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Determining the right time to begin collecting Social Security can seem like aiming at a moving target. There are factors to consider such as health, marital status, and current income. There is no “right” time to begin collecting benefits, but there are considerations to collecting earlier or later.

The decision that will have the largest impact on your Social Security benefits is the age at which you begin collecting. This choice will dictate your annual Social Security income for the rest of your life. More than half of retirees begin to collect benefits early, or before full retirement age. By collecting early, beneficiaries will experience a reduction of benefits by 8% annually resulting in a total permanent reduction of benefits between 25-30%. If recipients begin collecting at their full retirement age, they will collect 100% of their benefits, which will be adjusted for expected longevity and inflation. The maximum benefit is gained by delaying Social Security benefit collection until age 70.

Types of Claims.

  • Single: A person who is entitled to only his or her own worker benefit. The individual must consider personal health and anticipated longevity, along with need for benefits. This type of claim may be maximized by deferring collection until age 70. The cumulative benefits received by a single recipient who begins to collect at age 70 will be larger than those of a single recipient who begins to collect Social Security benefits at age 62 or age 66.
  • Spousal (single income household): The spouse of a wage earner qualifies for spousal benefits (amounting to 50% of the wage earner’s benefits) who has been married for at least one year or the parent of the wage earner’s child. In order to collect spousal benefits, the wage earner must have also filed for Social Security benefits. There is a significant benefit to waiting until full retirement age or later, but the spouse can file before full retirement age without causing the wage earner’s benefits to be reduced.
  • Spousal (dual income household): In a dual income household, the spouse who earns a lower wage may elect to collect spousal benefits (amounting to 50% of the wage earner’s benefits) that result in higher benefits than they would have otherwise received. Again, the higher wage earning spouse must have filed for benefits in order for the spousal benefit recipient to begin collecting. The spouse may collect before full retirement age without causing the wage earner’s benefits to be reduced.
  • Divorced: An ex-spouse may receive spousal age benefits if the marriage lasted at least ten years. The ex-spouse may collect as early as age 62 (collections will be subject to age based reductions or credits), and this decision will have no impact upon the benefit paid to the wage earner. In order to qualify for spousal benefit as a divorcee, the ex-spouse must be unmarried at the time of filing for benefits. If the spousal beneficiary does re-marry, the benefits will be suspended until the new marriage ends by divorce, death, or annulment.
  • Survivors: A widower may collect the full amount of benefits that his or her spouse would have received. Collections begin as early as age 60, or age 50 if the survivor is disabled. In order to qualify, the marriage must have been intact for at least 9 months before death or 10 years if the marriage had ended in divorce. When filing for survivor benefits the recipient must be unmarried, but may continue to receive survivor benefits if they re-marry after receiving benefits. A unique component of survivor benefits is that the recipient may elect to receive benefits based upon his or her own wage earning contributions after age 62, even after collecting survivor benefits. If the widower delays collecting own benefits until after full retirement age, he or she will earn the age based delayed retirement credits.

Choosing when and how to file for Social Security benefits can be confusing, and it is important to consider all factors when making your decision.    

Call Asset Planning Group, LLC at 814-536-1040 to discuss your options, and learn more about how to maximize your benefits.



Whether changing career paths or advancing at a new company, there is a certain excitement around changing jobs. In the midst of all of the planning, however, there is one important detail that should not be overlooked: what to do with an existing 401(k).

To help decide which option is best for you, we can work together to consider the following factors:

  • Your current situation.

Are you on pace to meet your financial and personal goals for retirement?

How long will your retirement savings need to last? How much may your retirement expenses be?

  • Your choices.

What are the pros and cons to preserving the tax-deferred status of your current retirement plan compared to taking a lump-sum distribution?

Is it more beneficial for you to do a direct rollover to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA?

  • Your asset allocation.

Are your retirement savings diversified enough to help deliver the returns you will need to enjoy the retirement you envision? Should you look into adding new investments to your portfolio to help maintain balance?

If you are currently starting a new job, or are preparing to make a change, please call Asset Planning Group,LLC at 5814-5636-1040 to schedule an appointment to review your options and help you decide what solution will best suit your needs.

The average retirement savings for those between 32 and 61 years of age is $60,000. Retirement seems to be a lifetime away for millennials, but saving for retirement should begin early. Some studies even suggest that saving an amount that is double your salary by age 35 is the recommended start. This could be alarming to many millennials, who are still paying massive school loans and other debt. It leads to questions about how to prepare to invest and when to start.

When to start?

  • Start as early as possible.

Understanding the way compounding works over extended periods of time is useful for determining when to begin an investment. With average market growth, investing $100 per month ($1,200/year) for 40 years, can leave one with close to $1.1 million. The sooner a retirement fund starts, the larger the sum of money that builds over time.

  • You have 30 years in your 30s.

