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Posted on Wednesday, 21st April 2021 by

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We can expect a higher COLA increase for 2022. According to Kiplinger’s Magazine the 2022 COLA will Likely increase to 3%, the largest increase since 2012. The final number will be released this October.  There are many variables in the annual COLA calculation and these can change dramatically before the final numbers are tabulated.

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For Federal Employees under the FERS system, if the increase in the CPI is 2 percent or less, the Cost-of-Living Adjustment is equal to the CPI increase. If the CPI increase is more than 2 percent but no more than 3 percent, the Cost-of-Living Adjustment is 2 percent. If the CPI increase is more than 3 percent, the adjustment is 1 percent less than the CPI increase. The new amount is rounded down to the next whole dollar.

Bill, one of our newsletter subscribers, performs quarterly updates on the CPI and COLA calculations. He suggests that if inflation remains constant at 2.6% until 30 September 2021, the Social Security and FERS COLA based on the CPI/W will be 2.2% and the FERS DIET COLA will be 2.0% according to his detailed analysis.

Personally, I believe inflation will far exceed our expectations this year. Prices are increasing across the board from groceries, lumber and steel, to gas at the pumps and everything in between.  Companies large and small aren’t able to staff their operations due to severe labor shortages. Many are making more on enhanced unemployment benefits than they would if they returned to their old jobs; who could blame them for staying at home. Businesses, out of necessity, must offer higher wages to stay in business. These increased operating costs are passed on to clients and customers alike. Unfortunately, a large number of small establishments won’t survive.

That being said, these are uncertain times and we don’t know what lies around the corner. Many things can change these projections in either direction. Hold on for quite a ride this year. I’m hoping for the best.

Prescription Tip

I went through our medicine cabinet and pantry to organize our medications and weed out old and outdated ones. I collected at least 50 medications and prescriptions, some dating back to the late 1990s!  These included over the counter and prescribed drugs.

The first place I called was my local CVS pharmacy and they provide a secure drop box at our location where I was able to dispose of my horde. Before disposing of prescription medicines, be sure to remove all personal information on pill bottle labels and medicine packaging.  All of your medicines dropped off at the take back locations will be destroyed.

According to the FDA the best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicines (both prescription and over the counter) is to drop off the medicine at a drug take back site. You can use the FDA’s drug collection site list to find disposal locations in your area.

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Friday, 2nd April 2021 by

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I’ve been writing my retirement planning column for close to two decades and during this time received numerous candid queries from friends and subscribers concerning their retirement fears. These concerns often cause federal employees to delay their departure until they resolve the conflict or simply throw the dice and leave.

Togetherness

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The concerns range from financial, are they able to live comfortably once retired, to can I live with my spouse or partner 24/7 without going crazy. I’ve addressed the financial aspect of this dilemma many times in articles including, Looking at the Numbers – The Second Time Around and Retirement Essentials – Do You Have What it Takes!

It’s the latter of the two that I’ve not touched much on for all these years. Can you and your spouse/partner survive being joined at the hip during your retirement years?

Retirement doesn’t negate the fact that each of you still will have individual interests, friends, and other outlets.

Several of my newsletter subscribers relayed their sentiment on this subject recently. One commenting that having their spouse around 24/7 in retirement would be a big change. Another quipped, “I’m not sure what my wife has instore for me when I retire! I may have to get a part time job to remain sane.”

I can relate my firsthand experience with this conundrum. I believe my wife Mary and I were well suited for this transition since we’ve been together for 55 years, 37 years when I retired in 2004. I retired with 36 years of federal service, including military time, at age 55. That was almost 17 years ago.

My wife understood that I had a business to run when I left the FAA and would be working from home. My wife was als0 the office manager for the company; we worked together in the business at the time. It was still a significant change and it took a year or more to adjust to staying at home most days. My business’ warehouse allowed me to get out and about along with visits to other local business affiliated establishments.

Even though my wife knew that I would still be working, Mary frequently lamented, “I thought you were retired now!” I went from working 40 hours a week with the FAA plus 30 to 40 hours weekly in my business to just 40 hours a week after retiring. It felt like I was on vacation most days; being able to do what I and my wife desired with few distractions. I could delay projects, reschedule things, and catch up in the evenings or on weekends.

