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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Retirement"

Dream of Retiring Abroad? The Reality: Medicare Doesn’t Travel Well

When Karen Schirack, 67, slipped on her way into her house in January and broke her left femur in multiple places, she had a decision to make. Should she get surgery to repair the fractured thigh bone and replace her hip near Ajijic, Mexico, where she has lived for 20 years, or be airlifted back to her home state, Ohio, for surgery and rehabilitation?

As the number of American retirees living overseas grows, more of them are confronting choices like Ms. Schirack’s about medical care. If they were living in the United States, Medicare would generally be their coverage option. But Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the country, except in limited circumstances.

Expatriate retirees might find private insurance policies and national health plans in other countries. But these may not provide the high-quality, comprehensive care at an affordable price that retirees expect through Medicare. Faced with imperfect choices, some retirees cobble together different types of insurance, a mix that includes Medicare.

That’s what Ms. Schirack has done. She pays about $3,700 annually for an insurance policy through Allianz that covered her surgery at a private hospital in Guadalajara, about an hour from Ajijic. She also has a medical evacuation policy that would have paid for her flight to the States, if she had opted for that. That policy costs roughly $3,000 for five years. And she pays for Medicare Part B, which she can use for care when she visits family in the United States. (The standard Part B premium is $135.50 monthly.)

Ms. Schirack has a scar running from her waist to the middle of her thigh, but she no longer needs home nursing care and wrapped up months of physical therapy in June. After five more months of healing, she hopes to be back to normal.

Her private plan paid the equivalent of about $20,000 for her surgery. Before she left the hospital, Ms. Schirack had to cover her portion of the total, about $2,400, and bills for other expenses, including blood transfusions.

After leaving the hospital, she was responsible for paying for other services — home nurses, physical therapy, medications — and submitting receipts to the insurer for reimbursement. She estimates she has spent $10,000 and has been reimbursed for about two-thirds of that so far.

If she had had surgery in the United States, she might have faced fewer paperwork hassles, Ms. Schirack said, “but all in all, I’m not going to complain.”

The quality of health care varies widely by country, as do the services available to foreign residents. And there are quite a few of these transplanted Americans.

Between 2012 and 2017, the number of retired workers living in foreign countries who were receiving Social Security benefits grew nearly 15 percent, to more than 413,000, according to the Social Security Administration. The largest numbers of expatriates were in Canada (nearly 70,000) and Japan (more than 45,000). Mexico was third, home to nearly 30,000 retired American workers.

Commercial health care policies for them may provide decent coverage, but people can generally be denied a policy or charged higher rates for medical reasons. The plans may refuse to cover some pre-existing conditions. Ms. Schirack’s policy, for example, doesn’t cover any services related to her allergies.

Private policies can be problematic for another reason: They may have age limits. The GeoBlue Xplorer Essential plan, for example, enrolls only people who are 74 or younger, and coverage expires when people turn 84. In contrast, Medicare eligibility generally begins at 65 and continues until a beneficiary dies.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157860984_173ebf36-994c-439d-be4f-12343d614354-articleLarge Dream of Retiring Abroad? The Reality: Medicare Doesn’t Travel Well Social Security (US) Retirement Mexico Medicare Japan Health Insurance and Managed Care Emergency Medical Treatment Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Canada Americans Abroad

San Miguel de Allende. Mexico is home to the third-largest number of expatriate American retired workers, with 30,000.CreditAlfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And the policies aren’t cheap. A 70-year-old might pay $1,900 a month for an Xplorer Essential plan with a $1,000 deductible, said Todd Taylor, a sales director for GeoBlue. A plan with a $5,000 deductible might run $1,400 monthly. That doesn’t include coverage for services in the United States.

Rates may also vary by country. A 67-year-old American living in Costa Rica who buys a midlevel Cigna plan with a deductible of $750 for hospital care and $150 for outpatient care might pay $1,164 a month, said David Tompkins, president of TFG Global Insurance Solutions. The same policy might cost $913 in France. If the person wanted to add coverage for treatment in the United States, the monthly premium would increase to $1,440 in Costa Rica and $1,138 in France, Tompkins said.

Since medical care is sometimes much less expensive overseas, some retirees opt to pay out of pocket for minor or routine services.

Claudia Peresman, who will turn 63 on Sunday, moved from Stonington, Conn., to San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico in November. On her first night there, she tripped in the bathroom, hit her face on a wall and split her lip. Her neighbors helped her get a cab to a 24-hour emergency room at a hospital about five minutes away, where staff cleaned up the cut and sent her home. She paid the roughly $25 fee in cash.

Ms. Peresman recently bought a private insurance plan with a $2,500 deductible, for which she pays about $100 a month.

“What I wanted was catastrophic coverage,” she said. “Things are so affordable here that, outside of being admitted to the hospital, I can probably afford it.”

Even when retirees buy a private policy, Medicare is another piece of the puzzle that they have to consider. Once people become eligible for Medicare coverage, they face a 10 percent premium penalty for every 12 months that they are not enrolled in Part B, which covers outpatient services. (People who are 65 or older but still covered by an employer plan generally do not face that penalty.)

After paying into the Medicare system for decades, typically via payroll taxes, some expats are frustrated that they generally can’t use the program outside the United States. That’s just the way the law is written, an official at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

“C.M.S. cannot speak to or speculate on congressional intent,” the official said.

And retirees should honestly consider whether they will spend the rest of their lives overseas.