Those in their thirties have around 30 years to grow their nest egg for retirement. With a jump-start on a portfolio, you have time to invest more aggressively. The following chart shows the ideal amounts of money to be saved by each age.

35 40 50 60 65
2x salary 3x salary 4x salary 6x salary 8x salary


How do I get ready to invest?

  • Paying student loans.

Student loan payments can be a burden on savings. Paying the monthly balance while putting extra cash toward high interest loans can help finish off this debt.

  • Purchasing a starter home.

The median age to buy a home is 33. Taking time to gain financial footing before buying a home is becoming much more common, as the median age continues to rise. It is never too early to get ahead of the game and hold a home as an asset.

  • Save it before you ever see it.

Saving small amounts of paychecks before it ever reaches your hand is a great way to feel like you’re not coming up short. Living 10%-15% below your means, and investing that money before you see it, can enhance your preparedness for the future.

  • Learn your risk tolerance.

Having a plan and understanding your risk tolerance are essential parts of investing. Know if investing more aggressively or passively satisfies your risk tolerance better, and make a plan for retirement investments following that information.

With 28% of working adults claiming they have zero retirement savings, it is important to understand the fundamentals and opportunity of starting retirement investment early. Starting as soon as possible with a plan of action is essential, and can put you ahead of the crowd in savings. I encourage you to call Asset Planning Group, LLC at 814.536.1040 with any questions or concerns about retirement saving and the effects of not saving enough.


The increasing cost of healthcare is a concern for workers of all ages. Each year healthcare becomes more expensive, meaning a larger portion of retirement savings will be spent on health related costs. A health savings account, commonly referred to as an HSA, is a tax-advantaged account that can be used to pay for medical expenses now or in retirement. The account is FDIC-insured, and can be invested for greater returns.

Who qualifies?

To be eligible to establish a health savings account, an individual must:

  • Be covered by a high deductible health plan.
    • A HDHP is one with a minimum deductible for individuals of $1,300 and for families of $2,600.
  • No alternative health coverage such as Medicare, military health benefits, or medical FSAs.
  • Not claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.
  • Under the age of 65.

It is possible that an individual’s eligibility will change after opening an HSA, especially if he or she enrolls in a different healthcare plan. Regardless of eligibility, the account owner maintains control of the account and funds indefinitely. If the individual loses eligibility, he or she may not contribute to the HSA, but the account may be invested and continue to grow, or be withdrawn from if the need arises.

Tax benefits.

  • Contributions: Contributions to the health savings account can be made with the owner’s pre-tax income, lowering the taxpayer’s total taxable income. If the contribution goes into the account via payroll deduction, the amount is not subject to the FICA tax that 401(k) and IRA contributions incur.  
  • Growth: A health savings account can be used as an investment vehicle and account earnings are tax-free.
  • Spending: Withdrawals that are used to pay for qualified medical expenses, such as deductibles, co-pays, prescriptions, and Medicaid premiums, are tax exempt.

Other Important Facts.

  • Ownership/Portability: While some employers sponsor and even contribute to health savings plans, the employee is the account owner. This means that the account owner can take the account with them to a new employer, even in self-employment or unemployment. The health insurance provider may offer a health savings account, but an individual also has the option of opening an account with a financial institution.
  • Contributions: In 2018, $3,450 may be contributed to an individual’s account and $6,900 to a family account. Catch-up contributions are an additional $1,000 for individuals age 55 or older. At age 65, the account owner is no longer eligible to make contributions.
  • Distributions: Unlike with an IRA or 401(k), there are no minimum required distributions at age 70 ½. That means that if an individual does not need to use funds from the account, the assets can continue to grow for the individual or his or her beneficiaries.
  • Penalties: If funds used from the health savings account are used for nonqualified purposes, and the owner is under age 65, the distribution is taxable as income and subject to a 20% penalty. If the funds are used for a nonqualified expense but the account owner is over age 65 or disabled, the distribution will only be subject to income tax, making the distribution similar to that of a 401(k) or IRA.
  • Beneficiaries: HSAs can be inherited if a beneficiary is named. A beneficiary is not required to be covered by a high deductible health plan, but must meet account eligibility qualifications to make future contributions. If the beneficiary is a spouse, they become the account owner and incur no additional taxes. However, if the beneficiary is not the owner’s spouse, the value of the account becomes taxable in the same year of inheritance, which may create a significant tax liability.
  • Reimbursement: An account owner is not required to reimburse qualified out-of-pocket expenses within the year of incurring the expense. Therefore, an owner may choose to reimburse themselves tax free for any expense incurred after the establishment of the HSA. This is an excellent option for account owners with large account balances later on.

The sooner the account is established and contributions made, the more opportunity the funds will have to grow over time. I encourage you to call Asset Planning Group, LLC at 814.536.1040 to discuss health savings accounts and how they can be an asset to your retirement savings strategy.


