By Penelope Wang
October 21, 2016
Chad Griffith

For retirement investors, the third and final presidential debate was a disappointing experience, even if you set aside that threat to the democratic process. Yes, there were moments when the candidates actually addressed important policy issues, including the economy and Social Security. But neither candidate offered specifics. Hillary Clinton, who has talked about expanding Social Security benefits, mentioned raising taxes on the wealthy and lifting the wage cap on payroll taxes as ways to foot the bill. But those measures alone won’t fix the funding gap—the Social Security trust fund will not be able to pay full benefits after 2034. An expanded program would require raising even more revenue. Donald Trump has yet to offer a Social Security plan beyond a promise of economic growth. Let’s hope we get more clarity in the first 100 days of the next administration. Meanwhile, relief is on the way: just 18 days until the election cycle is over.

Best wishes,

Penny

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THIS WEEK’S RETIREMENT NEWS, INSIGHTS AND ADVICE

How to Get Serious About Creating Retirement Income

Running out of money is the top worry of those planning for retirement. Yet most people haven’t figured out how much income they’ll have when they stop working. Contributor Walter Updegrave lists three key steps to make sure your nest egg will last. MONEY

Figure Out How Risky Your Investments Are With These 6 Questions

For older investors, it’s crucial to dial back your portfolio risk, since a market downturn could derail your retirement. Reporter Tom Petruno offers six questions that will help you decide if your investment risk is appropriate. Sample: Do you know much your bond fund will lose if interest rates rise? LOS ANGELES TIMES

One More Way Student Loans Are Crippling the Economy

Millennials face some tough financial challenges. It’s not just finding a job and an apartment. Their student loan debt may cause many to delay retirement down the line, a new study finds. Even a short wait to start saving, or making smaller contributions, can add up to thousands in missed savings when you reach retirement, points out contributor Dan Kadlec. MONEY

Why 401(k)s Fall Short When It’s Time to Tap Them for Retirement Income

If you’re thinking of leaving your money in your 401(k) when you retire, better check out your plan’s rules on distributions. Many plans offer a short menu of options for taking out some cash—typically taking a lump sum, buying an annuity or via a fixed schedule of installments. That last choice may have unintended consequences in slumping markets, warns Morningstar’s Christine Benz. MORNINGSTAR

Social Security Benefits to Rise 0.3% in 2017

Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment for next year is just a smidgeon—0.3%, or about $5 a month for the typical beneficiary. It’s better than last year, which had a zero COLA. But the miniscule increase may cause a problem for some Medicare beneficiaries, who will face steeper premium costs, as MONEY’s Elizabeth O’Brien reports. MONEY

How Retirees on Social Security Can Stay Afloat Despite a Tiny COLA

If you’re wondering how to manage on the slim Social Security increase next year, columnist Robert Powell has some suggestions. Granted, earning higher income won’t be simple, but it’s doable. For starters, take a close look at your investment expenses—cutting fees is one of the easiest ways to boost your returns. USA TODAY

Fewer, Clearer Medicare Part D Choices

Compared to a decade ago, when there were some 1,800 Medicare prescription drug plans, things are simpler—the number of plans has shrunk by some 50%. But you still need to do careful shopping to minimize costs, as blogger Kimberly Blanton explains. Open enrollment is underway, so don’t delay. SQUARED AWAY

Seniors Socked with Huge Unexpected Bills After Receiving Observation Care

It’s a notorious Medicare problem that has yet to be fixed. If an older person is too sick to go home from the hospital, but not sick enough to be admitted, he or she can remain overnight or longer—but as an “observation” patient. That status can have a big billing consequences. Here’s what you need to know. PHILLY NEWS

The Future of Retirement Communities: Walkable and Urban

When most people think about where to live in retirement, they focus on things like the size of the home or a comfortable climate. But it’s just as important to consider to how age-friendly your town is. Can you manage without a car? And how easy is it to walk to the grocery? NEW YORK TIMES

YOUR RETIREMENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Can I Tap My Retirement Savings Penalty-Free at 55?

Q.: I want to retire at 55 and was under the impression I had to wait until I was 59½ years old to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty on my retirement savings. I recently read that if you leave your employer the year you are turning 55, you can take distributions from your 401(k) without penalty. Is this also true for a 403(b)?

–Yvonne Varas, West Babylon, N.Y.

A.: 403(b) plans are retirement savings accounts for certain employees in the nonprofit sector and public schools. The good news is that the withdrawal rules are the same for 403(b) plans and their corporate cousin, the 401(k). READ MORE

WORDS OF WISDOM

“When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.”

–Philosopher Confucius

 

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