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3 ways Congress can meaningfully reform 401(k)s

This article from Employee Benefit Advisor's Alexander Assaley drives home three points on improving 401(k)s - (1) improve coverage, (2) update antiquated testing results, and (3) expand limits while maintaining choices. How do you, as an employer, feel about these points?


In both the House and Senate’s tax bills there are no significant changes made to 401(k), 403(b) and IRA retirement accounts — for now. Congress has preserved the majority of tax benefits. However, we are only getting started, and there is still room for improvement. The drafted bills will look different, perhaps significantly so, before getting finalized into law.

Bloomberg/file photo

As our elected officials debate and negotiate tax legislation, I’d like to offer some input and advice on key characteristics and design structures that we should be advocating for with respect to retirement plans, and how advisers and benefits professionals can work to continually improve the private retirement system:

1) Improving coverage. One of the chief complaints from 401(k) critics is that many workers in this country don’t have access to a plan. Various research indicates that somewhere between 50%–65% of employees have access to a 401(k) or 403(b) and the remaining don’t.

This coverage gap primarily extends to part-time and “gig” workers, as well as small businesses with less than 30 employees. Retirement plan advisers and practitioners need to create forward-thinking solutions to provide these employees with access to employer-sponsored and tax qualified retirement plans.

Most of all, we can shrink the coverage gap if we get small businesses to establish plans. Both data and anecdotal evidence find that the biggest drivers for small businesses to create and offer retirement plans are 1) tax benefits to the owners and executives; and 2) simple, easy to use programs with minimal liability. This is where some of the tax policy or other reforms could really help.

2) Updating antiquated testing rules. While we often cite the $18,500 (or $24,500 for those eligible to make catch-up contributions) employee deferral limits for retirement plans in 2018, the practical nature is that a lot of highly compensated employees, HCEs, (including small business owners) are limited to contributing at much lower levels due to various non-discrimination tests.

While the spirit of non-discrimination testing is just — ensuring business owners and executives aren’t structuring their plans to limit or prevent their employees from benefiting, or inequitably benefiting owners and their family members — the current structure significantly dis-incentivizes the small business owner from offering a plan in the first place because they can’t maximize their benefit.

Let me be clear, we are big proponents of matching and profit sharing contributions, and want to see employers help their employees get on track for retirement too; however, the current safe harbor provisions with immediate, or short vesting schedules, along with cumbersome testing requirements, often cause too big of a hurdle for the small business owners to commit and therefore, short changes their employees with no plan at all.

I would love to see tax reform improve safe harbor provisions and/or testing components that might make it easier for business owners and HCEs save up to the limit without concerns of failed testing or hefty safe harbor contributions. Practically speaking, these workers need to save more in order to meet their retirement income needs, since Social Security will make up a small percentage of their income replacement, and the 401(k) is the best place to make it happen.

3) Expanding limits and maintaining choice. Just before Congressional Republicans announced their tax bill, a group of Senate Democrats unveiled a plan which would actually raise limits for 401(k) plans. While our research aligns with many other studies that the vast majority of savers don’t reach the annual limits, we would be in favor of expanding the limits — even if it only allowed for Roth-type contributions above the $18,500 (or $24,500) limits.

Additionally, we think an employee’s ability to select either Roth or pre-tax contributions is critical. While the tax preferential treatment of defined contribution plans is just one component that makes these vehicles so valuable, it has definitely emerged and remained as the “branding tool” that encourages so many workers to get into the plan in the first place.

Source:

Assaley A. (10 November 2017). "3 ways Congress can meaningfully reform 401(k)s" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-ways-congress-can-meaningfully-reform-401-k-s

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10 surprisingly great places to retire in the U.S.

At Saxon, we care about retirement and offering you the best plans. In this article, we take a look at Forbes's list of the top 10 places to retire. Do any of these places sound peaceful to you?


Probably the biggest retirement decision you’ll face (after: Can I ever?) is: Where should I retire? To help, U.S. News has just come out with its first Best Places to Retire in the United States ranking of the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Some of its Top 10 spots will surely surprise you and you may also wonder why certain parts of the country failed to make the cut.

Credit: Shutterstock

“This is a much more comprehensive analysis than we’ve done in the past,” said Emily Brandon, U.S. News senior editor for retirement. “Before, we’ve done themed lists like 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone and 10 Retirement Spots With Year-Round Nice Weather.”

How U.S. News Ranked the Best Places to Retire

This time, U.S. News first asked people 45 and older to indicate the “attributes of a retirement destination that are most important to them” and collected responses from 841 of them. “What people told us was most important to them in a place to retire was 'being affordable' but also, they wanted to feel happy there,” said Brandon.

Based on the survey responses, the researchers then assigned weightings in indices of six broad categories — happiness living in particular metro areas; housing affordability for homeowners and renters; health care quality, based on the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings; retiree taxes (sales and income); the strength of local job markets and what U.S. News calls “Desirability,” which means how strongly Americans said they’re interested in living in a given metro area. After all that number crunching, a Best Places ranking emerged.

The Top 10

The Top 10 best places to retire in America, according to U.S. News:

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mich.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

“Most of the places scored well on some measures, but not on others,” said Brandon.

That’s a fact. Sarasota had high scores for Happiness, Desirability and Retiree Taxes and decent ones in the other categories. McAllen didn’t fare well in the Job Market category and Washington, D.C. got a low ranking for Housing Affordability. El Paso and Grand Rapids were weak in the Desirability category.