“Even if that is their goal, is their health and mobility going to allow them to accomplish that?” said Dr. David Shlim, 70, who treated many expats when he ran a medical clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the 1980s and ’90s. “People should imagine that they may need to come back to the U.S. and ask themselves how are they going to do that and afford that.”

Rules on whether noncitizens can enroll in a national health plan vary by country.

After living in the United States for nearly 30 years and raising a family here, Alberto Avendaño, 61, is moving back to northern Spain in August with his wife, Zuni Garro, also 61. Mr. Avendaño has dual citizenship, and his wife is a United States citizen. The couple can enroll in the Spanish universal health system and receive care there. They also plan to buy a private plan to use if they want to get medical services without a wait, Mr. Avendaño said.

Once they turn 65, they may enroll in Medicare as well, Mr. Avendaño said, depending on their circumstances. Their two children live in the United States.

Ms. Peresman also has a few years before turning 65 and making a decision, but she is leaning in the other direction. She is worried that the Medicare program may not exist in its current form when it comes time to decide.

“I’d sign up if it were absolutely free,” she said. “But I’m already paying $100 a month here.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades. Big Cuts Could Follow.

A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.

Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.

Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

“Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don’t think it will really happen in the end this time, because it’s just too horrible,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But action has to be taken to prevent it.”

While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees’ checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it’s possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.

Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.

The shrinking of Social Security’s assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program’s cash flow, one that could complicate Americans’ retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.

“Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements,” said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people,” he said. “This needn’t happen and it shouldn’t happen, but we’ve known about these problems for a long time and they haven’t been solved. They’re getting closer.”

Social Security has a long-known basic math problem: more money will be going out than coming in. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, with insufficient numbers of younger people entering the work force to pay into the system and support them.

And life expectancy is increasing. By 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million now. If the program has not been repaired, they will encounter a much poorer Social Security than the one seniors rely on today.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_150067614_f21c786e-dbaf-4974-a5ea-08bd94d82976-articleLarge Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades. Big Cuts Could Follow. United States Politics and Government United States Economy Taxation Stanford University Social Security (US) Retirement Law and Legislation House of Representatives Hoover Institution Heritage Foundation Harvard University Federal Budget (US) Democratic Party Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Representative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York Times

Under current law, cuts would start in 2034, when the main trust fund is expected to be depleted, or in 2035, if Congress authorizes Social Security to pay old-age benefits through the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Consider a woman with average annual earnings of $51,795 (in current dollars) over the course of her career, who retires at age 67 in 2037. The latest Social Security study indicates that she will be entitled to $27,366 in inflation-adjusted benefits. But if the trust fund shortfall has not been remedied, Social Security would be permitted to pay her only $21,669 — a 21 percent cut.

Nearly every older American would be affected, but those at the lowest income levels would be hurt the most. Social Security benefits are progressive, providing greater assistance for those with greater need. A worker with average career earnings of $12,949 until 2037 is entitled to receive the equivalent of 75.6 percent of that income, but with mandatory cuts, this person would have to survive on just 59.9 percent, the Social Security report says.

According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 percent of all retirees lived in poverty in 2017 — but the figure would have been 39 percent if not for Social Security.

For African Americans, the study found, the anti-poverty effect has been even greater: 19 percent lived in poverty, but 52 percent would have done so if they had not received Social Security payments. For Hispanics, the numbers were 17 percent and 46 percent.

The reductions of roughly 20 percent on average are just a starting point. If current laws are unchanged and current economic projections remain intact, the cuts would rise to 25 percent in later years, a New York Times analysis of Social Security data indicates.

Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement before the trust funds are emptied, most Americans will face hard choices: delaying retirement and working longer if they can, or simply surviving on less.

The Social Security mess already complicates some commonly accepted retirement-planning wisdom — such as the advice to delay claiming benefits until age 70.

People who do so are entitled to an 8 percent annual increase in benefits. That makes Social Security “the best annuity that money could buy,” said Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services, in a 2015 report. But he redid his calculations at the request of The Times, and for workers who are 55 now, statutory benefit cuts just when they turn 70 could make that approach far less attractive, Professor Pfau said.

Cutting the Social Security checks of people in retirement is, to say the least, politically dangerous.

David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, tried to do just that in 1981. What happened in that episode gives some clues for a possible solution today.

Like other conservatives of that era, Mr. Stockman viewed Social Security as a form of “closet socialism” that needed to be scaled back. With the program facing a solvency crisis, he proposed immediate reductions in retirees’ benefits.

Older Americans rebelled, and members of Congress listened to them. “I just hadn’t thought through the impact of making it effective immediately,” Mr. Stockman observed ruefully in his 1986 book, “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.”

Rosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York Times

A nimble politician, Reagan rejected Mr. Stockman’s recommendations and formed a bipartisan commission to study the issue. Ultimately, Reagan reached a long-term agreement with the Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., who viewed the preservation of Social Security as essential.

While they made no immediate cuts in Social Security checks, they reduced benefits in more subtle ways, using measures that are still being used, like gradually delaying the standard retirement age from 65 to 66, where it stands today, and eventually to 67.

Taxes increased, too — bolstering cash flows and creating the trust fund surpluses that have given retirees and current politicians some breathing room.

But in ways large and small, the Reagan-O’Neill Social Security fix is coming undone. Notably, the hefty balances in those trust fund accounts today — some $2.9 trillion — may be having an unintended consequence.

