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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 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.


While retirement may seem very far off for your children as they begin their careers, getting a jump on their savings may mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and a stressful one.

Rather than depending on a pension to help support themselves during retirement, most millennials will need to solely depend on their personal savings.

To help ensure your loved ones are on the right path for future success, call us today to schedule a family appointment.


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.

It’s never been more important to save for retirement. Baby boomers are set to strain the Social Security system in the years ahead. Studies repeatedly show that we fail to save enough on our own for retirement. The earlier you start and the more you save, the more comfortable your later years can be.  Fortunately, it’s never been easier to save in tax-advantaged accounts such as 401(k) and similar plans.

These plans offer a flexible way to cut your current taxes while you accumulate savings. Recently Congress made changes to encourage participation and to make these plans more attractive.  One change is that you could find yourself automatically enrolled in your company’s 401(k) plan as soon as you become eligible. You’ll have the chance to opt out, of course, but you should think twice before you do. Here are some reasons why.

  • Automatic savings can become painless. It’s much easier to save if part of your paycheck goes into the plan before it goes into your pocket.
  • If your employer matches your plan contributions, it’s like receiving “free” money. A 50% match means you receive a 50% first-year return on your contribution – and that’s before any investment earnings.
  • Features such as today’s higher contribution limits and catch-up contributions for older workers were due to expire at the end of 2010. Now they’ve been made permanent, and they’ll generally be indexed for inflation in future years.
  • If you name a non-spouse as beneficiary, that individual can make hardship withdrawals from the plan or preserve the tax benefits if they inherit the plan proceeds.

You’ll also see more employers offering a Roth 401(k) option. This option trades off the upfront tax benefit in return for tax-free distributions when you retire.

So if you find yourself automatically enrolled, don’t rush to opt out. At least try it for a few months before deciding not to save.

In fact, you should consider increasing your contributions if you can afford it.

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 the dawning of 2017 brings with it many significant changes, there are some that may impact you and your family’s financial standing more than others. Most notably, there are several new rules surrounding retirement accounts taking effect in 2017, including:

  • Higher IRA income limits. Employees who are covered by a retirement plan at work who earn $62,000 or less annually ($99,000 or less for couples) can take a full deduction up to the maximum contribution limit of $5,500 ($6,500 for ages 50 and older). The tax deduction is phased out for those earning between $62,000 and $72,000 ($99,000 and $119,000 for couples) this year.
  • Longer Roth IRA income cutoffs. Those who earn less than $118,000 annually ($186,000 for couples) can make contributions to a Roth IRA that may position them to receive tax-free retirement income. Roth IRA eligibility will be phased out for those who earn between $118,000 and $133,000 ($186,000 and $196,000 for couples).
  • Higher income threshold for the saver’s credit. Those who earn less than $31,000 annually ($62,000 for couples) might qualify for a credit worth 50%, 20%, or 10% of 401(k), Roth IRA, or IRA contributions up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples, depending on adjusted gross income.
  • Special rules for those impacted by Hurricane Matthew. Those who live or work in FEMA-designated counties in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida affected by the hurricane will be allowed to access hardship distributions and loans from 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and certain types of retirement accounts without the typical restrictions in order to cope with storm-related costs, including food and shelter. Distributions taken between October 4, 2016 (October 3, 2016 in Florida) and March 15, 2017 will qualify for this policy.


Please call our office at 814-536-1040 to learn more about these changes and what they might mean for you.

What’s the No. 1 goal for investors? Retirement, according to most polls. You may want to look at IRA’s (Individual Retirement Accounts) as an alternative to spending all your money, and even if you have a retirement savings plan at work! Let me explain.

If you don’t contribute to some retirement plan whether an IRA or another plan, how do you plan on paying for your time off down the road? Social Security? Your company’s traditional pension plan? (If they even have one any more. Many companies and organizations dumped those plans. Do you still have one?) See, for nearly everyone, those retirement income sources probably won’t give you near enough retirement income. Social Security pension plans were really not intended to be your only sources of cash in retirement. Plus, as we’ve discussed before, Social Security has mind-boggling funding problems, depending on your age and whom you work for. So…if you want a realistic chance to enjoy retirement…you’ll need to add in a bunch of personal savings! But where do you put these funds?

Well, if you’re in an employer-sponsored plan (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), 457) instead of an IRA, this type of plan might be the right choice if your company or organization matches your contributions to the plan. However, if that’s not the case, you might be better off in a Roth IRA (if you’re eligible), at least for a portion of your savings. (We can help you figure this out!) Generally, a Roth IRA is more flexible and might provide more after-tax retirement income than a company sponsored plan.

See, your adjusted growth income (AGI), determines whether you’re eligible for a deductible traditional IRA (which means lower taxes now and until you retire) or a Roth IRA (which means no deduction, but you never pay taxes on the investments in the account).

Finally, IRAs can be treated differently than other accounts. For example, assets parents hold in a regular account can reduce the financial aid award their children receive for college. However, most financial aid formulas ignore retirement savings. Also, IRA assets may be shielded from creditors. And IRAs also have estate-planning benefits, especially Roth IRAs.

As usual, with any financial issue like this, we’ll be glad to work with you on determining if any of these strategies will work for you and your family! 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!