Why Places Scored Well and Didn't

The reason four Texas metro areas made it into the Top 10? “Affordable housing, low taxes and above-average levels of happiness,” said Brandon.

The three winners in the Middle Atlantic states (Lancaster, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.) had high rankings because of happy residents and access to high quality health care, Brandon noted.

You may have noticed that the Top 10 largely consists of small- and mid-size cities and no California or New York City-area metros. “I think a lot of that has to do with housing prices,” said Brandon. “Almost no California places scored high in the list largely because housing prices are out of reach for many people with low- or even mid-range incomes.” California home prices are 150% above the U..S. average, overall. The highest-ranked California metro area in the U.S. News list is San Diego, which came in at No. 21.

What About the Weather?

Somewhat strangely, the U.S. News ranking didn’t factor in weather at all.

“We had some discussion about whether to include weather,” said Brandon. “It’s tricky because not everyone has the same preferences when it comes to weather. Some people want four seasons. Some find snowy winters terrible.” The upshot: the rankers left out this variable.

How the U.S. News List Compares With Other Rankings

The U.S. News list is markedly different from other recent Best Places to Retire rankings from Forbes and WalletHub.

The 25 places Forbes chose, after looking at 550 communities, were in big and small cities and skewed toward warm and moderate climates; its top places included Clemson, S.C., Port Charlotte, Fla. and Green Valley, Ariz. None of its 25 were in the U.S. News Top 10.

WalletHub looked at the retiree-friendliness of the 150 largest U.S. cities across 40 metrics and its top picks were mostly large ones. Three cities in Florida topped the list: Orlando, Tampa and Miami. Austin was the only one in both WalletHub’s Top 10 and U.S. News’.

What the Rankings Can't Rank

You won’t want to move to any place in retirement just because it’s on a Best Places list, of course. And no ranking can account for a key retirement location criteria for many people: proximity to family members.

Still, Best Places to Retire rankings can be a useful part of your research as long as you closely read their methodology, so you understand what the raters were rating.

“These types of surveys can be a great starting point in deciding where to retire,” said Brandon. “It all comes down to your personal preferences. Your criteria for what makes a best place to retire may be different than for others.”

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Eisenberg R. (2 October 2017). "U.S. News Offers A New Take On The Best Places In The U.S. To Retire" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/10/02/u-s-news-offers-a-new-take-on-the-best-places-in-the-u-s-to-retire/#4d26f87c60ec

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Photography by American Advisors Group Via Flickr: Retirement Calendar Retirement Date When using this image please provide photo credit (link) to: www.aag.com per these terms: www.aag.com/retirement-reverse-mortgage-pictures

Health-Care Cost Expert Kathryn Votava on Buying Long-Term-Care Insurance

Health care can be an expensive matter, especially when seeking long-term solutions. We thought it'd be beneficial to find an article from the perspective of an expert on long-term insurance, enabling those looking into the solution to have a better idea of what they're getting into. From Health.com, here is an interview from Kathryn Votava.

You can read the original article here.


kathryn-votava"The earlier you purchase a policy, the healthier you are and the more likely you are to qualify for insurance."(KATHRYN VOTAVA)

Many people rely on family and friends to provide care for them when they can no longer do it themselves. But at some point, the care required can be too much for these informal networks to handle. That's where long-term-care insurance comes in. Caregiving expenses are usually not covered by health insurance, and they can be staggering—a semi-private room in a nursing home, for instance, can run about $70,000 a year, and in-home care can reach as high as $350,000 for round-the-clock help. We asked Kathryn Votava, PhD, assistant professor of clinical nursing at the University of Rochester in New York and president of Goodcare.com, a company that analyzes health-care costs, for advice on how to shop for the best long-term insurance policy.

Q: What does long-term-care insurance cover?

A: Depending on what kind of policy you choose, it will pay for a nursing home, assisted-living facility, community programs, or for someone to come to your home to care for you. It can offset some of the costs—notice I said some. Most people think that if they have a long-term-care insurance policy, they're covered completely. Not only is the average policy not enough to cover the cost of this type of care, but people don't take health-care inflation into account. And you will still need to pay for your Medicare Part B, Medigap plan, prescription drugs, and doctor visits just as before. Those expenses don't go away and long-term-care insurance doesn't cover them.

Q: How much coverage should I get?

A: The average policy covers $149 a day. Now, if you live in some parts of Texas or Louisiana, that might cover your long-term-care needs. But in a place like New York City, the average is more than twice that. Get an understanding of what the costs are in your area. The two big surveys of nursing-home prices are from Genworth Financial and MetLife Financial. That will give you a ballpark figure, but even those underestimate how much it actually costs. I'd call a good nursing home or home health-care agency that you might like to use eventually. Find out what the daily cost might be, for example $300 a day, and buy the coverage that's closest to that daily cost. When it comes to 24-hour care at home, you will find that a long-term-care insurance benefit will not come close to covering that level of cost, because extensive in-home care is costly. Remember that once you have exceeded two to four hours a day, seven days per week of in-home care, you will probably be paying more for long-term-care than if you were in a nursing home. Therefore, if you need more than two to four hours per day of in-home care, your long-term insurance benefit may provide more long-term-care if you are in a nursing home.

Q: How long should my coverage last?

