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Covid-19 Was the Second Major Setback for Near-Retirees. Heres How to Get Your Plan Back on Track. – Barron’s

Posted: September 8, 2020 at 7:59 am

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Ed Daizovi, a 57-year-old career diplomat, entered the retirement homestretch earlier this year: He had just moved back from Africa and was setting up a new home in Miami where he planned to retire next year with his wife of 29 years, after investing diligently to fund a comfortable retirement.

But the coronavirus pandemicand the volatility stirred first by the markets crash and quick recovery, and now by uncertainty heading into the electionis making Daizovi wary about his retirement timeline.

If the market tumbles 30% to 50% by the time Im ready to retire next year, Im looking at one more tour in the foreign service, Daizovi says. Thats far from ideal, as it would mean having to live apart from his wife as she settles into their retirement home.

For near-retirees, the Covid-19 recession marks the second major setback in little more than a decadeand this one strikes as many are hitting peak earnings and savings years. Now, they find themselves grappling with ways to preserve their retirement securitywith fewer years to bounce back.

Preretirees are getting the wind kicked out of them, says Ken Dychtwald, head of consultancy Age Wave, of the challenges and confusion that those five to 10 years from retirement are facing. Their portfolios are taking a hit. They cant work longer with [high] unemployment. Their mom is sick, and their kids are moving back home.

Among the near-retiree set of 50- to 64-year-olds, confidence about having enough saved for retirement has fallen to 48% from 65% before the pandemic, according to a poll by Edward Jones/Age Wave released in August. And among those in this group with adult children, 28% have provided them with financial support during the pandemic, exacerbating savings shortfalls.

These concerns come at a time when some families budgets are already strained by a variety of factors, such as job losses, income cuts, or efforts to keep small businesses afloat. Almost a third of small-business owners and 8% of baby boomers said their household income had fallen by half or more during the pandemic, according to a financial-wellness survey from Prudential Financial, released in July.

On top of those immediate issues, the pandemic is stirring uncertainty around a number of other key concerns in retirement, including taxes and pensions, as governments reassess budgets and spending priorities. Investors should also reassess what their savings could generate in long-term market returns as global economic growth takes a hit and interest rates are at historical lows in much of the world.

The pandemic also has had an impact on many near-retirees who are still employed. Roughly 15% of employers have either suspended or cut matching contributions to 401(k)s, with an additional 10% considering doing so, according to a survey of 543 employers by Willis Towers Watson. And that can have an impact on overall retirement security. Among those with enough savings to fund their retirement needs, a 10% reduction in employer matches for a year along with a 10% reduction by employees in plans where the match is suspended cuts roughly 14% off the total surplus for 50- to 54-year-old workers, according to projections by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

On an individual level, there are ways to mitigate the Covid-19 hitand not all have to be drastic. Barrons canvassed financial planners and retirement experts to see what adjustments near-retirees can make to bridge a difficult period without derailing retirement plans.

Given the health risks created by the pandemic and uncertain outlook for certain industries, early retirement may seem like an attractive option. But advisors recommend that those who are five to 10 years away from retirement should stay in the workforce, if possible.

The best way to improve retirement financial outcomes is to work longer, says Jamie Hopkins, director of retirement research at Carson Group. A year or two before retirement, we see people tighten their belts and reduce spending, but that has minimal impact versus working six months to a year longer. Indeed, 34% of 50- to 64-year-olds in the Edward Jones/Age Wave survey said that Covid-19 has changed their retirement timeline.

Of course, working longer is easier said than doneeven more so now with a spike in unemployment. While older workers typically have substantially lower unemployment rates than those 25 to 54 years oldroughly 15% to 20% over the past decadethat hasnt been the case through this pandemic, says Richard Johnson, director at Urban Institutes Program on Retirement Policy. As of July, the overall unemployment rate for those ages 55 to 64 sits at 8.7%, just 5% lower than that for younger cohorts.

Thats a troubling trend, as it has also taken longer for older workers to get rehired out of past downturns, with those 62 and older who lost their jobs only half as likely to be re-employed as people in their 30s and 40s, Johnson says.

This situation has given me a reason to take a hard look and come up with a plan B.

Advisors recommend taking a closer look at retirement savings, deferred compensation, and stock options to see if other paths to employment are feasibleincluding a job that pays benefits but doesnt necessarily provide the same level of income, or turning a furlough into a phased retirement where workers transition in steps from full-time work to full-time retirement. Workers could tap savings to set up a consulting business, hire a career coach, or get more training to pivot into a different career.

Being realistic about the changes the pandemic has brought to various industriesand how long it could take to get back to a level of normalcyis also important. Some clients hold out for an equivalent offer and spend so much time out of the workforce they end up with a two-year gap, says Jeffrey Levine, director of advanced planning at Buckingham Wealth Partners. Then they are even older, and it becomes even harder to get back in the workforce.

