Chapter_14

Retirement Planning and Saving: Mistakes to Avoid

Millions of working Americans find it’s a challenge just to pay for their house, car, insurance, child care and other expenses each month. So how can people even think about setting aside money for their retirement 20, 30 or even 40 years away? We can’t predict the future, but we can help you learn from the past. Here’s a list of common mistakes and miscalculations on the road to financial security — wrong turns we want you to avoid.

Saving too little.  How much of your money should go to retirement savings?

When in doubt, perhaps the simplest approach is to try to put 10 to 20 percent of your income each year into money toward your retirement. Regular, automatic savings programs also help make it “painless” to set money aside.

Starting too late. The sooner you begin saving, even with relatively small amounts contributed year after year, the faster you can develop a solid retirement fund. Through the magic of compound interest, a little bit of money saved over a long period can grow to be a lot of money.

Not diversifying enough. Putting all your (nest) eggs in one basket can be a problem if the approach you take doesn’t perform well or actually loses money. Consider a mix of savings and investments that might perform reasonably well under any economic or market conditions.

Not doing your homework. A wrong move can cost you thousands of dollars in taxes, fees, penalties or bad investments. Learn as much as you can about planning and saving for retirement.

Falling for retirement rip-offs. If you get a call, letter or visit from someone peddling financial products with features that seem too good to be true, trust your instincts.  If you think you’ve been approached by a con artist or you’ve been victimized by someone offering a financial product or service, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (visit ftc.gov/complaint or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP). If the scam is internet-related, send an email to the federal government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if anyone has started to save for retirement. What was their motivation to start early?
  • Ask students to prepare and share a list of resources that can be used to learn more about retirement planning and investing for retirement.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to start early and save for retirement even when you are in your 20’s?
  2. What should you do if a financial product and its features seem too good to be true?
  3. How even a little bit of money saved over a long period of time can grow to be a lot of money at retirement?
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Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

Deciding when to start receiving your retirement benefits from Social Security is a decision that only you can make, and you should make that decision with as much information as possible.  There are a lot of important questions to answer.  Should you claim benefits earlier and get a smaller monthly payment for more years?  Or should you wait and get bigger monthly amount over a shorter period?

There are no right or wrong answers, but consider these four important questions as you plan for your financial secure retirement:

  1. How much money will I need to live comfortably in retirement?
  2. What will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit be?
  3. Will I have other income to supplement my Social Security benefits?
  4. How long do I expect my retirement to last?

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to survey retired individuals or people close to retirement to obtain information on the main sources of retirement income.
  2. Ask students to survey local businesses to determine the types of retirement plans available to employees.

Discussion Questions

  1. What types of retirement income should be the main emphasis of a retirement program?
  2. What actions might be appropriate by government and individuals to guarantee the continuing financial stability of the Social Security program?
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Children and Social Security Numbers

A child needs a Social Security number if he or she is going to have a bank account, if a relative is buying savings bonds for the child, if the child will have medical coverage, or if the child will receive government services. You’ll also need a Social Security number for a child to claim him or her on your tax returns.

The application for a Social Security number and card is sometimes overlooked in the paperwork that parents fill out in preparation for a child’s birth. Typically, the hospital will ask new mothers if they want to apply for a Social Security number for their newborn as part of the birth registration process. This is the easiest and fastest way to apply. The Social Security card typically arrives about a week to ten days after the baby is born. You can learn about Social Security numbers for children by reading a Social Security publication, Social Security Numbers for Children.

If you wait to apply, you will have to visit a Social Security office and you’ll need to:

  • Complete an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5);
  • Show original documents proving your child’s U.S. citizenship, age, and identity; and
  • Show documents proving your identity.

A child age 12 or older requesting an original Social Security number must appear in person for the interview, even though a parent or guardian will sign the application on the child’s behalf.

For More Information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if Social Security is only meant for the elderly and the disabled persons.
  • What is the procedure to apply for a Social Security Number if a parent does not apply for it when the child is born?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to apply for a Social Security Number at child’s birth?
  2. Does Social Security benefit only retired people? Why or why not?
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Does It Sounds Too Good To Be True?