A: You can purchase a policy that pays a set dollar amount per day for either some period of time or as a continuous lifetime benefit. I advise people that the most economical choice is to purchase a plan that provides benefits for five years. Only about 20% of people stay in a nursing home for five years or more. That's the minimum coverage you should have. If you have more money to spend, then certainly buy coverage for a longer time period or a bigger benefit so that if you're certain that you want in-home care, you will have more money to pay for it. Take the money you'll save on the shorter coverage period and buy a shorter waiting period, benefit for home care (as many policies pay out only 50 cents on the dollar for long-term-care at home), and compound-inflation protection riders. Don't give up coverage on the front end for something you are much less likely to collect on the back end. Once you have the minimum coverage, if you have more money to spend, then you can buy coverage for a longer time period.

Q: What additional features are worth paying for?

A: Get a compounded inflation rider. A "simple" inflation rider does not keep up with inflation nearly as well. One basic problem is that health-care inflation runs at 8.1% a year; the maximum inflation protection you can usually get in a long-term-care insurance policy is 5%—thats the best you can do. While that 5% rate will not keep up entirely with health-care inflation, it will give you a better chance of being able to afford your long-term-care when the policy pays out. I also like to see people have a 30-day waiting period or less—thats the amount of time from when the insurance company determines that a person is eligible to use their long-term-care benefit to when the company begins to actually pay out for the benefit. All policies have some waiting period. People often get a 90-day or a 100-day waiting period because it lowers their premium, but you could end up paying thousands of dollars during the time you're waiting for coverage to start. Finally, I recommend a nonforfeiture-of-benefit rider. Typically, you're only eligible for the insurance benefits as long as you pay your premium. But the nonforfeiture rider lets you maintain some value in a policy even if you decide not to continue paying for it. That could be very important if the insurance company you're with decides to go out of this business and sells your policy to someone else who jacks up your premium so much you can't afford it anymore. The non-forfeiture rider means you will get some amount of the policy benefit—not all, but some—depending what you paid in over time. One last thing: Make sure the insurance company you choose has a solid track record. Call the National Association of Insurance Commissioners at (866)-470-6246 and get the phone number for your state health-insurance department. Then contact your state insurance department to find out if there are any reported problems with an insurance company you are considering.

Q: When should you buy the insurance?

A: At the latest, I'd say late 40s or early 50s. It's still affordable then. The premium is based on your heath status first, then your age. Generally speaking, the earlier you purchase a policy, the healthier you are and the more likely you are to qualify for insurance. People who have serious, chronic conditions may find their rates to be really high or they may even be uninsurable. The costs vary greatly from policy to policy, state to state, and person to person. Usually someone in his or her late 40s or early 50s will pay about $3,000 to $6,000 a year. That's for a very good policy. Someone in his 60s could pay several thousand dollars a year more for the same policy.

Q: When does the coverage start?

A: In order for the policy to kick in, you must have a certain level of need. Most providers define that as not being able to perform at least two of what are called "activities of daily living," in insurance-speak. Those are: bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, and transferring from bed to chair. So, you might have a hard time giving yourself a bath, and it might take you all day to do and then you're completely exhausted, but to the insurance company you're not compromised enough to use the insurance for that. The exception to that rule is folks with dementia. They may be able to perform those tasks, but they need supervision, so the insurance company will often pay out for their care.

Q: Can you run into problems collecting your insurance?

A: It's gotten better. Some of the companies that were the most difficult to deal with were on shaky financial ground, and they've gone out of business. Remember, the person who comes to do the assessment of whether you're able to perform the activities of daily living works for the insurance company, not for you. They'll be looking at your case through that lens. If you run into trouble getting them to pay benefits, you might want to enlist an advocate, like a geriatric care manager, if more than a simple follow-up phone call is necessary.


You can read the original article here.

Source:

Polyak I. (25 January 2011). "Health-Care Cost Expert Kathryn Votava on Buying Long-Term-Care Insurance" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20456208,00.html


Despite Boost In Social Security, Rising Medicare Part B Costs Leave Seniors In Bind

 

How are the rising costs of Medicare Part B affecting Seniors? Don't be left in the dark. Find out more in this article.


Millions of seniors will soon be notified that Medicare premiums for physicians’ services are rising and likely to consume most of the cost-of-living adjustment they’ll receive next year from Social Security.

Higher 2018 premiums for Medicare Part B will hit older adults who’ve been shielded from significant cost increases for several years, including large numbers of low-income individuals who struggle to make ends meet.

“In effect, this means that increases in Social Security benefits will be minimal, for a third year, for many people, putting them in a bind,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy consultant at the Senior Citizens League. In a new study, her organization estimates that seniors have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000 as Social Security cost-of-living adjustments have flattened and health care and housing costs have soared.

Another, much smaller group of high-income older adults will also face higher Medicare Part B premiums next year because of changes enacted in 2015 federal legislation.

Here’s a look at what’s going on and who’s affected:

The Basics

Medicare Part B is insurance that covers physicians’ services, outpatient care in hospitals and other settings, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs or oxygen machines, laboratory tests, and some home health care services, among other items. Coverage is optional, but 91 percent of Medicare enrollees — including millions of people with serious disabilities — sign up for the program. (Those who don’t sign up are responsible for charges for these services on their own.)

Premiums, which change annually, represent about 25 percent of Medicare Part B’s expected per-beneficiary program spending. The government pays the remainder.

In fiscal 2017, federal spending for Medicare Part B came to $193 billion. From 2017 to 2024, Part B premiums are projected to rise an average 5.4 percent each year, faster than other parts of Medicare.

‘Hold Harmless’ Provisions

To protect seniors living on fixed incomes, a “hold harmless” provision in federal law prohibits Medicare from raising Part B premiums if doing so would end up reducing an individual’s Social Security benefits.

