How to Prevent The Top Six Retirement Planning Mistakes – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their retirement, is not realizing what they don’t know, says the Chicago Sun-Times in the article “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.” By misunderstanding how Social Security works, underestimating life expectancies or failing to plan for big expenses, like long-term care or taxes, people put themselves and their families in financial binds.

These are not the people who make an effort to educate themselves. They are sure they know what’s what—until they realize they don’t. Most people don’t seek out objective advice before they retire. They wing it, hoping things will work out. Often, they don’t.

Retirement is complicated. Here are the top six most common mistakes:

Expecting to die young. If you die young, you have fewer worries about retirement funds. Live a long life and you could easily outlive your retirement savings. One smart move is to wait to collect Social Security as long as possible. Each year you put it off from age 62 to 70, increases your benefit by 7-8 percent.

Ignoring your spouse’s needs. One of you will die first. When that happens, one of your Social Security checks goes away. The survivor will need to get by on only one check. This is why it is vital to maximize the survivor benefit by having the higher earner delay filing for Social Security as long as possible.  Married people who receive a pension, should consider a “joint and survivor” option that lets payments continue for both lives.

Bringing debt into retirement If you’re rich, debt may not be a big deal. You have plenty of income to make payments. Your investments may be earning more than you are paying in interest payments. However, if you are not rich, are you pulling too much from your savings to pay down the debt? This would increase the chances you’ll run out of money. If you take big withdrawals from retirement accounts, it could push you into a higher tax bracket and increase your Medicare premium. Try to get rid of your debt before retiring. However, be careful about tapping retirement accounts to pay off big debts, like a home mortgage.

Neglecting to plan for long-term care. Someone turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing help with daily living tasks, like bathing, eating or dressing. Family and friends may be willing to help, but about half will need long-term care at a cost of $250,000 a year or more. Long-term care insurance is the most obvious solution. However, if you didn’t purchase it when you were healthy, you may need to earmark certain investments, or consider tapping your home equity to pay for this cost.

Thinking you’ll just keep working. About half of retirees report leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. Most retire because they lose their jobs and cannot find a replacement job or can’t find one at the same income level as their previous job. Others retire because of ill health or the need to stop working to care for a loved one. Working longer can help you make up for not saving enough, but don’t count on it.

Putting off retirement too long. Consider time, health and energy as finite resources. Spend the time and money to speak with professionals, including an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor to determine when you can retire, prepare an estate plan and enjoy retirement.

Reference: Chicago Sun-Times (September 23, 2019) “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How Can I Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Healthcare can be one of the biggest expenses in retirement.

Fidelity Investments found that a 65-year-old newly retired couple will need $285,000 for medical expenses in retirement. That doesn’t include the annual cost of long-term care. In 2018, that expense ran from $18,720 for adult day care services to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home, according to Investopedia’s recent article, “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement.”

Despite saving and preparing for retirement their entire lives, many retirees aren’t mentally or financially prepared for these types of expenses. A survey by HSA Bank found that 67% of adults 65 and older thought that they’d need less than $100,000 for healthcare. However, Fidelity calculated that males 65 and older will need $133,000—and females, $147,000—to pay for healthcare in retirement.

There are two important numbers for healthcare expenses in retirement: how much money is coming in and how much is going out. A typical person in their 60s has an estimated median savings of $172,000. On average, those 65 and older spend $3,800 per month, but Social Security only replaces about 40% of their working-life income.

Medicare can pay for some healthcare spending in retirement. However, there are some limitations. If a senior doesn’t have a Part D prescription drug policy, Medicare won’t cover medications. Medicare Parts A and B won’t cover dental and vision care, but Medicare Advantage plans typically do. Medicare also doesn’t offer coverage for long-term care. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers.

