Category Archives: Blog

Glass Half-Full Thinking

Glass Half-Full Thinking


Retirement Planning in “Normal” Times

When planning for retirement we encourage people to envision what they believe their future life will look like. In normal times, people extrapolate the trends and technologies of today in a linear fashion into the future. A good example of this is “The Jetsons” which was set in 2062.

While flying cars and robot maids are still a distance proposition, they will likely look nothing like what was depicted in the original cartoon. The creators of “The Jetsons” simply used the technology they had at the time and futurized it. They had no idea innovations that would actually take place between 1962 and 2062.

Retirement Planning in Our Current Reality

If we were to ask someone to envision the future retirement based on what happened in 2020, they could likely imagine a future you would not want to be a part of. With a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and divided nation, it is very easy to find things to be negative about.

Reasons to be pessimistic is tend to dominate the news and you often have to look for reasons to be optimistic. Below are three books that I found helpful in allowing me to think more optimistically about the future:

3 Books to Shift Your Mindset

These books detail how life is better than we may think. Violence, global poverty, and child mortality all are decreasing. Human innovation and technological advancement are happening at an increasing rate. Progress is always taking place, even though it may not be directly visible to us.

Shifting Your Mindset

A positive mindset can be thought of as a “muscle”, meaning the more you train yourself to look for the good things, the easy it becomes to find them. If you are fortunate enough to be reading this post, there are likely millions, if not billions of people who would consider your current life to be the “dream life.”

Long-Term Optimism as an Investment Philosophy

“The first rule of compoundingNever interrupt it unnecessarily.”

Charlie Munger

To allow a long-term optimistic investment philosophy to play out, you must secure yourself from the inevitable short-term crises. This security is money not exposed to market risk, used to provide a buffer to meet your current spending needs, and allow your assets exposed to the markets to remain untouched.

The size of this buffer is viewed as “X” number of years of future spending. The actual dollar amount can vary greatly from person to person but should be large enough to allow you not to have to sell long-turn investments during a market downturn. This can also be viewed it turns of having enough set aside to allow you to sleep soundly when markets are manic.

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

Voltaire

Disasters are inevitable, markets will boom and bust. Through all of this, we will continue to innovate and change for the better. Uncertainty of the future will always be present and optimism may become scarce. Prepare for these times, but have faith that a better future will prevail.

What Steps Can you Take Today?

  • Think of 3 things you are grateful for
  • Determine how much of a buffer you need for short-term expenses
  • Create an investment strategy that allows you to take advantage of the long-term potential of the markets.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.


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How to use RPE in Retirement Planning


What is RPE?

When I exercise, I track the number of reps, weight used and judge the difficulty of each set by estimating my rate of perceived excretion (RPE).

Rate of Perceived Exertion is a way to measure the intensity of an exercise. It is based on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being a very light effort and 10 being a maximal effort. In addition to tracking the RPE of each set I do, I also judge the RPE for each training session as a whole after completing it. 

RPE is both qualitative (for example a RPE 7 is easier than a RPE 9) and quantitative. Rating a set’s RPE is influenced by how I feel and not necessarily what actually happened making it subjective.

Using a subjective rating of fatigue (using RPE) may correlate better to injury than objective metrics like load use, volume, etc. Meaning performing an exercise that generates too much fatigue could result in an injury irrespective of the actual weight used.

How does this relate to retirement planning? 

When planning for retirement, you often have to make sacrifices today in order to achieve a desired future state. This often requires you to save a portion of your current income, invest in assets that could experience market volatility, and purchase insurance you hope to never use.

All of these require you to delay/reduce gratification today to some point in the future. There is certainly a level of self-restraint that is needed to do and is often more difficult for some.

This is where RPE comes into the mix, meaning creating a plan that requires you to live like a monk and forgo all worldly pleasures would likely require a lot of effort to maintain and inherently unsustainable for the vast majority of people. Therefore, the greater the perceived effort you have to put into something the shorter the duration it can be sustained.

Meaning some people could only sustain a self-imposed subsistence lifestyle for a few days, while others could live this way for their entire life, regardless of their income. There is no right or wrong here, just the fact that everyone is different and perceives things differently.