This provision applies to about 70 percent of people enrolled in Part B. Included are seniors who’ve been enrolled in Medicare for most of the past year and whose Part B premiums are automatically deducted from their Social Security checks.

Excluded are seniors who are newly enrolled in Medicare or those dually enrolled in Medicaid or enrolled in Medicare Savings Programs. (Under this circumstance, Medicaid, a joint federal-state program, pays Part B premiums.) Also excluded are older adults with high incomes who pay more for Part B because of Income-Related Monthly Adjustments (see more on this below).

Recent Experience

Since there was no cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security in 2016, Part B monthly premiums didn’t go up that year for seniors covered by hold harmless provisions. Instead, premiums for this group remained flat at $104.90 — where they’ve been for the previous three years.

Last year, Social Security gave recipients a tiny 0.3 percent cost-of-living increase. As a result, average 2017 Part B month premiums rose slightly, to $109, for seniors in the hold harmless group. The 2017 monthly premium average, paid by those who weren’t in this group and who therefore pay full freight, was $134.

Current Situation

Social Security is due to announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2018 in mid-October. Based on the best information available, it appears to be considering an adjustment of about 2.2 percent, according to Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the program on Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is another, independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Apply a 2.2 percent adjustment to the average $1,360 monthly check received by Social Security recipients and they’d get an extra $29.92 in monthly payments.

For their part, the board of trustees of Medicare have indicated that Part B monthly premiums are likely to remain stable at about $134 a month next year. (Actual premium amounts should be disclosed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within the next four to six weeks.)

Medicare has the right to impose that charge, so long as the amount that seniors receive from Social Security isn’t reduced in the process. So, the program is expected to ask older adults who paid $109 this year to pay $134 for Part B coverage next year — an increase of $25 a month.

Subtract that extra $25 charge for Part B premiums from seniors’ average $29.92 monthly Social Security increase and all that be left would be an extra $4.92 each month for expenses such as food, housing, medication and transportation.

“Many seniors are going to be disappointed,” said Lisa Swirsky, a policy adviser at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Higher Income Brackets

Under the principle that those who have more can afford to pay more, Part B premium surcharges for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries have been in place since 2007. These Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IMRAA) surcharges vary, depending on the income bracket that individuals and married couples are in. Nearly 3 million Medicare members paid the surcharges in 2015.

For the past decade this is how surcharges have worked:

Bracket One: Individuals with incomes of $85,001 to $107,000 were charged 35 percent of Part B per-beneficiary costs, resulting in 2017 premiums of $187.50.

Bracket Two: Incomes of $107,001 to $160,000 were charged 50 percent, resulting in 2017 premiums of $267.90.

Bracket Three: Incomes of $160,001 to $214,000 were charged 65 percent, resulting in 2017 premiums of $348.30

Bracket Four: Incomes of more than $214,000 were charged 80 percent, resulting in 2017 premiums of $428.60.

(Information for married couples who file jointly can be found here.)

Now, under legislation passed in 2015, brackets two, three and four are adopting lower income thresholds, a move that could raise premiums for hundreds of thousands of seniors. Bracket two will now consist of individuals with incomes of $107,001 to $133,500; bracket three will consist of individuals making $133,501 to 160,000; and bracket four will include individuals making more than $160,000. (Thresholds for couples have been altered as well.)

As John Grobe, president of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm, noted in a blog post, this change “will add another layer of complexity” to higher-income individuals’ decisions regarding “electing Part B.”

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Graham J. (5 October 2017). "Despite Boost In Social Security, Rising Medicare Part B Costs Leave Seniors In Bind" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/despite-boost-in-social-security-rising-medicare-part-b-costs-leave-seniors-in-bind/


Long-Term Disability Insurance Gets Little Attention But Can Pay Off Big Time

Is disability coverage worth it? At Saxon, we love to keep you updated on the latest news in the retirement world, and today, we want to dive into disability coverage. Check out this engaging and helpful article we pulled from KHN.


“It won’t happen to me.” Maybe that sentiment explains consumers’ attitude toward long-term disability insurance, which pays a portion of your income if you are unable to work.

Sixty-five percent of respondents surveyed this year by LIMRA, an association of financial services and insurance companies, said that most people need disability insurance. But the figure shrank to 48 percent when people were asked if they believe they personally need it. The proportion shriveled to 20 percent when people were asked if they actually have disability insurance.

As the annual benefits enrollment season gets underway at many companies, disability coverage may be one option worth your attention.

Some employers may be asking you to pay a bigger share or even the full cost. That can have a hidden advantage later, if you use the policy. Or you may find that your employer has automatically enrolled you — or plans to — unless you opt out. A growing number of employers are going that route to boost coverage that they feel is in their employees’ best interests, not to mention their own, since insurers usually require a minimum level of employee participation in order to offer a plan.

Benefits consultants agree that although long-term disability coverage lacks the novelty appeal of some other benefits that companies are offering these days — hello, pet insurance — it can prove much more valuable in the long run.

“This is a really critical safety-net benefit,” said Rich Fuerstenberg, a senior partner at human resources consultant Mercer.

If you become disabled because of accident, injury or illness, long-term disability insurance typically pays 50 to 60 percent of your income, while you’re unable to work. The length of time the policy pays varies; some policies pay until you reach age 65.

Long-term disability generally has a waiting period of three or six months before benefits kick in. That period would be covered by short-term disability insurance, if you have it.