Half of eligible employees under age 34 do not contribute to their employer sponsored 401(k) plans. Of the employees who do contribute, 40% do not contribute enough to take advantage of the employer match program. Read on to discover why it is never too early to begin to save for retirement and how employer sponsored savings plans are a gift you can give to yourself.

The Internet allows us to access unlimited sources of information and to even invest online at a low cost. The cost of your time, however, is high. Vanguard reports that the value added by a financial advisor can be reported by portfolio net returns of 3%. However, return on investment of a good financial advisor amounts to more than net returns. A financial advisor not only can earn you higher returns, but also employ their expert perspective and resources to create the best comprehensive strategy for you. Let us help you achieve your financial goals so that you can spend your time doing what you love.

Welcome to the New Year! Start the year 2018 with a complete understanding of where you stand financially, and begin to set goals for yourself. We have compiled a checklist to help you through this process.

Personal Finances

 List all assets, including accounts, real estate, savings, valuables, etc.

 List all debts including mortgage, student loans, credit cards, and any other loans.

 Identify and monitor your credit score.

Retirement Plans

 Determine whether a Roth or Traditional IRA is best for you.

 Rollover old 401(k) accounts from previous employers.

 Analyze your anticipated expenses in retirement and adjust your annual contributions accordingly.


 Analyze your level of risk aversion and make sure that your portfolio matches that level of risk.

 Make corrections to portfolio where market shifts occurred to realign diversification with investment strategy.

Tax Planning

 Create or revise an estate plan based upon current assets.

 Contribute to 529 College Savings Plan for family members.  Investigate and decide upon a strategy for capital gains taxes, such as reinvestment.

 Consider establishing a trust or making charitable donations.

Emergency Planning

 Build and maintain an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses.

 Consider investing in temporary disability insurance.

 Ensure that a proper agent is granted power of attorney.

Set Financial Goals

 Set realistic savings goals. o Cut out expenses that you don’t need.

o Channel paychecks directly into multiple accounts with direct deposit.

o Analyze your insurance coverage.

 Be Prepared. o What are the chances of needing to make a large purchase such as a car or college tuition this year? o Am I prepared to manage such costs? o Will I need to take on any debt?

 Remain Involved.

o Stay up to date on your financial situation through frequent monitoring and review.

o Conduct beneficiary reviews as major life events occur (marriage, children, etc.)

  1. Start early. By saving $1,000 a year at age 25, you could end up with five times what you’d have if you started at age 45.
  2. Use your 401(k). You put in pretax dollars so it’s a great savings plan. Passing up employer contributions is giving up free money.
  3. Diversify properly so you don’t become an unwilling victim of having too many eggs in one basket.
  4. Don’t try to beat the market by short term trading. Even the best fund managers have trouble beating the S&P 500.
  5. Don’t chase trends. If you hear about a “hot” stock, investigate it.
  6. Make saving automatic. If you are maxing out your 401(k), get payroll deductions transferred to a Roth IRA, or other tax deferred vehicle.
  7. Take the long term view for your equity assets. Buy and hold can get the job done without the worry that most traders suffer through.
  8. Be diligent about your tax planning. Make sure you take advantage of every single legal loophole you can to reduce your income tax liability to the lowest legal level possible. (And make sure to change your withholdings so you get your tax savings NOW instead of loaning your money interest free to the IRS!)
  9. Get rid of credit card debt. Rank them by their interest rate and pay off those with the highest rates first. For low-interest student loans, consider making minimum payments and investing in your 401(k) instead.
  10. Make sure to do financial planning and review it once a year at a minimum!

November and December tend to be slow months in the real estate market, but the season can provide great opportunities for both buyer and seller.

For the seller:

* Homeowners make a special effort to have their homes at their best during the holidays. While extensive decorating is not advised, decorations that don’t overpower a house can enhance it.

* Typically, those who actually look at a house are serious buyers. People who are just shopping around won’t bother you.

* There is less competition for those selling in December. Many homeowners wait until spring to list their homes.

For the buyer:

*Homes repossessed by lenders may be offered at bargain prices. The banks and mortgage companies don’t want them on the books when the new year begins.

* Because many business relocations occur at this time of year, there could be an unusual opportunity to buy at a lower price from someone who must move very soon.

* Typically, mortgage interest rates are reduced at the end of the year.

As usual, with any financial issue like this, DON’T TRY TO DO THIS YOURSELF! We’ll be glad to work with you on how to plan to avoid paying taxes, and coordinate your relocation with an attorney and accountant! Please keep in mind that this tip is designed to be of help for you, but is not to be relied upon as advice. It is merely a reminder that there are many choices you have available to you, and that planning is the only way to find the right answers for your situation!  As with any financial issues, make sure you get the right information before making a decision!  If you have any questions, we’ll be glad to help you!