The same measure could be used for investment strategies. So people can handle the market volatility that comes with a 100% stock allocation, while others begin to lose sleep when any portion of their portfolio is exposed to the stock market. Keeping a higher percentage allocation to stocks will be more difficult for some to maintain than is it for others regardless of the size of their portfolio.  

All experience is subjective. – Gregory Bateson

How to Use RPE in Retirement Planning

Within a given year you could have periods of increased savings (effort) to fund a short-term goal or to pay down debt. These periods could be viewed as “sprints” or short intervals of elevated effort followed by a period of normalized effort. This would allow for a break in between the sprints so that you can “recover” from reaching a goal.

The subjective nature of RPE is why I see it being useful in retirement planning. Often, using rules of thumb for someone’s savings rate or stock allocation does not adequately account for their perception of difficulty in implementation.

When a task is perceived to be more difficult relative to their perceived ability, it can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, and not able to perform the task competently.

If you could instead ask their opinion on how difficult they perceive something to be or much effort it would require to accomplish a task, you may have a better chance of getting the desired outcome. With that being said you can then frame the effort you are placing towards your long-term financial goals on a 1-10 scale of perceive difficulty to find a good balance for you.

Meaning something that is sustainable in the long-term but will allow you to still meet your goals. You can also incorporate periods of increased effort (sprints) followed by periods of normalized effort to reach shorter-term goals. 

Planning for perfection is not prudent. You must find the balance between living for today and preparing for tomorrow. Persistence and adaptability are required and finding a sustainable level of effort you can put towards your desire outcomes will be key to your success.


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Understanding Medicare When Retiring After 65


The Basics of Medicare

Medicare is the federal health insurance program that covers most people who are age 65 and older. It is composed of different parts that help cover specific services. 

Original Medicare is divided into hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B), which are run by the federal government. Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (prescription drug coverage) are provided by private insurance companies approved by Medicare.

Below is a basic breakdown of the Medicare coverage options someone has available to them at age 65.

Source: medicare.gov

Coordinating Medicare Benefits When Working Past 65

Use Your Employee Benefits Manager as a Resource

We are often asked how to enroll in Medicare when someone is over 65 and wants to retire from their current employer. We often guide them to their employee benefits manager to determine whether they have a group health plan coverage (as defined by the IRS) and to see what portions of Medicare (if any) they are already enrolled in.

Individuals with group health coverage based on current employment may be able to delay Part A and Part B and won’t have to pay a lifetime late enrollment penalty if they enroll later.

Medicare Part A Eligibility

If they are eligible for premium-free Part A, they can enroll in Part A at any time after they are first eligible for Medicare. Their Part A coverage will go back (retroactively) 6 months from when they signed up (but no earlier than the first month they were eligible for Medicare).

If they were eligible for premium-free Part A, and they didn’t buy it when they first eligible, they may have to pay a penalty. They may be able to sign up for Medicare during what is called a “Special Enrollment Period” (SEP).

This is available to them anytime as long as they or their spouse are working and covered under a group health plan from your current employer.

Coordinating Medicare Benefits When Retiring After 65

If they are not enrolled in Part A and/or Part B. There is an 8-month SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B that starts (whichever happens first): The month after the employment ends or the month after group health plan insurance based on current employment ends. There usually is not a late enrollment penalty if you sign up during a SEP.

COBRA Coverage and Medicare

You may be able to get COBRA coverage, which continues your health insurance through the employer’s plan (in most cases for only 18 months.) Don’t wait until COBRA ends to enroll in Part B. If you don’t enroll in Part B during the 8 months after the employment ends you may have to pay a penalty for as long as they have Part B and you won’t be able to enroll until January 1–March 31 and have to wait until July 1 of that year before your coverage begins. This may cause a gap in health care coverage.

High-Deductible Health Plans and Medicare

Under IRS rules cannot contribute to an HSA any month when you are enrolled in any part of Medicare (Part A, B, or D). If your current employer coverage is a high-deductible health care plan you may want to consider enrolling in Medicare until you retire.