“The trust fund surpluses were intended to provide a buffer that would give politicians enough time to show some fiscal responsibility,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Social Security trustee who was also head of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president emeritus of the Urban Institute. “But the problem is that without an immediate crisis, the politicians don’t have to act. And really, they would rather sleep. So when the crisis eventually comes, as it will, it is likely to be much, much worse because of the delay.”

John Cogan, a professor of public policy at Stanford, said Social Security’s fundamental problem was that benefits had been rising faster than revenue. Cuts, he said, will be unpalatable but inevitable.

“The solution, I think, is to slow the growth in real benefits promised to future recipients,” he said.

Democrats in Congress have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, accompanied by higher taxes for the wealthy. In combination, the bill’s various measures would eliminate the program’s financial shortfall, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.

Conservatives continue to push for sharp reductions in the size of Social Security as well as Medicare, saying the United States can’t afford the growing burden of the two “entitlement programs.”

“Entitlement programs in the United States have expanded more than tenfold since their inception, but workers are nowhere near 10 times better off as a result,” the Heritage Foundation said in a May 20 policy proposal. The conservative think tank favors cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. That echoes an initiative that President George W. Bush once embraced but Democrats blocked.

There are no signs of an imminent breakthrough, though Professor Cogan said that, as in the past, the impending prospect of benefit cuts “is likely to change the political atmosphere and make it possible to find a compromise.”

But Mr. Reischauer fears that, given the current acrimony of American politics, there will be no compromise until the last minute.

“We will need a combination of increased taxes and reduced benefits, undoubtedly,” he said. “But if we wait, the deficits will only grow and the eventual solution will be much more painful.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades

A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.

Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.

Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

“Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don’t think it will really happen in the end this time, because it’s just too horrible,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But action has to be taken to prevent it.”

While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees’ checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it’s possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.

Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.

The shrinking of Social Security’s assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program’s cash flow, one that could complicate Americans’ retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.

“Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements,” said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people,” he said. “This needn’t happen and it shouldn’t happen, but we’ve known about these problems for a long time and they haven’t been solved. They’re getting closer.”

Social Security has a long-known basic math problem: more money will be going out than coming in. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, with insufficient numbers of younger people entering the work force to pay into the system and support them.

And life expectancy is increasing. By 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million now. If the program has not been repaired, they will encounter a much poorer Social Security than the one seniors rely on today.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_150067614_f21c786e-dbaf-4974-a5ea-08bd94d82976-articleLarge Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades United States Politics and Government United States Economy Taxation Stanford University Social Security (US) Retirement Law and Legislation House of Representatives Hoover Institution Heritage Foundation Harvard University Federal Budget (US) Democratic Party Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Representative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York Times

Under current law, cuts would start in 2034, when the main trust fund is expected to be depleted, or in 2035, if Congress authorizes Social Security to pay old-age benefits through the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Consider a woman with average annual earnings of $51,795 (in current dollars) over the course of her career, who retires at age 67 in 2037. The latest Social Security study indicates that she will be entitled to $27,366 in inflation-adjusted benefits. But if the trust fund shortfall has not been remedied, Social Security would be permitted to pay her only $21,669 — a 21 percent cut.

Nearly every older American would be affected, but those at the lowest income levels would be hurt the most. Social Security benefits are progressive, providing greater assistance for those with greater need. A worker with average career earnings of $12,949 until 2037 is entitled to receive the equivalent of 75.6 percent of that income, but with mandatory cuts, this person would have to survive on just 59.9 percent, the Social Security report says.

According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 percent of all retirees lived in poverty in 2017 — but the figure would have been 39 percent if not for Social Security.

For African Americans, the study found, the anti-poverty effect has been even greater: 19 percent lived in poverty, but 52 percent would have done so if they had not received Social Security payments. For Hispanics, the numbers were 17 percent and 46 percent.

The reductions of roughly 20 percent on average are just a starting point. If current laws are unchanged and current economic projections remain intact, the cuts would rise to 25 percent in later years, a New York Times analysis of Social Security data indicates.

Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement before the trust funds are emptied, most Americans will face hard choices: delaying retirement and working longer if they can, or simply surviving on less.

The Social Security mess already complicates some commonly accepted retirement-planning wisdom — such as the advice to delay claiming benefits until age 70.

People who do so are entitled to an 8 percent annual increase in benefits. That makes Social Security “the best annuity that money could buy,” said Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services, in a 2015 report. But he redid his calculations at the request of The Times, and for workers who are 55 now, statutory benefit cuts just when they turn 70 could make that approach far less attractive, Professor Pfau said.

Cutting the Social Security checks of people in retirement is, to say the least, politically dangerous.

David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, tried to do just that in 1981. What happened in that episode gives some clues for a possible solution today.

Like other conservatives of that era, Mr. Stockman viewed Social Security as a form of “closet socialism” that needed to be scaled back. With the program facing a solvency crisis, he proposed immediate reductions in retirees’ benefits.

Older Americans rebelled, and members of Congress listened to them. “I just hadn’t thought through the impact of making it effective immediately,” Mr. Stockman observed ruefully in his 1986 book, “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.”

Rosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York Times

A nimble politician, Reagan rejected Mr. Stockman’s recommendations and formed a bipartisan commission to study the issue. Ultimately, Reagan reached a long-term agreement with the Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., who viewed the preservation of Social Security as essential.

While they made no immediate cuts in Social Security checks, they reduced benefits in more subtle ways, using measures that are still being used, like gradually delaying the standard retirement age from 65 to 66, where it stands today, and eventually to 67.

