Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2021
It was announced in mid-October that Social Security beneficiaries will see a 1.3% cost- of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly distribution checks, effective January 1, 2021. The Social Security Administration says this is in line with prior years’ increases, although it is slightly smaller than the 1.6% increase in 2020 and a more significant 2.8% bump to monthly checks in 2019. Looking back over a longer timeline, the COLA was zero several times (2010, 2011, 2016) and only 0.3% in 2017. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the figures are much higher, ranging from around 6% in 1977 to 14% in 1981.
Given the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on many Americans, including those receiving Social Security checks, that 1.3% increase won’t go too far in many areas of the country. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly benefit increase will be as follows for various categories of recipients:
- All retired workers, $20
- Aged couples who both receive benefits, $36
- Disabled workers, $16
Some other changes coming in 2021 are:
- The maximum amount of wages taxed for Social Security goes up from $137,700 now to $142,800 in 2021.
- For those of full retirement age, the maximum monthly retirement benefits are going up from $3,011 to $3,148 a month in 2021.
- In addition, the full retirement age is once again inching up based on year of birth.
The cost-of-living adjustment is based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. However, this formula focuses on younger workers under age 62, who are not claiming benefits nor having Medicare payments deducted from their monthly Social Security income. Let’s not forget the rising costs of living seniors face in general, which outpace that COLA amount—food, housing, and prescription drugs among them.
There is a groundswell to change the COLA calculation to the consumer price index for the elderly instead. This is the Social Security 2100 Act, which is being put forward by Congressman John Larson of Connecticut. It expands benefits for current and future recipients, cuts taxes on the elderly, and aims to keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent through the rest of this century.
Social Security is not so secure
Any way you slice it, relying heavily (or in many cases nationwide, solely) on Social Security for one’s retirement income does not bode well for today’s retirees —especially right now, when the fund is scheduled to be insolvent by 2033. Being more proactive about retirement saving can provide more stable financial health during one’s working and retirement years.
While Social Security benefits provide a financial safety net as per the program’s original intent, in today’s world, those benefits don’t stack up for individuals seeking to retire comfortably and maintain their accustomed lifestyle. That’s where self-directed IRAs and the nontraditional investment they allow can really shine.
Self-directed IRAs allow account owners to include a broad array of non-publicly traded, alternative assets, such as real estate, private equity, notes/loans, precious metals, and so many more. Self-directed investors can be proactive as well as nimbler about how they invest for their later years. That’s because, as individuals who make all their own investment decisions, self-directed investors can take advantage of market shifts and opportunities, and invest in many alternative assets they already know and understand, and that provide a hedge against stock market volatility.
At Next Generation, we’re all about client education. You can read more about the different types of self-directed retirement plans for individuals and business owners here. You may also schedule a complimentary educational session to get the information you need to decide whether self-direction is the right retirement strategy for you. Our helpful team is here to answer questions as well; you may contact us directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Promissory Notes and Secured/Unsecured Loans in a Self-Directed IRA
As we wrote about last fall, promissory notes are one way that self-directed investors—individuals with a self-directed IRA or other retirement plan—can provide funding assistance to other parties while building retirement savings. In that article, we focused on real estate notes, also called private mortgage notes; these are promissory notes secured by a piece (or multiple pieces) of real estate.
Self-directed investors can also include promissory notes in their retirement plans. Also known as commercial paper, these are issued by organizations to raise short-term capital for business purposes. Investment notes are essentially loan agreements that guarantee investors that they will receive a return on their investment within a specified time frame.
There are various reasons why a company issues commercial paper—to finance payroll, accounts payable, inventory purchases, or to meet other short-term liabilities. The maturity term is generally from a few weeks to a few months; the loan is based on the borrower’s promise to repay and the lender’s confidence in that ability.
Another type of loan that can be funded through a self-directed IRA is a student loan. The IRA lends money to someone to pay a student loan and the debtor pays back the self-directed IRA with interest.
When promissory notes and other loans come from a self-directed IRA, the repayment terms (such as maturity date, payment schedule, interest paid on the loan, and a default clause) are worked out between the parties involved, instructions are sent to the self-directed IRA administrator, and the repaid funds with interest go directly back into the IRA.
While investing in notes can be a great way to help others get the funding they need in the short term, investors should always be aware of the risks and should fully understand the nontraditional investments they are considering. As with any investment, we strongly recommend that our clients conduct full due diligence in order to protect the tax-advantaged status of their account(s).
When it comes to questions about self-direction as a retirement wealth-building strategy, we’re here to help. We offer many ways to get in touch with us to learn more. One of those ways is to arrange a complimentary educational session with one of our representatives. Alternatively, you can contact us via phone at 888.857.8058 or email NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.