Finding a job could take time, and even those who have emergency savings may be running low nearly six months into the crisis. Yet the sharp stock market rebound from the March depths and historically low interest rates offer an opportunity to replenish and expand cash cushions.

Advisors recommend anywhere from 18 months to three years of expenses in liquid assets, depending on circumstances. For those who have gotten an early-retirement package or severance, Katherine Liola, founder of Concentric Private Wealth, suggests keeping much of it liquid to generate an income stream, since it could take some time to secure another job.

For small-business owners near retirement, having a cash pile is paramount, given the pandemics impact on many companies revenue and sale valuations. Some advisors recommend that business owners have two years of cash on hand to keep operations going until conditions return to more normal levels, enabling them to possibly sell the business. That might mean cutting expenses, negotiating with vendors, or tapping credit lines as well as any available pandemic aid.

We dont know what the recovery path looks like or the speed at which it could happen, says Brandt Kuhn, managing director at Beacon Pointe Advisors. If you qualify for [government relief] programs, take the opportunity and make your runway as long as possible.

When it comes to freeing up cash, the pandemic has upended some of the traditional ruleslike not taking on debt on the eve of retirement. With interest rates at record lows and housing prices holding up, some advisors recommend that near-retirees look to their homes as a possible source of cash.

If the rate on their mortgage is a percentage point or more than the current rate, refinancing could make sense. Would you rather sell equities in a portfolio that you expect to earn 6% to 7% or borrow from a home at 3% to 4%? Use the asset with the lowest return in the portfolio, which is home equity, Hopkins says.

Another option: opening a home-equity line of credit that can be drawn on in increments if markets take a turn for the worse. The idea is to tap the line of credit and pay it back when markets recover.

The next best place to free up cash is through investment accounts, taking into consideration taxes and asset types for a guide on what to tap first. Here, too, the pandemic has made it acceptable, if not ideal, to break some long-held guidelines, such as not raiding a 401(k).

Policy makers have made it easier for those affected by the pandemic to do just thatand advisors say those who need to bridge an income gap should take advantage of the changes. The Cares Act allowed those affected by the pandemic to tap up to $100,000 in retirement assets this year without getting hit with the 10% penalty if they are under 59, and the act also made it easier to take out a loan of up to that same amount that can be paid back over a period of five years

Of the two options, advisors slightly favor the loan because, behaviorally, it increases the chances that the money will be replenished. If the loan is paid back in five years, there is no tax hit. And for those who opt to take distributions of up to $100,000 from their 401(k) or individual retirement account this year, taxes will be spread out over three years. But for those who manage to repay the distribution within three years, a tax credit is applied, essentially making it akin to a tax-free loan.

The determination of whether someone wants to take a loan or distribution has to be decided up front, with loans required to be paid back on a specific schedule.

Tax considerations also support use of retirement assets for those who have lost their job or had their income reduced. Savers who find themselves in a lower tax bracket could minimize taxes paid on a withdrawal from a 401(k) or individual retirement accountsomething that could become even more important when the Cares Act provisions are no longer in effect.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute's Retirement Security Projections

However, if someone has already made substantial income this year, Carolyn McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners, says that it may be better to draw from taxable accounts where the 15% tax on capital gains may be a less costly way to free up cash than paying income tax on retirement assets. Whats more, with stocks in certain sectors still down after the crash, an investor might be able to sell at a loss and take a tax deduction.

Which assets to sell first? Given the markets rise, advisors recommend taking profits in stock portfolios with the most-aggressive profiles, or rebalancing to rebuild cash cushions, if possible.

Heres one rule that has stayed largely the same: If you are in good health, try to wait to claim Social Security as long as possible. The roughly 8% increase in benefits each year a worker delays claiming through age 70 is difficult to match elsewhere. Plus, the payout is for lifeso the bigger it is, the betterand tapping it early can have ripple effects for the surviving spouse.

The pandemic is the type of event that calls for introspectionand that holds for finances, as well, with advisors encouraging clients to re-examine their risk tolerance and long-term return projections. Near-retirees should also use this time to consider how they want to be cared for as they age, and their expectations about pensions and taxes.

Indeed, nearly a quarter of older Americans said the crisis had caused them to reduce their risk tolerance for the long term, according to a June survey of 56- to 75-year-olds with at least $100,000 in investible assets by the Alliance for Lifetime Income, a group focused on educating the public about annuities and promoting them as a tool for retirement income.

The pandemic has upended the plans of many near-retirees

One place to start a reassessment is with a look at asset allocation. For near-retirees who have lost jobs or are worried about layoffs, McClanahan has been encouraging them to shift closer to a 50/50 stock and bond portfolio, taking advantage of recent market gains to rebalance. For those under 59 who may need to rely on nonretirement assets next year, McClanahan recommends an even more conservative allocation in the taxable brokerage account, if it needs to be used as a bridge after this years Cares Act provisions expire.