Taxes increased, too — bolstering cash flows and creating the trust fund surpluses that have given retirees and current politicians some breathing room.

But in ways large and small, the Reagan-O’Neill Social Security fix is coming undone. Notably, the hefty balances in those trust fund accounts today — some $2.9 trillion — may be having an unintended consequence.

“The trust fund surpluses were intended to provide a buffer that would give politicians enough time to show some fiscal responsibility,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Social Security trustee who was also head of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president emeritus of the Urban Institute. “But the problem is that without an immediate crisis, the politicians don’t have to act. And really, they would rather sleep. So when the crisis eventually comes, as it will, it is likely to be much, much worse because of the delay.”

John Cogan, a professor of public policy at Stanford, said Social Security’s fundamental problem was that benefits had been rising faster than revenue. Cuts, he said, will be unpalatable but inevitable.

“The solution, I think, is to slow the growth in real benefits promised to future recipients,” he said.

Democrats in Congress have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, accompanied by higher taxes for the wealthy. In combination, the bill’s various measures would eliminate the program’s financial shortfall, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.

Conservatives continue to push for sharp reductions in the size of Social Security as well as Medicare, saying the United States can’t afford the growing burden of the two “entitlement programs.”

“Entitlement programs in the United States have expanded more than tenfold since their inception, but workers are nowhere near 10 times better off as a result,” the Heritage Foundation said in a May 20 policy proposal. The conservative think tank favors cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. That echoes an initiative that President George W. Bush once embraced but Democrats blocked.

There are no signs of an imminent breakthrough, though Professor Cogan said that, as in the past, the impending prospect of benefit cuts “is likely to change the political atmosphere and make it possible to find a compromise.”

But Mr. Reischauer fears that, given the current acrimony of American politics, there will be no compromise until the last minute.

“We will need a combination of increased taxes and reduced benefits, undoubtedly,” he said. “But if we wait, the deficits will only grow and the eventual solution will be much more painful.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For These Women, a FIRE That Burns Too Male and Too White

Westlake Legal Group 06retiring-01-facebookJumbo For These Women, a FIRE That Burns Too Male and Too White Women and Girls Savings Saunders, Kiersten Romzyn, Angela Retirement Millennial Generation Holley, Dawn Hester, Tanja Fickett, Jess

Kiersten Saunders stumbled upon the FIRE movement — an acronym for “financial independence, retire early” — the way most people do: by reading about it online. But also like most people, she couldn’t relate to its membership, which seemed largely white, male and based in Silicon Valley.

“When I first started looking at the FIRE blogs, it was a bit of a culture shock,” says Mrs. Saunders, 34, a marketing director in Atlanta. “As a black American and as a woman, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to replicate exactly what they did.”

FIRE disciples have a reputation as overworked millennials, usually with the word “software” in their job titles, who stockpile 50 percent or more of their six-figure paychecks so that they can quit cubicle life in their 30s. While hyper-frugality is hardly new, the concept recently acquired its catchy name and a cult following on Reddit forums and popular personal finance blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Dude, both of which are written by white men. Many adherents get competitive, posting monthly spending reports online as they race to hit their FIRE number — a chunk of assets that will theoretically generate enough income through dividends and interest to support them for the rest of their lives.

A central tenet of the movement is that with enough grit, financial savvy, and willingness to eat rice and beans, “anyone” can do it. But that’s simply not true.

“A lot of FIRE blogs, while well intentioned, can be very tone deaf,” Mrs. Saunders says. “They have these lean plans that are like, ‘Oh, we live on Soylent and frozen burritos, and that’s how we’re able to save 50 percent of our income.’ And it’s like, ‘O.K., but what about the other things that life sometimes requires? Where’s the budget for taking care of your mother-in-law?’”

Frustrated by the lack of diversity in the FIRE world, Mrs. Saunders and her husband, Julien, started their own personal finance blog in 2015, Rich & Regular. Today, she is part of a rapidly growing cohort of women who are forging their own FIRE community. While many of them chronicle their progress on the internet, most do so anonymously, wary of risking future job or salary prospects (or a firing of a less desirable kind) if they publicize their plans to cut their careers short. Like Mrs. Saunders, they tend to be the breadwinners in their families. But unlike the FIRE archetype, most of them don’t make six figures, work in tech or want to forgo the occasional bottle of good wine.

“There’s this mind-set in FIRE discussions that you have to cut out everything that’s not essential, but what’s essential to a white male is very different from what’s essential to me,” says Mrs. Saunders, who plans to hit her FIRE number (which she calculated using the 4 percent rule, a popular tactic in which retirees withdraw no more than 4 percent of their total savings each year) in 2021.

“There’s a cost to maintaining this Afro,” she adds. “There’s a cost to taking care of my skin. You don’t have to cut them to be on the FIRE path — it may take you a little longer, but it’s not a competition.”

Another leader of this group is Angela Rozmyn, 31, who lives in Kirkland, Wash., and works as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) professional for a construction company. About a year and a half ago, she saw that a prominent figure in the FIRE movement had created a list of his favorite FIRE bloggers — with only one woman on it. So Ms. Rozmyn posted a list of her female peers on her website, Tread Lightly, Retire Early.

“I published it and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I was blown away by the response it had gotten,” she says. “It was very clearly needed and wanted.”

