the cusp of their middle age planning stage of life and realizing that life’s priorities are a moving target.  While the above pertains to millennials, the importance of planning – both legal and financial – is critical at any age.

We help families of all ages plan for what is important to them, and to make sure their plans and wishes and properly documented. Contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Truth About Millennials and Financial Planning

Millennials include fiscally conservative, savings oriented, and future planners seeking financial freedom as core attributes. A large part of millennials’ formative years was influenced by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis beginning in 2007, shortly followed by an international banking crisis, which led to what became known as the Great Recession. The millennial generation would have ranged from ages 11 – 26 years of age when this economic downturn began. Living through this economic volatility, not seen since the Great Depression, gave rise to the fiscally conservative millennial mindset. The other socio-economic force that continues to shape the millennial fiscal mindset is the student loan crisis. Cbinsights.com finds 41 percent of millennials carry student loan debt for which there is no personal bankruptcy relief. This debt crisis places unique financial pressures on nearly half of a generation, and many are seeking new ways to manage their income, debt, and future savings.

This conservative mindset has underpinnings of investment optimism about achieving financial goals according to reporting by the Union Bank of Switzerland Investor Watch report (UBS), and millennial goals are different from generations before them. The definitions of what being successful include a focus on personal success rather than maxing out returns on investments. This personal success is a balance of financial, relationship, and experiential factors, prioritizing long-term financial considerations like retirement or caregiving aging parents. Millennials understand their number one goal is to attain financial freedom, with a conscience. The UBS report goes on to say that 78 percent of millennials are more likely than other generations to believe income is a critical success factor and feel that income should be about 220,000 dollars to be considered a success. Millennials are also more apt to think money can buy happiness because their pursuit of money is geared toward financial freedom rather than excessive accumulation.

UBS Investor Watch Report

According to Forbes, many mid-life millennials (late 20’s and 30’s) are changing the order of, or opting out of traditional family and financial milestones of their predecessor generations. Some will have children before marriage; others will resolve all debt (think student loans) before entering into homeownership, and most will invest with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of decision making. As the oldest millennials turn age 40 in 2020, many are conducting personal financial checkups, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, and insurance needs. Re-evaluation of and adjustments to financial plans help to ensure financial goals can be met.

Though most millennials do not yet have a professional financial advisor, ten self-directed steps can help to evaluate your current financial plans and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Specifically, relist your financial goals and work backward from them to see what financial processes you need to put in place to achieve those goals. Embrace learning and be patient as you track your spending, pay yourself first, and break long term goals into short achievable steps.
  • Think about life insurance. What will happen to your family or loved ones in the event your family has to survive without you and the income you provide? A death benefit will provide financial stability and help them to survive.
  • If you have not already done so, make a will and include medical directives, and consider a durable power of attorney should you become incapacitated.
  • Revisit the parameters of your current budget, and if you are willing, get outside professional input as most people’s expenses are higher than they think. There is a human tendency to overlook some existing expenditures and not be aggressive enough when it is time to make cuts in spending.
  • Assess and update your investment choices. Particularly pay attention to your 401(k) plan and other retirement savings vehicles like IRAs. Confirm they are aligned to your risk tolerance and perhaps reduce the number of high-risk equities into slower, high-dividend stocks. Look at the advantages of adding an annuity into your 401(k) plan and other changes that the SECURE Act of 2020 brings to retirement planning. Understand that the old model of 60 – 40 equities to bond ratio is no longer deemed advisable.
  • If you have excessive credit card debt, address it now. Pay down the highest interest balance(s) first if you are servicing debt as opposed to attacking a principal payment.
  • Do you have student loans? Again, pay down the highest-interest loans first by monthly auto-deducting it from your checking account. Explore the possibility of consolidating multiple student loans into one payment and negotiate a lower rate and longer time to pay lower monthly payments.
  • Weigh the costs of homeownership. Some millennials, particularly those without children, may prefer not to be anchored to home real estate, maintaining the flexibility of movement for job opportunities. Those who want a home must assess financial responsibilities beyond the costs of a mortgage and real estate tax, considering the workload and cost of home upkeep.
  • Review your health insurance, and be sure it is adequate to cover your family’s needs. Children especially are subject to many doctor visits and requirements for attending school with proper vaccinations. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, check that the deductible and co-insurance options make the most sense for your situation.
  • Finally, take a good look at your health situation. While this doesn’t sound related to finances in the long run, it is. Is your diet unhealthy, and are you overweight? These factors potentially set you up for the likelihood of diabetes two and future joint and mobility problems. Are your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in a healthy range? Do you need to reduce alcohol intake? Do you work out consistently in the three formats you need, which are weight training (strength building), aerobic exercise, and a stretching routine like yoga? Being as physically healthy as possible reduces overall health costs.

