Retirement Planning

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?
Categories: Chapter_14, Retirement Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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?
Categories: Chapter_14, Retirement Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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

How to Find a Financial Advisor

“Finding your next financial advisor is as easy as counting from one to five.  You just need to know where to look and what to ask.”

The information in this article is provided by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and was developed to help people find a financial advisor.  Specific suggestions include

  1. Before beginning a search for a financial advisor, have a conversation with your loved ones to determine what is important, what you value, and what you want to accomplish.
  2. To develop a list of potential advisors, talk to friends and relatives and visit websites like http://www.napfa.org.
  3. Narrow your list to the top three contenders then do your homework. Visit company websites and read each advisors biographical sketch, check information available on the SEC website (www.sec.gov), and develop a list of questions that you want to ask when you meet each advisor.
  4. Request a meeting with each potential advisor. Ask questions to help assess your comfort level with each advisor.  For help, visit the NAPFA website (www.napfa.org) and click on “Tips and Tools.”
  5. Often the key to building a relationship with a financial advisor is communication. Review your relationship with a financial advisor over time.  Don’t just look at investment results, but also determine if the advisor (and her or his firm) is helping you achieve your important goals.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

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

  • Remind students that it is better to start financial planning earlier rather than later in life.
  • Stress that even beginning investors or investors with little money can still use a financial advisor.
  • Encourage students to visit the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors website (www.napfa.org). There is a great deal of quality information available with a click of a mouse.

Discussion Questions

  1. Often, the first step when choosing a financial advisor begins before you actually meet a potential advisor. How can determining your goals and what you value help you start financial planning?
  2. While many investors think that financial advisors are only for the rich, beginning investing or investors with little money can benefit from professional help. What steps can you take to find the right financial advisor to help you obtain your goals?
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter_11, Financial Planning, Retirement Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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?

Categories: Chapter_14, Financial Planning, Retirement Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

New rules for Reverse Mortgages

The most popular reverse mortgage program is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is insured by Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

New rules from HUD add protections for certain surviving spouses after the death of a reverse mortgage borrower.   Until recently, if the non-borrower spouse was not on the loan, he or she was not entitled to remain in the property following the death of the borrower.  But under HUD’s new rules, non-borrowing, surviving spouse can remain in the home if specific conditions are met.  These changes apply to reverse mortgage loans in which the borrowing spouse applied for a reverse mortgage before August 2014.  In addition, the couple must have resided in the property as their principal residence throughout the duration of the HECM, and taxes, property insurance and any other special assessments that may be required by local or state law must have been paid.

The concern regarding non-borrowing spouses has been a source of many reverse mortgage issues.  Here’s why: The amount of money a reverse mortgage borrower can draw is based in part on the age of the youngest borrower—and unless all borrowers are 62 or over, they would not qualify for a reverse mortgage.

For more information:

Consumer Advisory

Reverse Mortgage Information

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to comment on the statement: “While a reverse mortgage can be used to supplement monthly income, some borrowers may face unintended obstacles and consequences”. What might be those consequences?
  • Are the new rules from HUD effective in protecting senior citizens? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should you talk to a qualified professional before deciding to get a reverse mortgage?
  2. Where can you find HUD-approved HECM Counseling Agencies near you?
Categories: Chapter 7, Financing a Home, Retirement Planning, Savings | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Look at Reverse Mortgages

Every day, approximately 10,000 people in the United States turn age 62, according to the Census Bureau.  And if they are homeowners, they may be eligible to borrow against a portion of the equity in their house by using a loan called a “reverse mortgage.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is warning consumers about potentially misleading reverse mortgage advertising.  In June 2015, the CFPB issued a consumer advisory stating that many television, radio, print and Internet advertisements for reverse mortgages had “incomplete and inaccurate statements used to describe the loans”.  In addition, most of the important loan requirements were often buried in fine print if they were even mentioned at all.  These advertisements may leave older homeowners with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are a risk-free solution to financial gaps in retirement.” For example, the CFPB said, “After looking at a variety of ads, many homeowners we spoke to didn’t realize reverse mortgage loans need to be repaid.”

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Visit the website of the American Association of Retired Person (AARP) at aarp.org. Locate the AARP Home Equity Information Center, which presents facts about reverse mortgages.  Then prepare a report on how reverse mortgages work.
  • Ask students to visit Fannie Mae’s website at fanniemae.com/homebuyer to find out who is eligible for reverse mortgages, and what other choices are available to borrowers.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should you consult a qualified professional before you decide to get a reverse mortgage?
  2. Where can you find Housing and Urban Development-approved Home Equity Conversion Mortgage counseling agencies near you?
Categories: Chapter 7, Home Buying, Retirement Planning, Savings | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Mutual Fund Rankings, 2015

“If a bull market must continually climb a wall of worry, then the current bull, which started more than six years ago, should be on the brink of exhaustion.”

As a preamble to Kiplinger’s 2015 Mutual Fund Rankings, this article describes the concerns that investors have about interest rates, corporate earnings, the economy, political upheaval, and other factors that could impact not only mutual fund investments, but all investments and the U.S. and the world economy.

In addition the article also provides links to Kiplinger’s Mutual Fund Finder tool and specific information about the top-performing mutual funds including large-company stock funds, midsize-company stock funds, small-company stock funds, hybrid funds, large-company foreign stock funds, small- and midsize foreign stock funds, global stock funds, diversified emerging-market funds, regional and single-country funds, sector funds, and alternative funds.

For more information, click here.  

Teaching Suggestions

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

  • Remind students that there are many factors that can affect mutual fund investments.
  • Show students how to use the link to the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Finder tool that is described in the article.
  • Stress the importance of a long-term investment program–especially when planning for retirement.

Discussion Questions

  1. Assuming you believe there is a strong possibility the value of your mutual funds will decrease over the next 12 months, would you sell your funds or would you hold them? Explain your answer.
  2. Depending on your answer to the above question, what factors did you consider to help make your decision?
  3. Pick one fund you believe could help obtain your investment goals. Then use the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Finder to research the fund. Based on the information, would you still want to invest in this fund.
Categories: Chapter_13, Investments, Mutual Funds, Retirement Planning, Savings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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

Many Americans Have No Savings

About three in ten Americans have no emergency savings, according to a study conducted by Bankrate.com. This number has increased in recent years, mainly due to the lack of growth in household income. Without an emergency fund, people tend to encounter even greater financial difficulties. A person will often use high-interest debt to cover unexpected expenses. In addition to the 29 percent with no savings, another 21 percent have less than three months worth of expenses saved.

For additional information on emergency savings, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students ask several people who their might cope with a financial emergency.
  • Have students create a plan for creating a emergency savings fund.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are methods that might be used to cope with a financial emergency?
  2. How might a person be encouraged to create an emergency fund?
Categories: Budget, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Financial Planning, Retirement Planning, Savings | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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