A successful retirement requires compromise and consideration. Divergent interests can create conflicts that must be resolved long before retiring. The report that I published titled “How to be Physically and Emotionally Prepared When You Retirementions that it’s important to discuss what each partner’s retirement expectations are before leaving. If one partner wants to sell the family home and travel the world while the other is a homebody, retirement could become a nightmare for both.

One of the compromises I made was a conscious effort to learn how to cook. Mary was the family’s primary cook, a task she disliked after many years in the kitchen. We now share that chore. Actually, we cook together, I often do the main dish and Mary does the side dishes and salad when I cook. When Mary cooks, I help where needed and do the dishes and vise versa.

Mary and I have set routines, she keeps active and walks 10,000 plus steps per day, enjoys taking care of our homes, uses her iPad to stay informed and connected, follows the children and family on Facebook, and loves to shop for the grandchildren. We both enjoy traveling and visit our children and grandchildren weekly or they stop over. I work in the office on a reduced schedule these days, recently completing my 28th book, a memoir of my early years, manage investments, pay bills, and enjoy several hobbies. After dinner we either read, watch the news or stream a Netflix or HBO Max TV series. During the week we often go shopping or just spend some time out and about. More so before the pandemic hit.

Do we occasionally get on each other’s nerves? Yes, a natural aside to life in general. Yet, these natural occurrences are few and far between these days.

The key to a successful retirement with your spouse or partner is to discuss what each other’s expectations are long before you turn in your retirement paperwork. Resolve any major disconnects and misconceptions in advance if possible.  Here are several good articles that you may find informative on this subject:

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION, Travel, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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Posted on Thursday, 18th March 2021 by

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This tune keeps playing in my head after listening to XM radio’s sixties on six yesterday. A Sonny and Cher hit that topped the charts in 1967! After 54 years the words are still relevant, especially the last stanza.

Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce
Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss
The cars keep a going faster all the time
Bums still cries, “Hey buddy, have you got a dime?”

My First Full Time Job – 1968

Life was simpler back then. I and many my age recall casually conversing with classmates during lunch, sitting on the front stoop in the evening with friends just passing time with casual conversation, listening to vinyl records at our friend’s house, and the slower pace of just about everything in our lives at the time. When you left the house, you went about whatever business you set out to do without interruption. No computers, cell phones, instant messaging, and social media to detract you from your plans. We had six channels to choose from on our black and white TVs; no remotes to channel surf and yet we all survived and many flourished considering the austere times we lived in.

Cars of the day had character and when a Cadillac, GTO, the early Mustangs or any of the classics passed by, you instantly knew the make, and often times the model. Many of the 50s and 60s cars were two tone, something you rarely see these days, Buicks had distinctive side ports, Cadillacs were true touring cars, the Corvair Spyder for the younger folks, classics all.  My first car, a 1957 Buick special was copper and cream with a straight six that still had some get up and go when I bought it for $100 in 1967!

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We recycled much of what we consumed, TVs, appliances, watches, vacuum cleaners, and just about everything else was repaired; not discarded in a local garbage dump, plastic wasn’t polluting the oceans, landfills, and everything in between. We returned pop and milk bottles to the local grocery store for cash: 2 cents for a 12-ounce pop bottle and 5 cents for a quart bottle. Paper was king, and even though I do recall littering, at least the paper was recyclable, and we used nothing but paper bags for groceries and our lunches.

Times have changed, often for the better, yet I do believe as a society those times and circumstances fostered character and motivated generations to exceed beyond their expectations. The civil rights movement rose up and enlightened America, we conquered space, and landed on the moon. America was and still is the beacon of freedom for the world. Yet, I’m not sure just how long this will hold true considering our current state of affairs.

The flip side is also revealing. We were embroiled in the Vietnam War that spurred antiwar protests and rioting. The draft was taking our youth in record numbers to the front lines in Vietnam; we watched the war up front and personal on TV each evening. Seems like never ending wars are the norm no matter what time period we live in. A sad but true state of our affairs.

We may reminisce about the old days, as our parents did, and their parents before them. The truth of the matter is left to individual interpretation; what was a good time for some was a nightmare for another. The automation and artificial intelligence of today would seem like fantasies to our ancestors that labored at the simplest of tasks to get through a day. I recall my mother in the 1950s washing clothes in a galvanized tub; scrubbing them on a corrugated wash board, and hanging the cloths out to dry summer and winter. She and my older sisters pulled a large galvanized tub into the kitchen every Saturday afternoon. They would heat water for our bath in large pots on the stove. The four children and Mother shared a small rundown two bedroom home in the country. I know for a fact my grandparents had it far worse; Mother appreciated having what little she had even back then.

