Safe Money and the Plain Truth

Why the financial services industry is stacked against the American Retiree

Archive for September 2009

Is A Reverse Mortgage Right For Me?

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Reverse mortgages are versatile and flexible. Often times they are used more as a financial planning tool than a mortgage. Information and exposure is the key because as more and more people learn about reverse mortgages, the more they will become a mainstream product.

Each year new records are set regarding reverse mortgages in the numbers of people using them. Their time has come and the uniqueness of these products will create more and more situations where their use will be considered mainstream. These uses can and will include income, access to money for the extras in life, health care issues, home improvements and modifications, charity gifts, assisting a family member and as cash reserves.

Even though their popularity has grown some of the most basic facts about reverse mortgages are often misunderstood and unclear. A relatively short industry history and rapid product evolution have bombarded consumers with information that at times is confusing or misleading.

Do you sign away your house? Can you lose your house? Will my income stop? These are some of the misconceptions associated with reverse mortgages. The truth is the truth and we will examine each of these points carefully. Our goal is to provide accurate information about these products and to make the consumer aware of the many options available so the very best decision can be made for the consumer’s personal situation.

If you’d like more information just let me know and I’ll send you a booklet  discussing reverse mortgages.  This booklet provides an insight to the most common questions asked by consumers.

Written by brantleyw

September 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Can I Work and Receive Social Security

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I get a lot of questions surrounding Social Security benefits as you can imagine.  One of the more common ones is, “Can I keep working and get money from Social Security?” 

YES! You can work and receive Social Security
benefits at the same time. While you work, your
earnings will reduce your benefit amount only until
you reach your FRA(Full Retirement Age). In any year you are under FRA for the entire year, you are entitled to $800 a month
or $9600 for the year. See the example below to
understand how this works.

EXAMPLE: Earnings – $20,960 ($8000 over
the $12,960 limit) during the year. Their
Social Security benefits will be reduced by
$4000 ($1 for every $2 they earn over the
limit), but they will still receive $5600 or
their $9600 in benefits for the year. ($9600
minus $4000=$5600)

Starting with the month you reach FRA, you can
receive your benefits with no limit to your earnings.
Make sure to contact your Social Security Office at
the beginning of the year you reach FRA if you are
not already receiving your benefits. If you delay
taking your Social Security benefit beyond your
FRA, benefits will increase by a certain percentage
up to age 70.

Written by brantleyw

September 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm

5 Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do

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The information I’m posting below has nothing to do with your retirement or your money at all, just something I came across today and thought it could help a few folks out.  It is really useful information.

For all the folks with cell phones. (This should be printed and kept in your car, purse, and wallet. Good information to have with you.)
There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies.
Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it: 

FIRST
Emergency
The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find Yourself out of the coverage area of your mobile network and there is an Emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to Establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly, this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked… Try it out.

SECOND
Have you locked your keys in the car?
Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other ‘remote’ for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk).

Editor’s Note
: works fine! We tried it out and it unlocked  our car over a cell phone!’

THIRD

Hidden Battery Power
Imagine your cell battery is very low… To activate, press the keys*3370#. Your cell phone will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell phone next time.

FOURTH
How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?
To check your Mobile phone’s serial number, key in the following Digits on your phone: *#06#. A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe.
If your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code… They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless.. You probably won’t get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can’t use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.
And Finally….. 

FIFTH
Free Directory Service for Cells
Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don’t have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial: (800)FREE411, or (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.

Written by brantleyw

September 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

So What is My Number??

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I don’t know if anybody has really noticed the commercials that ING has been showing over the last few months about “your number”?  If not here’s the commercial I’m referring to.

While it’s no doubt that “your number” is important and the bigger it is, the better off you’ll be in your retired years.  What I try to get my clients to think about is what number gives you the ability to generate the  income you’ll need ( $60,000 per year as an example) over the course of your retirement years.  That’s the most important number.

I’ve heard financial planning  pundits proclaim that you need to have $1,000,000 saved by the time you retire. While that’s not necessarily a bad number, it is of course completely arbitrary, as the needs of different folk vary widely from others.  You’ve heard the old saying, “Different Strokes for different folks”.

The idea being that if you had $1,000,000, it would be enough to generate about $40,000 per year (assume 4% in annual interest) reliably in interest income, which, combined with another $20,000 per year in Social Security, would give you about $60,000 in income; your principal of $1,000,000 is left intact to keep the income distribution wheel turning, but would be available to access if things got tight, and the balance would be enough to cover any medical expenses and funeral costs at death.  Of course, none of this thought process takes into account inflation at all and the decrease in purchasing power that accompanies it.  But I digress…

My point is this…there really is no “right number”  there’s only “your number” and that number is determined by some basic math.  You just back into it.  Pick a conservative interest rate (4-6%) that you’ll try to earn on your retirement nest-egg and back into “your number” that way.   Be realistic and don’t expect to earn double digit returns after your working years…you can’t afford the risk.  If you don’t believe me ask the folks that lost 40% of their retirement accounts over the last couple years being invested in the stock market. 