There are two ways pre-retirees can create a safety net for healthcare spending when they retire. One way is with a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are available with high-deductible health plans and offer three tax advantages: (i) deductible contributions; (ii) tax-deferred growth; and (iii) tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. HSA funds can be used to pay for certain medical premiums, like Medicare premiums and long-term care insurance premiums. If you’re in your 50s, you can still maximize these plans by taking advantage of catch-up contributions and employer contributions. However, those already enrolled in Medicare can’t make new contributions to an HSA.

You can also buy long-term care insurance to fill the gap left by Medicare. This policy can pay a monthly benefit toward long-term care for a two-to three-year period.

Healthcare spending can easily take a big bite out of a retirement budget. Estimate your costs and design a strategy for spending to help preserve more retirement assets for other expenses.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Do You Have to Relocate For Retirement? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Whether to relocate for retirement is a difficult question for some people and a snap to answer for others. Relocating in retirement, says The Motley Fool in the article “4 Reasons to Relocate in Retirement,” can make for a far more relaxed, financially easier lifestyle.

Take a look at these four reasons and see how they line up with your current and future living situation.

It’s Expensive to Live Where You Are. If you live in a city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles, you know about the high cost of living. Food, gas, and housing are just more expensive. While living in an expensive city usually means your paycheck is also high, once you stop working, that higher cost may no longer be affordable. If you can’t live without the amenities of a big city, consider a neighborhood nearby where you can easily access the world-class museums, theater, medical care, etc., but costs are a little lower.

Local and state taxes are high. People who live in high tax states know who they are. Taxes take an even bigger bite out of your budget at retirement. You will have income from Social Security and retirement savings or maybe a part-time job or a business. However, the less taxes you have to pay, the more money you’ll keep.

Property taxes can be a problem, even if you enter retirement with a paid-off mortgage. When you are on a fixed income, high property taxes are a problem. Moving somewhere with lower property taxes could help your fixed income stretch further.

You live in a state that taxes your Social Security benefits. Most states do not tax Social Security benefits, but there are 13 that do. The good news is that some of them offer exemptions for low-income to middle-income households, so you may be able to avoid these taxes. Some also offer a far lower cost of living than others, so that should be only one factor in your decision. Here are the states:

Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

You live in a place where you must have a car. The annual cost of car ownership is estimated at $8,849 on average, according to AAA. If you live in a walkable city, or one with good public transportation, you could save a fair amount of money. Living somewhere walkable will also keep you moving as you age, which is a good thing. At some point, there comes a time when it is necessary to hand over the keys. Losing your independence because there is no public transportation, is a difficult transition.

The idea of packing up and moving from a community where you have friends and family is not an easy one. However, the idea of having more money to enjoy your retirement years may make it worthwhile. Take your time considering how you’ll manage where you are and what you could do in a less expensive location.

Reference: The Motley Fool (Sep. 1, 2019) “4 Reasons to Relocate in Retirement”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

The Secret to Spousal Benefits for Social Security – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Whether you are married now or were married in the past, it’s likely that you are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, as reported in the article “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits” from U.S. News & World Report.

Spouses who devote their lives to raising families and performing other tasks that are of value to society are entitled to a spousal benefit based on their spouse’s primary insurance benefits. If you decide to take spousal benefits, the amount you receive will be determined by a few factors, including your spouse’s full benefit, when you begin payments, and your own work history.

Here’s what you can expect when applying for Social Security spousal benefits:

  • You may receive up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit,
  • You can apply for benefits if you have been married for at least one year.
  • If you have been divorced for at least two years, you can apply if the marriage lasted ten or more years.

You should be aware that if you start taking benefits early, it’s likely that your own benefits will be smaller than if you took them later. And if you have a work history of your own, you’ll either receive your own benefit or your spousal benefit, whichever is greater.

Want to maximize your spousal Social Security benefits? Start by learning what your benefit would be, and then look at the timing. When you decide to claim will have an impact on your benefits. You’ll need to have been married for at least one year before applying and you need to be at least 62 years old.

Also, your spouse must have started to apply for benefits for you to claim spousal benefits.