Ms. Rozmyn’s list has grown to over 100 names from its initial 30 and now includes different categories: single women without children, single women with children, married women, and so on.

“I wanted to split it up so that anyone can read through and find who might resonate better with them,” she says. (If you’re wondering, she’s on track to retire by 45 at the latest, when her son turns 18.)

If the FIRE women have a matriarch, it’s Tanja Hester, 39, who retired from her job as a political consultant at 38. She wrote a book about her experience, “Work Optional,” and founded Cents Positive, a retreat for women in the FIRE movement in Denver in November. The inaugural gathering was supposed to be capped at 75 people, but demand was so high that she let in 85. (There was still a waiting list of several dozen.) She plans to host another one this year, possibly two, and expand into Canada in 2020.

While none of these women have a silver bullet for saving money, they tend to practice similar habits. They drive old cars, eschew restaurants and bars, turn down social outings, make food from scratch, shop at thrift stores (if at all) and institute “no-spend weeks” (just what they sound like). For fun, they entertain at home or do free activities like hiking.

They’re also quick to point out the obvious: Bigger paychecks make all the difference, even when the job isn’t ideal. Dawn Holley, 39, who writes the blog Stepping Stones to FI, commutes up to three hours a day to and from a job as a medical imaging technician in the Bay Area — which pays more than if she worked closer to home. It’s a far cry from her life as a stay-at-home mother before she was widowed 11 years ago.

“I know what financial insecurity feels like, and I don’t ever, ever want to be in that position again,” she says. “One of my motivations for reaching my FIRE number is to have more time to help other women, especially single moms, do the same thing.”

Other FIRE bloggers have had to make even bigger sacrifices. When “Ms. FAF,” who anonymously writes the blog Frugal Asian Finance, had her first child, she and her husband were in graduate school and couldn’t afford child care, so they sent their baby to stay with her in-laws in China for a year. She now works as a research analyst for a nonprofit organization and has two children who live with her in Washington.

“I consider myself to be part of the FIRE movement, but early retirement is not my ultimate goal,” she says. “I’m more interested in being free from financial worries.”

Born in Vietnam, she is expected to send money back to her parents and take care of them when they get older. As a result, her FIRE number is higher than it would be if she and her husband were saving just for themselves. They haven’t pinpointed an exact amount yet, she says, but it’s probably around $2 million. They’ve saved about $400,000 so far.

Ms. FAF isn’t the only woman in the FIRE space who doesn’t plan to stop working just because she can. Instead, many just want the flexibility to do what they want, regardless of whether it pays.

For Jess Fickett, an editor from Colorado, the ideal retirement looks just as busy as her current life. She and Lauren Torres, both 32, write the blog Bitches Get Riches, where Ms. Fickett goes by “Piggy” and Ms. Torres is “Kitty.”

“I’m not going to sit around all day,” Ms. Fickett says. “I want to volunteer and start a business.”

The ability to do so, she adds, is what financial independence is all about.

“I think the real heart of the FIRE movement is about strategically maximizing your limited time on the planet so that you can do the things you find meaningful,” she says. “You don’t have to be a filthy rich Silicon Valley guy to take a hard look at how you spend your money and make sure that it aligns with the kind of life you want to live.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Confusing Options May Be Coming to Your 401(k). It Could Cost You.

Westlake Legal Group 03retirebill1-facebookJumbo-v2 Confusing Options May Be Coming to Your 401(k). It Could Cost You. Savings Retirement Pensions and Retirement Plans Law and Legislation Annuities

Americans may soon see some welcome changes to the rules governing their retirement savings plans, including the ability to contribute to their Individual Retirement Accounts longer or tap them to help pay for the arrival of a new child.

But the same bipartisan bill could also make retirement planning even more confusing, particularly for workers hoping to recreate the pensions of a bygone era.

Among the two dozen or so rule changes is a provision that is strongly supported by insurance companies but has consumer advocates worried. It would eliminate some of the liability for employers who add annuities to the menu of options for their 401(k) plans — including expensive and complex products that purport to offer the peace of mind of a guaranteed income stream.

“There will come a time where we will point back to this as the start of a trend toward high-cost annuities being offered in 401(k) plans to the detriment of retirement savers,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America.

The proposed changes are part of H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, which passed the House with an overwhelming bipartisan majority on May 23. The bill would also allow small businesses to band together to create retirement plans and broaden the uses of college savings accounts. Leaders in the Senate are now pushing to take up similar legislation, which also has wide support and was first introduced in 2016.

[Read more about the changes the bill would make here.]

Annuities can be part of a well-founded retirement strategy. Typically, workers invest in low-cost stock and bond funds to build a nest egg, then use some of that money to buy a simple annuity, which provides regular checks for the rest of their lives. Experts say some variation of this strategy is usually the most efficient approach to recreating a paycheck in retirement.

More complex annuities, like so-called indexed annuities and variable annuities, are less common in corporate 401(k) plans but could become more mainstream if the bills become law. These products are more lucrative for insurers because they tend to have higher costs in return for the extra features they add.

Equity-indexed annuities, for example, guarantee you won’t lose money — and if a certain index, like the S&P 500, rises, the insurer will credit a portion of any return to your account. Variable annuities allow you to choose how to invest your savings and are often sold with so-called guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits, meaning you can receive regular checks and still have the option to take back some of your money.

[Want to know more? Read Ron Lieber’s annuity explainer here.]

But these features come with extra costs, which are often hard to decipher.

