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.
Retirement Planning in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are all aware of the widespread economic impact that the lockdowns instituted to curb COVID-19 have had on U.S. businesses and taxpayers, which has moved Americans to rethink their retirement planning strategies.
Given the spikes in unemployment or reduction in wages experienced by millions of people – and unpredictable stock market performance, which so many rely upon for their retirement wealth – the pandemic is causing disruptions beyond the everyday.
Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave, reported in an article on ThinkAdvisor said, “The pandemic has had the biggest impact on what we used to think of as retirement because now all the pieces on the table are moving around. It’s brought to light the importance of matching health span to life span. People are thinking more and more about the importance of health and what they can do to optimize it.”
Health spans, lifespans, and retirement lifestyles
Americans have enjoyed longer lifespans over the generations and have had to plan on saving more for retirement to enjoy their lifestyles for longer periods of time. However, COVID-19 has older adults also thinking more about their health. As Dychtwald puts it, they have suddenly been thrust into thinking about what matters most in life. He feels that for many people, the psychological impact of the pandemic has been not only to consider what happens if they die, but how they want to live their lives—more streamlined, pared down to the essentials of a good life, and optimizing their health.
That said, according to Dychtwald, there’s more optimizing to do for retirees in the realms of technology and financial literacy. He says this population needs to adapt to and adopt technology to connect to new ways of socializing, access medical care (via telemedicine), or research financial information. A Pew Research study reported that only 62% of Americans over age 75 use the internet and 28% use or feel comfortable connecting to social media. And when it comes to financial health, Dychtwald notes many retirees don’t understand their options for retirement savings and what it all means, including Social Security benefits.
So where does retirement planning come into this new pandemic-colored picture?
A new post-pandemic lifestyle?
For many people, they’ve been experiencing a quieter, simpler lifestyle in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns and safety guidelines— and may be re-evaluating what their retirement looks like. Will it include more travel or less travel? Time spent with loved ones or more time for hobbies or volunteering? Staying in a sprawling home or downsizing to a cozy bungalow, moving to an urban environment from the suburbs or getting that cabin in the woods?
Given the business closures—even temporary ones—business owners who may have been putting off retirement before the pandemic might be looking at retiring earlier than originally planned … and are taking a fresh look at their retirement accounts and how the funds are invested.
Taking control of your financial future with self-directed IRAs
Luckily for self-directed investors, they’re connecting, researching, and are savvy about the types of investments they’re including within their retirement accounts. Rather than rely on the ups and downs of the stock market or tolerate sluggish returns on Treasuries, self-directed investors are taking stock of their goals, perhaps shifting their priorities, and planning for the future—despite these uncertain times—with nontraditional investments such as real estate, private equity, secured and unsecured loans, hedge funds, precious metals and many more.
While this retirement strategy is not for everyone, many individuals are seeking a hedge against stock market volatility (such as the recent market turbulence wrought by the pandemic), portfolio diversification and better control over their investment returns – all benefits offered by self-directed IRAs.
Are you looking to shift your retirement strategy to include alternative assets you already know and understand? Do you want to develop a retirement portfolio that reflects your interests or an area of expertise? If you’re comfortable making your own investment decisions, it’s a great time to plan your retirement from a different perspective. You’ll find a plethora of information about self-directed IRAs on our website; and if you have questions about how to get started, you can schedule a complimentary educational session with someone from our team. Alternatively, you can contact us directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Women’s History Month: A Look at Women and Their Financial & Investing History
Ever since the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s a lot has changed for women in America, thanks to spitfire pioneers who generated shifts in societal attitudes and pushed for legislative changes.
The National Organization of Women advocated for six measures to ensure women’s equality: enforcement of laws banning employment discrimination, maternity leave rights, childcare centers (so mothers could work), tax deductions for childcare expenses, equal and unsegregated education, and equal job-training opportunities for women in poverty. These all took many years to pass.
Eventually, as more women entered the workforce employers were barred from firing a woman because she was pregnant. More women began running for political office. No-fault divorce laws arose. Women began serving in combat, became astronauts, and sat on the Supreme Court bench. Moreover, they could finally apply for a credit card or loan in their own names.
Women in financial history
Women have been making their mark on the financial sector since our country’s early days. In fact, future First Lady Abigail Adams began trading in government-issued bonds during the Revolutionary War with strong results, and a woman named Victoria Woodhull opened her own brokerage house in 1870 with her sister; she also ran her own newspaper company and was the first woman to run for U.S. President.
Some more notable firsts in modern times:
- Isabel Benham was the first woman to work on Wall Street in the 1930s at R.W. Presspich & Co. and in the 1960s, became the firm’s first female partner.
- Muriel Siebert was the first woman to purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967 and the first woman to be appointed Superintendent of Banking a decade later.
- In 2014, Janet Yellen became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve.
Women and investing
The women’s liberation movement notwithstanding, it’s been an uphill climb for women to take their rightful places in the workplace and take their seats at corporate tables. As of January 1, 2020, there have been 82 individual women in Fortune 500 CEO roles in total, with three serving as CEO twice.
However, more women are undergoing a new women’s liberation movement when it comes to their investment choices . . . and discovering they can take more control of their financial futures through self-directed investing.