Millennials are at the cusp of their middle age planning stage of life and realizing that life’s priorities are a moving target.  While the above pertains to millennials, the importance of planning – both legal and financial – is critical at any age.

We help families of all ages plan for what is important to them, and to make sure their plans and wishes and properly documented. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Ruston, Louisiana office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

How the Windfall Elimination Provision Could Reduce Your Social Security Benefits

If you receive a pension from your employment that did not pay social security payroll taxes, your SSA benefit might be reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). How can you know if this is your situation? Your social security statement does not reflect any reduction in benefits because of the WEP. The SSA will wait until you file to collect benefits to tell you what your reduction is in the event you qualify for both social security and a non-covered pension. Without the ability to accurately calculate your social security benefits in advance, your retirement planning becomes challenging. However, you do not have to wait until you file for Social Security to understand if a reduction in benefits will apply to you.

So what are the mechanics of the WEP? The Social Security Amendments of 1983 created the WEP to prevent gaming the system by “double-dipping.” Double-dipping occurs when a retired worker receiving a pension from a job that did not pay social security payroll taxes additionally gets a social security benefits check. The WEP provision began reducing social security benefits for these workers who receive a pension from that job which did not pay into the system.

This reduction of benefits is most common among teachers and other public sector workers such as police and firefighters, state, county, and local employees, as well as non-profit organizations or if you were employed by another country. At the start, social security did not cover any public sector employees because states maintained pension funds. Over the years, however, many states dropped their pension funds and entered into the SSA coverage agreements, and the solvency of each state’s fund varies.

If public sector employment applies to your retirement, there is a rule that the maximum social security reduction can never be larger than one half of your pension. The impact of the WEP starts to diminish if you have more than 20 years of substantial covered earnings. The WEP does not apply to your benefits at all after 30 years of substantial covered earnings.

A person with a mixture of both private and public sector employment generally has a smaller percentage of their income applied to their average indexed monthly earnings. Many Americans are choosing to work past full retirement age, and if you have a mixture of public and private employment, search for a new job where you can work an additional ten or so years to offset the WEP reduction.

The SSA has not made understanding the calculation process simple. There is one set of rules that calculate your baseline retirement benefit payout, the second set of rules defining how that number will change depending on the age you choose to retire, and even more rules to cover special situations like the WEP. Factor in your state’s pension solvency situation (with the help of SSA coverage agreements), and you can see how retirement planning is becoming very complex. It is advisable to find a financial planner to sort out your pension and social security benefits position accurately.

Whether or not you find the Windfall Elimination Provision fair is usually based on how it affects your financial position. Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers are looking at ways to amend the WEP formula that “some feel unfairly penalizes many public employees,” says Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass). There are separate bills currently under review to address this problem of fairness. Some policymakers are advocating that all public sector workers pay into the social security payroll tax. While this would be a simple solution going forward, it does not address the concerns of public sector employees who are going to be WEP affected.

Fixing the issues that face social security benefits is complicated. Congress is currently looking at making changes to the Windfall Elimination Provision to address public sector worker and constituent concerns. The percentages of Americans employed by federal, state, or local government ranges from 10 to 25 percent depending on the state in which you live and that is not taking into account non-profit or foreign country employment. Because policymakers can change the social security benefits calculation formula, your retirement planning is a dynamic problem to solve. The WEP is a special situation rule calculation that can affect your social security benefit and is under scrutiny for potential revision. Know your employment history fully as it relates to social security rules before retiring.

