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C.H. Robinson

We specialize in working with C.H. Robinson employees across the U.S.

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Retiring Before You're Ready

Written by Bruce Primeau on .

At SWA, we help clients to develop a well-thought-out game plan to save for their retirement goals. That plan typically has clients retiring anywhere from age 55 to age 67. However, that most certainly doesn't mean all things go according to plan.

What happens in the case of a diagnosis like cancer, or chronic issues from an accident related injury, or worst case, the unexpected death of a spouse? The answer is that we have to be flexible. Retirement plans need to be flexible and it's important to note that one small "wrinkle" may cause considerable modifications to your plan. Here are some of the topics we discuss with clients who may experience an issue that causes them to reconsider their retirement plan:

  • Discuss how their cash flow needs might change in the upcoming weeks, months or years. Perhaps more aggressive gifting to family or charity might be in order or a special trip might be planned.
  • Review of Social Security benefit strategies may be in order as it may make sense to accelerate or delay the receipt of benefits (to protect the surviving spouse).
  • Ensure wills, health care directives and financial powers of attorney are up to date and align with goals.
  • Review beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance to ensure those named are appropriate and the clients are comfortable with handing over their assets at the beneficiary's designated age(s).

A thought process we try to instill into each new SWA client relationship is not to save every penny they have for some fictitious retirement date but to be sure to live life along the way. Learn and appreciate the value of creating memories along the way knowing that tomorrow, next week or next month is not guaranteed for any of us.

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Bitcoin: Massive Success or Complete Failure?

Written by Matt Wright on .

Even if you're not quite sure exactly what Bitcoin is, the one thing you've probably heard is that it has had significant price appreciation and wild price swings over the years. There's no question that if you had put some money into Bitcoin a number of years ago and held onto it, you could exchange it back into an impressive sum of U.S. dollars. That assumes that you didn't lose your Bitcoin wallet password or weren't hacked or a trading exchange you used wasn't hacked, etc. To many, it seems that the fact that Bitcoin has gone up in price is a sign that it is highly successful, but does that actually make sense?

You see, the idea behind Bitcoin is that it would serve as an alternate form of currency via a unique payment system. If you don't want to transact in government-denominated currency or use credit card payment systems, for example, you could opt to transact in a crypto-currency like Bitcoin. But some of the critical features of a good currency are that the values are stable and holders want to use them for transactions, not hoard them. Alas, the creator(s) of Bitcoin may not have foreseen that Bitcoin trading exchanges would pop up and turn it into the equivalent of a speculative stock that can swing wildly by 20-30% in either direction within a few days.

Just think about the problems this would create as a currency. What if you chose to receive a $1,000 paycheck in Bitcoin instead of dollars, not knowing whether the value will be worth $1,200 or $800 a couple days later? If you are running a business with tight margins, you couldn't even consider taking a risk that your revenues and costs would have widely mismatched exchange values.

Bitcoin is an inventive technology and we shouldn't be judging it solely based on what happens to its price. If it is to serve its purpose as a reliable alternative currency, price is the one thing you shouldn't have to monitor closely. It seems that with every speculative investment cycle we've seen over the years, when price becomes the primary focus and ignores most everything else (like profits of a company, for example), it's a sign that the market function might be broken.

Let the crypto-currency buyer beware.

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Retiree Health Care Costs Are Out of Control

Written by Bruce Primeau on .

We've been reading quite a bit of news regarding the rising health care costs for retirees and this information just confirms the urgency with which Congress must address Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act.

  • According to the third annual "Retirement Health Care Data Report," lifetime health care premiums for Medicare Part B and D, supplemental Medigap insurance and dental insurance for an average 65-year old couple retiring in 2017 will be about $322,000 (in today's dollars).
  • When other out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-pays, hearing, etc. are added in, total lifetime healthcare costs could exceed $400,000.
  • The annual retiree health care inflation rate will likely average about 5.5% for the foreseeable future. That is almost triple the U.S. inflation rate of 1.9% from 2012 to 2016 and more than double the projected Social Security cost of living adjustments of 2.6%.
  • A HealthView Services report shows that a 66-year old couple retiring in 2017 will need about 59% of their total Social Security benefits to cover their projected lifetime retirement healthcare costs.
    • However, a 55-year old couple retiring at age 66 will need about 92% of their Social Security benefits to cover theirs while a 45-year old couple retiring more than 20 years from now will need about 122% of their Social Security benefits to cover their projected lifetime health care costs.

Not that we didn't already know there was a problem with the current health care system, but the statistics outlined above are alarming.

For our clients, as we update their retirement projections moving forward, we will be breaking out the projected costs of their health care as a separate / specific line item so they will have a better feel for how much of their projected lifestyle cash flow will be available for their retirement goals, not including their lifetime health care costs. If you have questions about how your projected health care costs in retirement will impact you, please let us know as we are glad to help.

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Retirees: Beware

Written by Becky Botzet on .