The unprecedented amount of stimulus pumped into the global economy also means that investors should take a closer look at the safer, fixed-income part of the portfolio, as some bond funds have suffered double-digit losses.

Preretirees are getting the wind kicked out of them. Their portfolios are taking a hit. They cant work longer with [high] unemployment. Their mom is sick, and their kids are moving back home.

Some advisors favor bond ladders once clients are beginning to tap portfolios, rather than bond funds, to minimize volatility, especially as many funds have veered into riskier assets to generate returns. The premise is simple: buy bonds that mature in different increments with the intent of holding them to maturity, collect interest income along the way, and replenish with new bonds as old ones roll off.

Other advisors, like Jason Fertitta, head of registered investment advisor Americana Partners, are wary of exchange-traded bond funds whose sharp losses could precipitate selling from investors, exacerbating possible pain for investors. Of all the asset classes, fixed income is the one you need to be most careful in, he says.

Given all the easy money being pumped into the global economy, Fertitta says he has turned more defensive and sees a case for a longer-term inflation hedge by increasing clients exposure to real assets like real estate to 10%-15% from 3%-5%. My biggest concern is that the levers the Federal Reserve is having to pull to keep this market going is very experimental, and we dont know when inflation is coming, he adds. We have to put in some assets that could benefit from inflation. Real assets historically were a small part of the portfolio, and we are certainly open to that being a larger piece.

Near-retirees are also rethinking another risk: their long-term care plans, with the Edward Jones/Age Wave poll showing that the pandemic prompted almost 30 million Americans to have end-of-life discussions for the first time.

The pandemics toll on nursing homes and other congregate-care facilities has further increased near-retirees preferences to add at-home care to their retirement planning, Hopkins says. Such care isnt cheap: A home health aide can range from $150 to over $350 a day, with Genworth Financial estimating $50,000 a year for a home health aide working a 44-hour week, and rising to an average $150,000 for full-time care.

The trillions of dollars being spent to help the economy out of this recession means that investors should also reassess expectations for pensions and taxes. Many state and local governments were already struggling financially, but the crisis has exacerbated the situation, and pension funding levels are forecast to take another hit, says Olivia Mitchell, executive director of the Pension Research Council and a professor at University of Pennsylvanias Wharton School of Business. Among the most precarious are states such as Connecticut, with a funding level of just 28%, and Illinois, at 20%.

The fallout will take timeand a lot depends on Congress and what it does to deal with local governments fiscal distress. As of now, many states have constitutional provisions that require pensions to be paid in full, but Mitchell notes that the bankruptcies of Puerto Rico and cities like Detroit brought pension cutsa 4.5% haircut in Puerto Rico and the elimination of the cost-of-living adjustment in Detroits case. Congress would have to change laws for states to declare bankruptcy.

Barrons brings retirement planning and advice to you in a weekly wrap-up of our articles about preparing for life after work.

Still, the potential hit to pensions is enough for planners like Jody DAgostini at Equitable Advisors to be cautious. She bakes in a reduction in expected pension payments for clients, and takes a conservative approach to Social Security that factors in no cost-of-living adjustment and a 20% to 25% reduction in benefits for wealthier clients who could be the first to see a reduction.

Then there are taxes. At some point, the bill is also going to come due for the trillions being spent to help the U.S. economy. If taxes have to double because of the fiscal hole we are in, that does tend to threaten peoples planning, Mitchell says.

The November election could offer some clarity, but for now, advisors are stressing diversification, including adding to Roth IRA accounts if possible, as well as tax-efficient investments like municipal bonds. As the postpandemic world becomes clearer, the name of the game for near-retirees will continue to be flexibility.

For the diplomat Daizovi, the stock market rebound has provided an opening to sell some of his positions and build a bigger cash buffer, so he can follow through with his original retirement planand still have some money to buy stocks when the market dips. This situation has given me a reason to take a hard look and come up with a plan B, he says.

Write to Reshma Kapadia at

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Covid-19 Was the Second Major Setback for Near-Retirees. Heres How to Get Your Plan Back on Track. - Barron's

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Q&A: Retiring Col. Larry Suther reflects on career, future of Carroll County Sheriffs Office – Baltimore Sun

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A: I have worked in a number of positions from the rank of police officer to major in Baltimore County and most recently colonel of the Law Enforcement Bureau in Carroll County. I worked patrol for several years, mid-to-late -70s, in Catonsville, particularly the Oella sector. At that time Oella was a working class, and in some cases, an impoverished area with outhouses still in use. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the folks in that area, striving to keep the community safe. I worked as a supervisor in a plain clothes unit, as well as patrol and detectives. After a couple years as the Precinct 12 (Dundalk) commander I spent the later part of my career in Baltimore County working in Homeland Security and Support Operations at the supervisor and command level overseeing tactical teams, aviation, K9, crash teams and the mobile crisis team.