If you are retired or thinking about retiring, now is the time to update your estate plan. It is important that your medical and financial needs are addressed in your plan, and that you name qualified people to help out if needed.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning or a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Ruston, Louisiana office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

 

What’s the Difference Between Estate Planning and Elder Law?

The short answer: Both share similar concerns. The longer answer? The differences make all the difference.

The Concerns are Similar

No matter what age we’re in, life can deliver some hard knocks. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We can get into accidents, especially when we’re young and under the impression that we’ll live forever. Whom would we like to be there for us if we can’t speak for ourselves? If we can’t pay the bills? Decide about our health care?

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you choose people you trust to stand in your shoes when you can’t speak for yourself.

As adults, we start families and assemble worldly goods. If we’re thinking realistically, we want to make sure our families are taken care of and who gets our property if the worst happens to us.

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you with those questions. Both kinds of attorneys also know how to protect your estate from tax burdens and to avoid the expense and delay of court proceedings.

The Differences Make All the Difference

Elder law expertise becomes crucial when we get older. We’re living longer, healthier lives – but nobody knows when we, or those whom we love, will get too sick to make decisions or to live independently.

It’s understandable, but not wise, to postpone thinking about these things. Delay or denial can mean that entire savings get wiped out paying for nursing homes. Misconceptions about government benefits can forfeit eligibility for them. If you want to retire from your own business, do you have a plan for a smooth and profitable transition? What quality of life can you protect? What housing arrangements can be made? What is the wisest allocation of financial resources to protect against as many foreseeable contingencies as possible?

This is where we elder law attorneys come into our own. We can help you face these difficult questions with your and your families’ best interests at heart. What we know can go far to spare you the distress and anxiety if you were caught unprepared. We know how Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security work. We can help you manage retirement income benefits. We can steer you to financial arrangements necessary if you or yours need long-term nursing care.

These are difficult, complicated questions that require particular knowledge to answer. We elder law attorneys have studied long and hard for that knowledge. We have learned how to help you plan to enjoy the life you have, plan for when life becomes harder with age, and have something left over for your legacy.

Estate planning is only the beginning.

At Goff & Goff Attorneys, we have extensive experience in dealing with both estate planning and elder law, along with their similarities and differences. If you or a loved one have any questions regarding your or their planning, please click here to send us a message, or give us a call at (381) 255-1760.

How to Age Well While Saving Money

Your senior years should not be plagued with money woes. The stress that money problems bring not only ruins your aging experience but can also be disastrous to your health. Rising health care costs and your increased need for health care can add up to big bills that can further tax your health. To age well, you must use sound financial judgment as well as make healthy choices for your body and mind. The goal is to remain as healthy as you can for as long as you can and have a healthy bank account to support those goals. Beyond the obvious, such as choosing the right insurance plan and saving money for retirement, there are other strategies you can implement to further a successful and happy retirement.

Chronic stress is known to worsen health problems and can also accelerate the aging process. Though everyone experiences and handles stress differently, it is important to identify the specific stresses in your life and hone in on its source to be able to address it adequately. Relationship stress, family stress, and work stress can be treated through meditation and gentle yoga. The more you practice, the more significant the mental and physical benefits you experience.

In the case of financial stress, meditation will not save you. You need a concrete plan to approach your problem. Develop a budget that will address which debts you need to pay off first and stick to the program. Learn to avoid excessive spending that puts you in a debt cycle. Once you are as debt-free as reasonably possible, learn ways to increase your savings.

An easy way to lower your expenditures and increase your savings is to view the world as your gym. Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week in your neighborhood is excellent for your body and your mind. Bring your cell phone, but only use it in the event of an emergency. Take in the outdoors around you and let your mind be free. You can be active doing leg extensions or squats in your own home. You can do several ballet plies while cooking a meal and toe raises while brushing your teeth. Before you get out of bed in the morning move your pillow out of the way and stretch out your spine; arms overhead and extending through your toes. The idea is to connect your daily routine activities to a specific exercise and do it every time you enter into that everyday behavior. If you have physical limitations, talk to your doctor before implementing at-home exercises or neighborhood walks.

