New Social Security Rule Will Hurt Women by Eliminating Benefits Options

James Lange, CPA/Attorney, Advises Married Couples Ages 62-70 to Apply and Suspend NOW. After April 29, 2016, it will be too late!

In early November, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law and the repercussions are devastating to the married women of our country.

Pittsburgh – December 16, 2015Lange Financial Group, James Lange, PittsburghMarried women, statistically the widows of the future, will pay a high price due to the changes that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 has made to Social Security. Pittsburgh attorney and CPA James Lange takes action by releasing audio and video presentations as well as transcripts and a report that will help couples ages 62-70 navigate this new rule and protect their benefits while they still can!

SOCIAL SECURITY SURVIVOR BENEFITS ARE CRITICAL TO WOMEN

The financial well-being of widows is often dependent upon the choices that are made while their spouses are still alive. Spousal and survivor Social Security benefit choices can mean the difference between living comfortably in retirement and falling under the poverty line for women whose spouses leave them behind. Widows are commonly younger than their deceased husbands and the Social Security benefits they have earned, especially in the Boomer generation, are commonly less than that of their deceased husbands. This means that a widow will depend on collecting survivor benefits, often for many years, based on the benefits to which their deceased spouses were entitled.

“One of the best things a husband can do to protect his wife in widowhood is to maximize his own Social Security benefits. One technique that we use with our clients is apply & suspend.” James Lange of Pittsburgh-based, Lange Financial Group, LLC comments. “The law prior to the Bipartisan Act allowed the husband to apply for, and then suspend collection of his benefits, while allowing his wife to collect a spousal benefit. It was a win-win for our clients!”

This technique was used strategically to maximize the husband’s and wife’s long-term benefits. That, unfortunately, is coming to an end, with the exception of certain couples who take the appropriate action between now and April 29, 2016. For many couples, the income stream from spousal benefits in the previously allowed apply and suspend technique made it possible (or at least more palatable) for the husband to wait until age 70 to collect Social Security, thus maximizing their benefits.

“This new law cuts off that income stream, making it if not impossible, at least more difficult, for husbands to choose to delay collection of their benefits.” Lange warns, “Unfortunately, it is the widows of these husbands who cannot maximize their Social Security benefits who will be left in reduced circumstances for the rest of their lives.”

JIM LANGE’S ADVICE

DO NOT WAIT. Congress has eliminated one of the best Social Security maximization strategies. Fortunately, some recipients may be grandfathered already and others could be grandfathered if they act between now and April 29, 2016. Others will have to make do with the new laws. In either case, now is the time to review your options. We have posted a one hour audio with a written transcript explaining the old law, the new law and the transition rules. Readers can go to www.paytaxeslater.com to access this audio and transcript.

ABOUT JAMES LANGE Jim Lange

James Lange, CPA/Attorney is a nationally-known Roth IRA and retirement plan distribution expert. He’s also the best-selling author of three editions of Retire Secure! and The Roth Revolution: Pay Taxes Once and Never Again. He hosts a bi-weekly financial radio show, The Lange Money Hour, where he has welcomed numerous guests over the years including top experts in the fields of Social Security, IRAs, and investments.

With over 30 years of experience, Jim and his team have drafted over 2,000 wills and trusts with a focus on flexibility and meeting the unique needs of each client.

Jim’s recommendations have appeared 35 times in The Wall Street Journal, 23 times in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The New York Times, Newsweek, Money magazine, Smart Money and Reader’s Digest. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Retirement Planning, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser (AICPA), and other top publications. Most recently he has had two peer-reviewed articles published on Social Security maximization in the prestigious Trusts & Estates magazine.

4 Reasons Why We’re Excited that Retire Secure! is Interactive on the Web!

If you haven’t made your way to www.langeretirementbook.com yet, now is the time!

Here at the Lange Financial Group, LLC, we are very excited to bring you an interactive version of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting the Most Out of What You’ve Got. 

Reason #1 – The entire book is on this website. Yes, all 420 pages of the book, including the front and back covers, all about the best strategies for retirement and estate planning. 
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
Reason #2 – The book is divided into chapters for ease of reading. Meaning, you don’t have to flip through 400-some pages to get to Chapter 11 – The Best Ways to Transfer Wealth and Cut Taxes for the Next Generation.
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
Reason #3 – We honestly haven’t seen anything like this before. Granted, I’ve read magazines on viewers where you can flip the pages as you read. But not a website for a book that includes a viewer, as well as a forum where readers can engage with each other.
The comments are moderated by the Lange Financial Group, LLC staff and myself. One of us will reply to your comment as soon as we can. To leave a comment, all you need to do is connect with your Amazon, Facebook, or LinkedIn account. This measure is for your protection, as well as ours. We don’t want spammers posting comments or incorrect information about such an important topic. 
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
 
Reason #4 – We are hoping this interactive website encourages you to purchase the book! Retire Secure! is available from Amazon and JamesLange.com. Once you’ve read the book, feel free to return to LangeRetirementBook.com to ask questions, as well as Amazon and Goodreads to review the book for the benefit of others.