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Q&A: Retiring Col. Larry Suther reflects on career, future of Carroll County Sheriffs Office - Baltimore Sun

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Long-time Thomasville employee announces retirement | News – The Albany Herald

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THOMASVILLE Kha McDonald, the city of Thomasvilles executive director for Human Resources and Community Relations, has announced her retirement, effective Dec. 1. McDonald has served the city for more than 30 years. She joined the city of Thomasville in 1988 as its first personnel director.

At the end of every great journey, you should ask yourself: Did I have fun would I recommend it to others would I do it again was it worth the trip? McDonald said in a news release. In my case, working with the city of Thomasville for 32 years has been a source of pride, a means of community fellowship, and an opportunity to work with some of the most talented and dedicated individuals that I could have ever imagined.

McDonald began her career with the city as personnel director, which would later be reclassified as human resources director. The Thomasville native continued her professional growth within the organization, adding the title of assistant city manager in 1999 and five years later, through a departmental reorganization, had her title changed to senior assistant city manager for employee & community services. In 2018, McDonald would be called upon to step into an even larger leadership role when she would serve as interim city manager.

When I was hired, I thought I was just going to be a personnel director, she said. However, over the years I have had oversight of various projects and departments that gave new insight to the phrase, Sure no problem.

Thomasville City Manager Alan Carson said that McDonalds time has been influential and consequential, not just for the organization but for the city as a whole.

Kha lives and breathes Thomasville; her experience and knowledge about our local community has been invaluable throughout my first two years as city manager, Carson said. Her overall experience and the year she spent as interim city manager have been invaluable to our leadership team. Kha spent her career committed and dedicated to doing what is best for the city and Team Thomasville. While she will be missed greatly, we wish her nothing but the best as she moves into this new phase.

In McDonalds current role, she provides direction, oversight and overall leadership to many key areas, including human resources, community relations, risk management, historic cemetery preservation, and planning. She has been as an advisor, coach, and advocate for staff and has worked integrally with them on projects. One of McDonalds most recent projects has come in her leadership of the citys Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Team, whose focus is to highlight and bring awareness to the importance of the organizations overall workplace diversity.

McDonalds impact has stretched beyond the walls of the citys administration building to the local community and throughout the state. Across Georgia, she has served on the board of the Georgia Alliance of Preservation Commission and as a region director, vice president of the Georgia Municipal Cemetery Association and a board member of the American Public Power Associations Human Resources Committee. Her passion for the community has allowed her to serve on many local boards and committees, including Southern Regional Technical College, Goodwill Industries, MacIntyre Park Middle School, Thomasville Landmarks, Hands on Thomas County, Habitat for Humanity, Marguerite Neel Williams Boys & Girls Club, Thomas County Historical Society, and Archbold Medical Center Board of Directors. She has been recognized for her community service by commanders with the 1230th Army National Guard and by Veteran Boosters Inc.

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Over thirty-two years McDonald has impacted employees in a multitude of ways.

The first time I spoke to her, I did not like what she said to me, said Anthony Choice, manager of Purchasing & Fleet Services. Those words turned out to be life-altering; they helped me become a man that took responsibility for my actions. Years later, I came to realize that was the day she became Ma to me, and I am forever grateful that God placed her in my life.

According to Thomasville Police Chief Troy Rich, McDonald has not only impacted the city of Thomasville, but she has also played an influential role in the careers of many employees, including his own.

Kha has been a mentor, leader, and above all, a dear friend, he said. I attribute my hiring back in 1990 to her and believe that her leadership assisted me in my journey. Kha is invaluable and will be missed dearly by all of Team Thomasville.

Sheryl Sealy, executive director of Marketing & Customer Service, has worked with McDonald since 1989 and said she considers McDonald a mentor.

Ive been fortunate enough to work with and learn from Kha for a very long time. It was by watching her that I learned what it meant to be a true professional, Sealy said. She has set a very high example for me and many others. Kha has always been the heart of Team Thomasville, and she will be missed.

Working with the city of Thomasville has been challenging, fun, fresh, and full of camaraderie, McDonald said. My kids gained many mentors, cousins, aunts and uncles that have been instrumental in their overall development. I gained lifelong friendships that will be in my heart forever, and my gratitude list is endless. My HR Divas Sandra Piland, Lawana Jackson, and Christine Forbes along with so many others, have been my rocks. Thank you for making this a one of a kind, unforgettable journey so remarkable.

McDonalds last day with the City of Thomasville will be Monday, November 30th.

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Retiring Well: Using Rental Income to Fund Retirement – 9 & 10 News – 9&10 News

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Every weekend on 9&10 News we share some extra tools to help you plan your retirement.

The finance tips come to you Sunday mornings on Retiring Well at 11:30 a.m.

Each week they talk about ways to help you get ready for retirement and to protect your financial future.