Learn to limit the portions of food you eat. We are a nation of overeaters. In many countries around the world, it is unheard of to have a “to go” box from a lunch or dinner that is too big for consumption in one sitting. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend active men over 65 need 2,600 calories daily, while sedentary men require just 2,000; for women, it’s 2,000 if active, and 1,600 daily calories if sedentary. Pass on the heaping helping and pass on a second helping. By limiting the amount of food you eat, you can maintain a more healthy weight, which in turn can improve your health and longevity, as well as save money.

If you have room in your yard, start a vegetable garden, plant some fruit trees, and involve your friends to share in the workload and the resulting produce. If you don’t have a yard, join a community garden. Growing your food is an excellent way to increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat and has the added benefits of making you physically active and socially engaged. By making a garden a group effort, you can prevent isolation which for many older adults is a risk factor for everything from depression to hypertension. If you have problems kneeling or being down on the ground, try using raised garden beds or even try gutter gardening. Gutter gardens are a simple way to grow vegetables that have minimal roots in gutters that are affixed to an outside wall at a height that is comfortable for you. Gutter gardens also remove the problem of bugs in the soil. A fruit and vegetable garden will lower your grocery bill and shift your eating habits to a more healthful plant-based diet.  Learn how to can or freeze your produce if you have a short growing season where you live.

Make a small investment to solve a significant problem. A grab bar in the shower or lowering the height of your bed can help you prevent a range of serious injuries from a fall. Fractures and head traumas often result in a rapid health decline and even death. Improve your balance with gentle tai chi exercises. Be sure you have adequate lighting in your home. Fix uneven floorboards and get rid of throw rugs. By being mindful of how you move through your home you can avoid an unnecessary fall which will save you money by avoiding medical treatment and might even save your life.

Kick bad habits and start with smoking. Just because you have not already developed lung cancer after decades of smoking does not mean you won’t, nor will it help prevent other lung problems like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Replace a bad habit with a good one as proposed above. If you drink alcohol on a daily basis or sometimes to excess, consider cutting back or quitting altogether. Alcohol contributes to unsteadiness on your feet and can precipitate you to fall. Do not take more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications and never mix them with alcohol. It is easy to become addicted to these drugs as you age because often they are used in the treatment of chronic conditions. You can build a tolerance to them and need progressively stronger doses. Try to find alternative ways to address your pain or anxiety. Cut back on sugar and fatty foods.

If your day is not structured, create a schedule. Try to eat at regular times as well as have a predictable bedtime and wake up call. Your body will appreciate the regularity of life. Kicking bad habits to the curb can help you enjoy your retirement years with greater energy and health as well as save you a lot of money on bad habits that are expensive. Don’t tax your wallet and your well being.

There are many techniques for aging well and preserving your bank account. Some methods are simple while others require guidance by trusted counsel.

You can reduce the financial stresses of your retirement life by letting us create a thorough plan for your finances. Contact our office today by calling us at (318) 255-1760. You may also contact us through our website by simply by clicking here and filling out our contact form. 

Let’s schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Funding Uncertainty of Social Security

Social Security benefits, which are funded through 2 trusts, may not be available for much longer. The US Social Security Administrations funding trusts are known as the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. In their annual report to Congress, the Board of Trustees has published some startling details about projected insolvency for the Social Security Program. As reported, short term results indicate that beginning in 2020 and all subsequent years after; the program cost will exceed non-interest income. Because the OASI Trust has no authority to borrow money, asset spending will have to occur to cover the costs of social security benefits and deplete the reserves of both OASI and DI trusts. Considering each trust separately, the funds for the OASI Trust will be exhausted by the year 2034 and the DI Trust by 2052.

If you are 50 years of age or older and have worked, you have been participating in the funding of the Social Security Program for decades expecting protection against economic hardships that sometimes happen in retirement; protection promised to you by the federal government. The current actuarial status means that without significant changes to the OASI Trust, funding for your scheduled benefits is at risk of being reduced or possibly not there at all by 2034. It is a stunning admission by the Trustees of the unsustainability of a federally managed program handling your retirement money.

