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Mark Miller
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Oct 23, 2012
A reminder from the IRS that you should not ignore
CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – When the Internal Revenue Service talks, Americans generally listen. But many will ignore the message the agency sent last week: You can save more in your tax-qualified retirement accounts next year.
The IRS announced a $500 cost-of-living increase for the maximum tax-qualified contributions for 2013: $17,500 for 401(k) accounts and $5,500 for IRAs.
Most retirement savers are not contributing anywhere near those limits. Mutual fund company Vanguard reports that just 12 percent of participants in plans it administers socked away the maximum in 401(k)s last year – and the median deferral rate among workers participating in the company’s plans was just 6 percent, which works out to $3,000 for a worker earning $50,000. But even among workers with gross income above $100,000, the average deferral rate was just 8.2 percent last year.
Oct 18, 2012
What’s your rate of return on Social Security?
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Is Social Security a good deal? Many Americans worry that they will put more money into the system via payroll taxes during their working years than they will ever get back in benefits – and their concerns help fuel the ongoing push by Republicans to transform Social Security into a privatized system of personal accounts.
Mitt Romney has supported privatization in the past (see his book, “No Apology”), and running mate Paul Ryan argued for it as recently as last week’s vice presidential debate: “Let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system.”
Could workers make their money grow more quickly with personal accounts? The actuaries at the Social Security Administration (SSA) ran an analysis recently that simulated real (after inflation) annual rates of return on payroll tax contributions for beneficiaries who were born between 1920 and 2004.
Oct 16, 2012
Seniors spend hundreds unnecessarily on Medicare: study
By Mark Miller
CHICAGO, Oct 16(Reuters) – Seniors are wasting hundreds of dollars annually on Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance coverage they don’t need.
That’s the key finding of a new study by health policy researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, who studied actual Part D enrollee data for 2009. The researchers compared total spending by Part D enrollees – defined as premiums plus out-of-pocket spending – with the least expensive insurance option that would have met their needs.
Oct 11, 2012
Column: Seniors face a tiny Social Security raise next year
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Last October seniors got some really good news about their Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. This October? Not so much.
This year seniors have benefited from the robust 3.6 percent 2012 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Adding to the good news, they learned Medicare premiums wouldn’t take much of a nick out of their inflation raise.
Next year, the Social Security COLA for 2013 is expected to be 1.4 percent – and for many seniors, much of that will be eaten up by a higher Medicare Part B premium.
Oct 11, 2012
Seniors face a tiny Social Security raise next year
CHICAGO, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Last October seniors got some really good news about their Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. This October? Not so much.
This year seniors have benefited from the robust 3.6 percent 2012 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Adding to the good news, they learned Medicare premiums wouldn’t take much of a nick out of their inflation raise.
Next year, the Social Security COLA for 2013 is expected to be 1.4 percent – and for many seniors, much of that will be eaten up by a higher Medicare Part B premium.
Oct 4, 2012
Employers also worry about retirement readiness
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Numerous surveys show that U.S. workers are deeply pessimistic about their ability to save enough for a secure retirement. But it turns out their bosses are pretty worried, too.
Only 14 percent of employees say they are confident they’ll have enough money to retire, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
But a survey of 401(k) plan sponsors released on Wednesday by consulting firm Towers Watson shows that only one in five respondents think employees make informed decisions about their retirement savings. Only 26 percent believe their employees have realistic expectations about what a defined contribution plan can provide, and nearly half expect a growing number of their older workers to delay retirement, the survey showed.
Oct 2, 2012
As Medicare drug premiums soar, it’s time to shop around
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Premiums for many popular Medicare prescription drug plans will soar next year – but seniors don’t have to take the rate hikes lying down.
The annual plan enrollment period for Medicare Part D starts October 15 and runs through December 7, so seniors have time to shop around. Seven of the top 10 plans will have double-digit percentage increases next year, according to Avalere Health, a healthcare consulting and research company. More than 80 percent of Part D beneficiaries are in these plans; Avalere data shows that 5.9 million will pay double-digit increases next year if they don’t switch. That’s a whopping 29 percent of all Part D enrollees.
The double-digit premium hikes are surprising because prescription drug costs have fallen sharply due to widespread expansion of generic medications – not to mention that many seniors had been expecting their costs to go down since healthcare reform closed the so-called donut hole gap in coverage.
Sep 14, 2012
Is new wave pension plan “California dreamin’”?
CHICAGO, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Is California about to set the country’s retirement saving system on its ear?
The state has often set trends for the country in areas ranging from the environment to food and popular culture. Now, California is moving toward launching an innovative new approach to retirement saving that addresses two key problems facing Americans: the lack of workplace pension programs among small businesses and the structural shortcomings of 401(k) plans.
The state’s legislature recently passed a bill laying the groundwork for the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program (SCP) – a government-sponsored retirement-savings vehicle that would be offered to employees of every California company that doesn’t have a workplace retirement plan.
Sep 12, 2012
For seniors, entitlement worries extend to the grandkids
CHICAGO, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Possible changes to Medicare and Social Security have become the top political concern for older U.S. voters this year – and not just because of the effect on their own pocketbooks.
This is national Grandparents Week, a good time to ask how the presidential candidates’ reform plans would affect not just today’s older people but also their children and grandchildren.
In the political battle raging over the two programs, both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney say they would “preserve,” “protect” and “strengthen” Social Security and Medicare. But those words leave plenty of room for cutting benefits as part of broader approaches to shoring up the programs’ finances.
Sep 7, 2012
Don’t look to Ryancare to cut health care costs
CHICAGO, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Here’s the $64,000 question on the Republican plan to voucherize Medicare: Can consumer choice and market competition drive down Medicare costs?
The Romney-Ryan presidential campaign ticket thinks so. If they are right, seniors might not have to pony up thousands of additional dollars per year for the cost of Medicare beyond the voucher’s value. If wrong, there will be a massive cost shift to seniors to make up for the market’s failure.
Fortunately, we don’t have to implement Paul Ryan’s premium support plan to get an answer. That’s because there’s already plenty of competition in Medicare and it has not resulted in lower costs, according to recent evidence. In addition, the competition hasn’t pushed seniors to shop effectively for low-cost options.
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