This week theyll be talking about the need for life insurance, and using rental income as a way to fund your retirement.

Rental income is a great investment instrument, because you can raise rent, so its inflationary. If theyre paid off, theyre a great source of income. They can be a headache because youve got to be a landlord, but you can always give that headache away by having a property manager, explained Larry Flynn, a financial advisor with Centennial Wealth Advisory.

Retiring Well is put on by Centennial Wealth Advisory.

You can catch it on 9&10 at 11:30 Sunday morning.

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Retiring Well: Using Rental Income to Fund Retirement - 9 & 10 News - 9&10 News

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Back to the office or off to retirement? – Federal News Network

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For a lot of obvious reasons the year 2020 is one for the books. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything for just about everybody. Fortunately for most of us, life, at least so far, goes on. There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

In the real world, before 2020, most federal workers did their jobs in offices or workplaces or from approved sites, but not from home. Before the pandemic a number of agencies, either to improve delivery to customers or to sock it to federal unions, were cutting back on work from home programs.

Now all that has changed. For some, maybe forever?

People who never thought theyd get to telework or are in agencies that were cutting back on the perk, have now had three, four or five months at home. Many like it and say that productivity is up. Also in the real world, December and January are the most popular months to retire from the federal government. Feds who time it properly can get larger lump sum annual leave payment, save on taxes and get other breaks.

So we asked long-time fed and financial coach Abraham Grungold to check out the 2020 situation. He said that for workers under the Federal Employees Retirement System retiring in 2020, they should seriously consider the following in this most unusual year:

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This year has been the mostly challenging for federal employees around the world. COVID-19 has put so many stressful situations on the federal workforce, there are too many to list. When September rolls around, it is the month that federal employees start to think about submitting their retirement papers. Some agencies have provided financial incentives to encourage those who maybe wavering on the idea of retirement.

I help my clients to work through all their decision-making choices. It is a difficult process and there are many variables and family considerations.

Everyone has their own distinct retirement objective and this Top Ten list will help them to start thinking about making the appropriate choices for their retirement. Their decisions may be tweaked as the date grows closer; however, they will be ready, and all this preparation will make for a seamless transition.

This list is a good starting point for anyone considering retirement.Financial success can easily be achieved; it only takes a little effort.Any questions or comments please contact me onLinkedInor myFacebook page.

By Amelia Brust

Some farmers in theOkavango delta region of Botswana started painting eyes on the behinds of cattle, as a way to trick lions and other carnivores that prey on the livestock. The results seem promising, according to arecently published studyfrom Australian and Botswanan researchers.

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Source:University of New South Wales-Sydney

Back to the office or off to retirement? - Federal News Network

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K9 Oxs, handler retire on same day – The Republic

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Officer Chad Lehman, a 20-year CPD veteran, completed his final patrol shift on Sept. 2 and his K9 partner Oxs, a 7-year-old Dutch Shepherd, retired with him. Photo provided Submitted photo

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A veteran Columbus police officer, who spent most of his law enforcement career as a canine handler, announced his retirement as well as the retirement of his canine partner.

CPD Officer Chad Lehman, a 20 year veteran, completed his final patrol shift on Sept. 2 alongside his canine partner, Oxs, a 7-year-old Dutch Shepherd.

Lehman agreed to continue his work with police dogs and selected Oxs, his second police canine partner, after the retirement of K-9 Rex, who worked at the Columbus Police Department with Officer Lehman for eight years.

K-9 Rex was retired from duty in 2016 and remained in Lehmans care until he passed away later that year.

Chads career was highlighted by his passion and hard work with police dogs, said Columbus Police Department Lieutenant and K-9 Supervisor, John Luttrell. It was a pleasure to get to work alongside him for many years.

Due to Oxs age, he was allowed to retire from duty and remain with Lehman and his family.

Lehman signed paperwork on Sept. 2 that transferred care and ownership of Oxs from the City of Columbus to Lehman.

With Oxs retirement, the Columbus Police Department now has two K9s, Argo and Bane, and will be looking to have a third in the future, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. An exact timetable to obtaining another dog, and selecting a handler for that K9 has not yet been established, he said.

Selecting a dog and matching the dog with a handler can take some time, as police departments are careful to match the two as compatible to work together. The new K9 and new handler will have to train for six weeks prior to beginning additional training in Columbus before the two begin working on patrols, Harris said.

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Weighing the Retirement Tradeoffs –

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Federal employees must make many decisions when planning for retirement. Among the most critical are:

All of these decisions have a financial impact on your retirement years. For married couples (as well as for those who are providing financially for someone else in retirement), survivor benefit elections and life insurance considerations also can impact not only your future, but that of your dependents.

A major consideration that complicates retirement decisions is the concept of longevity risk, which involves trying to quantify the income you will need to finance your retirement, taking into account how long you might live, changes in prices and the need for varying amounts of cash flow at different stages of your life.