Many long-term disability claims are for chronic problems such as cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, the average duration of a claim is nearly three years — 34.6 months.

Not everyone has savings to support them through that time. When the Federal Reserve Board surveyed adults about household economics in 2015, 53 percent said they don’t have a rainy day fund that could cover them even for three months. More troubling, nearly half of respondents — 46 percent — said that faced with a hypothetical $400 emergency expense, they didn’t have the cash to cover it.

According to the Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 people who are 20 years old now will be disabled before they reach age 67.

Overall, 41 percent of employers offer long-term disability insurance, according to LIMRA, though the proportion of larger employers who offer it is generally much higher. Compared with health insurance, premiums cost a pittance — $256 annually in 2016 on average for group plans, LIMRA says. Many employers pick up the whole tab or charge workers a small amount.

However, as employers continue to shift benefit costs onto employee shoulders, long-term disability is no exception. Increasingly, they’re offering the coverage as a “voluntary” benefit, meaning employees pay the entire premium.

The upside is that if employees pay for the coverage themselves with after-tax dollars and they ever become disabled and need to use the coverage, the benefits will be tax-free.

“If an employee can choose to pay for coverage on a post-tax basis, or is paying on a voluntary basis, it’s better for them,” said Jackie Reinberg, national practice leader for absence, disability management and life at benefits consultant Willis Towers Watson.

Some employers may pay for a core basic benefit that replaces 40 or 50 percent of income and offer workers the opportunity to “buy up” to more generous income replacement of 60 or 70 percent.

Although voluntary coverage has a tax advantage, disability consultants are concerned that leaving it up to employees, especially if they’re choosing among several other voluntary coverage options like cancer insurance, critical illness coverage and yes, pet insurance, increases the odds they’ll skip buying long-term disability coverage.

“These coverages all feel the same, and if you’re going to choose one at all you tend to go with the one that’s cheapest and the one that you think you might use,” said Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness, a membership group of disability insurers that does education and outreach about disability issues.

Auto-enrollment can make a big difference. Employers that auto-enroll employees in voluntary long-term disability plans may get 75 percent of employees to participate, compared with 30 percent for employers that leave it completely up to workers, said Mike Simonds, CEO of disability insurer Unum US.

If you were offered long-term disability coverage when you were hired and didn’t sign up, it may be tougher to do so during the open enrollment period, said Fuerstenberg. A growing number of health plans require employees to show “evidence of insurability,” meaning they must answer a series of health-related questions before they’re approved. Some long-term disability policies may also have preexisting condition provisions that won’t pay benefits for a condition for up to a year, for example.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Andrews M. (10 October 2017). "Long-Term Disability Insurance Gets Little Attention But Can Pay Off Big Time" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/long-term-disability-insurance-gets-little-attention-but-can-pay-off-big-time/


Photography by American Advisors Group Via Flickr: Retirement Calendar Retirement Date When using this image please provide photo credit (link) to: www.aag.com per these terms: www.aag.com/retirement-reverse-mortgage-pictures

15 Most Expensive States for Long-Term Care: 2017

Are you reaching retirement? Then, perhaps, you've already looked into the affordability of long-term care, and - well - it's not as affordable as you thought. If you're looking to get the most out of your retirement budget, then you may want to stray away from these 15 most expensive states for long-term care, as of 2017.

This article is brought to you by Think Advisor, and it was written by Marlene Y. Satter. You can read the full article here.


Genworth’s annual study on the cost of care nationwide, which includes home care, assisted living facilities, etc., is not reassuring

The price of long-term care insurance is high—for everyone involved. Not just the patient but also the caregivers pay in more than money to make sure that the person in need of care is given the best care they can manage.

In this year’s version of Genworth Financial’s annual study on the cost of care nationwide—not just in nursing homes, which are less and less on the forefront, but also care provided at home, adult day care and assisted living facilities—the news is not reassuring. Costs have risen steadily, with those for licensed homemakers—those who provide what the study calls “hands-on personal care” for patients still in their homes—rising the fastest, increasing 6.17% just since last year.

And of course since people would prefer to stay in their homes, that’s going to hit a lot of people hard.

Less-skilled “homemaker care,” such as cooking, cleaning and running errands (not included in the breakdown that follows) has risen pretty quickly as well, increasing by 4.75% since last year. But both versions of homemaker assistance are at the low end on the price scale, coming in at $21 for homemaker care and $22 for licensed homemaker care. The big bucks are elsewhere.

They may not have risen as quickly percentage-wise as the two already mentioned, but adult day care increased by 2.94% since last year to a national median rate of $70 per day. Assisted living facilities now average a median monthly rate of $3,750, an increase of 3.36% from last year, while nursing homes, at an increase of 5.50% for a private room, now run a median daily rate of $267. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money.

And caregivers often sacrifice their own financial well-being to care for their family members, forking over an average of $10,000 out of their own pockets for expenses that range from household expenses, personal items, or transportation services to payment of informal caregivers or LTC facilities.

A whopping 62% are paying for these expenses out of their own retirement funds; 45% have seen those costs cut their basic quality of living; and 38% have cut the amount they devote to savings and retirement to meet the costs of care.

And another sad side effect of all this stress is that 27% say it’s had a negative impact on their relationship with the person they’re caring for.

The penalty for all this devotion is that absences, reduced hours and chronic tardiness can end up cutting a caregiver’s pay. About a half of caregivers estimate that they lost approximately a third of their income.

Check out the 15 most expensive states for LTC.