If you have been divorced, you must have been married to your ex for at least ten years to be eligible for a spousal benefit through your ex’s Social Security. What’s more, you will have to have been divorced for at least two years, and still be unmarried. If you are considering divorce, are near retirement and are planning on a spousal benefit, it’s a good idea to consider electing your spousal benefits before the divorce is finalized.

If there have been multiple marriages and divorces, you can choose to take the highest spousal benefit, if the other requirements have been met.  You will need your ex’s Social Security numbers and their dates of birth to make the enrollment process easier.

If you have a work history of your own, you may be eligible for a personal benefit. If this is the case, you can receive your own benefit if it is greater than the spousal benefit. Let’s say you are eligible for $1,000 as a personal benefit and $500 for a spousal benefit. The Social Security Administration will send you the higher amount of $1,000.

There’s plenty of information about spousal Social Security benefits at the Social Security Administration’s website or at your local SSA office.

Your spousal benefit will be 50% of your spouse’s benefit at their full retirement age. In 2019, the full retirement age is 66 and will rise soon to 67.

So, if you are married and your spouse is collecting $2,000 a month, your spousal benefit would be $1,000 if you wait to start payments at your own full retirement age.

Note that spousal benefits do not grow until age 70, like personal benefits. Instead, they max out at full retirement age. So, there’s no benefit to delaying a spousal benefit claim past your full retirement age.

Should you need to collect spousal benefits before your full retirement age, expect to receive a lower amount. Filing early for spousal benefits reduces your income forever, but many people file because they need the income.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (July 10, 2019) “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Even a Late Start toward Retirement is Better than None at All – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There are also people who wait until they become senior citizens to begin planning for retirement. That’s a little on the late side, but the important thing, says the article “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare” from Martinsville Bulletin, is to get started. That’s better than doing nothing.

It’s easier if you start earlier. Let’s consider the high school student who diligently puts away 10% of a $7.25 per hour gross minimum wage earning for a year on an average 20-hour work week. That’s $750 into a retirement plan after one year. If that student never went to college, never learned a trade, got a raise or a promotion, they would still have $34,600 in personal savings in 46 years. It’s not a lot, as retirement savings go, but it’s better than nothing.

If the same high school student put those savings into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), more would have been saved. The more time your money has to grow through compounding, the more money you’ll have.

Saving a little money every month could make a big difference later on. This year, the average monthly Social Security benefit rounds out at about $1,460 per person, calculated by combining a worker’s highest paid years in the workplace. That’s not enough for retirement. The answer? Start saving early.

It is not as easy to build a nest egg in a few years, but it’s possible.

Many people don’t wake up to the reality of retirement, until they reach age 62. There’s still time to plan. They can put money into IRA accounts, and at age 62 they can save as much as $7,000. Those IRA contributions count as tax deductions.

Roth IRAs are a little more flexible, but there are no tax deductions with contributions. On the plus side, when money is withdrawn, you’re not paying taxes on the withdrawals.

Another important planning point for seniors: if you’ve had health issues, it’s a good idea to keep working to maintain your employee health insurance. The healthier you are, the lower your health insurance costs will be during retirement. However, health costs do tend to increase with age, so that has to be factored into your retirement planning.

For people who take a lot of medication to control chronic conditions, they’ll need to look into health insurance outside of the workplace. That usually means Medicare. Most seniors are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance, which is Part A of a four-part option, if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes.

Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay, some home health care and hospice care. Part B helps to pay for doctors and a variety of other services. Part C allows HMO, PPO and other health care organizations to offer health insurance plans for Medicare beneficiaries. Part D provides prescription drug benefits through private insurance companies.

The Social Security Administration advises people to apply for Medicare three months before they celebrate their 65th birthday, regardless of whether they plan to start receiving retirement benefits right away.

Whether you’re 26 or 56, you need to plan for retirement. You also need to have an estate plan, and that means making the time to meet with an experienced estate planning professional to discuss your life and your retirement plans. You’ll need their guidance to create a will and other documents.