According to The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution, in 1965, there was a 10% chance of a 65-year-old man living to age 90 and a 25% chance that a 65-year-old woman would live that long. By 2015, those chances had increased to 22% and 34%, respectively. According to the Census Bureau, life expectancy for the total population is projected to increase from 79.7 in 2017 to 85.6 by 2060.

Why is it important to consider life expectancy when planning your retirement? Because youll need enough retirement income to last whether your retirement continues for nine years or thirty-nine years. If you knew you only had to finance a few years of retirement, it would be easy to plan. But when your life after retirement could last longer than your career, you need a strategy.

In crafting such a strategy, its good to be able to count on some income that will last your whole life, such as Social Security retirement benefits and an annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Recently, a panel of experts from the Bipartisan Policy Center, AARP, and the Urban Institute, along with a former deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, held a discussion about a recent BPC report, How to Help Americans Claim Social Security at the Right Age. Their conclusion was that most people arent provided the right information to help them make an informed decision on the optimum time to claim their benefits. Ive found this is true not only for Social Security, but for many other important decisions that must be made to plan for a secure retirement.

Jason Fichtner, former deputy commissioner of Social Security, said some people think they should claim their benefits early to get the most money in benefits. But this assumption doesnt take into consideration the tradeoffs that should be considered when deciding whether to claim benefits at age 62 (or when you stop working after 62) vs. waiting until your full retirement ageor even delaying benefits until youre 70.

Weighing these tradeoffs involves considering the following:

Waiting until age 70 to file instead of filing at age 62 makes a 76% difference in the benefit amount. For example, if your full benefit amount at age 66 is $2,000 per month and you file at 62, the benefit would be reduced to $1,500. But if you delay claiming the benefit until you turn 70, the amount would increase to $2,640 a month. This doesnt take into account cost of living adjustments that begin to accrue at age 62 whether or not you file at that age. It also doesnt factor in the wages you could earn if you kept working beyond age 62.

Filing early isnt like getting early entrance to a Disney theme park before the crowds come. The early bird doesnt get the worm. If you claim your Social Security benefit early, youll pay a penalty in terms of a reduced monthly payout for the rest of your life.

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Here’s how to qualify for a mortgage in retirement – CNBC

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It's not uncommon for retired homeowners to want to relocate or downsize.

Yet if the move involves buying a house and financing that purchase, they may discover that qualifying for a mortgage is a bit different from the last time they bought a home. Not only have lenders tightened their credit during the pandemic, retirees generally have left a steady paycheck behind.

"It can get tricky for retirees," said Al Bingham, a mortgage loan officer with Momentum Loans in Sandy, Utah. "You can have a lot of money but show very little income and have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage.

"It frustrates a lot of them," Bingham said.

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The average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is just above 3%, while for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, it's about 2.7%, according to NerdWallet. With rates low and inventory in many markets tight, it may be necessary for retired homebuyers to do some strategizing and planning ahead.

Of course, the typical aspects of qualifying for a mortgage such as having a good credit score, monthly debt that isn't too high and the required down payment would apply, as well.

The specifics will depend on the lender and the type of mortgage you're seeking. Loans that are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac come with requirements that lenders must adhere to, while private mortgage lenders could have their own set of standards.

The most common way for retirees to get a mortgage is by qualifying based on income, said certified financial planner Daniel Graff, a principal and client advisor at Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney in McLean, Virginia.

Lenders generally will look at your last two years' worth of tax returns to see what that amount is. It may include, for instance, Social Security, pension income, dividends and interest.

However, your taxable income may not be enough to qualify for the loan on its own. That's where a retirement account like a 401(k) plan or individual retirement account can come into play.

"You basically create more cash flow to satisfy the lender," said CFP David Demming, president of Demming Financial Services in Aurora, Ohio.

The idea is that you take distributions to help you qualify for the mortgage, even if you don't really need the money. As long as you're at least age 59, you can tap your IRA or 401(k) plan without paying a 10% early-withdrawal penalty.

And, under rollover rules applying to retirement accounts, you can put the cash back within 60 days without the distributions being taxable. Beyond that time frame, however, the withdrawals would be locked in and you'd owe income taxes on the money.

Meanwhile, the lender would see the income on your bank statements, where the money came from and when it hit your account.

Graff said he has helped with two mortgages for clients this year that involved taking distributions from an IRA for two months so they could qualify and then returning it under the 60-day rollover rule.

However, he said, "My mortgage lenders are telling me that they are getting a bit more strict on the historical verification, which may restrict this opportunity in the future."

In addition to seeing verification of the required income, lenders will want to verify that the distributions can continue for at least three more years, Graff said.

Alternatively, you could potentially qualify for a mortgage based on your assets in a brokerage account or IRA. Essentially, the lender applies a formula to the money in your account using 70% of the value of the account to determine whether it could stretch long enough to cover mortgage payments for the life of the loan.