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

15. Maryland

Average Annual LTC Cost: $60,305

  • Adult day care: $2,150
  • Licensed home care: $52,281
  • Assisted living: $49,800
  • Nursing home (private room): $118,990

Prospect Terrace Park in Providence.

14. Rhode Island

Average Annual LTC Cost: $60,789

  • Adult day care: $19,500
  • Licensed home care: $57,772
  • Assisted living: $61,860
  • Nursing home (private room): $104,025

Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles.

13. California

Average Annual LTC Cost: $61,239

  • Adult day care: $20,020
  • Licensed home care: $57,200
  • Assisted living: $51,300
  • Nursing home (private room): $116,435

Seattle Sea Seahawks Fans (Photo: AP)

12. Washington

Average Annual LTC Cost: $61,704

  • Adult day care: $16,900
  • Licensed home care: $60,632
  • Assisted living: $55,920
  • Nursing home (private room): $113,362

Skier on the slopes at a Killington Resort. (Photo: AP)

11. Vermont

Average Annual LTC Cost: $63,139

  • Adult day care: $34,320
  • Licensed home care: $57,200
  • Assisted living: $49,527
  • Nursing home (private room): $111,508

State Capitol in Bismarck. (Photo: AP)

10. North Dakota

Average Annual LTC Cost: $64,010

  • Adult day care: $25,480
  • Licensed home care: $63,972
  • Assisted living: $36,219
  • Nursing home (private room): $130,367

Lobster boats in Portland.

9. Maine

Average Annual LTC Cost: $64,423

  • Adult day care: $28,080
  • Licensed home care: $53,768
  • Assisted living: $58,680
  • Nursing home (private room): $117,165

Times Square, New York City.

8. New York

Average Annual LTC Cost: $65,852

  • Adult day care: $20,800
  • Licensed home care: $54,340
  • Assisted living: $47,850
  • Nursing home (private room): $140,416

The Corbin Covered Bridge in Newport, New Hampshire. (Photo: AP)

7. New Hampshire

Average Annual LTC Cost: $66,044

  • Adult day care: $18,720
  • Licensed home care: $60,357
  • Assisted living: $58,260
  • Nursing home (private room): $126,838

Old Capitol building in Dover.

6. Delaware

Average Annual LTC Cost: $68,472

  • Adult day care: $18,850
  • Licensed home care: $50,908
  • Assisted living: $72,180
  • Nursing home (private room): $131,948

Atlantic City Beach.

5. New Jersey

Average Annual LTC Cost: $68,833

  • Adult day care: $23,400
  • Licensed home care: $52,624
  • Assisted living: $69,732
  • Nursing home (private room): $129,575

Waikiki shoreline in Honolulu.

4. Hawaii

Average Annual LTC Cost: $71,820

  • Adult day care: $18,200
  • Licensed home care: $59,488
  • Assisted living: $51,000
  • Nursing home (private room): $158,593

A statue of the Spirit of Victory in Bushnell Park in Hartford. (Photo: AP)

3. Connecticut

Average Annual LTC Cost: $72,671

  • Adult day care: $20,800
  • Licensed home care: $52,624
  • Assisted living: $55,200
  • Nursing home (private room): $162,060

Beacon Hill in Boston.

2. Massachusetts

Average Annual LTC Cost: $73,307

  • Adult day care: $16,900
  • Licensed home care: $59,488
  • Assisted living: $67,188
  • Nursing home (private room): $149,650

Crabbers on the fishing grounds in southeast Alaska. (Photo: AP)

1. Alaska

Average Annual LTC Cost: $117,800

  • Adult day care: $43,709
  • Licensed home care: $63,492
  • Assisted living: $72,000
  • Nursing home (private room): $292,000

You can read the full article here.

Source:

Satter M. (2 October 2017). "15 Most Expensive States for Long-Term Care: 2017" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/10/02/15-most-expensive-states-for-long-term-care-2017


The Risk of Being Uninsured (and the Hidden Bargain in Addressing It Now)

Are you aware of all the risks associated with being uninsured? Take a look at this great column by Erica Oh Nataren from Life Happens and find out how you are putting yourself in harm's way by being uninsured.

With all the expenses of everyday living, it’s tempting to think of insurance as just another cost. What’s harder to see is the potential cost of not buying insurance—or what’s known as “self-insuring”—and the hidden bargain of coverage.

The Important vs. the Urgent
We’ve all experienced it: the tendency to stay focused on putting out fires, while never getting ahead on the things that really matter in the long run. For most people, there are two big things that matter in the long run: their families and their ability to retire. And being properly insured is important to both those concerns.

Life Insurance: a Hidden Bargain?
It’s exceedingly rare, but we all know it can happen: someone’s unexpected death. Life insurance can prevent financial catastrophe for the loved ones left behind, if they depend on you for income or primary care—or both.

The irony is that many people pass on coverage due to perceived cost, when in fact it’s far less expensive that most people think. The 2016 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA showed that 8 in 10 people overestimate the cost of life insurance. For instance, a healthy, 30-year-old man can purchase a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for $160 a year—about $13 a month.

Enjoy the Benefits of Life Insurance—While You’re Alive
If budget pressures aren’t an issue, consider the living benefits of permanent life insurance—that’s right, benefits you can use during your own lifetime.

Permanent life insurance policies typically have a higher premium than term life insurance policies in the early years. But unlike term insurance, it provides lifelong protection and the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis.

Cash values can be used in the future for any purpose you wish. If you like, you can borrow cash value for a down payment on a home, to help pay for your children’s education or to provide income for your retirement.

