social security considerations

Social Security plays a large role in the retirement of most Americans. In fact, for about 1/4 of elderly married couples Social Security makes up 90% or more of their income. Since this is a major factor in retirement it is important to understand the options and make purposeful decisions when filing. Below is some basic information and a few thoughts on how to approach the decision of when to file. Basic information: - Full retirement age is currently 66. If you file prior to full retirement age and earn more than $16,920 this year some benefits may be withheld.- You can file for retirement benefits as early as age 62, claiming early reduces your full retirement age benefit by an average of 6.25% per year.- You can delay benefits to age 70, delaying benefits increases your full retirement age benefit by an average of 8% per year.- If married, your spouse is entitled to a spousal benefit up to half of your full retirement age benefit, if higher than their own. Keep in mind, you must have filed for your benefit for your spouse to file a spousal benefit. Spousal benefits can be filed as early as age 62 but as in regular benefits, filing early will reduce the amount. Spousal benefits do not accrue beyond full retirement age so generally it doesn’t make sense to delay a spousal benefit beyond full retirement age.- Social Security has an annual inflation adjustment that varies from year to year. It has been as little as 0% (three times) and as high as 14.3% (1980), for 2018 it will be 2%. Thoughts on when you should file: - Consider your retirement income sources. In my opinion many people file too early and sacrifice higher future income for income sooner. If you don’t need the income now, consider delaying. Also, think about what your 80-year-old self might tell you. A $2,000 monthly benefit at full retirement age would be $1,500 if claimed at 62 but would be $2,640 if delayed to 70.- Consider your life expectancy. In most cases delaying makes a lot of sense, however, in situations of poor health, filing earlier may allow you to collect more benefits then if you wait. A word of caution is to also consider your spouse. When one spouse passes away, the higher of your two benefits remains in place, so delaying to protect their income can still make sense, especially if you don’t need the money now.- Coordinate benefits. If you are married it dramatically increases the number of filing options. It is important that you coordinate when you each file to make the best use of your combined Social Security benefits. Will it be there? I don’t know. This could be a long topic of conversation, especially knowing that Social Security statements now state:Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 percent of scheduled benefits. What I do know is that it is a very important benefit and making significant changes won’t be done lightly. I think there is a good chance that for younger Americans it may look different than it does today. If you want to be conservative, you can plan your retirement based on reduced or even non-existent benefits. Some of my clients elect to illustrate their plans based around this idea. If you would like to discuss your Social Security benefits let me know. It’s an important decision so be confident you’re making the right one for you.  Advisory services offered through Arbor Point Advisors. Securities offered through Securities America Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Arbor Point and Securities America are separate companies. CA Insurance #0E88557

q3 2017 market Review

Markets continued their climb in Q3 2017 with stocks and bonds both domestically and internationally providing positive returns. International and emerging market stocks also continued to outperform the US as they did in Q1 and Q2, and US bonds slightly outperformed the global bond market. For a detailed market overview, click here. Planning note: I’ve talked to many people that have not participated in the market rally that has lasted for years now. The main reason is that our emotions are strong and we fear investing at the wrong time (i.e. market highs, of which the Dow Jones Industrial Average has had 45 this year alone and 168 since the 2008-2009 recession). I understand this and battle the same emotion myself, yet, I am fortunate enough to continuously be reminded through my ongoing research and education that developing a plan, building an investment strategy to support that plan, and continuing to stay disciplined is the best course of action to accomplishing financial objectives. This gives me the confidence to stick to the plan. If you feel like I’m speaking to you, maybe I am 😊 but you’re one of many. Just as a personal trainer will help you get the most out of your workout, if you’d like help getting the most out of your financial resources I’d love to help develop a strategy that is right for you. Email me at advisor@blakegallion.com to set up an appointment.  Advisory services offered through Arbor Point Advisors. Securities offered through Securities America Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Arbor Point and Securities America are separate companies. CA Insurance #0E88557

data breaches and identity protection

In the not too distant past, identity theft would have involved stealing someone’s mail or dumpster diving. That has all changed as we live in a digital world. With this change, all of our personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and accounts numbers are stored digitally somewhere and hackers around the world are working around the clock to gain access to that information. The most recent breach to make headline news is the announcement on September 7th that Equifax (one of the three main credit reporting companies) had a breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other important personal information affecting 143 million people in the U.S. over the course of several months. To find out if you were personally affected and to sign up for free credit monitoring for a year you can go to . Though they are the latest and possibly largest, they are not alone. Others that have suffered data breaches include healthcare provider Anthem, eBay, JP Morgan Chase, Home Depot, Sony, Target, Citibank and others. With this new reality, there is a good chance that nearly all of us have had some personal information stolen. Though completely preventing identity theft is beyond your control, here are some steps to take to mitigate any damage from personal information being stolen:  Monitor your credit report on a regular basis. You can run a free credit report through each of the credit providers, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax (ironically) at . You have to pay for the score but can see all of your credit accounts. You can run a report from each agency for free once a year and can run them all at once or run one at a time to allow monitoring more frequently.You can request a fraud alert on your credit. Contact one of the credit reporting agencies and ask them to do so, they are then required to notify the other two.Keep an eye on your accounts. Check your transactions in your bank accounts and credit cards to see if there is anything suspicious.Consider a credit monitoring service. These services don’t really protect your information from being stolen, again, as that is nearly impossible. However, they do help monitor your information, look for suspicious activity and detect it quickly. If you are effected they will help you fix it and provide financial insurance. A couple of these services include (for marketing purposes the CEO has publicly released his Social Security number to show his confidence in the product, yet there are reports his identity has been stolen, so I don’t recommend doing that 😉), and (a discounted is offered through Costco for members). If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other personal finance topics please contact me. Advisory services offered through Arbor Point Advisors. Securities offered through Securities America Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Arbor Point and Securities America are separate companies. CA Insurance #0E88557

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