As Americans continue to live longer lives, they will by challenged by high out-of-pocket medical expenses, the possibility of making financial mistakes due to declining cognitive abilities and potential economic hardship during widowhood. That’s according to a new report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, “What Financial Risks do Retirees Face in Late Life?”
Researchers emphasized that while Medicare provides universal health coverage to retirees, out-of-pocket costs can still pose a substantial burden for elderly households. The authors of the report cited one recent study that estimates the average household will incur about $100,000 in total out-of-pocket medical spending and that the top five percent of spenders will incur almost $300,000.
The Center for Retirement Research says that the typical household nearing retirement with a 401(k) has only $135,000 saved, which, if annuitized, provides only $600 a month. However, nearly one-third of all households nearing retirement have no retirement savings.
The Center adds that financial skills tend to deteriorate for many, with nearly one in six seniors having reported losing money in a fraudulent investment scheme. In addition, tomorrow’s retirees will have fewer children to support them, and children are a primary source of financial management assistance.
How Secure Is Employment at Older Ages? Not Very.
Nearly half of full-time workers ages 51 to 54 experience job loss after age 50 that substantially reduces earnings for years or leads to long-term unemployment, which then impacts future retirement security, according to a new report from the Urban Institute and ProPublica.
Researchers analyzed data from the 2018 Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration, that tracks older adults. Researchers focused on employer-related separations, such as layoffs and business closings, and examined instances that were "financially consequential" with either long periods of unemployment or sustained, substantial wage loss.
As researchers point out, older workers often have more difficulty finding jobs due to age discrimination. And when they do find a new job, it's unlikely to pay as much. Only 1 in 10 of those older workers who experience an involuntary job loss ever earn as much per week after, the report found.
“The steady earnings that many people count on in their 50s and 60s to build their retirement savings and ensure some financial security in later life often vanishes, upending retirement expectations and creating economic hardship,” the researchers wrote. “This problem will likely intensify, as more people realize they must work longer to enjoy a comfortable retirement.”
The report concluded that more research was needed to understand why many employers seem reluctant to employ older workers and to devise ways to help older workers overcome these barriers.
- Richard W. Johnson & Peter Gosselin
A trust is a legal arrangement through which an individual (or an institution, such as a bank or law firm), called a “trustee,” holds legal title to property for the benefit of another person, called a “beneficiary.” If you have been appointed the trustee of a trust, this is a strong vote of confidence in your character, judgment and maturity. However, with that comes legal liability and a significant number of duties.
Outlined below is a brief overview of some of the key duties and responsibilities of a trustee:
As a trustee, you stand in a “fiduciary” role with respect to the beneficiaries (current and future), meaning you have a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. As a fiduciary, you will be held to a very high standard of personal and professional conduct in administrating the benefits of the trust.
The Trust’s Terms
Read and understand the trust. The trust is your guide and you must follow its directions, whether about when and how to distribute income and principal or what reports you need to make beneficiaries.
Your investments must be prudent, meaning that you cannot place money in speculative, self-serving or risky investments. In addition, your investments must take into account the interests of both current and future beneficiaries.
Where you have discretion on whether or not to make distributions to a beneficiary, you need to evaluate his/her current needs, his/her future needs, his/her other sources of income and your responsibilities to other beneficiaries before making a decision.
Keep track of all income to distributions from and expenditures by the trust. Usually you must give an account of this information to the beneficiaries on an annual basis.
Depending on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable and whether it is considered a “grantor” trust for tax purposes, the trustee will have to file an annual tax return and may have to pay taxes.
You cannot delegate your responsibility as trustee, but if the trust document permits it, you may hire agents to carry out certain functions. For example, you may be able to hire financial advisors to make investments, accountants to handle taxes and record keeping for the trust, and lawyers to advise you on questions of interpretation. However, as trustee, you are ultimately responsible for the actions of agents taken on your behalf.
Trustees are entitled to reasonable fees for their services. Family members often do not accept fees. Banks, trust companies and law firms typically charge fees for their services. In general, what’s reasonable depends on the work involved, the amount of funds in the trust, other expenses paid out by the trust, the professional experience of the trustee and the overall expenses for administering the trust.
Expansion of Section 529 education savings plans to cover registered apprenticeships and distributions to repay certain student loans.
A Section 529 education savings plan (a 529 plan, also known as a qualified tuition program) is a tax-exempt program established and maintained by a state, or one or more eligible educational institutions (public or private). Any person can make nondeductible cash contributions to a 529 plan on behalf of a designated beneficiary. The earnings on the contributions accumulate tax-free. Distributions from a 529 plan are excludable up to the amount of the designated beneficiary's qualified higher education expenses.
Before 2019, qualified higher education expenses didn't include the expenses of registered apprenticeships or student loan repayments.
But for distributions made after Dec. 31, 2018 (the effective date is retroactive), tax-free distributions from 529 plans can be used to pay for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the designated beneficiary's participation in an apprenticeship program. In addition, tax-free distributions (up to $10,000) are allowed to pay the principal or interest on a qualified education loan of the designated beneficiary, or a sibling of the designated beneficiary.
Kiddie tax changes for gold star children and others.
In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA, P.L. 115-97), which made changes to the so-called "kiddie tax," which is a tax on the unearned income of certain children. Before enactment of the TCJA, the net unearned income of a child was taxed at the parents' tax rates if the parents' tax rates were higher than the tax rates of the child.
Under the TCJA, for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the taxable income of a child attributable to net unearned income is taxed according to the brackets applicable to trusts and estates. Children to whom the kiddie tax rules apply and who have net unearned income also have a reduced exemption amount under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) rules.
There had been concern that the TCJA changes unfairly increased the tax on certain children, including those who were receiving government payments (i.e., unearned income) because they were survivors of deceased military personnel ("gold star children"), first responders, and emergency medical workers. The new rules enacted on Dec. 20, 2019, repeal the kiddie tax measures that were added by the TCJA. So, starting in 2020 (with the option to start retroactively in 2018 and/or 2019), the unearned income of children is taxed under the pre-TCJA rules, and not at trust/estate rates. And starting retroactively in 2018, the new rules also eliminate the reduced AMT exemption amount for children to whom the kiddie tax rules apply and who have net unearned income.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
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