 

The Third Edition of Retire Secure has Finally Arrived!

The new edition of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting The Most out Of What You’ve Got is the distilled and concentrated version of the recommendations we have developed over 30 years. It is particularly useful for IRA and retirement plan owners.

We will soon be sending our clients a copy with a personalized note directing you to what we think will be the most relevant sections for you to read. This personalization has been a huge project, but it’s something that I think will be enormously helpful to you.

Retire Secure! will be available for purchase in bookstores and on Amazon in October. However, if you absolutely cannot wait, the book is available for Kindle and Amazon pre-order here.

Amazon Kindle Pre-Order Retire Secure! James Lange

The core concepts of the current edition are similar to the two previous editions (Wiley, 2006 and 2009). Recent legislative changes, however, have led to important strategy adjustments that are incorporated in the latest edition.

  • In Part 1, The Accumulation Years, we include some new strategies that were not available in 2009.
  • In Part 2, The Distribution Years, we cover how to spend down retirement funds in the right order to manage your assets wisely, but that area is more complicated than ever because of some of the new tax laws. We have also updated recommendations for Roth conversions, and the impact of a potential new law for IRA and retirement plan owners and their families — the death of the stretch IRA. It could be devastating for your children. Though there is no perfect answer, I do address some of the best strategies I know to reduce the pain of the likely changes in the IRA law.
  • In Part 3, we’ve updated the Eddie and Emily Estate Planning case study. Essentially, it incorporates the updated Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan, which many of you already have in your wills and trusts.

If you’ve read previous versions of Retire Secure!, I hope you’ll find the updates and changes enlightening. To make the new material easier to find, I have included a section that highlights the changes. And if you’re new to the book, I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to really educate yourself on these principles and sound practices. There’s mathematical proof that optimizing the strategies you use to approach saving, investing, estate planning, and distributing assets could mean a dierence of millions of dollars over your lifetime and for your heirs.

It’s my fervent wish that Retire Secure! will help you live a happier, healthier, and more secure life!

Jim

Changing Beneficiary Designations for Retirement Plans: Why A One-size-fits-all Approach is Definitely Not Appropriate.

retirement-plans-james-lange-pittsburgh-paI had some reservations about writing Chapter 16. Chapter 15 discusses the perils of filling out your own beneficiary forms, and Chapter 16 talks about filling out beneficiary forms. It sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a method to my madness!

The reason I wrote Chapter 16 was because I thought that my readers probably wouldn’t find it very helpful to have me tell them, “Don’t do the wrong thing!” without also offering a very clear explanation of what the wrong thing is. Some folks might be disappointed that Chapter 16 is not a step-by-step guide about the “right” way to prepare your beneficiary designations. Unfortunately, that would have been an impossible task because it is one area of estate planning where a one-size-fits-all approach is definitely not appropriate. Chapter 16 is intended to offer general guidance only, and I hope you’ll consult with a professional about your own situation.

As it is becoming more common to see trusts as part of estate plans, I thought it would be helpful to go over some of the finer points of naming trusts as beneficiaries of your IRA or retirement plans. Frequently, trusts are used to “protect” assets – whether it be from taxes, creditors, or whatever the case may be. If the beneficiary designations of your trust are not precisely accurate, the trust cannot be funded. That means that the money will stay in the retirement plan, and not go in to the trust. Your heirs can try to explain to the IRS that you made a minor mistake when filling out your beneficiary form, and your intentions were really something other than what you wrote. The cost of asking the IRS to agree to your executor’s interpretation of what a beneficiary designation was supposed to be (also called a private letter ruling) is, as of this writing, about $18,000 – and there’s no guarantee that they’re going to agree with your executor anyway. If they don’t agree, then all of the work you went through to establish the trust was for nothing. So why risk the protection that you had hoped to offer by setting up the trust?   Please consider using a competent professional to help you with your beneficiary forms!

Chapter 17 continues this discussion by reviewing the different types of trusts you can use as a beneficiary of your retirement plan. Check back soon!

-Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Disclaimers: Who on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

inheritance stretch ira james lange the roth revolution blogWho on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

Plenty of people!