Many economists have likened social security to a Ponzi scheme, and now that the bulk of the population (baby boomers) are receiving benefits with fewer and fewer participants in younger generations paying into the system the entire program is in jeopardy. Increasing numbers of retirees, increasing longevity, and a shrinking workforce leaves the yearly intake of monies (receipts) and accrued interest less than the outlays to cover scheduled benefits. The law of large numbers works well until the pool of paying participants shrinks.

The current report suggests at the time of depletion of the combined trust reserves the Social Security Administration will be unable to pay scheduled benefits in full and on time in 2035. There is a suggestion in this report that it will suffice to pay between 77 to 80 percent of scheduled social security benefits. Legislative action is required to stop reserve depletion and preserve full payment of scheduled benefits to retiring and already retired Americans who have faithfully paid into the system. There is not a lot of time to get the fix in place because of the scale of the monies involved. Future beneficiaries may have a benefit reduction as a possible strategy to help shore up the program. Raising the rate of payroll taxes that both workers and employers have to pay is also a potential strategy. All of these proposed solutions are not likely to make voters happy since the essence of the fix is for the American taxpayer to receive less and pay more. Currently, the political gridlock in Congress does not give much hope that the social security benefit funding problem it will be quickly resolved.

In the event the OASI Trust becomes insolvent how will that affect your retirement plan? Very soon the federal government will have to take action and make significant changes so that Social Security Administration can continue benefit payments in full. Knowing that the government historically privatizes gains and socializes losses the brunt of the financial burden may well fall to individual Americans.

We help families prepare for retirement and the possibility of needing long term care. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office and schedule a consultation.

Trump Signs Law Encouraging Reporting of Financial Elder Abuse

Financial elder abuse is a growing problem in our country. Financial institutions are often the first to witness elderly clients making unusual transactions that may be linked to a scam. Accordingly, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act into law . That act contains a section  which is designed to encourage the reporting of elder (age 65 and older) financial abuse witnessed by financial institutions. Although the new law does not require that the institutions report financial abuse directed towards senior citizens, it does give them an incentive to do so. The new law provides immunity from lawsuits alleging elder financial abuse if the financial institution reports it to state or federal law enforcement agents. Law enforcement has an obligation to investigate once a claim is made. To qualify for immunity, a financial institution has to create and administer a training program for employees to teach the employees how to spot elder financial abuse. 

As good of an idea this is, it is by no means a novel concept.  The new law was inspired by Maine’s Senior$afe program. Senior$afe encourages state regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to work together on educating banking and credit union workers to spot and stop elder financial abuse. When elders have a trusted third party to talk to about their finances, they are less likely to fall victim to elder financial abuse, and this program has found success in reducing the amount of elders who fall victim to these scams.

Moreover, in 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a report stating how reporting elder financial abuse has already become a respected norm in hundreds of counties around the country. The report provides that these counties created voluntary community-based partnerships to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial abuse situations. These partnerships often include entities such as financial institutions, adult protective services, and law enforcement. The CFPB found that these partnerships can be incredibly effective in protecting their elderly citizens. What’s more, in states without elder financial abuse protection laws, these community efforts have created a sense of responsibility within these counties to protect their most vulnerable from financial scams, without reward or threat of prosecution against financial institutions. Following this report, the CFPB released a resource guide and best practices to help and encourage other counties across the US to adopt their own protection partnerships. Among other recommendations, the CFPB encourages communities to directly include law enforcement and financial institutions in these partnerships.  Also, the CFPB recommends that partnerships which serve diverse areas engage with groups that are already entrenched in the community, such as service groups or faith-based organizations.

Protecting our most vulnerable is important to providing a safe and prosperous society for all citizens. These community-based partnerships and the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act are both steps in the right direction towards protecting those who aren’t able to protect themselves. If you suspect financial elder abuse, first report it to law enforcement as soon as possible. If you suspect that someone is misusing a power of attorney to take advantage of a senior citizen, then please contact Add Goff, Elder Law Attorney.