“The insurance companies won’t sell budget, simple immediate annuities — the kind most of us want,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research and an expert in retirement policy. “They will sell variable annuities that are typically complicated and overwhelmingly expensive to be appropriate for most families.”

There is often little benefit to saving your money inside products like variable annuities over many decades because of the high costs, experts say, which leaves you with less money once you reach retirement.

Some employers, including United Technologies, have already experimented with complex annuities. After it closed its pension plan for new workers, the company created an option that invests a portion of workers’ savings in a variable annuity. And executives from the investment giant BlackRock said they were working on other ways to include guaranteed income streams in retirement plans.

“These next generation products need to be simpler, cheaper and more transparent,” said Dan Basile, head of product management for BlackRock’s defined contribution business. “That is where we are focusing our innovation efforts.”

[Read more about changes included in the retirement legislation.]

The legislation is intended to make employers — who must act as fiduciaries, and choose the best retirement plan options for workers — more comfortable embracing annuities. And as more states and employers struggle under the weight of their pension obligations and look for alternatives, they may increasingly look to annuities.

Employers have long been reluctant to include annuities among their retirement offerings because they feared being sued if an insurer could not make the guaranteed payments — something that could happen decades after affected employees left the company.

The legislation would assuage those concerns by adding a provision that protects employers from liability in such cases. If the insurer went insolvent, retirees would be able to seek redress from state insurance guaranty associations, which provide a backstop to their benefits up to certain limits.

Some experts worry that companies — particularly smaller employers — will be more likely to choose problematic products, in large part because they often rely on brokers to educate them about complex annuities. And these brokers are typically not required to put the customer’s interest first.

“It’s possible that the safe harbor will be marketed in a way that makes plan sponsors, and particularly small plan sponsors, believe that they don’t need to review the annuities at all,” said Fred Reish, a lawyer with Drinker, Biddle & Reath and an expert on 401(k) fiduciary issues. “That would be a mistake.”

There is also concern among experts that the insurers who would be provided with an attractive new market for annuities will not necessarily be up to the task.

The legislation does not require employers to limit their annuity offerings to those from insurance companies with the best financial ratings, which are an indicator of financial health, just those who have been operating for at least seven years that meet regulators’ requirements.

“Adding such ratings as a condition would make this very good bill better,” said Mark Iwry, who was responsible for national retirement policy and regulation while serving as a senior adviser to the secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration.

Some experts envision a scenario where companies that have never before sold lifetime income annuities will enter the market, but price them inappropriately. That could risk leaving workers and retirees with little to show for their money.

“In the interest of getting into the market, some insurers who are not viable for the long term could price their annuities in a way to try to enter the space,” said Jerome Schlichter, a lawyer known as a pioneer in suing employers over retirement plans workers thought were mismanaged and too expensive.

He added that possibility made it all the more important that employers and retirement plan managers should keep a close eye on the insurance products they picked if they did not want to risk a collapse that left their retirees with an insolvent annuity, which might require the government to step in.

“It will be up to the fiduciaries not only to monitor fees and the annuity itself,” he said, “but also to monitor the solvency of the insurer.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Risky Options May Be Coming to Your 401(k)

Westlake Legal Group 03retirebill1-facebookJumbo Risky Options May Be Coming to Your 401(k) Savings Retirement Pensions and Retirement Plans Law and Legislation Annuities

Americans may soon see some welcome changes to the rules governing their retirement savings plans, including the ability to contribute to their individual retirement accounts longer or tap them to help pay for the arrival of a new child.

But the same bipartisan bill could also make retirement planning even more confusing, particularly for workers hoping to recreate the pensions of a bygone era.

Among the two dozen or so rule changes is a provision that is strongly supported by insurance companies but has consumer advocates worried. It would eliminate some of the liability for employers who add annuities to the menu of options for their 401(k) plans — including expensive and complex products that purport to offer the peace of mind of a guaranteed income stream.

“There will come a time where we will point back to this as the start of a trend toward high-cost annuities being offered in 401(k) plans to the detriment of retirement savers,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America.

The proposed changes are part of H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, which passed the House with an overwhelming bipartisan majority on May 23. The bill would also allow small businesses to band together to create retirement plans and broaden the uses of college savings accounts. Leaders in the Senate are now pushing to take up similar legislation, which also has wide support and was first introduced in 2016.

[Read Ron Lieber’s simple annuity explainer here.]

Annuities can be part of a well-founded retirement strategy. Typically, workers invest in low-cost stock and bond funds to build a nest egg, then use some of that money to buy a simple annuity, which provides regular checks for the rest of their lives. Experts say some variation of this strategy is usually the most efficient approach to recreating a paycheck in retirement.

More complex annuities, like so-called indexed annuities and variable annuities, are less common in corporate 401(k) plans but could become more mainstream if the bills become law. These products are more lucrative for insurers because they tend to have higher costs in return for the extra features they add.

Equity-indexed annuities, for example, guarantee you won’t lose money — and if a certain index, like the S&P 500, rises, the insurer will credit a portion of any return to your account. Variable annuities allow you to choose how to invest your savings and are often sold with so-called guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits, meaning you can receive regular checks and still have the option to take back some of your money.

But these features come with extra costs, which are often hard to decipher.

“The insurance companies won’t sell budget, simple immediate annuities — the kind most of us want,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research and an expert in retirement policy. “They will sell variable annuities that are typically complicated and overwhelmingly expensive to be appropriate for most families.”