Even though I look back with fondness on my formative years and do relish a less hectic pace, I can’t imagine living without the advancements made these past 70 years. The improvements in healthcare, automation, living standards, automobile reliability, the improved environment, less poverty, more support for those in need, and opportunities for all who choose to work hard and make the sacrifices that go along with that decision.

Correction (Last Article)

Last week’s article, “Blindsided – Don’t be Caught Off Guard,” discussed two bills before congress that require clarification. This article is updated on our blog. I used the first release of the Voting Rights Bill (HR-1) along with pending amendments and wrote this article before the age 16 voting amendment was rejected. The amendment for 16-year-olds lost 125-302 in the House. However, per Part 10 (Voter Registration of Minors) section 1094 of HR-1 states, “A State may not refuse to accept or process an individual’s application to register to vote in elections for Federal office on the grounds that the individual is under 18 years of age at the time the individual submits the application, so long as the individual is at least 16 years of age at such time.” They are allowing 16-year-olds to register to vote, a state’s age limit still applies for voting.

There is a contradiction with this passage and this extends to illegal alien voting. Per Section 1015 page 63 of the act, (Voter Protection & Security in Automatic Registration) “anyone who is preregistered under the automatic registration of any individual or the fact that an individual declined the opportunity to register to vote or did not make an affirmation of citizenship (including through automatic registration) under this part may not be used as evidence against that individual in any State or Federal law enforcement proceeding, and an individual’s lack of knowledge or willfulness of such registration may be demonstrated by the individual’s testimony.”

The Act states numerous times that voter registration is governed by the requirements of section 7(a)(6) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (52 24 U.S.C. 20506(a)(6). However, if individuals are automatically registered, and most will be if the law passes, aren’t required to provide proof of citizenship, they could be on the voting rolls and vote without penalty per this clause. This leaves the door wide open for abuse, per the paragraph above, “an individual’s lack of knowledge or willfulness of such registration may be demonstrated by the individual’s testimony.” All anyone has to do is claim they didn’t know they shouldn’t vote, and state, “you registered me to vote!”

I received a number of messages from subscribers that suggested I was incorrect in several of my assumptions. If you perform a fact check online you will find many indicate illegal immigrants can’t vote under this bill. However, if you read the bill and per the above paragraphs, you will see where they can if automatically registered and that was my intention in the previous article. Automatic registration, without affirmation of citizenship, provides an out for anyone automatically registered. I revised the article on the blog and added specific reference paragraphs from the actual law that you can personally review.

As this bill works through the Senate hopefully reason will prevail. However, I’m not optimistic at this point. This bill does include desirable improvements: all voting machines must be manufactured in America and increased access for voters with disabilities.

The common-sense approach to voting reform is to require IDs and signature verification when voting, and proof of citizenship when registering to vote. We already have the national REAL ID program that could easily satisfy these requirements. This reminds me of a Beatles song, “Come Together,” the lead track on their Abby Roads album: “He say I know you; you know me – One thing I can tell you is you got to be free – Come together, right now, over me.” Maybe our representatives should play this during negotiations, let down their defenses, and compromise.  I doubt this will happen. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

 

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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Posted on Saturday, 13th March 2021 by

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Major laws are often passed without our representatives actually knowing what’s in them. Recall, the speaker of the house’s comment when Obama Care Passed. She stated, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”  This isn’t a one-sided issue, both parties suffer from this irrational behavior. Most major bills like the massive H.R. 1 “For the People Act of 2021” aren’t written by house members, they are compiled by think tanks and lobbyists on both sites, liberal and conservative.  These lobbyists wine and dine our representatives; persuade them to wholeheartedly accept their proposals without reservations, then withhold their donations until they get what they want.


What’s Next!

Facts are facts, laws are laws, and never the twain shall meet. Bills have pleasant sounding names that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. The, “For the Peoples Act,” and the recently passed COVID -19 relief bill titled, “The American Rescue Act.”

These titles are designed to sell the public, not on the substance of the bills, but on a desirable aspect that none can refuse. The American Rescue Plan is sending out checks to millions, helping those who most suffered during the pandemic, certainly the right thing to do. Most of the mainstream media hypes and pushes this limited misleading narrative; ignoring the fact that less than half of the 1.9 Trillion dollars of The American Rescue Act actually provides Covid relief, the remaining money is targeted to fund the party in power’s hidden agenda.

