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.



The Baby Boomer generation is estimated to pass on at least $30 trillion in wealth to what we call the rising generation: members of generation X and millennials. When asked, 80% of adults plan to transfer their wealth but only 45% have a plan in place. It is never too early to begin your wealth transfer plan, so don’t wait until it is too late. It’s up to you to decide what you want your legacy to be, and we are here to help you get started. Consider the following:

Ask Yourself

  • Where do I want my wealth to go? Three options exist: friends and family, charity, or taxes.
  • What are my values? How do you envision your legacy? Do you want to support a cause or send your grandchildren to college? By identifying your values you can establish the goals of your legacy plan.
  • Do I need a succession plan? Does your legacy depend upon the success of a business enterprise? If so, this is an integral part of your wealth transfer plan.
  • How do I want to distribute my wealth? Will you make your assets directly accessible to your heirs and beneficiaries, or will you establish trusts to hold, manage, and invest assets to maintain family wealth?
  • What kind of taxes will I be subject to? Gift, estate, and generation skipping taxes all may impact the assets that your heirs inherit. Effective tax strategies will preserve as much family wealth as possible.

Ask Your Family

What are our values? As a family, what do we want our legacy to be? Are we supportive of philanthropic causes or certain organizations?

What is our responsibility? As stewards of a shared legacy, what is each individual’s responsibility to both represent and sustain that legacy?

How will we make decisions as a family now and in the future? While we cannot know what the future will bring, it is important to have decision making processes in place so that we are ready to work together when needed.

What are our expectations? What are your expectations of me, and what are my expectations of you? Openly communicating expectations can help to generate mutual understanding and help to avoid future conflict.

Your legacy is in your hands, and is your gift to heirs and charitable causes. In order to ensure that your legacy remains intact, a wealth transfer plan is necessary. It is essential that you discuss with your heirs the importance of shared values, responsibility, and expectations.

We would be happy to assist you in your transfer of wealth planning. Please do not hesitate to call us at 814-536-1040.

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.


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!


While experts are divided on the existence of a retirement savings crisis in America, the average household headed by someone age 55-64 has saved around $100,000 for retirement. Is your household one of them? Call us to schedule an appointment to ensure you have the best saving strategy for your needs.

Many people routinely add $100 or $200 to their mortgage payment each month. It’s a good feeling to know they are closer to paying off their home or apartment. For some of them, however, it may not be the best move, financially speaking.

Those whose mortgage interest is tax-deductible, could make another choice. Their interest payments are actually reduced by the income tax deduction. For them, funding retirement accounts is a better idea, especially if the funding is tax-free and/or tax deferred. (Such as your 401(K), or IRA, or tax deferred insurance vehicles, etc. It’s likely you may be able to get yields that are greater from these alternatives than making extra mortgage payments would offer.

Paying down a mortgage loan IS a good idea if your mortgage interest is not tax deductible.

If you are taking the standard deduction rather than itemizing, you receive no tax break for your mortgage interest. You might also want to make extra principal payments if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage. If the interest rate rises by two points or more, your monthly payments will be much higher. To offset that, you may want to reduce the balance with higher payments.

If you lack the self-discipline required to invest elsewhere, you could also benefit from extra principal payments. It’s easy to procrastinate when you should be investing. But you have to write that mortgage check every month anyway, so you might as well make it a little bigger, and place the difference somewhere that it might be more profitable for your future! Please talk to us about how we can help you “force yourself” to save…so you can be as sure as possible you’ll have the dough you need when you need it!

Many homeowners purchase an insurance policy when they first move in, but they may not understand the importance of periodically reviewing it or reassessing their needs. It’s an oversight that can ultimately lead to a gap in their coverage.

A home renovation or upgrade is another reason you may want an insurance review. Everything from new furniture to a kitchen upgrade can affect the value of your family’s home, and may even qualify you for additional discounts on your insurance policy.

An annual insurance review can also be an important opportunity to ensure you are receiving all possible discounts on your homeowners policy. For example, you may qualify for a discount if you have installed a security system, a smoke alarm.

Like home maintenance, an annual insurance review is something that can go a long way to protecting what is likely your biggest investment.