There is often little benefit to saving your money inside products like variable annuities over many decades because of the high costs, experts say, which leaves you with less money once you reach retirement.

Some employers, including United Technologies, have already experimented with complex annuities. After it closed its pension plan for new workers, the company created an option that invests a portion of workers’ savings in a variable annuity. And executives from the investment giant BlackRock said they were working on other ways to include guaranteed income streams in retirement plans.

“These next generation products need to be simpler, cheaper and more transparent,” said Dan Basile, head of product management for BlackRock’s defined contribution business. “That is where we are focusing our innovation efforts.”

[Read more about changes included in the retirement legislation in Congress.]

The legislation is intended to make employers — who must act as fiduciaries, and choose the best retirement plan options for workers — more comfortable embracing annuities. And as more states and employers struggle under the weight of their pension obligations and look for alternatives, they may increasingly look to annuities.

Employers have long been reluctant to include annuities among their retirement offerings because they feared being sued if an insurer could not make the guaranteed payments — something that could happen decades after affected employees left the company.

The legislation would assuage those concerns by adding a provision that protects employers from liability in such cases. If the insurer went insolvent, retirees would be able to seek redress from state insurance guaranty associations, which provide a backstop to their benefits up to certain limits.

Some experts worry that companies — particularly smaller employers — will be more likely to choose problematic products, in large part because they often rely on brokers to educate them about complex annuities. And these brokers are typically not required to put the customer’s interest first.

“It’s possible that the safe harbor will be marketed in a way that makes plan sponsors, and particularly small plan sponsors, believe that they don’t need to review the annuities at all,” said Fred Reish, a lawyer with Drinker, Biddle & Reath and an expert on 401(k) fiduciary issues. “That would be a mistake.”

There is also concern among experts that the insurers who would be provided with an attractive new market for annuities will not necessarily be up to the task.

The legislation does not require employers to limit their annuity offerings to those from insurance companies with the best financial ratings, which are an indicator of financial health, just those who have been operating for at least seven years that meet regulators’ requirements.

“Adding such ratings as a condition would make this very good bill better,” said Mark Iwry, who was responsible for national retirement policy and regulation while serving as a senior adviser to the secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration.

Some experts envision a scenario where companies that have never before sold lifetime income annuities will enter the market, but price them inappropriately. That could risk leaving workers and retirees with little to show for their money.

“In the interest of getting into the market, some insurers who are not viable for the long term could price their annuities in a way to try to enter the space,” said Jerome Schlichter, a lawyer known as a pioneer in suing employers over retirement plans workers thought were mismanaged and too expensive.

He added that possibility made it all the more important that employers and retirement plan managers should keep a close eye on the insurance products they picked if they did not want to risk a collapse that left their retirees with an insolvent annuity, which might require the government to step in.

“It will be up to the fiduciaries to not only to monitor fees and the annuity itself,” he said, “but also to monitor the solvency of the insurer.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Justice Thomas has ‘no idea’ what prompted retirement rumors

Westlake Legal Group Clarence-Thomas Justice Thomas has ‘no idea’ what prompted retirement rumors The Blog Supreme Court Retirement Clarence Thomas

At an event for the Supreme Court Historical Society held today at the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas addressed recent rumors that he might be thinking about retirement. From the Washington Post:

“I have no idea where this stuff comes from,” he told David Rubenstein, the financier and philanthropist who interviewed him.

Rubenstein asked Thomas whether it was “enemies putting that out or your friends putting that out because they wanted you to rest more.”

“I think people just wanted to know what I was going to do,” Thomas said with a laugh, “since I couldn’t figure it out myself.”…

“I think one of the things you have to get used to, in this business, in here, is that people can say things about you, and for you, that have nothing to do with you,” Thomas said.

Thomas didn’t specify when he heard about the rumors, only that his wife told him about it. But he may be talking about a New Yorker story back in February by Jeffrey Toobin. The argument at the time was that at age 70, Thomas is nearing retirement age and, with a conservative court already in the bag, there’s no real risk for him to retire now. However, if he waits past next year then there is a chance a Democrat could win the White House and he would need to hold out at least four more years for another chance.

During the same interview today, Thomas talked about his plans for the summer. Apparently, he and his wife Virginia own an RV and like to drive around the country staying in RV parks. I have to imagine the Secret Service also has an RV that follows him around but who knows. Thomas’ best line came when asked about how he relieves stress:

He outlined his summer plans traveling in the “neighborly” atmosphere of RV parks — taking advantage of discounts for senior citizens — and escaping the “rarefied” atmosphere of Washington with his wife and two dogs in tow. He says he enjoys the relative anonymity of traveling through states in his RV that some people instead “fly over,” although every once in a while he’s asked whether he is aware that he resembles Clarence Thomas.

Asked what he does to relieve stress, he joked: “I really don’t have a lot of stress. I cause stress.”

He certainly seems to have a good sense of humor.

The post Justice Thomas has ‘no idea’ what prompted retirement rumors appeared first on Hot Air.