In the case of “H.R. 1391, The American Rescue act,” Forbes Magazine’s article titled, Is There Wasteful Spending In The New $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Bill?, spells out just where most of this money is actually going. “The Wall Street Journal editorial board estimated that only $825 billion was directly related to Covid-19 relief and $1 trillion was expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes.” Others state that only 9% or 171 billion will be spent on immediate relief efforts. No republican voted for the bill.

Many will be surprised at what the “H.R. 1 For the People Act of 2021” voter rights legislation is targeting. I downloaded this 791-page monster and buried deep within, you will find unsettling facts and wonder just who our representative work for: themselves, the uber rich, and/or the large tech companies that now control all aspects of our daily lives. I provided a reference, section and page number, for HR-1 that you can use to read more about the line items listed below.

This bill will fundamentally change America as we know it if passed. I’m listing just some of the key changes to election law and you can decide for yourself if it is good or bad for society and America in general.

HR-1 “FOR THE PEOPLE ACT OF 2021”

  • The federal government takes over control of elections from the states. Section 3, page 16 of the act.
  • Requires automatic voter registration in all 50 states. Any person that provides information to a government agency including the Department of Motor Vehicles, public universities, or a social service agency would he registered to vote. Same day and online registrations are also mandated in the bill. Part 2 (Automtic Voter Registration), Section 1011, starting on page 46 of the act.
  • States would not be allowed to institute voter ID laws and states with existing voter ID laws must conform to this new edic per section 2001, page 269.
  • Mandates no-fault absentee ballots. Removes the requirement for witness signature or notarization requirement for absentee ballots. States must accept absentee ballots for up to 10 days after an election.
  • Non-citizens that are automatically registered to vote per Section 1015 of the law through a government organizations, university, college, state government and social programs, can’t be prosecuted if they vote even though the law does state in various places that you must be eligible to register.  Those who are automatically registered aren’t required to provide proof of citizenship.  Per Section 1015 page 63 of the act, (Voter Protection & Security in Automatic Registration) anyone who is preregistered under The automatic registration of any individual or the fact that an individual declined the opportunity to register to vote or did not make an affirmation of citizenship (including through automatic registration) under this part may not be used as evidence against that individual in any State or Federal law enforcement proceeding, and an individual’s lack of knowledge or willfulness of such registration may be demonstrated by the individual’s testimony.”
  • 16-year-olds will be allowed to pre register to vote – The amendment that would have allowed 16 year olds to vote was defeated by a vote of 125 to 302. However, the law does allow early registration at 16 per Part 10, Section 1094 page 96 of the Act, and these indiviudals will be automtically registers as noted above.
  • Felons will be allowed to vote, page 21, line item 23.
  • National mail in ballots are mandated without photo ID or any form of identification, Subtitle, 1, section 1621, starting on page 171 of the act.
  • All states must accept any and all mailed ballots 10 days after election day if they are postmarked before or on election day.
  • Colleges and universities must hire campus vote coordinators to encourage voter turnout per section 1901, starting on page 218 of the act.
  • Voter drop boxes must be placed and available 24 hours a day for 45 days before an election for people to drop off absentee ballots. Per above, no-fault absentee ballots must be accepted up to 10 days after an election per section 1907, starting on page 249.
  • States would no longer be able to redraw congressional districts. This would be delegated to independent commissions that are required to incorporate racial, ethnic, economic, and gender diversity in all voting districts per Section 241 stasrting on page 282 of the act.
  • This bill will allow politicians to use funds from their campaign to pay for personal expenses per the Help America Run Acr, Section 5301, starting on page 636 pf HR-1.
  • Ballot harvesting is promoted. A designated person could return absentee ballots to any drop-off point. There aren’t any limits on how many ballots a person could drop off.
  • Supports statehood for the District of Columbia and territories per Section 2101 Section C and Section 2201 Section D of the law.
  • Curbside voting is mandated, no state may prohibit this practice per section 1908, page 254 of the act.
  • States would be required to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to voting rules.

I included links to the actual bills for you to do your own due diligence.  What do you think? Only our representatives have the power to change the outcome and if they receive sufficient input from us, the ones they are suppose to serve, they may do the right thing.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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Posted on Saturday, 6th March 2021 by

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Planning for retirement and life in general requires organization and much thought. Long before we retire our significant others require our assistance and this goes both ways. In most relationships, one person takes responsibility for certain aspects of the couple’s life.  Whoever pays the bills and manages financial affairs must have clear and concise instructions prepared for the other party in case of an emergency, illness or untimely death.