"In this scenario, the underwriter is not looking directly for a taxable transfer from an IRA to a bank, but a statement of assets that allows [the lender] to be comfortable that a certain amount could be withdrawn each month," Graff said.

One alternative to a mortgage is to "pledge assets" that is, you essentially take a loan against your brokerage account up to a limit and purchase the home that way.

"You'd be considered a cash buyer for purposes of the contract with the home seller," Graff said. "There isn't a mortgage happening at that point because in actuality you'd be taking the loan against your brokerage account."

For instance, at Schwab, you may be able to borrow up to 70% of the value of eligible assets pledged as collateral. However, the longest term for such a loan is five years.

"You could almost use that loan as bridge financing and plan more carefully how to prove income to the bank," Graff said.

In other words, it might be a way to get a home more quickly because you wouldn't have to go through the underwriting process and associated costs involved in mortgages. And then you could figure out your traditional mortgage options.

If you refinance within six months of the purchase, you could put a mortgage in place to pay off the loan and it would not be considered a cash-out refinance, which is harder to get, Graff said.

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Here's how to qualify for a mortgage in retirement - CNBC

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September 8th, 2020 at 7:58 am

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Whatever retirement looks like for you, health savings accounts can help you get there – MarketWatch

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In todays world, a one-size-fits-all idea of retirement doesnt fit everyone. Rather than defining retirement as the total conclusion of a 40-year working career, individuals are increasingly retiring early, taking multiple smaller retirements, or working longer and only partially retiring.

Thankfully, theres a savings vehicle that offers specific benefits for each of these retirement concepts. Health savings accounts, or HSAs, provide powerful features to help account holders easily reach their successful version of retirement, whatever that looks like.

This is what most people think of when they think of retirement: working until age 65, then not working for the rest of your life. By putting away funds for retirement during your working career, you earn time later in life to relax, spend time with family, and pursue hobbies.

For these individuals, HSA tax savings can have a significant benefit. Not only are HSA contributions tax-free or tax-deductible, HSA funds grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses. By taking advantage of HSA tax breaks, individuals can save money on their medical costs and free up other funds to put away for retirement. And if they choose, they can even use HSA funds to cover health care expenses in the future.

Additionally, one HSA can be used to pay for medical expenses incurred by anyone in your family. As an HSA account holder, you can cover your spouse and tax dependents health care costs tax-free with your HSA, even if they are on a different health plan. You can also change your contribution level midyear, unlike an FSA, where you have to set a defined contribution amount for the entire year. This flexibility allows HSAs to easily fit individuals changing spending and saving needs throughout their journey toward retirement.

Read: 6 ways to keep health care costs from eating up your retirement savings

This version of retirement has gained popularity in part from the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. By advocating a frugal lifestyle and saving a large portion of your paycheck, this movement allows individuals to potentially stop working much earlier than 65.

Read: Early retirement could be bad for your brain

For individuals pursuing early retirement, it is vital to get money invested quickly and take advantage of compound interest over time. HSAs are appealing here because they have no use-it-or-lose-it limits and can be invested just like a 401(k) or IRA. This maximizes individuals ability to grow funds and reach financial independence as soon as possible. For these individuals, choosing an HSA provider that offers funds with low expense ratios is also a key, since those often-overlooked fees can take a big bite out of their savings.

Individuals pursuing early retirement are eagle-eyed about getting all the tax savings they can, and HSA contributions offer more tax savings than 401(k) or IRA contributions. HSA account holders who make pretax HSA contributions via their employers Section 125 plans unlock FICA tax savings on those contributions; thats an extra 7.65% back in your paycheck. This additional money-saving opportunity makes HSAs a popular choice with individuals looking to retire early.

This view of retirement entails taking temporary breaks in working to travel or pursue hobbies, then going back to work afterward. Rather than having one large retirement after 40 to 45 years of working, this concept breaks retirement up into smaller pieces throughout your life.

Because of their periods of not working, advocates of mini-retirement may end up changing jobs many times during their lives. HSAs shine here because they are individually owned, which makes them portable. Unlike FSAs, which stay with your employer, your HSA comes with you from job to job, making it easy to keep saving.

Because of their mini-retirements and subsequent new jobs, these individuals also might find themselves switching health insurance plans often or potentially not having health insurance. While the ability to contribute additional HSA funds is dependent on having an HSA-qualified health plan, account holders never lose the ability to spend the current funds in their account. That means as long as account holders have funds in their HSAs, they will be able to pay for their medical expenses tax-free, even if their insurance situations change.

Read: Health care will cost this much in retirement and probably more

This version of retirement is for people who dont see themselves completely stopping working. Their financial situation may require a longer career, or they may love what they do and keep working by choice. Either way, these people dont experience the complete ending of work that is typical of traditional retirees.