Advance planning will always be better than waiting until the last minute, for retirement and estate planning.

Reference: Martinsville Bulletin (May 17, 2019) “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Worried about a Spouse Needing Nursing Home Care? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The six-figure cost of nursing home care is worrisome for those who are married, when a spouse has to go to a nursing home. In the example above, Tom has had some major health issues in the past year and Louise is no longer able to care for him at home.

In this case, the couple live in Pennsylvania, where nursing home care statewide is $126,420 a year ($342.58 per day). The state has a Medical Assistance program that is a joint state-federal program that will pay for nursing facility care, if a person meets both the medical and financial criteria.

Tom has met one of the major Medical Assistance threshold requirements, because he is “nursing home facility clinically eligible,” which means that a doctor has certified that due to illness, injury or disability, Tom requires the level of care and services that can only be provided in a nursing home.

What will happen to their assets?

In 1988, Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which created a process of allocating income and resources between a spouse who needs to live in an institutional setting and the spouse who can continue to remain in a community setting.

Tom and Louise’s resources are divided into two buckets: one that is exempt and the second that is non-exempt.

The family home, care, and cost of a pre-paid funeral, if that has been done, are exempt or non-countable assets.

Everything else, whether they own it together or individually, is considered non-exempt. In Pennsylvania, Louise’s IRA is the exception. However, that is not the same in every state.

Louise is entitled to keep one half of what they own, with a maximum of $126,420, as of January 1, 2019. This is her “community spouse resource allowance.”

Anything else they own, is used to pay for Tom’s nursing facility care or purchase a very select group of “exempt” assets, like a replacement car or the cost of a prepaid burial.

They would have needed to give away their resources at least five years preceding an application for Medical Assistance. If they have given money away in an attempt to preserve some of their assets, that would have changed the timeline for Tom’s being eligible for care.

Louise needs income to live on so that she is not impoverished. She is entitled to a monthly minimum maintenance needs allowance of $2,058 and a maximum needs allowance of $3,150.50. These numbers are federally adjusted and based on inflation.

The numbers that must be examined for Louise’s income are her Social Security benefits, Tom’s Social Security benefits, any pension either of the two may have and any other income sources. She can keep her income, as long as she does not go over a certain level.

Sounds scary? It is. This is why it is so important to do advance planning and have an ongoing working relationship with an attorney with experience in estate planning and elder law. There are changes over time to address the changing circumstances that life and aging presents.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 29, 2019) “Married and concerned about one of you going to a nursing home?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Figuring Out A Parent’s Financial Life, When They Cannot – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Imagine that your parent has had a minor stroke and is no longer able to manage their financial or legal affairs. For years your parent has been living independently, waiving off offers of help or having someone come in to clean. It seemed as if it would go on that way forever. What happens, asks the Daily Times, when you are confronted with this scenario in the aptly-titled article “Senior Life: What a nightmare! Untangling a loved one’s finances”?

After the health crisis is over, it’s time to get busy. Open the door to the home and start looking. Where’s the will, where are the bank statements and where’s the information about Social Security benefits? When you start making calls or going online, you run into a bigger problem than figuring out where the papers are kept, because no one will talk with you. You are not legally authorized, even though you are a direct descendant.

This happens all the time.

Statistically speaking, it is extremely likely that your parent will end up, at some point, in a nursing home or a rehabilitation center for an extended period of time. Most people have no idea what their parent’s financial situation is, where and how they keep their financial and legal records and what they would need to do in an emergency.

It’s not that difficult to fix, but you and your hopefully healthy parent or parents need to start by planning for the future. That means sitting down with an estate planning attorney and making sure to have some key documents, most importantly, a Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives you permission to act on another person’s behalf as their agent. It must be properly prepared for your state’s laws.  It allows you to pay bills and make decisions on behalf of a loved one while they are alive. Without it, you’ll need to go to court to be appointed as legal guardian. That takes time and is much more expensive than having a POA created and properly executed.