A current email scam invites people to take advantage of “a little known Social Security contract” which enables you to receive “little known benefits.”  Think that sounds too good to be true? It should—there is no “little known Social Security contract.”

What are some clues that scams might not be legitimate?  Scammers insist that the situation is urgent and issue warnings.  They try to convince you to act now to avoid dire consequences.  They promise a deal or secret that the public doesn’t know about.  They come from organizations unknown to you.  They offer things the government doesn’t want you to know, but they don’t come from a .gov website.

The Federal Trade Commission’s website maintains a list of scams in the news.  You can sign up to be notified by an e-mail when new scams appear.  You can also get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.  Stay well informed by visiting the FTC scam alert page.  It’s in your best interest to find out about the scams and how they work so you won’t fall a victim to one yourself.  Protect yourself by learning how to avoid scams and fraud.  You can search for “identity Theft” or “phishing scam” on Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov to learn more about how to protect yourself.  Then you’ll be the one who knew it sounded too good to be true.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students what they would do if they received such enticing offers.
  • Ask students to make a list of agencies where they can file a complaint against these scammers.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can you determine if the offer is legitimate?
  2. What can you do to protect yourself from such bogus offers?
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New Service at Social Security

In December 2016, Social Security launched a new service for my Social Security account holders where they can check on the status of an application for benefits or an appeal filed with Social Security.  The service provides detailed information about retirement, disability, survivors, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income claims and appeals filed either online at socialsecuarity.gov or with a Social Security employee.

The ability to check your application status is available online to everyone who has or opens a secure my Social Security.  You can open an account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.  The service provides important information about your claim or appeal including

  • date of filing,
  • current claim location,
  • scheduled hearing date and time, and
  • claim or appeal decision.

If you are unable to open a my Social Security account you can still call 1-800-772-1213 to check your claim status by using the automated system using the confirmation number you received when you filed your claim.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of learning about my Social Security and other services provided by the Social Security Administration.
  • Encourage students to visit the Social Security website and open a my Social Security account.

Discussion Questions

  1. What might be some advantages of opening my Social Security account?
  2. What might be some drawbacks to open my Social Security account?
  3. Can hackers get into your my Social Security account?
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Social Security Retirement Estimator

How the Retirement Estimator Works

The Retirement Estimator provides estimate based on your actual Social Security earnings record.  Social Security can’t provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for benefits, they will be adjusted for cost-of-living increases.  And that amount may differ from estimates provided because:

  • Your earnings may increase or decrease in the future.
  • After you start receiving benefits, they will be adjusted for cost-of-living increases.
  • Your estimated benefits are based on current law. The law governing benefit may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits.
  • Your benefit amount may be affected by military service, railroad employment or pensions earned through work on which you did not pay Social Security tax.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to gather the information they will need to calculate their retirement benefit.
  • Help students understand that their social security benefits will be reduced if they retire before their retirement age.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it better if you wait until your retirement age to collect social security benefits?
  2. What might be the consequences if you decide to work after you retire?
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The 1-Page Financial Plan: 10 Tips for getting what you want from Life

Carl Richards, author of The One Page Financial Plan, knows the financial mistakes–including the ones he has made–that people make.  Based on his experience as a financial planner, he provides 10 tips to help people get what they want from life.  Note:  An explanation and examples to illustrate each tip are provided in this article.  His tips are:

  1. Ask why money is important to you.
  2. Guess where you want to go.
  3. Know your starting point.
  4. Think of budgeting as a tool for awareness.
  5. Save as much as you reasonably can.
  6. Buy just enough insurance today.
  7. Remember that paying off debt can be a great investment.
  8. Invest like a scientist.
  9. Hire a real financial advisor.
  10. Behave for a really long time.

For more information, click here. 

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Illustrate how each tip provided in this article could affect an individual’s financial plan.
  • Encourage students to read the entire article to help determine what’s really important in their life.