To avoid a tax penalty, they should stop contributing to your HSA at least 6 months before they apply for Medicare. Part A coverage will go back (retroactively) 6 months from when they sign up (but no earlier than the first month they are eligible for Medicare).

Keep Your Notice of Credible Coverage

If they are not enrolled in Part D. There is also a 2-month SEP after the month your coverage ends to sign up for a Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

If you decide to join a Medicare drug plan, you should the “Notice of Credible Coverage” you receive. You will get a “Notice of Credible Coverage” each year if you have drug coverage from an employer/union or other group health plan. This notice will let you know if your current drug coverage is “creditable.” Keep this notice.

Start By Understanding Your Current Coverage

Medicare is complex and there are many decisions one must make when choosing your healthcare coverage. If you are over 65 and still employed it is important to first understand when the coverage you currently have through your employer, which (if any) part of Medicare you are already enrolled in.

From there, you will have a better idea of what the next steps need to be taken, to avoid any penalties and more importantly make sure you have proper coverage.

Useful Medicare Resources

Medicare.gov provides a wide variety of resources including the Medicare and You handbook which is updated annually.


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How to Handle the Certain Uncertainty in Investing


Ep 01. The Sky Is Always Falling The Retirement Rabbit Hole

The Sky is Always Falling

I am sure you are familiar with the story of Chicken Little and the phrase, “The sky is falling!” In this tale, a chicken has a mistaken belief that the world is coming to an end. Versions of this story have been told for more than 25 centuries.

The premise of this tale is an imagined thought based on a perceived notion that the scenario, as in Chicken Little’s case, an acorn falling from a tree, signals that the end of the world is coming. And of course, it could be different this time, just as it is has been every other time.

I, by no means, want to downplay the severity of the current circumstances and the real impact it has on the individuals affected. The end of “your” world is no different from the end of the rest of the world.

I am being intentionally vague because events and circumstances will change. But fear, uncertainty, and doubt can always be found.

What can you do to deal with the uncertainty?

1. Turn Off The News

News platforms make money selling your attention to advertisers. These platforms must compel you to watch and then their advertisers must convince you to transact. The unfortunate truth is that showing a long-term optimistic outlook on things and preaching, “stay the course” does not tend to attract as much attention to viewers.

Therefore, that content doesn’t incentivize advertisers to purchase commercial spots since their intended audience is one with ‘problems’ so they target and attempt to sell their solutions to viewers. By not indulging in this form of media we can avoid the current issue plaguing the markets and focus on things where we specifically can control the outcome.

2. Confront Your Fears

Ask yourself, “What if X event were to happen?” Define the ramifications of this happening. What are the possible scenarios that could take place? Think through the worst-case scenario and the implications of that. This will expose what is behind your fears.

Then think of anything you could do to prevent the negative outcome if “X” were to happen. Is there anything you have direct control or influence over? Can your action mitigate the negative outcome?

Finally, if “X” takes place, what could you do to repair or fix what happened? Is this something you will be able to recover from or would the event result in a permanent loss?

3. Take Action (or not)

Often when we feel we don’t have control of a situation we lose our sense of self-efficacy. But if you can determine there are things you can do to have a positive impact, this will help you feel in control. Oftentimes, the best thing to do is nothing.

There is often nothing you can do to prevent “X” from happening but understanding this gives you the ability to exhibit courageous inaction.


There are countless platitudes about the uncertainty in investing I could use. In the end, you must try to do what Reinhold Niebuhr said and accept what you can not control, have the courage to change what you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. No matter what happens you control your attitude in any given circumstance.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.


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Portfolio Performance Secrets


Comparing Performance Kills Contentment

Investors often compare their portfolio’s performance to the market’s performance or worse, an individual company’s performance. The issue with this is that investors often are not invested 100% in U.S stocks.

They likely have a mixture of stocks, bonds, and cash in their accounts. As a result, a direct comparison of any time period would not be an accurate representation of their expected performance.

When investing and saving for retirement, we are not trying to get the absolute highest return we possibly can, we are trying to minimize the chance of financial ruin. Doing this could lead to underperformance relative to the market and your co-workers. But do not let this relative underperformance lead to the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) or discontent with your own situation.

3 “Enough” Questions to ask yourself

Am I saving enough?

We want to use investing as a tool to become incrementally wealthier over time. We never want to do anything that could jeopardize our financial future. With these conditions in mind, you often have to ask yourself questions about what is enough for you.

The amount you save is more likely to be within your control than future market returns. There is no universal “enough” as that will vary from person to person. If you are not saving adequately, you will become increasingly reliant on potential market returns to meet your goals.

Am I taking enough risk?

You invest as a means of reaching a desired future state. Investing involves risks and you cannot guarantee future performance based on past results.

If you are not able to sleep at night because of the fluctuations in your investment portfolio you likely have exposed too much of your portfolio to volatile assets.

When this is the case you will need to reevaluate your goals. Meaning you will have to accept the expected volatility required to give you the best chance of reaching your goals or you will have to adjust some aspect of your goals.

Are my investments performing well enough?

Instead of looking at your portfolio as a whole, compare the individual components to their relative benchmark. This way you have a true apples to apples comparison. From there you can determine if each investment is doing a sufficiently good job or a change needs to be made.

Any investment strategy that attempts to outperform its peers will likely have periods of time where it underperforms. The duration of underperformance can not be known in advance and judgment must be made as any underperformance continues for a significant period of time.

‘If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’ (Sun Tzu, The Art of War). 

Everyone Has a Plan Until…

Our experiences shape who we are, especially when it comes to investing. We may think we can handle a certain level of volatility, but have a much different opinion once we experience it firsthand. Knowing what we should do and actually doing it are two different things.

Making a plan you can not stick to is not much better than not having a plan at all. Turning inward and asking yourself what you need instead of looking at others for reference and their returns can allow you to focus on what you can control and not worry about the things you can not.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.


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What can you do with a 401(K) from an old job?


Do You Have an Old 401(K)?

When you leave your current employer, you may not be exactly sure what to do with the money in your former employer’s 401(K) plan. I have listed available options and detailed the factors to consider to help you make an informed decision.

The Options Available to You

  • Keep the money in your old employer’s plan (if allowed)
  • Rollover your assets into an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”)
  • Rollover your assets to another employer-sponsored plan (if applicable) 
  • Take a distribution in cash from the plan 

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages and should be considered carefully. This includes any applicable fees you will pay and all the features each option could provide you. Deciding to roll over plan assets to an IRA should reflect consideration of various factors, the importance of which will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. The following are general factors that you should consider when making your choice. 

Factors to consider for keeping your money with your former employer’s 401(k) plan:

Tax Deferral

  • Your money will continue to have tax-deferred status within the plan.

Additional Withdrawal Allowances

  • There is no federal tax penalty for withdrawals if you are age 59 1⁄2 or separated from employment during or after the year you reach age 55.

Low-Cost Investment Options

  • You have access to low-cost mutual funds or other investment options not available in an IRA, such as company stock, fixed annuity contracts, or stable value options. Also, you would not need to change your current investment strategy in the plan.

Protection from Creditors

  • Assets in a retirement savings plan such as a 401(K) or 403(B) are generally protected from creditors and legal judgments, while assets in IRAs receive more limited protections from creditors.

Deferral of Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s)

  • Your employer-sponsored retirement plan may offer this feature if you are currently working for the sponsoring employer, over age 72, and do not have a 5% or more ownership in the employer.

Possible availability of Company Stock as an Investment Option

  • If you hold company stock in your employer-sponsored plan, you should consider the tax impact of net unrealized appreciation.

Outstanding Loan Balances

  • If you leave your employer, you may be able to continue repaying any outstanding loan.
  • Alternatively, you may be required to repay the loan in full or have it become taxable. (Consult with the Plan’s Administrator to determine the consequences of any outstanding plan loan.)

Possible Plan Limitations

  • Accounts of inactive or retired participants may have limitations, such as restrictions on plan loans, you may no longer be able to contribute to the plan, or your old employer could change plans or plan provisions in the future.

Factors to Consider if you Roll Over Assets Into an IRA from a 401(K):

Tax Deferral

  • Your money will maintain its tax-deferred status. No taxes or penalties are applicable for direct rollovers.

More Investment Options

  • IRAs generally allow for a broader range of investment options, which may include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, stocks, and bonds.

Consolidation of Retirement Accounts

  • Combining all retirement plan accounts into a single IRA may make it easier to track your assets.
  • It also may make it easier to manage required minimum distributions required under federal tax laws.

Inability to Take Loans

  • You will not have the ability to take penalty-free withdrawals as a plan loan.

Limited Access to Monies Prior to age 59 1⁄2

  • Your access to IRA assets prior to age 59 1⁄2 will be limited to certain specific circumstances, such as first-time homebuyers and higher education expenses.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

  • Your financial professional may have a financial incentive to recommend an IRA rollover because of the compensation that he/she may receive when you transfer funds from an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
  • This potential conflict also pertains to situations where you are a participant in a plan and your financial professional is a fiduciary to the same plan.

Loss of Plan Options

  • You may lose certain options offered by your former plan, which may include, but are not limited to, guaranteed interest rates, death benefits, and protection from creditors (under certain plan types).

Potential Charges for Rollovers

  • There may be higher costs associated with a rollover and surrender charges could be imposed by the plan provider if the account included an annuity.

Additional Services

  • IRAs generally offer access to more client-related services, including investment advice and management services.

Factors to Consider if you Roll Over Assets Into Your New Employer’s 401(K):

Tax Deferral/Additional Withdrawal Allowances/Low-Cost Investment Options/Protection from Creditors/RMD Deferrals

  • If you move your assets into a new employer’s retirement plan, you may likely receive similar benefits such as these, as noted above.

Consolidation of Retirement Accounts

  • It may be easier to track your assets and manage your retirement plan accounts with all your money in one place.

Plan Limitations on Accepting Rollover Assets

  • Your new employer’s 401(K) plan may not accept rollovers and you must check beforehand.

Possible Limitations on Access to Funds Rolled into the Plan

  • Check with the receiving 401(K) plan to confirm the plan does not impose any restrictions on your ability to access or withdraw funds rolled into the plan.

Factors to Consider if you Take a Cash Distribution:

Withdrawals May Be Subject to Withholding, Penalties, and Other Charges

  • The withdrawal will be subject to mandatory tax withholding, as well as applicable tax penalties for early withdrawal (with limited exceptions) if you are under the age of 59 1⁄2.
  • You may also be subject to surrender charges or penalties assessed under the terms of the applicable investment.

Additional Things to Consider:

Plan Costs

  • Fees and expenses are factors that will affect your investment returns and your retirement income.

Types of Costs

  • Both employer-sponsored plans and IRAs typically involve (1) investment-related expenses and (2) plan or account fees.
  • Investment-related expenses may include sales loads, commissions, the expenses of any mutual funds in which assets are invested, and investment advisory fees.
  • Plan fees typically include plan administrative fees (e.g., record-keeping, compliance, trustee fees) and fees for services such as access to a customer service representative.
  • In some cases, employers pay for some or all of the plan’s administrative expenses.
  • IRA account fees may include, for example, administrative, account set-up, and custodial fees.
  • You should identify and understand all of the fees and expenses associated with your current retirement plan account, any new retirement plan into which you contemplate a rollover, and any potential IRA.

Documentation

  • You should collect any and all documentation you have available in order to track what costs you currently pay.
  • Documents such as your plan’s “Summary Plan Description” or “404(A)(5) Fee Participant Disclosure” will give you this information and can be requested from your Plan’s Administrator or human resources department.

The Comparison of Services and Investment Types

  • The types of services and investments available to you in your current retirement plan and any recommended rollover may differ. Working with a financial professional could provide you with additional services such as customized investment strategies, cash flow analysis, financial planning, retirement planning, distribution planning, or other possible services that may not be available to you in your 401(K) plan.
  • You may also have access to investment types such as individual bonds, common stock, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, or alternative investments that are not offered in your 401(K).

Hopefully, this was helpful and you feel more informed about the things you can do with the money in your former employer’s 401(K) plan.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.


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When Should You Claim Social Security?


Social Security’s Role in Your Retirement

For many years Social Security benefits were said to be one leg of a three-legged stool consisting of Social Security, private pensions, and personal savings. With private pensions becoming less common, many people enter retirement with a stool that only has two legs.

Now more than ever Social Security benefits are the foundation upon which individuals can build additional retirement security through personal savings and investments. The percentage of retirement expenses of Social Security covers is not a fixed number and is determined by the age you begin taking benefits.

Deciding When to Claim Social Security

One of the most important decisions you need to make when building your retirement income plan is when to claim Social Security. The benefit you receive is based on an average of the highest 35 years of earnings in which you paid Social Security payroll taxes, as well as on the age when you claim benefits. 

Married couples have additional claiming options, including spousal benefits and survivor benefits.

Your benefit would be reduced or enhanced based on claiming Social Security at age 62 (the earliest age) or waiting until age 70. 

You can match up your year of birth to see what your full retirement age (FRA) is and the effect of claiming early or delaying claiming has on your benefit.

Source:  Social Security Administration

Not only does Social Security provide longevity protection, because benefits continue throughout your lifetime, it also provides some inflation protection and spousal protection.

For example, let’s assume you have a hypothetical $2,000 primary insurance amount (PIA) and were born in 1960 making your full retirement age 67. The chart below illustrates the change in benefit amount based on the age you decide the claim. In this example, the difference in annual benefits received at starting at age 62 and 70 is nearly $13,000 per year.

If you do choose to delay claiming your Social Security benefit to increase your monthly benefit, you must use existing savings to cover current expenses and “bridge the gap” between when you retire and when you begin taking benefits.

In effect, you are “buying” an annuity from Social Security with these savings and taking advantage of the best deal around, especially in today’s low interest-rate environment. 

Not everyone has the luxury to be able to afford to delay receiving social security benefits, but for those who can, it is a strategy you should strongly consider. Waiting to claim Social Security significantly will affect your own lifetime benefits, and could also impact surviving spouse benefits as well. Deciding when to claim your Social Security benefit is a nuanced decision with serious implications to your retirement income plan.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.


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Claiming your Spousal Social Security Benefit Early


Question

Can a spouse take their spousal benefit before they could take their own benefit?


Answer

The Earliest You Claim a Spousal Benefit

The earliest one can claim their benefit or a spousal benefit is age 62 and doing so will result in a permanent reduction in your benefit based on your full retirement age.  

Below is a table from ssa.gov that shows the reduction of benefits when claiming at age 62

Source: Social Security Administration

In order to claim a spousal benefit, Spouse #2 must wait until Spouse #1 begins drawing benefits on their own record. Spouse #2 must wait until age 62 to claim a spousal benefit even if Spouse #1 is already taking their benefit on their own record.  

*Any early claiming of benefits will result in a permanent reduction in benefits. The only caveat to this is if you are caring for a qualifying child, we mean a child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits could allow you to claim earlier. 

Understanding Deemed Filing

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made some changes to Social Security’s laws about filing for retirement and spousal benefits. 

If you turn age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, you CANNOT apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for your own retirement benefit in order to earn delayed retirement credits. You are required or “deemed” to file for both your own retirement and for any benefits you are due as a spouse, no matter what age you are.  

Deemed filing means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouse’s benefit, you are required or “deemed” to file for the other benefit as well.  

The rules for deemed filing apply only to retirement benefits based on your own work record and to the spousal benefits (including divorced spouses) you receive based on retirement.

If you receive a spousal benefit because you are caring for a child who is under age 16 or disabled or if you receive spouse’s benefits and are also entitled to disability, deemed filing does not apply and you are therefore not required or “deemed” to file for your retirement benefit. 

Social Security can be very nuanced and claiming strategies should not be made without consideration of the rest of one’s financial plan. Social Security is foundational to most retirement income strategies and when you claim should be personalized to your circumstances. If you would like to schedule time with us to discuss your specific situation click here.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have.


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7 Benefits of Hiring an Expert


Why Gage Hired a Personal Trainer

I recently decided to purchase workout programming from Barbell Medicine after months of slowed progress in the gym. Being a Certified Personal Trainer and regular weightlifter, I have historically written my own workout programs. I felt I had sufficient knowledge with my education and access to free information available on the internet. 

I know from past experience there are many people who call themselves fitness “experts” but have no clue what they are talking about. I eventually found the Barbell Medicine team who do individual and group coaching. They produce a lot of good content and base their recommendations on current research and their experience training clients. 

They also hold impressive credentials that show their commitment to their profession. I am only a few months into this programing but, I am pleased with my progress thus far and attribute these results to the following values they provide: 

The Benefits of Hiring an Expert

Accountability  

Being that I am paying for the programming and have someone to report my results to, I feel much more responsible than I would be if I were to do it on my own. 

Objectivity 

They provide an outside insight into my training and help me avoid emotionally driven decisions that could have negative outcomes. This will hopefully reduce my risk of injury from training. 

Proactivity  

They are aware of where other clients have struggles and anticipate where I may run into similar issues and can adjust my programming accordingly. 

Education 

The program is based on current research as well as experience with past clients. It is presented in a way that is much more in-depth than what I would have put together on my own. They are also constantly researching topics and providing new content relevant to my situation. 

Partnership 

There is a support network I can turn to if I need assistance or have questions. They also encourage me to autoregulate my training, meaning they tell me what level of fatigue I should generate but it is up to me to determine how much weight goes on the bar. 

Organization 

The template provided a plan overview, as well as an excel file to log data. This allowed me to track my training and nutrition in one centralized place and show my progress and see trends in the data. I will also note the spreadsheet they put together is much more detailed than I would have created for myself. 

Reduced Self-Experimentation 

I am confident that I could do it on my own, but I now see the value in professional guidance and know that my time could be better used elsewhere than staying current with the most recent fitness and nutrition research. I also want to not make the same mistakes as someone else, rather try to learn from them. 

Enjoy the Journey

I know fitness is a journey, not a destination and there will be peaks and valleys along the way. Although its level of priority in my life will likely change, I plan to always maintain some level of physical activity throughout my life. 

As I learn more about myself, make mistakes, and adjustments, my goal is to pass on the lessons learned and knowledge gained. 

“A smart person learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” 

-Ken Schramm 

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have.


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Health Insurance Pre-Medicare


If you retire before the age of 65, be that a planned retirement or something else, you will not be eligible to begin Medicare benefits and need to bridge the gap between the time when you retire and that date. Depending on your circumstances you could see a significant increase in healthcare costs during this period. With this in mind, it would be prudent to plan for an increase in annual premiums and additional out-of-pocket costs after your employer-subsidized group health insurance ends.

Healthcare Options Between Retirement and Medicare

COBRA Coverage

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, COBRA, is available to former employees of employers with 20 or more full-time employees. You will typically pay the full cost of coverage plus a 2% administrative cost. This can result in premiums being 3 to 5 times higher than they were when they were an employee since the cost of coverage is no longer subsidized by the employer.

Since COBRA is continuing the same coverage you had as an employee, you keep your existing network of doctors and have the same copayments, coinsurance, and other plan features. You must sign up for COBRA within 60 days of when you are notified then, you can make the election, and coverage typically lasts for up to 18 months after your separation from employment. 

*One special note is if you are on your spouse’s employer plan and they enroll in Medicare you may be able to continue your coverage under COBRA for up to 36 months.

Coverage through a spouse’s plan

When you retire and were currently covered under your spouse’s employer health insurance plan, you will likely be able to continue your coverage as long as they continue to work.

This could be your least expensive option if it is available to you and like with the COBRA option there should be no change or disruption in your coverage. This option would likely only be available as long as your spouse continues to work.

Public Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act established a public marketplace and provides coverage options to anyone who is not eligible for Medicare yet. The plans are categorized by metal level with “Bronze” being the least expensive and “Platinum” the most. Bronze plans typically have lower premiums and higher deductibles, while Platinum plans have the highest premiums but the most comprehensive coverage. Silver and Gold plans fall in between these two plans.

Open enrollment is from November 1 to December 15 each year for the www.HealthCare.gov marketplace. However, there is a special enrollment period for individuals who had “certain life events” such as losing health coverage. The special enrollment period can vary based on the specific life event. 

You could be eligible for Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) if you purchase a policy on the exchange and your household income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. In most states, you can qualify for a subsidy for a plan in 2021 with an income as much as $51,040 for a single person household, $68,960 for a two-person household, and $104,800 for a 4 person household. *Note these maximums are higher in Hawaii and Alaska.

You can go to www.healthcare.gov to see the coverage available to you in your state and if you may be eligible for federal premium tax credits.

Private Insurance

  • You can also obtain coverage through a local insurance agent who offers plans from multiple carriers through the “private exchanges.” Since these exchanges are not government funded, the Advance Premium Tax Credits cannot be applied but do provide more plan options. You can find a health insurance agent or broker at www.nahu.org to help navigate you through the individual market.

Planning for Pre-Medicare Expenses

People are often surprised by the cost of health insurance between the time of employment and Medicare eligibility. That is because their employer often subsidizes a portion of their health insurance, so when they see the price of COBRA coverage or coverage on the public exchange, there can be a sticker shock.

The graph below comes from a 2018 study by Vanguard/Mercer where they estimated that the median cost of a Bronze plan on the exchange for a pre-Medicare 64-year-old, and compared that to the average employer-sponsored plan for the same age group and the cost of Medicare coverage would be for someone age 65 and eligible for Medicare.

They also layered the out-of-pocket costs for their estimates for “medium” and “high” risk individuals. As you can see there is a large difference in cost between employer-sponsored coverage, Marketplace (pre-Medicare) coverage, and Medicare.

Source: Mercer – Vanguard Health Care Cost Model, 2018.

Regardless of the type of coverage you select, you will have to consider two factors:

  • Insurance premiums
  • Out-of-pocket costs (including dental and vision)

Your insurance premiums vary based on the type of plan you select and could vary from year to year but is likely predictable once the initial coverage is established.

The other factor is out-of-pocket costs, which include deductibles, copays, coinsurance, or other services not covered by the plan. These expenses can vary greatly year to year and can depend on your current health levels, predicted future health levels, and the amount of risk you want to take on in your plan.

How Your Health Impacts Your Cost of Coverage

Your current health conditions are relatively straight forward to assess by asking:

  • Do you currently have significant health care out-of-pocket costs? Typically people in poor health, already have higher than average out-of-pocket costs.
  • If you have pre-existing or chronic conditions, do you expect these to continue indefinitely? The more chronic health conditions you have, the worse your health is projected to be.
  • Do you consider your health to be average or below average? Some people are overly optimistic about their current conditions, and while this is a great outlook on life when planning healthcare expenses it is more conservative to have a pessimistic lens.

Your future health level can be based on your family history of chronic disease or based on your current health conditions. Even if you don’t have any current or expect any in the future, it would be prudent to overestimate the out-of-pocket costs rather than not.

The unfortunate fact for most is you are likely the healthiest you will ever be right now and will see a gradual decline as you age. 

How to Plan for Healthcare Costs in Retirement

When planning for healthcare expenses, it is better to look at healthcare expenses as a reoccurring annual cost that may change based on the type of coverage you have. Yes, your total cost of coverage may change year to year due to unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses, but it still better to frame healthcare costs in this way. Healthcare costs also tend to increase at a rate higher than general inflation, and this should be accounted for in your planning assumptions.

Healthcare will be another line-item expense in retirement and although it will be sizable, it should not be overwhelming when planned for accordingly like every other expense in retirement. Factors such as your health, where you live, your age, and marital status should all be considered when you are making decisions on healthcare.

In Summary

Planning for healthcare is highly individualized and the expected costs could vary greatly based on the type of coverage available, your age, gender, health status, and geographic location. Getting a grasp on how these factors affect your situation can help to make more reasonable assumptions when planning for retirement pre-Medicare. 

One final note, planning for health expenses is distinct from planning for long-term care needs in retirement, and this separate issue needs to be considered.

Feel free to email us at info@westernreservecm.com with any questions you have.

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