Social Security beneficiaries may see an increase in 2018. Based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data through April of this year, the consumer advocacy group estimates that the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2018 will be about 2.1%, which is significantly higher than the 0.3% increase in 2017. The official announcement about next year's COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) is in October, so it could change.

Social Security's COLA is governed by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) which gives less weight to medical care and housing costs, two categories that have experienced rapid inflation and represent the larger portion of the budgets of older households than younger workers.

Social Security Inflation adjustments have averaged only 1% since 2012, including no increase in 2016. Since 2000, Social Security benefits have increased 43% while typical senior expenses have jumped 86%. Social Security beneficiaries and federal retirees have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000, making it more difficult for retirees to afford necessities such as medical care, food and housing.

Also consider higher-income retirees pay a higher monthly premium for both Medicare Part B, which covers doctors' fees and out-patient services, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs. Those higher-income retirees subject to monthly Medicare surcharges may be in for a shock next year. New income brackets, based on 2016 tax returns, take effect in 2018. As a result, retirees who currently pay a high income surcharge pay even more next year even if their income remains the same.

If you have any questions about your Social Security benefits or the role it should play in your retirement plan, please contact us today.

 

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Managing Student Debt or How to Keep Your Kid From Living in Your Basement

Written by Jon Govin on .

Student loan debt is often times the first credit your children will have. Many students receive and sign a loan agreement, without an understanding of what they have just signed – by the way, parents can be just as guilty. And, like a credit card, the loan amount can build very rapidly. So before it builds too high, here are a few steps that can help your student (and parent) in managing the debt they are taking on.

Start with WHO you owe and HOW MUCH

Most student loans are federal student loans, but occasionally students or families take out private loans. After four years of taking out loans, you may not remember who you owe and how much. Adding to this confusion, student loans are often sold or transferred to new servicers, making it even harder to track them down.

Internet to the rescue. There are two tools you can use to find out what loans you and/or your child has and the current balance on each:

  • For federal loans you can visit the National Student Loan Data System (www.nslds.ed.gov). This is a database of loans and grants where you can see what debt you have and the status.
  • For private loans, you can find the loan servicer and status of the loan by checking your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. The credit report will show all of your loans and lines of credit in your name – we recommend checking this, in any case.

Calculate the payments and budget

Once you have identified the student loan servicers, you can find out the minimum payment your child will owe each month.

If you can locate the loan promissory note, it will outline the loan terms, including the minimum loan payment and length of repayment. Even if you can't find the promissory note, the loan company will send your child a bill with the minimum amount.

For private loans, you can contact the lender directly via their customer service line to find out the account status and minimum payment.

You can also use the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator (https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/mobile/repayment/repaymentEstimator.action) to estimate how much of the payment will go towards interest versus principal. This is a function of the website studentloans.gov and you will need to sign up to use the functions. By running the numbers with your child, you can show them how applying extra payments to the loans can save them hundreds of dollars over the length of their loan.

Research repayment options

If your child's starting salary is too low to keep up with the payments, or if they are still job searching, look at possible repayment options.

If they have federal loans, an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan may be a smart idea. Rather than the standard 10-year plan, the government extends the repayment term to 20-25 years with an IDR option. Monthly payments are also capped at a percentage of your child's discretionary income, so they may significantly reduce the monthly bill. In fact, it's possible to end up with a monthly payment of $0. At the end of the repayment term, if any debt is left over, it will be discharged but taxed as income for that year.

Private student loans are not eligible for income-driven repayment, but some lenders offer interest-only payments. Just remember to tell your child that they still have the principal to pay for private loans! Under these plans, your child will pay a much smaller bill each month that only covers the interest. It will take much longer to repay the loan, but it can give a young graduate more breathing room until their career takes off.

Consider other repayment options / refinancing

If the interest rates on the loans are high, you might want to refinance. By refinancing the current loans, your child can get a lower interest rate and new repayment term. That approach can reduce the payments and help save money over time. It can be difficult for a new graduate to get approved for a loan, however, so you can help your child by co-signing the loan.

Keep in mind that co-signing means you're responsible for the loan if your kid misses a payment, so it's important to work out an agreement with your child ahead of time. Only take this step if you're confident in their ability to be responsible with their payments.

An important note, there is no federal refinancing. But, if you find a lower rate on a private loan, you may consider refinancing by paying off the federal loan. Beware, the many various loan types, rates and terms can give you a false sense that you are paying less. Be sure to review the loan details with us, prior to refinancing.

There you have it. Your child's first foray into the world of consumer credit. A true feeling of independence. But, with this independence comes a great deal of responsibility. Student loans are a great way for parents to help their children get off on the right foot (and not have them living in your basement again).

If you have questions regarding your child's student loan debt—or you own, please ask your advisor for advice. This is part of what you pay us for, and we are here to help.

North Metro: 763.355.5873
227 East River Parkway
Champlin, MN 55316-5873

South Metro: 612.987.9112
5871 Crossandra Street SE
Prior Lake, MN 55372-3337

West Metro: 763.639.3425
322 Greenhill Lane
Long Lake, MN 55356

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