Because HSAs dont have required minimum distributions, theyre ideal for people in this stage. They never have to withdraw funds from their HSAs before they need to, like they will with a traditional 401(k) or IRA. Their HSA funds can keep growing until they choose to withdraw them.

In addition, after HSA account holders turn 65, they can withdraw HSA funds for nonmedical expenses and only pay regular income taxes. For individuals who are working longer, this offers additional flexibility on how their HSA funds can be used. They never need to worry about having more HSA funds than health care costs, because they can easily use their HSA dollars on nonmedical expenses.

These days, retirement might look like 20 years of frugal living so you can stop working at 45, taking breaks from work every five years, or continuing to pursue the work you love into your later years. However, no matter what retirement means to you, the robust feature set and unparalleled tax savings offered by your HSA will help you get there.

James Denision is marketing director at HealthSavings Administrators, an HSA provider.

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Whatever retirement looks like for you, health savings accounts can help you get there - MarketWatch

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September 8th, 2020 at 7:58 am

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Dear Penny: I think my husband is gambling away our future on Robinhood – Tampa Bay Times

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It might be a good time for a general conversation about your shared savings and retirement goals, the advice columnist writes.

Dear Penny,

My husband became obsessed with the stock market during quarantine. His company stopped its 401(k) match in March, so he stopped contributing. He also stopped making his Roth IRA contribution, which he used to max out.

Instead, hes putting all that money into his Robinhood account and hes always trading on the app.

I left my job in the medical field earlier this year because of worries about COVID-19 and because our kids school had closed. Weve decided not to send the kids back to school at least through the end of 2020, so Im at home getting our three kids through virtual school. Since Im not working, I cant contribute to a retirement account of my own.

I dont know much about the stock market and I have zero interest. My husband has a finance degree, though thats not his profession, so I lack his expertise in this respect. Some of his friends are equally obsessed with Robinhood. Im alarmed because Ive heard them joke about the risky bets theyve made.

He hasnt taken money out of retirement accounts or our savings. He says I shouldnt worry because hes made way more than he would have with his 401(k) and also because were still current on all our bills even without my income.

Is it OK that hes stopped contributing to his 401(k) so he can trade stocks? How do I ask him what hes actually investing in? Im worried that hes gambling money that we need for our retirement.


Dear K.,

Maybe your husband does know more about the stock market than you do. But it sounds like youre the smarter investor.

If your husband is using the fact that hes gotten superior returns since March compared to what hes averaged in his 401(k) over the years, hes giving himself WAY too much credit. Please dont buy in.

As of Sept. 1, the S&P 500 was up 57 percent since its historic crash in March. Those returns simply arent sustainable. Historically, stocks deliver average annual returns of about 10 percent before you account for inflation. Investments in 401(k) plans skew conservative, so youd expect slightly lower returns.

You dont build wealth through huge short-term stock market fluctuations. You build it by consistently investing and staying put over the long haul. Your concern implies that, unlike your husband, you grasp that.

But this question is about so much more than money.

Youre not earning a paycheck right now, but youre very much working. Youve put your career on pause and taken on the difficult work of getting your family through the pandemic.

But has your husband sacrificed? It doesnt sound like it. Instead, hes turning your couch into a casino.

Heres whats even more worrisome, though: Hes unilaterally making decisions that affect your entire family without your consent, despite knowing youre worried. This is not a partnership.

You obviously know that its time for a long-overdue talk with your husband about his decisions. And while Im being hard on him, Id suggest taking a different approach.

Dont lead with Im worried that youre gambling away our future. Its a 100 percent legitimate concern. I just dont think it will start a productive dialogue.

Tell him instead that you want to set aside a couple hours to go over all of your investment and savings accounts. Its harder for him to get defensive if youre simply seeking to understand where your family finances stand. If he resists having an open conversation, consider it a huge red flag.

Focus the discussion on your broader goals, like when you want to retire or whether you want to pay for your kids college. Dont let yourself get sucked into an argument about the returns hes gotten. Those returns are unattainable in the long run. Aim to figure out what you should contribute for retirement based on the modest 6 percent to 7 percent returns financial planners estimate youll average.

One thing Id insist on here is that he prioritize your retirement as well. Youre right that you cant contribute to a retirement account without earned income, but earning spouses can fund an IRA for a non-earning spouse. The regular IRA contribution limits of $6,000 if youre under 50 or $7,000 if youre 50 or older apply.

Once youve resumed funding your retirement accounts sufficiently and youre saving for any other goals, you can split any extra money between the two of you for your individual wants. If he chooses to trade stocks on Robinhood, he can bet to his hearts content.

Dont let him sway you with his stock market expertise. Your future is at stake. Personally, Id trust you to manage my money over your husband any day.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at the Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to

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Dear Penny: I think my husband is gambling away our future on Robinhood - Tampa Bay Times

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