The concept of disclaiming, which means that you refuse to accept an inheritance, is often surprisingly difficult for clients to accept. Who on earth would refuse to accept an inheritance? When I get this question, I have to laugh because the obvious assumption is that the beneficiary is turning away a rare opportunity to increase his or her wealth with little or no effort. So let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose your rich uncle wrote his will twenty years before he died, and the will provided that, at his death, you would inherit a small apartment building that he owned. In the twenty years since his will was written, though, your uncle’s health declined and he did no maintenance at all on the building. The angry tenants moved out long ago, and the building has been vacant for ten years. Vandals broke the windows and stripped the building of its plumbing and wiring. The city has condemned it because it is a nuisance, and the owner is going to have to pay to have it demolished. Do you still want your inheritance now?

Beneficiaries always have the right to disclaim (or refuse) all or part of an inheritance. This idea has traditionally been a cornerstone when planning for the multigenerational benefits of a Stretch IRA. Under the current law, if the named beneficiary chooses to disclaim an IRA or retirement plan, the contingent beneficiary is able to use his or her own life expectancy to determine the Required Minimum Distribution from that account. In a case where a surviving spouse disclaims to children, this allows the IRA to be “stretched”, allowing maximum growth as well as income tax savings.

If the Stretch IRA is eventually eliminated, disclaimers will likely play less of a role in estate settlements. There is, however, a rapidly growing group of attorneys (including me) who use and will continue to use at least some form of disclaimer in the estate plans of most clients. I have used them in my practice for years, and have found that they can give families a lot of flexibility during what is usually a very stressful time.

One final note about disclaimers: beneficiaries who are on Medicaid may be disqualified from their benefits if they receive an inheritance. They may be able to refuse the inheritance and keep those benefits, but this depends on the laws of the state that they live in and the terms of the grantors will.

These ideas are presented in Chapter 14.

My next post will continue to expand on the concept of the Stretch IRA, but will specifically address the ramifications of choosing one beneficiary over another. Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Retire Secure Third Edition Coming Soon!

Retire Secure! Third Edition, A Guide To Making The Most Out Of What You've Got, James LangeNow more than ever, one question plagues millions of Americans approaching or already in retirement, “Will my money last as long as I do?”

While no one can answer these questions with complete certainty, you can do three things to significantly improve your odds—develop an appropriate portfolio, cut your taxes, and take advantage of strategies that will improve your retirement income like Social Security benefit maximization combined with timely Roth IRA conversions.

Retire Secure Third Edition

Due for release in a couple of short months this edition explains how you can use IRAs, retirement plans, Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, Roth IRA conversions, and Social Security techniques like “Apply & Suspend” as well as other tax-favored strategies to let Uncle Sam subsidize your retirement and your family’s lifestyle for the remainder of you and your spouse’s life, and perhaps beyond.
The information and examples in this Third Edition of Retire Secure! draws from the more than thirty years’ experience James Lange has as a practicing CPA. Lange provides critical advice for all stages of IRA and retirement plan savings and distribution, covering the best strategies to accumulate wealth while you are still working as well as the best strategies to spend your IRAs and retirement plans once you are retired and doing your legacy planning. Lange explains how to maximize tax-deferred savings during the accumulation phase and reveals the most tax-efficient ways to withdrawal money from your account during retirement.

Read this upcoming book and make the most out of what you’ve got for your retirement and your family’s future security.

Jim LangeA nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train ad educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

More information to come on the next blog post.  Stay tuned!

The Hazards of Naming Different Beneficiaries for Different Accounts

It is quite common in my practice for clients to say they want one particular account to go to one beneficiary and a different account to another beneficiary. The accounts might reflect the relative proportionate value that the client wants each of the different beneficiaries to receive, but I think this can turn into a nightmare.

• You will have a terrible time trying to keep track of the different
distribution schedules.

• As the different investments go up or down, the amount going to the different heirs would also go up and down, which is probably not the intent.

• A beneficiary designation may say, “ I leave my Vanguard account to beneficiary B and my Schwab account to beneficiary A. ” If during your lifetime you switch or transfer money from Vanguard to Schwab, you have, in effect, changed who is going to get what, and that may not be your intention.

In general, I prefer one master beneficiary designation for all IRAs, retirement plans, 403(b)s, 401(k)s, and the like. In it I describe distributions as I would in a will or irrevocable or revocable trust. That way, we can avoid mistakes and simplify estate administration after the retirement plan owner dies.

I recognize that, for investment purposes, people use different accounts for different beneficiaries. For example, you might treat the investments of a grandchild beneficiary differently from those of a child or spouse. Under those circumstances I would be willing to bend and accept different beneficiaries for different accounts.

The one area where it might make sense to direct certain money to particular beneficiaries is FDIC insured deposits. At press time, the amount that the FDIC would insure rose from $ 100,000 to $ 250,000 through 2009. Assuming the money is outside the IRA (there are different protections for IRAs) one way to get more FDIC insurance is to have different beneficiaries with different paid on death designations. If you are a parent with four kids and you have four $ 250,000 CDs, you can do a pod account for each child and have the entire amount federally guaranteed. If the money was in an IRA, you are also insured up to $ 250,000 but you can ’ t get additional coverage by naming additional beneficiaries.