Discussion Questions

  1. It’s often hard (or maybe close to impossible) to determine what you value and where you want to go in the next 20 to 30 years with perfect accuracy. Still, experts recommend that you establish a long-term financial plan.  What steps can you take to make sure your plan will meet your future needs?
  2. Why is it important to evaluate your plan on a regular basis and make changes if necessary?
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter_14, Financial Planning, insurance, Retirement Planning | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Financial Security and Longevity

While Americans are living longer and healthier lives, they also are facing more financially fragile situations. Uncertainty related to financial health in the later years of life has become more common. Lower, less predictable incomes among those retiring within 10 years has resulted in difficulty paying their bills. This group also reports a lower net worth. In 2013, the typical 56- to 61-year-old had an average of $17,000 in retirement savings. This lower level of net worth is partially the result of higher levels of debt than the previous generation. This debt is in the form of higher mortgages and education loans, including amounts owed for their children’s education.

To address these concerns, several policy actions are proposed:

  • Requiring and supporting strategies for to build effective financial capability, including coaching and workforce development programs.
  • Tax policies and other incentives that encourage savings and investment among lower-income and lower-wealth families.
  • Policies to increase educational opportunities without excessive debt.
  • Efforts for protection from financial difficulties caused by medical catastrophe.
  • Policies for improved housing stability of both owners and renters.

For additional information on financial security and longevity, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students interview people to determine common actions used to save for retirement.
  • Have students create a presentation to suggest action for improved financial security for various income levels.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are some financial pressures faced by households as people approach retirement age?
  2. What actions might government and business take to reduce the financial pressures of people approaching retirement age?
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Reporting Changes to Social Security is Your Responsibility

If you receive benefits from Social Security, you have a legal obligation to report changes, which could affect your eligibility for disability, retirement, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  You must report any changes that may affect your benefits immediately, no later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred.  Changes you need to report range from a change of address to traveling outside the United States for 30 consecutive days.

Life changes affect your benefits.  You may be due additional payments, or you may be overpaid and have to pay Social Security back because you didn’t report the overpayment promptly. The SSI program may apply a penalty that will reduce your benefits if you fail to report a change, or if you reported the change later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred.  If you fail to report changes promptly, or if you intentionally make a false statement, Social Security may stop your SSI, disability, and retirement benefits.  Social Security may also impose a sanction against your payments.  The first sanction is a loss of all payments for six months.  Subsequent sanctions are for 12 and 24 months.

Report your change online at www.socialsecurity.gov, or by calling toll free at 1-800-772-1213.  If you are deaf or hearing impaired call TTY 1-800-325-0778.  Mail the information to your Social Security office or deliver in person.  If you receive benefits and need to change your address or direct deposit, create a Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov and to create their own online Social Security account. There is no fee to create a “my Social Security” account, but students must have a valid e-mail address.
  • Ask students to sign into their “my Social Security” account and obtain their benefit verification letter.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to report life changes to Social Security if you receive any benefits from Social Security?
  2. What are the consequences if you fail to report changes promptly?

What are several ways you can report the life changes to Social Security Administration?

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Retirement Can’t Wait

A few decades ago, Americans had a pretty solid three-legged retirement stool.  Social Security and personal savings combined with traditional pensions led to good middle-class retirements for millions.  But today’s stool is a little too wobbly to support that lifestyle for coming generations of workers and retirees.  The Great Recession shows all of us just how vulnerable 401(k) type plans and IRAs can be, and with the savings rates dangerously low, the need to strengthen the system is clear.  Today, workers are largely responsible for their own retirement investments.  The days of a defined benefit pension that you couldn’t outlive are a thing of the past.  Today, we have to take greater ownership for starting our savings, managing and then figuring out how much to draw in retirement.

Most workers need advice on how to invest their 401(k) and IRA savings.  Too often, that advice is not delivered in the customer’s best interest.  The Labor Department is working with the financial services industry, consumer groups and Members of Congress to come up with a plan that protects retirement savings from financial conflicts of interest.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to analyze their current assets and liabilities for retirement planning.
  • Will your students’ spending patterns change during retirement?
  • What are the basic steps in retirement planning?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is retirement planning so important for today’s workers?
  2. Can you depend on Social Security and your company pension to pay for your basic living expenses in retirement? Why or why not?
  3. Why is it important to start early for a secure retirement?
Categories: Chapter_14, Financial Planning, Investments, Retirement Planning, Savings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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