Written by brantleyw

September 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tax Increases…Change You Can Count on!!

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This was posted by my friend, Pamela Yellen over on her blog  just a couple of days ago,  I thought it was right on so I’ve put it on my site to share with you. 

Did you know that the U.S. income tax was first instituted in 1913?

1913 Form 1040 Tax Return

1913 Form 1040 Tax Return

I recently came across a copy of the very first IRS Income Tax Form 1040 our forefathers were required to file and wanted to share it with you.

But BEFORE I show you the rest of it, take a guess at the answers to these four questions:

  1. What percentage of taxable income do you think the average family paid back then?
  2. What was the top percentage paid by the very wealthiest Americans?
  3. How many pages long do you think that first tax return was?
  4. How many pages were the instructions needed to complete the form?

The answers to these questions may shock you!

Did you take your best guess at the answers?

Now take a look at how close you came to the correct answers here.

What direction do you think taxes will go long-term?

Most people I’ve talked to say that’s a no-brainer- they’re going to go up.

Many people love the ability to tax-defer income that comes with IRA’s and 401(k)s. But they forget that if you’re successful building your savings in one of those plans, you’re probably just going to end up paying higher taxes on a bigger number!

That’s why it is so important to explore alternatives to funding your retirement with dollars that won’t be included in your income tax calculation. 

Written by brantleyw

September 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Do You Have a Living Will??

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One of my friends and I were talking about this very issue just a few days ago.  You know I think a fair number of folks have thought about this very issue but for most people they’ve just never done it for one reason or another. 

Recently I located a free resource where you can print out a blank living will specific to the laws of your state.  All you have to do is fill it out and have a couple folks witness the document…that’s it!!  What makes it even better is that you can specify all sorts of things for your family about your wishes, such as, what kind of music you would like to have played at your funeral service, who you’d like to be your pallbearers etc.  The sorts of things that make life easier for your loved ones if you can’t communicate with them because your incapacitated or dead. 

I know these are not things that any of us like to think about but if you love your family take some time, print the document and fill it out!!  One more thing, never put your living will in a safe deposit box…when it’s needed you may not be able to go to the bank to get it and nobody else will be able to either!! So, put it in a safe place and let those you love know where to find it in case they need it.

Here’s the link to get the free living will. 

If you’re one of our friends or clients we will also save an electronic copy after you’ve filled it out and give you your own secure, private access to our server.  That way anyone you share your information with can access your living will from anywhere at any time it’s needed.

Written by brantleyw

September 20, 2009 at 9:34 am

Posted in Living Wills

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“Cash For Clunkers”—A great success…Gimme A Break!!

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This week, Congressman Gary Peters from Michigan, called the “Cash for Clunkers” program “…great economic stimulus” and “it created immediate jobs.”  He went on to say, “The whole idea of ‘cash for clunkers’ was to act as priming the pump and get people back into showrooms. It was very successful at that."  Well you know what I say…gimme a break!!

I added up all of the money that the government has given to GM and Chrysler….$125 Billion.  And just this week, congressman Peters sponsored HR 3246 which will provide another $2.9 billion to the auto industry to research “alternative energy vehicles”.  The faucet in Washington just keeps running!! 

As I was reading about this situation earlier today I saw a comment from someone only identified as Bobby P. that said, “This is a temporary fix, and those given jobs will lose them again. What a colossal waste of money! This is not a stimulus plan; this is a giveaway of tax dollars. How stupid do they (legislators) think we are? A stimulus plan should not be called such until one invests capital to improve processes or a creating a manufacturing base of which we have little.”  Couldn’t say it any better myself…thanks Bobby P.

Of course I don’t have a crystal ball, but my guess is that taxpayers will never see any return on the money given to the automakers.  All of these programs like “Cash for Clunkers”, the real estate tax credit, and the free money we’ve given banks is nothing more than a temporary prop.  Politicians claiming victory have only created an artificial environment to operate.  Think about it….these clowns won’t show a profit for years…how could they when they’re:

1. Operating on taxpayer monies.

2. Advertising with taxpayer monies.

3. Giving incentives with taxpayer monies.

4. Paying Union Wages and Corporate Salaries with taxpayer monies.

Under these circumstances I think we could all run a profitable business.  Congressman Peters needs to lay off the Kool-Aid they’re serving on capitol hill.

Written by brantleyw

September 18, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized