Long Story

Kristine Hayes  |  Apr 5, 2018

AS A FORMER journalism major, I’m a sucker for a good headline. I understand how difficult it is to grab a reader’s attention in ten words or less. So, when I came across a headline proclaiming that a group of Stanford researchers had determined the “best” retirement strategy, I admit I was intrigued. I clicked on a link to the study—and found not only a useful retirement planning system, but also a portal into the Stanford Center on Longevity.

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Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 23, 2018

IN MY NERDY PERSONAL finance world, there are perhaps two dozen folks I pay close attention to—and one of them is Mike Piper, the blogger behind He’s also written nine books in his “made simple” series, which offer great primers on financial subjects like taxes, Social Security and retirement, all in 100 pages or less.
An accountant by training, Piper brings his analytical mind and detailed knowledge of government rules to the topics he tackles.

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A Morbid Game

Phil Dawson  |  Feb 7, 2018

THERE ARE MANY WHO claim to speak with authority on Social Security.  I am not one of them. But I’m nothing if not curious. I recently set about testing some notions I have heard with regard to Social Security retirement benefits. A family member had asked for help understanding her Social Security statement, so I had some real numbers to work with. The statement predicted that her monthly benefits would be as follows, depending on when she begins benefits:

$1,907 at age 62.

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Second Childhood

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 27, 2018

IN COLLEGE, I WAS the kid who swore he would never get married and never have children. A year later, I was engaged. Two years later, I was married. Three years later, I had a newborn.
And three decades later, I’m 55 years old, with a daughter who will turn 30 later this year.
I have no regrets about having children so young. Far from it. It does mean I missed out on the romancing,

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Social Insecurity

Kristine Hayes  |  Jun 8, 2017

I RECENTLY ATTENDED a retirement readiness seminar sponsored by the financial firm that holds most of my retirement savings. The first question the presenter asked was, “How many of you think you’ll be able to retire comfortably living off just your Social Security benefits?” I was surprised to see how many people in the audience raised their hands. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: It turns many of these same people couldn’t guess the average monthly Social Security benefit—and most thought it was far higher than it really is.

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Retire to What?

Nicholas Clements  |  Apr 4, 2017

AS I PREPARED TO retire at the relatively young age of 52, it was important to me not to become isolated, not to lose touch with the world beyond my home. My husband continues to work, leaving me on my own for much of the day. I consider myself a social person. All my jobs have involved working with employees and customers, from my first job as a delicatessen cashier through to running my own landscape maintenance company with 25 employees and hundreds of accounts.

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Playing the Spread

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 13, 2016

HOW LONG WILL YOU live? A recent study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research noted that, “A healthy 65-year old man in an employer pension plan has a 25% chance of dying by age 78, or of living to age 91 or beyond.”
Think about the dilemma this creates if you’re retiring at age 65. Even if you are in the middle 50% of the male population—neither among the 25% who die early in retirement nor among the 25% who live well into their 90s—your retirement could last just 13 years or it could be double that,

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Worth the Wait

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 7, 2016

THE DEBATE OVER when to claim Social Security reminds me of the debate over index funds. On one side, there are those who have studied the issue—and on the other side are crackpots and those with a not-so-hidden agenda. Yes, you should index. Yes, most folks should delay claiming Social Security retirement benefits.
Elsewhere, I’ve written about the breakeven age for claiming Social Security, assuming you took your benefit and invested it. The upshot: Taking benefits at age 66 or age 70 is typically a better bet than taking benefits at 62,

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Getting Up There

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 17, 2015

LIFE EXPECTANCY HAS increased sharply over the past century—if you consider life expectancy as of birth. But if you look at life expectancy as of age 65, which is what matters for retirees, the improvement for the broad U.S. population hasn’t been nearly so impressive, as I discussed recently.
But it’s a different story if you look at more affluent Americans, notes one of my e-mail correspondents, Bob Frey, a financial planner in Bozeman,

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Benefits Revised

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 2, 2015

TWO KEY CHANGES to Social Security retirement benefits were wrapped into the budget bill passed by Congress last week. The changes have big implications for married couples.
First, after April 2016, if you suspend your benefit, any family members collecting benefits on your earnings record will also have their benefit suspended. Second, those who aren’t age 62 by Jan. 1, 2016, will lose the right to file a restricted application, where you claim just spousal benefits,

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Silly Headline Alert

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 29, 2015

INFLATION ROSE JUST 0.1% over the 12 months through June, as measured by CPI-U, the most popular inflation measure. But that tiny increase is a bad guide to the future, because it’s held down by the 15% plunge in energy prices over the past year.
So what should we expect? A better guide is CPI-U with food and energy excluded, which rose 1.8% over the past 12 months. Better still, take your cues from the Treasury market.

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Stats to Die For

Jonathan Clements  |  May 13, 2015

I JUST FINISHED reading the Society of Actuaries’ summary of key findings from its “2011 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey Report.” From this, you might conclude two things. One, I’m way behind on my reading. Two, I don’t have a very exciting life. Both may be true. Still, I found the report fascinating. Here are three excerpts.
First, according to the report, “the two major factors in determining longevity are genetics and lifestyle choices.

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An Odd Argument

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 27, 2015

IT’S ONE OF THE stranger arguments for claiming Social Security retirement benefits at age 62—but I’m hearing it with increasing frequency. The contention: We should claim benefits early because we’ll enjoy the money more in our 60s, when we’re traveling and spending more, than in our 80s, when we’ll likely be sticking closer to home.
It isn’t clear to me that we should expect to spend less in our 80s, when we may have significant medical expenses.

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Breaking Even

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 17, 2015

IT’S THE NEVER-ENDING debate: When should retirees claim Social Security? This piece, I hope, will at least serve to clarify the basic math involved.
Let’s dispense with a few preliminaries. If you have young children, it may be worth claiming at age 62, so your kids can receive family benefits. Meanwhile, if you’re married and you were the main breadwinner, it’s probably worth delaying benefits to age 70 to get the larger monthly check.

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It Pays to Delay

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 9, 2015

AMONG EXPERTS on Social Security, there’s a broad consensus that most folks should delay Social Security to get a larger monthly check—and yet roughly half of retirees claim benefits at 62, the earliest possible age.
Many of these retirees, I suspect, take benefits right away because they need the money or they haven’t given the issue much thought. What about those who have wrestled with the topic and still insist that claiming at 62 is the right strategy?

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