Self-directed IRAs enable investors to better control their retirement savings by investing in alternative assets they know and understand. Although historically, women have taken a more moderate approach to risk, those who prefer to make their own investment decisions can open a new self-directed retirement plan and include non-publicly traded, alternative assets to build a more diverse retirement portfolio. These investments might include real estate, private equity, private lending, partnerships, precious metals or impact investments.
Self-directed investors also conduct their own research and due diligence about the alternative assets they wish to include in their retirement plans. They may already be investing in these assets outside of their existing retirement accounts. In fact, that’s how our founder and CEO, Jaime Raskulinecz, started Next Generation.
Next Generation’s Women in History
Jaime was a seasoned real estate investor who wanted to include real estate in her IRA; she discovered self-direction as a retirement strategy that would allow her to do so. As a pioneer in her own right, Jaime started a company in 2004 to enable more investors to include nontraditional investments in their retirement plans and Next Generation, a third-party administrator for those plans, was born. Continuing to build on her success, in 2017 she led the formation of its sister firm, Next Generation Trust Company, which now acts as custodian for all of its accounts.
Jaime and her partner Linda Varas, Principal of Next Generation, have always believed in the power of women in the workplace and our team is a testament to that. Jaime and Linda have cultivated a career-building environment for women (and men, too!), as you’ll see on our team page.
We are proud to recognize Jaime’s many professional achievements as we continue to educate more women on the power of self-directed investing. Want to take control of your future, today? Sign up for a complimentary educational session with one of our knowledgeable representatives. Alternatively, you can email us directly at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com or call 888.857.8058 to get started.
The SECURE Act and Self-Directed Retirement Plans
The SECURE Act, signed into law on December 20, 2019, is comprehensive legislation written to expand retirement savings, simplify existing rules, preserve retirement income, and improve plan administration. SECURE stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement.
The bill mostly makes significant changes to workplace retirement plans; other provisions affect retirement plans in general, including self-directed IRAs. Here is a look at some of the changes, effective January 1, 2020.
For those who own a self-directed Traditional or Roth IRA:
- Increase in RMD age for Traditional IRAs – The required minimum distribution age is now 72. Individuals who turn 70½ in 2020 would not be required to take a minimum distribution until April 1st of the year in which they turn 72. This only applies to individuals who turn 72 in 2020 or later.
- Contribute to your Traditional IRA longer – Workers age 70½ and older with earned income may now continue contributing to a Traditional IRA—and continue building up retirement savings. This only applies to individuals who are turning 70½ in 2020 and later.
- Tax penalty exemption for birth or adoption of a child – For a qualified birth or adoption, the account holder can withdraw a total of $5,000 as an early distribution without the 10% penalty, when the distribution occurs within one year of the event. Income taxes still apply.
- Graduate student IRA contributions – Certain payments to graduate and postdoctoral students will be treated as earned income for IRA contribution purposes.
- No more stretch IRAs – The lifetime distribution option for certain non-spousal IRA beneficiaries is now eliminated and most non-spouse inheritors who are more than 10 years younger than the deceased IRA owner will be required to take all distributions within 10 years. Exceptions include beneficiaries who, at the time of the account owner’s death, are:
- Disabled or have certain chronic illnesses
- Within 10 years of the decedent’s age
- Minors (10-year payout period begins upon reaching the age of majority)
- Recipients of certain annuitized payments begun before enactment of the SECURE Act.
For business owners who have a SEP IRA, Solo 401k, or other qualified retirement plan:
- Longer deadline to establish a plan – Now employers may establish a qualified plan as late as their business tax filing deadline, including extensions, rather than the last day of the company’s business year. This extension will not apply to certain plan provisions.
- Increase in small-employer plan startup credit – Up to $5,000 per year, effective for 2020 and later taxable years, for employers with up to 100 employees over a three-year period beginning after December 31, 2019. The credit applies to SEP, SIMPLE, 401(k), and profit-sharing plans.
- Automatic enrollment credit – Employers that include an automatic enrollment feature in their new or existing small 401(k) plans or SIMPLE IRA plans will get a maximum annual tax credit of $500 for each of the first three years that the plan is maintained. (Effective for 2020 and later taxable years.)
- Participation by part-time employees – Employees who work at least 500 hours over three consecutive 12-month periods (and who satisfy the plan’s minimum age requirement) must be offered participation in the employer’s 401(k) plan.
All SECURE provisions have tax consequences for individuals and plan sponsors. As always, the team at Next Generation strongly recommends you consult your trusted advisor regarding how the SECURE Act provisions may affect your specific tax situation.
Secure a more diverse retirement portfolio through self-direction
In light of the recent changes, consider including alternative assets within a self-directed retirement plan. Those who are comfortable making their own investment decisions and who understand certain nontraditional investments can build up their retirement savings—and hedge against stock market volatility—with such assets as real estate, precious metals, private equity, hedge funds, private notes, and more.
At Next Generation, we’re here to answer your questions about self-direction as a retirement wealth-building strategy, or how certain provisions of SECURE may affect your self-directed retirement plan. You can arrange a complimentary educational session with one of our representatives, or contact us directly at 888.857.8058 or NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com for more information.