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You’ll notice that nobody is freaking out over Mike Enzi retiring

Westlake Legal Group youll-notice-that-nobody-is-freaking-out-over-mike-enzi-retiring You’ll notice that nobody is freaking out over Mike Enzi retiring Wyoming The Blog senator Retirement Mike Enzi Liz Cheney 2020 Senate

Westlake Legal Group enzi You’ll notice that nobody is freaking out over Mike Enzi retiring Wyoming The Blog senator Retirement Mike Enzi Liz Cheney 2020 Senate

This news actually broke over the weekend, but it drew so little media attention that a lot of people might have missed it. After more than four decades in public service, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi (R) will retire when his term is up next year. He provided plenty of notice of his resignation to allow the party to begin the process of finding the next person to run for the seat. (Gillette News Record)

At a small gathering Saturday morning at Gillette City Hall with family, friends, current and former staff members and a small group of the press, Enzi announced that he will retire when his fourth term in the Senate is up in 2020.

“I am an advocate for Gillette and Campbell County and Wyoming,” he said during his announcement speech. “I never intended to get into politics. But I was mayor for eight years during the first Gillette boom. I got to work with some amazing people who didn’t know what couldn’t be done, so we did it. We laid down a foundation for the future.”

When it’s all said and done, Enzi, 75, will have held an elected office for 42 years: eight as mayor of Gillette, 10 as a Wyoming state legislator and 24 as a U.S. Senator.

So why wasn’t there the same feeding frenzy around Enzi’s pending retirement that we frequently see when any of his colleagues call it a day? Because this is Wyoming we’re talking about. Enzi has won every one of his elections there with more than 70% of the vote except for his first run in 1996. (And he still won that one by 12 points.) No matter how woke the rest of the nation starts acting, Wyoming is not up for grabs. The GOP primary is essentially the general election.

Speaking of which, who is going to replace him? Obviously, all eyes will immediately swivel to Liz Cheney. She’s had her sights set on that seat for a while, having attempted to oust Enzi himself once in the primary. That race (and Enzi’s sometimes rocky relationship with Dick Cheney) makes Congresswoman Cheney’s positioning here a little awkward. But as soon as the announcement came out, she was clearly ready to declare all of the unpleasantness to be water under the bridge and penned a very nice statement about the retiring Senator.

“During his 20 years in Washington, he brought our state’s values to the nation’s capital, fighting for a smaller, less obstructive, and more efficient federal government that would allow people to grow and thrive. He recognized that empowering people, not politicians, was the best way to expand opportunity, and he worked tirelessly towards that goal.

“I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside him for the people of Wyoming and am proud to call him a friend. He, his wife Diana, three children and all his grandchildren deserve thanks from a state and nation that is indebted to him for his lifetime of service.”

The question is whether Liz Cheney still wants the job. As the Washington Post pointed out over the weekend, in a relatively short time she has risen through the ranks of Congressional Republicans. She’s in the number 3 leadership position, holds choice committee assignments and there’s even some buzz about her possibly trying for the Speaker’s gavel if and when the GOP takes back the majority.

She’s got plenty of time to decide. There are obviously some advantages to staying put, but much like the great white whale, once you have your heart set on a particular prize, it can be hard to give up the chase.

The post You’ll notice that nobody is freaking out over Mike Enzi retiring appeared first on Hot Air.

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Senator Michael Enzi Announces His Retirement

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-enzi-1-facebookJumbo Senator Michael Enzi Announces His Retirement Wyoming United States Politics and Government Senate Committee on the Budget Retirement Enzi, Michael B Elections, Senate

WASHINGTON — Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming, said on Saturday that he would not seek re-election at the end of his term, the third Republican senator to do so ahead of the 2020 campaign.

Mr. Enzi, 75, who leads the Senate Budget Committee, has held his seat since 1997, making him the longest-serving Wyoming senator in modern times. Speaking at a news conference in his home state, he said he planned to spend the rest of his tenure focusing on budget overhaul.

“I have much to get done in the next year and a half,” Mr. Enzi said. “I want to focus on budget reform to get control of our national debt.”

“I don’t want to be burdened by the distractions of another campaign,” he added.

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, praised Mr. Enzi’s time in the Senate, calling him a “respected moral leader.”

“He has never wavered in his commitment to God, family or Wyoming,” Mr. Barrasso said in a statement.

Mr. Enzi has a reputation for avoiding flashy television fights and has maintained a reliably conservative voting record. His first bill and his most recent bill, he noted on Saturday, passed unanimously.

Mr. Enzi began his political career as the mayor of Gillette, Wyo., before serving in the state’s legislature. He has passed more than 100 bills. A studious lawmaker, he has led the Budget Committee since 2015. In his remarks announcing his retirement, he highlighted his involvement in shepherding the 2017 Republican tax overhaul into law.

“I like being a senator, not for the title, not for the recognition and certainly not for publicity,” he said. “I like solving federal problems for Wyoming people. I like doing legislation.”

Mr. Enzi is the fourth senator to announce his intention to step down, following two other Republicans, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and one Democrat, Tom Udall of New Mexico.

His seat, in a state that President Trump won by 46 points in 2016, is likely to remain in Republican hands. The last Democratic senator to represent Wyoming left office in the 1970s.

It is unclear if Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican who once challenged Mr. Enzi in a primary race, will take another shot at the seat — a decision that would reshape Republican leadership in the House. Mr. Enzi, in his remarks, said he could see Ms. Cheney becoming speaker one day. Ms. Cheney has also told people in recent months how much she is enjoying the House, where her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, once served.

Mr. Enzi “brought our state’s values to the nation’s capital,” Ms. Cheney said in a statement, “fighting for a smaller, less obstructive, and more efficient federal government that would allow people to grow and thrive. He recognized that empowering people, not politicians, was the best way to expand opportunity, and he worked tirelessly toward that goal.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com