When you borrow money from a permanent insurance policy, you’re using the policy’s cash value as collateral and the borrowing rates tend to be relatively low. And unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions. You ultimately must repay any loan with interest or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit and cash-surrender value.

In this way, life insurance can serve as a powerful financial cushion for you and your family throughout your life, in addition to protecting your family from day one.

Disability Insurance: For the Biggest Risk of All
The most overlooked of the major types of insurance coverage is the one that actually covers a far more common risk—the risk of becoming ill or injured and being unable to work and earn your paycheck.

How common is it? While no one knows the exact numbers, it’s estimated that 30% of American workers will become disabled for 90 days or more during their working years. The sad reality is that most American workers also cannot afford such an event. In fact, illness and injury are the top reasons for foreclosures and bankruptcies in the U.S. today. Disability insurance ensures that if you are unable to work because of illness or injury, you will continue to receive an income and make ends meet until you’re able to return to work.

It’s tempting to cross your fingers and hope misfortune skips over you. But when you look at the facts, it’s easy to see: getting proper coverage against life’s risks is not just important, but a bargain in disguise.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Nataren E. (2017 May 11). The risk of being uninsured (and the hidden bargain in addressing it now) [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.lifehappens.org/blog/the-risk-of-being-uninsured-and-the-hidden-bargain-in-addressing-it-now/


7 Social Security facts Americans need to know

There are millions of  Americans who depend on Social Security to fund their retirement. Many of the people who depend on social security for their retirement funding tend to overestimate how much money they will receive, or how long the money will last. With the many changes that have occurred to Social Security over the years many Americans are out of touch with how the program works and how it fits into their overall retirement strategy.  Here is a great list compiled by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on the top 7 things Americans need to know about Social Security and how it can impact their retirement.

7. Monthly benefits are based on the age at which you collect and the average of your highest 35 years of earnings.

How many years have you paid into Social Security?

The SSA will take your 35 highest paid of those years and average them to come up with what your monthly benefit will be.

Then, depending on whether you decide to go for early retirement (age 62), full retirement age (currently age 66, but rising to 67) or keep working till age 70, that will determine your benefit.

If you retire at age 62, your benefit will be reduced. At the full retirement age you’ll get your full benefit, but if you work till 70 the benefit will keep increasing.

The longer you work and don’t claim, the higher your benefit will be, but it stops growing once you hit age 70.

6. Claiming too early can cut your benefits for life.

If you decide to collect Social Security when you’re 62 (or, for that matter, any time before you hit age 70), your benefit will be paid at the minimum level you earned through your career and won’t rise (except for cost-of-living raises) at all.

If, on the other hand, you can wait till age 66, you’ll get at least a third more in those monthly checks than you would at 62.

But if you wait till age 70, your benefit will be at least 75 percent higher. That’s according to the Social Security Claiming Guide from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Oh, and the same goes for your spouse. If you claim early and die, your spouse will be restricted to that smaller benefit for life as well—unless said spouse has a separate career and benefits to draw on.

5. Widows and widowers can claim on their deceased spouses’ records to delay claiming on their own.

A widow or widower can claim a survivor benefit on their late spouse’s record in order to postpone claiming their own benefit—which can be very helpful should they want to delay claiming till age 70.

And, as the Claiming Guide points out, since most survivors are women and women’s benefits are generally lower—thanks to a range of reasons, including less time in the workplace and lower salaries—a husband’s benefit will generally be higher.

If, however, a woman’s benefit would be higher than her late husband’s, claiming on his record would allow her to delay claiming until age 70 to maximize her own benefit.

That said, survivor benefits are available as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled, but they’re reduced up to 28.5 percent if claimed before the recipient’s full retirement age.

Survivor benefits can also be claimed by a divorced spouse as long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years.

4. Husbands can boost wives’ survivor benefits by delaying claiming.

Since most women survive their husbands—by an average of 6 years, in fact—a husband who wants to maximize his wife’s survivor benefit in the event of his death can delay claiming his own benefit as mentioned earlier.

In fact, a husband can increase the monthly benefit his wife gets as his survivor by more than 20 percent if he delays claiming Social Security until age 66 instead of doing so at age 62, if he waits till age 70 to claim benefits, that rises to 60 percent.

3. Continuing to work after claiming before full retirement age will cost you.

It might seem like a terrific idea to claim Social Security early and just keep working; after all, what’s not to like?

You gain another source of income, you’re still making money and maybe you envision just socking the extra money into savings for later in retirement.

But there’s one (not-so-)little flaw with that idea: Social Security may giveth, but it will also taketh away.

If you did that last year and weren’t already at the full retirement age, you’ve already learned to your sorrow that for every $2 above $15,720 you earned in calendar year 2016, Social Security withheld $1.

And Social Security will do that every year till you hit full retirement age; in that year, it will keep $1 for every $3 you earn above $3,490 each month.

If you wait to pursue that strategy till the year after you’ve hit full retirement age, however, it won’t withhold anything.

The good news is that you don’t actually lose that money; it’s restored to increase your monthly benefits later.

2. Social Security provides half the income for 61% of seniors.

It’s all very well to say that seniors will have Social Security to depend on, but the majority of seniors have few other resources to draw on.

report on Madison.com highlights how essential Social Security is to the majority of seniors, regardless of how long they’ve worked or how much they’ve saved, with some statistics from Social Security itself—and one of those is just how important Social Security is to people’s financial well-being during retirement.