If you have downloaded a Power of Attorney and are hoping it works, be warned: chances are good it won’t. Many financial institutions insist that the only POA they will accept are the ones that they issue.

Once you have a POA in place, it’s time to get organized. You’ll need to go through all the important papers, and set up a system so you can see what bills need to be paid, how many bank accounts or investment accounts exist and review her financial status.

Next, it’s time to consolidate. If your parent was a child of the Depression, chances are they have money in many different places. This gave them a sense of security but will give you a headache. Consolidate four different checking accounts into one. The same should be done for any CDs, investment accounts and credit cards. Have Social Security payments and any pension checks deposited into one account.

If you need help, and you might, don’t hesitate to ask for it. The stress of organizing decades of a loved one’s home, plus caring for them and managing the winding down of a home can be overwhelming. Your estate planning attorney will be able to connect you with a number of resources in your area.

Reference: Daily Times (April 9, 2019) “Senior Life: What a nightmare! Untangling a loved one’s finances”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Happens Next, When You’ve Become a Widow? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The loss of a spouse after decades of marriage is crushing enough, but then comes a tsunami of decisions about finances and tasks that demand attention when we are least able to manage it. Even highly successful business owners can find themselves overwhelmed, says The New York Times in the article “You’re a Widow, Now What?”

Most couples tend to divide up financial tasks, where one handles investments and the other pays the bills.  However, moving from a team effort to a solo one is not easy. For one widow, the task was made even harder by the fact that her husband opted to keep his portfolio in paper certificates, which he kept in his desk. His widow had to hire a financial advisor and a bookkeeper, and it took nearly a year to determine the value of the nearly 120 certificates. That was just one of many issues.

She had to settle the affairs of the estate, deal with insurance companies, and handle banks and credit cards that had to be cancelled. Her husband was also a partner in a business, which added another layer of complexity.

She decided to approach the chaos as if it were a business. She worked on it six to eight hours a day for many months, starting with organizing all the paperwork. That meant a filing system. A grief therapist advised her to get up, get dressed as if she was going to work and to make sure she ate regular meals. This often falls by the wayside when the structure of a life is gone.

This widow opened a consulting business to advise other widows on handling the practical aspects of settling an estate and also wrote a book about it.

A spouse’s death is one of the most emotionally wrenching events in a person’s life. Women live longer statistically, so they are more likely than men to lose a spouse and have to get their financial lives organized. The loss of a key breadwinner’s income can be a big blow for those who have never lived on their own. The tasks come fast and furious in a terribly emotional time.

Widows may not realize how vulnerable they are after the death of their long-time spouse. They should hold off on any big decisions and attack their to-do list in stages. The first tasks are to contact the Social Security administration, call the life insurance company and pay important bills, like utilities and property insurance premiums. If your husband was working, contact his employer for any unpaid salary, accrued vacation days and retirement plan benefits.

Next, name your adult children, trusted family members, or friends as agents for your financial and health care power of attorney.

How to take the proceeds from any life insurance policies depends upon your immediate cash needs and whether you can earn more from the payout by investing the lump sum. Make this decision part of your overall financial strategy, ideally after talking with a trusted financial advisor.

Determining a Social Security claiming strategy comes next. Depending on your age and income level, you may be able to increase your benefit. If you wait until your full retirement, you can claim the full survivor benefit, which is 100% of the spouse’s benefit. You could claim a survivor benefit at age 60, but it will be reduced for each month you claim before your full retirement age. If both spouses are at least 70 when the husband dies, a widow should switch to taking a survivor benefit if her benefit is smaller than her husband’s.

Expect it to be a while until you feel like you are on solid ground. If you were working when your spouse passed, consider continuing to work to keep yourself out and about in a familiar world. Anything that you can do to maintain your old life, like staying in the family home, if finances permit, will help as you go through the grief process.

Reference: The New York Times (April 11, 2019) “You’re a Widow, Now What?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.