Retire Secure! Pay Taxes Later – The Key to Making Your Money Last, 2nd Edition, James Lange, page. 271-272 http://www.paytaxeslater.com/

The Clear Advantage of IRA and Retirement Plan Savings during the Accumulation Stage

If you are working or self-employed, to the extent you can afford to, please contribute the maximum to your retirement plans.

Mr. Pay Taxes Later and Mr. Pay Taxes Now had identical salaries, investment choices, and spending patterns, but there was one big difference. Mr. Pay Taxes Later invested as much as he could afford in his tax-deferred retirement plans—even though his employer did not match his contributions. Mr. Pay Taxes Now contributed nothing to his retirement account at work but invested his “savings” in an account outside of his retirement plan.

Please look at Figure 1. Mr. Pay Taxes Later’s investment is represented by the black curve, and Mr. Pay Taxes Now’s, by the gray curve. Look at the dramatic difference in the accumulations over time—nearly $2 million.

There you have it. Two people in the same tax bracket who earn and spend an identical amount of money and have identical investment rates of return. But, based on the simple application of the “Pay Taxes Later” rule, the difference is poverty in old age versus affluence and a $2 million estate.

Can't see this image - go to http://www.paytaxeslater.com/ and download the book!

Retirement Assests, IRAs vs. After-Tax Accumulations

Retire Secure! Pay Taxes Later – The Key to Making Your Money Last, 2nd Edition, James Lange, page. xxxi  http://www.paytaxeslater.com/

2011 Changes in Tax Law

The recently enacted “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010″ (the “2010 Tax Act”), signed by President Barack Obama on December 17, 2010, makes important changes to the taxation of estates and gifts, which will affect many grandparents. This Act significantly increases the prior exemptions for estates and gifts. It will affect many existing wills and estate plans, so it would be wise for grandparents to review their estate-planning documents with their attorneys to determine if changes are appropriate.

The 2010 Tax Act reinstates the federal estate tax at rates of 35 percent (as opposed to 45 percent under prior law) and provides for a federal exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for a husband and wife for 2011 and 2012. It also keeps the tax rate at 35 percent for gifts made in 2010 through 2012. The lifetime gift-tax exemption amount is reunified with the $5 million estate-tax exemption, providing for a unified gift and estate tax exemption of $5 million for decedents in 2011 and 2012. This makes lifetime gifts much more attractive as an estate-planning vehicle.

Keep in mind that even though federal estate taxes have been eliminated on estates of less than $5 million (or $10 million, in the case of a surviving spouse), there may still be significant state estate taxes on estates of less than $5 million. New York State, for example, has not changed its $1 million exemption to conform to increases in the federal estate-tax exemption, and thus, a decedent with a $5 million estate who dies in New York will be subject to state estate tax of approximately $400,000, even though there is no federal estate tax.

The Best Response to the New Estate Laws

The top estate planners in the country warn IRA and retirement plan owners to develop an appropriate response to the new estate tax laws just passed this December. We are now in a completely different tax environment ripe for the cruelest trap of all: where the standard language of traditional wills and trusts forces too much money (now up to $5,000,000) into a trust limiting the surviving spouse to income and the right to invade principal for health, maintenance and support.  If the trust is overfunded, which is likely under the new law, less discretionary income is available for the surviving spouse.  Furthermore, if this common trust is the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan, massive income taxes are also triggered – all this can be avoided with appropriate language in wills and trusts and appropriate beneficiary designations of IRAs, Roth IRAs and retirement plans.

Under the new estate tax laws, older traditional estate plans are not helpful, but harmful, because of the severe restrictions they place on the surviving spouse, something most couples do not want.  Many IRA and retirement plan owners have this detrimental language in their existing wills and trusts and don’t even know it. IRA and retirement plan owners with assets between $600,000 and $5,000,000 are particularly vulnerable. Both spouses have likely become quite accustomed to making expenditure decisions based on desire in addition to need. To lose that control would be devastating. Without a review of their older traditional estate plan they could be  thinking they have left everything under the control of their spouse, but in reality, they have not.

 I encourage you to have your will reviewed and updated to comply with the estate planning law.  In Pittsburgh?  Please join us for one of our FREE workshops entitled, “How to Avoid the Cruelest Trap of All:  Don’t Unknowingly Restrict Your Surviving Spouse’s Independence or Access to the Family Money After the Tax Relief Act of 2010.”   See our location and times on www.paytaxeslater.com.  Not in Pittsburgh, you can purchase this workshop to view in the comfort of your own home for just $97 – to order call our office at 412.521.2732.