Whether they’ve managed to save more in 401(k)s, IRAs or even an actual pension plan, seniors are still deriving much of their income from those monthly Social Security checks.

1. Social Security provides at least 90% of income for 43% of unmarried seniors.

Lest you think that Social Security is just one leg of the proverbial three-legged stool, keep in mind the statistic above.

Without additional sources of income, unmarried seniors who are almost, or completely, dependent on Social Security checks will almost certainly not have a pleasant retirement—or a healthy one.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 August 29). 7 social security facts americans need to know [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/29/7-social-security-facts-americans-need-to-know?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


4 Reasons Employers Should Offer Supplemental Life Insurance

Is life insurance included in your employee benefits program? For many employees, their only form of life insurance they have is the basic group life plan provided by an employer. This standard version of life insurance is usually not enough to maintain most employees financial wellness. Supplemental life insurance plans can enhance the standard coverage provided by most employers by providing employee financial security for their futures. While these plans can be a great way to boost an employees financial wellness only about one-half of employers across the nation offer supplemental life insurance with their employee benefits. Take a look at this great list put together by Mike Wozny from Think Advisor and find out the top 4 reasons why you should be offering your employees supplemental life insurance.

Depending on an individual family’s needs, supplemental life insurance can build on the employer-provided life insurance benefit, and helps employers give their employees the future financial security their employees need. For those employers who are not currently offering supplemental life, here are four key reasons they should start:

  • Many employers can offer employees the financial security of supplemental life insurance without increasing their benefits budget. Because supplemental life insurance is opt-in and chosen by individual employees as appropriate for their situations, employers can offer supplemental life insurance as an option at no additional cost to the employer. Employees can then customize their coverage to their needs depending on their financial responsibilities.
  • Many group carriers offer employers help in enrolling employees in supplemental life. Employers can host on-site enrollment sessions lead by a life insurance expert or hold a webinar led by the carrier followed by online enrollment. Many carriers even offer customized enrollment materials for each employee — all without adding to the employer’s human resources teams’ workload.
  • Financial security is tied to employees' productivity. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found that when employees have to spend time and energy worrying about providing for their families, they are more productive. Appropriate life insurance is a key factor in overall financial health, and provides employees with the peace of mind that lets them focus their energy elsewhere.
  • Comprehensive benefits packages contribute to higher employee satisfaction and retention.The Society for Human Resource Management has also found that benefits offerings are important to employees’ decisions about what companies to work for and how long to stay. Offering a benefits package that includes supplemental life insurance coverage allows employees to customize benefits to their own needs.

With the loss of a loved one, many families also lose their income, which can be not only emotionally devastating, but financially devastating as well. When employers offer a complete benefits package, including one that promotes financial wellness, it gives their employees peace of mind, and helps attract and retain top workers.

Though life insurance is rarely a topic that families want to think about, employers can help employees obtain the right amount of insurance to protect their finances by offering supplemental life insurance options. For those employers who are not currently offering these benefits, in many cases they can be added at no expense, with little additional time required to administer them, and at great potential benefit to both the company and its employees.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Wozny M. (2016 October 19). 4 reasons employers should offer supplemental life insurance [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2016/10/19/4-reasons-employers-should-offer-supplemental-life


5 Things Millennials Need to Know About Life Insurance

As millennials grow older and start planning for their futures, one thing they will have to think about is life insurance.  While access to the internet and mobile data has made learning about life insurance easier than before many millennials still have many unanswered questions when it comes to planning for their life insurance policy. Take a look at his great column by Helen Mosher from Life Happens and find out the top 5 thing Millennials need to know about life insurance.

 

1. Life insurance is a form of protection. If you Google “life insurance” you’ll get a slew of ads telling you how cheap life insurance can be, without nearly enough information about what you need it for. That’s probably because it’s not terribly pleasant to think about: this idea that we could die and someone we care about might suffer financially as a result. Life insurance provides a financial buffer for the people you care about in the event something happens to you. Think just because you’re single, nobody would be left in the lurch? Read the next point.

2. College debt may not go away. Did someone—like your parents—co-sign your student loans through the bank? If so, the bank won’t discharge that debt upon your death the way that the federal government would with federal student loans. That means your parents, or others who signed the paperwork, would be responsible for paying the full balance—sometimes immediately. Don’t saddle them with the bill!

3. If you don’t know anything about life insurance, it’s probably better if you don’t buy it off the internet. It’s what we’re used to: You find the thing you need or love on Amazon or Ebay or Etsy, click a few buttons, and POOF. It arrives at your door. But life insurance is a financial planning product, and while it can be as simple as a 20-year term policy for less than a cup of coffee each day (for real!), going through your options with an insurance professional can ensure that you get the right amount for the right amount of time and at a price that fits into your budget. And many people don’t know that an agent will sit down and help you out at no cost.

4. Social fundraising only goes so far. This relatively recent phenomenon has everyone thinking that they’ll just turn to GoFundMe if things go awry in their lives. But does any grieving person want to spend time administering a social fundraising site? The chances of going viral are markedly slim, and social fundraising sites will take their cut, as will the IRS. And there is absolutely no guarantee about how much—if any—money will be raised.

5. The best time is now. You’ll definitely never be younger than you are today, and for most of us, the younger we are the healthier we are. Those are two of the most important factors for getting affordable life insurance coverage. So don’t delay. And if you don’t have an agent, you can also use our Agent Locator. The key is taking that first step.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mosher H. (2017 July 5). 5 things Millennials need to know about life insurance [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.lifehappens.org/blog/5-things-millennials-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/