Saturday, November 28, 2009

Health Care Savings Could Start in the Cafeteria

By Lingxiao Li

Obesity alone threatens to overwhelm the system. In a recent study, Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the department of health policy and management at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, found that if trends continued, annual health care costs related to obesity would total $344 billion by 2018, or more than 20 percent of total health care spending. (It now accounts for 9 percent.)At first blush, the notion of eating our way out of huge public health challenges like obesity, diabetes and heart disease may seem an overly simplistic and idealistic fix for complex, multifaceted problems. But health experts say that, in fact, an apple a day does keep the doctor away, and that many studies prove it.As part of the program, the Full Yield will give employees access to nutrition coaches by phone, as well as personalized online health pages containing the biometric data, exercise and eating tracking tools and information on things like how to cook whole grains and make salad dressing.We feel certain this will have an effect on our bottom line,” she says, “but it will probably take a few years to get there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Retire In Style

By Eric Gursky

It's said that human beings stand out from other species by virtue of our ability to think and plan ahead. While that may be true, most of us also have great trouble thinking about or preparing for the long term in the middle of our daily tasks and toil. Heck, it's difficult enough to plan something just six months ahead, like a summer vacation. How on earth are we supposed to be able to think about something in the distant future -- like retirement?

However, thinking in advance, and acting on those thoughts, are keys to being ready when the future becomes the present. The younger you are, the more distant your retirement -- and the greater your ability to compound your returns over time. That paradox can work to your advantage.

In this collection, we try to answer the important questions:

  • How much will I need for my retirement in order to live comfortably?
  • What are my goals?
  • When should I start?
  • What should I do?
  • How much can I count on from Social Security?
  • What costs might I run into once I've actually retired?
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Late Start? Retirement Planning is Still Critical

By Eric Gursky

It is an unfortunate fact that 28% of workers 55 or older have less than $10,000 saved. Those who have waited too long should not grieve about the past and take action as soon as possible. The road to having a retirement will not be an easy one and some sacrifices need to be made. It is a lot harder to start saving after 35 but even when this is the scenario, people still need to come up with a magic number or the amount they want to acquire by retirement. For example, someone who is 55 years old and earns $40,000 a year would need to save 27% of their income to be able to retire at 65.

Those who have waited to retire now need to put away as much as they can. To be in the position to put away more money, a person may have to relocate to find a higher paying job, pick up an extra part time job, and cut other expenses. Some suggestions for cutting expenses include selling your house to rent, selling off excess property you don't need, and eating at home instead of dining out. Other recommendations lean towards working until 70 because it gives you more time to save and your actual retirement length will be shorter. Along with working longer comes the option of waiting to receive social security. If you wait until your full retirement age, the social security benefit will not be reduced. This reduction can reach 30% if you choose to take it early. There is also an option to delay your benefit until after your full retirement age which can increase it by up to 8% a year.

For specific retirement options, it is still not to late if you are 50 or older to start an IRA. Even though you will not be able to take full advantage of compound interest, the money can still experience nice growth before being tapped. People over 50 who are saving in a regular or Roth IRA can save an extra $1,000 a year bringing the total allowed savings to $6,000 annually. Likewise, individuals who are 50 and over that have a 401k can save an extra $5,000 a year making the maximum contribution $20,500. While IRAs and 401(k) plans have tax deferred growth, the Roth IRA has tax free growth. While these are great options, you actually need to be making the money to save. For those who can't, social security should not be underestimated and may replace up to 25% or more of your current income.

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Monday, November 9, 2009


By Eric Gursky

IF your retirement assets took a beating in the recent stock market decline, converting a traditional I.R.A. to a Roth I.R.A. may be one of the best tax strategies this year.

When you do the conversion, you must pay income tax on the amount you are converting. This can be the whole account or a portion of it. But, subject to certain restrictions, no tax is assessed when the money is withdrawn. You also avoid the requirement to take yearly minimum distributions beginning at age 70 1/2, which can leave more for your heirs if you don’t use the money yourself.

How much you benefit from the conversion will depend on how the investments do subsequently, but there is great potential. Consider Albert Horrigan, 66, a semi-retired real estate broker in Sarasota, Fla., who converted a $50,000 I.R.A. to a Roth I.R.A. in 1998.

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By Eric Gursky

Retirement means saving and securing a future after work. There are necessary steps that must be taken in order to see the best returns. There are three things to consider when planning for your retirement. First you should
1) Assess your retirement.
a. You can keep track of your progress with retirement savings calculators such as the one available on Charles Schwab’s website.

2) Develop a retirement savings plan.
a. You should consider some strategies for saving. Most strategies fall under three types of plans. Qualified plans, which are plan set up by employers to give employees retirement saving opportunities. Individual Retirement Accounts, which is a personal savings plan that provides tax advantages. The three main advantages is that you may be able to deduct your contributions in whole or in part during the tax year you make the contribution, contributions are generally not taxed until distributed, and the IRA fills in the gaps in other tax-favored ways to save for retirement. And last there are Non-qualified Plans, which is an employer-sponsored retirement or other deferred compensation plan that does not meet the tax-qualification in a lower tax bracket.
b. You should diversify your retirement savings into a variety of asset classes
c. Build a portfolio in line with your long-term goals and risk tolerance

3) Explore ways to save
a. Maximize contributions to your existing 401k, 403b, 457
b. Establish a traditional or Roth IRA
c. Consider an individual 401(k), SEP-IRA, or profit-sharing plan if you own a small business.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Obama Seeks New Payments for Retirees

By Eric Gursky
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called on Congress Wednesday to approve $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors to make up for no increase in Social Security next year.

The White House put the cost at $13 billion.

The Social Security Administration is scheduled to announce Thursday that there will be no cost of living increase next year. By law, increases are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year.

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Covering college-tuition loans -- somebody give me some credit!

Posted by Nick Porcell

With two daughters in college, tuition loan repayments were stacking up, and my wife and I felt the weight of multiple monthly payments kicking in. We began to realize what a job it was to keep track of all the loans, and figured there had to be a better way.

Remembering we'd gotten good advice from the credit union on retirement accounts and mortgage refinancing, and eager to avoid any lender that smelled like last year's banking industry meltdown, we called our adviser to set up a new strategy for squeezing tuition payments into the family budget.

The good news came quickly. "Call the loan office in the morning," our adviser said. He agreed that using the equity we'd built up in our home to pay tuition bills would liberate us from the structured federal loan programs. If things went as expected, it would allow us to repay on our own terms, at 3.99 percent (I know!), and 'defer' if we needed to, by making only minimum payments in tight months.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Surprise! That 401(k) Account Is Looking Good

By: Shea McCabe

Written by Karen Blumenthal

Get this: despite the biggest and broadest decline in financial markets in a generation, the median 401(k) retirement account at Vanguard Group on September 30, 2009 was up 7% from where it was two years earlier, when the market was at an all time high.

Seems impossible, doesn't it?

If you've looked at your investments lately, you might be surprised at how much they've rebounded as the DOW Jones Industrial Average has climbed back above 10,000, especially if you've got a healthy mix of stocks and bonds and you've continued to make contributions.

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