 

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A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is included.

When I prepared our estate plans years ago, I developed Account Access Instruction sheets for all accounts: banks, brokerage, IRA/401K retirement accounts, credit unions, social security and others. Coincident with these, I competed a comprehensive Care giver and Survivor’s package. Actually, both of these are a must have at any stage of life, not just for retirement. As the title of this article states, “Life Goes On’ and when it does others need this information, especially young families and the retired.

Click here to download this sample WORD document if you would like to use this format, just type over the sample data with your personal information. I also prepared a PDF file for those who don’t use WORD, you won’t be able to change the data with a PDF however you can use it as a sample for other word processors.

The first part of my Account Access Instruction sheet lists each account at an institution and provides the account number, balance, and how the account is registered. They can be registered as joint, individual or trust. Then I added either the Transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries or trust.  If it is a trust, successor trustees take over control of the account and other trust assets.

I know this sounds like a lot of work; it really isn’t if you take it one step at a time in logical order. Last week’s column titled, The State of YOUR Affairs – Exposing the Obvious provided the first step; a way to evaluate where you are at financially and what your significant other will have to live on when one partner leaves this realm. It does take time to locate the data, fill out the forms, and then add up the figures. Yet, if you did this last week, you will now have time to compile the information needed for your Account Access Instructions.

In the second part of the form, I list website sign in procedures to include the web address, user ID, security image if appropriate, and the password for your account. You should also provide a phone number for the institution with other specific guidance. After a death the beneficiary or successor trustee must provide the institution with a death certificate to take over the account. It is also essential to grant an attorney-in-fact specific powers to administer digital assets through a written and signed Power of Attorney document. I need to revise my wife’s and my Powers of Attorney to include this.

Finally, I list other pertinent data including security questions and answers in case the password expires and provide other relevant information. It is beneficial to add the document file location at the bottom of the form.  When you go back to update the access information, you will know exactly where to find it.

The information collected on these sheets can also be included in the estate Caregiver and Survivor Report.  I chose to use individual sheets so they are handy and easy for my wife and assigned successor trustees to use if I’m unable to manage our affairs. Plus, my wife uses them in my absence when she accesses accounts.

I plan to outline the Caregiver and Survivor report later this month.  There are programs that will help you compile this information or you can prepare it with any word process as long as you have an outline of what is needed.

Please forward this article to others that may benefit from this information. Anyone can sign up to receive my FREE newsletter. We don’t advertise this service; others learn about our Retirement Planning newsletter and website through subscriber referrals.

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Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Sunday, 28th February 2021 by

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I’m often astonished after performing a due diligence update on my family’s state of affairs. You too will find reason to pause after putting pen to paper and discovering where you and your family stand financially. Not only your current status, but what a surviving spouse and heirs will have to live on when the inevitable happens. This process applies to anyone at all life stages.

The forms I developed break expenses down to utilities, other, loans and payments, taxes (real estate and income), insurance, living, and second home costs compared to total income.


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I review our estate plans every three years and spent the last two weeks updating our family’s Survivor’s Instruction Guide using the process outlined in the eleven-part series that I developed prior to retiring. Even though an attorney developed our formal wills, trusts and related documents, much is still required to ensure a smooth estate transition when the time comes. The binder in questions has sections for an estate plan summary, beneficiary designations, caretake / survivor detailed information, financial reports, account access instructions, final arrangements, and contact information including passwords, etc. The nuts and bolts of an estate.

Many ponder where their money went after completing their income taxes! After updating these tables, I know exactly where it has disappeared to and the one word that comes to mind is TAXES: income, real estate, sales, gas tax, and many others that are hidden below the surface where government hopes we never discover just how pervasive they really are.

I’m not complaining, where would we be without the services and benefits taxes provide. However, they can become onerous and there are ways to reduce the burden if necessary, through prudent review and analysis. For example, Pennsylvania real estate taxes are extremely high. You can downsize and pay less or move out of state. South Carolina’s real estate taxes are a fraction of what we pay in Pennsylvania. It isn’t just taxes, costs across the board are rising; have you looked at your utility bills including cable and cell phone charges lately?

You will find a downloadable Microsoft Word and PDF document in this article that you can use to determine your financial health and what a surviving spouse will have to live on when the time comes. Use the example I prepared to review the process and methods used. The example depicts a retired couple with a gross income of $121,092 from all sources: annuities, social security, 401Ks, interest, dividends, salary, and capital gains if warranted. This process works just as well for those still working. The end result highlights areas that need attention such as excessive expenses in one category or another. It also identifies potential shortfalls; where your income is not quite sufficient to maintain your lifestyle, excessive debts, and the need to consolidate and compromise. When you sit down with your significant other to review the analysis, be prepared for the surprised looks and awestruck behavior. “So that’s where all of our money is going” or “What the hell is this!”  If the retired couple in the sample paid off their mortgage before retiring their post retirement finances would improve considerably.

Worksheets

Replace the amounts in the word document example with your own to complete the analysis. You can add and delete rows using Word’s table properties. I also included a PDF with all amounts removed for those who prefer to fill in the document with pen or pencil.

Finally, determine what your spouse or significant other will have when their partner passes. Line out the expenses for the deceased spouse or partner, as annotated in the following table, and add the new amount in parenthesis such as the lower cost for FEGLI “Self Only” premiums, etc. Then transfer your new calculations to the Expense Summary table. Many entries will change such as the reduced survivor’s annuity, the maximum survivor’s annuity is 55% of the annuitant’s full benefit for CSRS and 50% for FERS.

I used this online Income tax calculator to determine the federal income taxes owed for this example. Use this calculator to determine what taxes you can expect for your anticipated retirement income. Remember that most of your annuity is taxed and if you are over certain income limits eighty percent of your Social Security payments are subject to income tax. Also, be aware that Medicare premium are income adjusted and range from a low of $148.50 per person for couples filing a joint tax return with incomes of $178,000 or less to a high of $504 per couples earning $750,000 and above! Single filers pay the lowest rate if their income is $88,000 or less.

The final document table on page 4 compares Total Income to Expenses.  You would modify this table as noted above to determine the financial health of a surviving spouse. It also helps to complete a Survivor’s Checklist long before it is needed.  Keep this free fillable PDF checklist readily available, it includes necessary benefit contact information for retirees.

I was never a boy scout, but learned early in life it’s always best to be prepared. It may take several hours or more to determine your costs for each entry and income figures but I believe you will be glad you did. Once you see where you are at, you can effectively plan on getting to where you want to go. My next article will talk about preparing a comprehensive caretaker / survivor file with recommended shortcuts, and how to prepare individual account instruction sheets.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Saturday, 20th February 2021 by

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Mary and I are scheduled for our first COVID 19 vaccinations on March 4th. Our local health care provider set up an online registration process this month and we were able to schedule both shots. We are still apprehensive about the potential side effects considering the rumors circulating online. However, many have already received their shots without incident including our daughter, a certified respiratory therapist, and others we know.

Auto Insurance Savings

This past year we put less than 10,000 miles on our two cars and SUV primarily due to the pandemic. I received an advance notice from our auto insurance carrier last month advising us of the upcoming renewal and the new premium. The premium was the same as last year. I’m sure many reading this column experienced the same thing and found this disconcerting. Insurance company’s liability decreases as many of their clients are working from home and there really isn’t anyplace to travel to.

I spent the next week obtaining quotes from four other companies. Several companies have new plans that base their premium on miles traveled and safe driving practices. Nationwide provided the best quote for what they call their Smart Miles program.  The premium consists of two parts: a base premium and a variable mileage premium (Cost Per Mile). To determine the cost per mile monthly premium, a GPS tracker must be installed on each of your vehicles. It plugs into the service port under the dash. They also offer a Smart Ride program that extends monthly premium discounts based on 4 factors: miles driven, hard braking and acceleration, idle time and nighttime driving.

The Nationwide quote was almost 30% less than the quote we had from ERIE, our carrier. I called ERIE and advised them I was seeking a lower rate due to the reduced mileage we traveled last year; they offered to lower our annual premium significantly.

Both quotes were competitive however I decided to stay with ERIE Insurance since they didn’t require GPS tracking and have a decreasing deductible. For each year that you don’t have a claim your deductible decreased by $100. Most insurers have certain safe driver incentives that you should consider before changing to another company. Our original deductible was $500 and was now only $100. I was able to get an additional premium reduction by increasing my deductible to $1,000; after applying their decreasing deductible adjustment, it would only be $600 for the current year. I also removed other small charges they had for income loss and dropped the rental car option. In the past I kept the rental car option on two vehicles for the entire year not knowing that I could simply add the rental option to the car we were vacationing with for that period of time.

Another way to save when you own multiple cars is to take advantage of their lay-up service. If you don’t drive one of your cars during the winter months or one of your cars won’t be used for three months, insurance companies will reduce your coverage on that car to the bare minimum. Thomas Butts, our local agent, and his staff were very helpful.

I also discovered that at first glance many of the competitive quotes I obtained were less until I closely compared benefits. In Pennsylvania you have the option of full tort or limited tort coverage. Most quoted the lower cost limited tort. I insist on full tort coverage which allows the victim to file a claim for all damages, including medical costs, lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. It took me some time to decipher each quote to compare apples to apples so to speak.

New Computer – Solid State Drive (SSD) Benefit

I upgraded to a new Dell laptop last December and purchased one with a 128 GB solid state drive (SSD) and a 1 TB hard drive. I reluctantly spent more for the SSD and was pleasantly surprised at just how fast the laptop starts up compared to hard drive systems. The SSD (C) drive stores the operating system and most of the primary software such as Microsoft Office, virus protection, browsers, and others. Everything else, including all data files, are stored on the (D) hard drive.

The laptop starts up fast and you can start searching with a browser or open programs in less than 10 seconds, it takes up to 3 minutes or more on a hard drive system before everything initializes and is able to run without incident.  If I had it to do over again, I would have purchased one with a larger SSD, mine is about two thirds full and I have to be careful when installing new programs to ensure they are stored on the hard drive. SSD laptop prices are falling. However, the manufacturers are dropping the hard drive unit costs substantially to reduce their inventory. Solid state drives are worth the additional costs from my perspective.

One perplexing fact when buying a new laptop is that most if not all of the 15” display units don’t come with a DVD read/write drive. I decided to purchase the 17.3” display model that still includes this feature. Otherwise, you have to buy an external DVD which is inconvenient to say the least.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

 

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today. A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is included.

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Posted in FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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Posted on Sunday, 14th February 2021 by

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Michael is a fulltime employee with the National Parks Service (NPS) that is subject to between 2 weeks and 6 months furlough each year.  He wanted to know if the time he is furloughed counts towards his FERS service?  For instance, if he is furloughed for 6 months would he have one year or 6 months of service for that year?

The amount of a CSRS or FERS annuity paid by OPM is based primarily on the amount of creditable service an employee performs and the employee’s high-3 average salary. Both CSRS and FERS allow service credit for up to 6 months of nonpay status in any calendar year. If a furlough period does not cause an employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months in a calendar year, the furlough period will be included as creditable service in determining the employee’s total creditable service used in the annuity computation. If the total amount of time an employee spends in a nonpay status in a calendar year exceeds 6 months, the amount of nonpaid status in excess of 6 months in the calendar year will not be creditable for retirement purposes. Refer to OPM’s addendum for additional information and there may be certain flexibilities extended under the COVID relief directives. If you have any questions contact your HR office for clarifications.

Please forward this article to others that may need this information and let them know how to sign up to receive this newsletter.

Employees and retirees alike have many questions about their benefits and how they have been impacted by the COVID pandemic. OPM issued over 20 oversight documents to add clarity to these issues that you can explore for the answers you may need. They cover emergency paid sick leave, annual leave and other paid time off, the use of flexible and maxiflex work schedules, leave payments under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and so much more. Here is a link to OPM’s COVID-19 oversight directives that you can explore for areas of interest:

For those who are anticipating retiring soon, there have been changes to the process that you should be aware of, review OPM’s Benefits Administration Letter 20-102 Revised. It outlines “Temporary Changes to Retirement Application Processing.” The changes in this document are printed in red ink.

The good news, according to OPM, is that COVID-19 has not affected Retirement Services’ ability to process applications or deliver timely payments. One issue still remains, it is difficult getting through to OPM by phone. What I do is dial their number, 888-767-6738. If its busy, I hang up and immediately click on redial, I typically get through in several minutes using this technique. Expect long wait times, I’ve waited on hold for up to 45 minutes. Customer service representatives are available Monday thru Friday, 7:40 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, they are closed on federal holidays. You can also email questions to retire@opm.gov anytime to ask questions or request assistance with their personal retirement issues. If you send email questions, don’t include sensitive data, and you can expect a reply in up to 14 days or longer.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

 

Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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