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On Balance – Editorial Calendar

A Newsletter for Retirees and Pre-Retirees

October 2018

Retirees Slow to Spend
Retirees tend to spend down income received from a pension or Social Security on living expenses and save assets for special purposes. Accompanying illustration shows how retirees’ median non-housing assets typically fall during the first two decades of retirement.
Concerned About Climbing Rates? Consider a Bond Ladder
The Federal Reserve is steadily raising the benchmark federal funds rate toward more typical historical levels. Bonds with longer maturity dates are generally more sensitive to rate changes than shorter-dated bonds, yet shorter-dated bonds usually have higher yields. The article explains how a bond ladder is one way to address rising rates.
Help with College? A Gift for Your Grandkids
Helping a grandchild obtain a college degree could be life-changing for the student and bring joy to the grandparents as well. To maximize the gift, it’s important to consider the potential ramifications regarding student aid and gift taxes.
Catching Up for a More Comfortable Retirement
Retirement savers whose account balances are lagging can give their savings a boost by taking advantage of catch-up contributions available to those age 50 and older. The article explains how much a 50-year-old could accrue by age 65 or 70 by making the maximum annual contributions to an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

September 2018

Fewer Older College Students
Many adults returned to college during the recession, but the number has dropped significantly as the job market has improved. Accompanying chart shows changes in the percentage of college students age 35 and older from 2007 to 2017.
Give and Receive with a Charitable Remainder Trust
Structuring a donation using a charitable remainder trust can provide a substantial gift to a favorite charity and a flow of income during the donor’s lifetime. The article focuses on different types of CRTs and how they function.
Monitoring the Medicare Surcharge
Higher-income beneficiaries may be subject to higher premiums for Medicare Part B and Part D. This article explains why a premium surcharge, the income-related monthly adjustment amount, may catch some beneficiaries by surprise, and how to appeal if a high income is later reduced by certain life-changing events.
Cutting Down on Robocalls
New technology has resulted in rapidly multiplying robocalls. The article offers suggestions that may help consumers reduce the robocalls they receive, and how to help federal regulators clamp down on criminals who use robocalls to conduct scams and/or collect personal information.

August 2018

Retirement Confidence Up for U.S. Investors
Shortly after a market correction in February 2018, 34% of U.S. investors were still highly confident that they could maintain their preferred lifestyle in retirement, up from 31% in 2017. Accompanying chart illustrates confidence by gender and retirement status.
Inflation Protection for Investment Dollars
After a decade of relatively low increases in the Consumer Price Index, inflation is beginning to pick up. This article explains how Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities can help hedge a bond portfolio against a potential spike in inflation.
A Map to Guide Your Family
A legal will is an important estate planning step, but a letter of instruction could be just as important as a will to help heirs settle an estate and move forward with their lives. Here are some issues that might be addressed in a letter of instruction.
Predicting the Economy
In an attempt to forecast economic direction, economists use a wide variety of data. This article outlines the most commonly studied indicators — leading, coincident, and lagging — that are tracked by The Conference Board, and the economic patterns these indicators may reveal.

July 2018

Paying for Debt
The average ratio of debt payments to income has decreased since 2007 for all American families except those headed by someone age 75 or older. Accompanying chart compares the debt-to-income ratio for 2007 and 2016 across six age groups.
Hybrid Funds: Balanced, Lifestyle, or Target?
Although the goal of hybrid funds, which hold a mix of stocks and bonds, is simplicity, they are not as simple as they may appear, and different types of funds have very different objectives. This article presents an overview of balanced funds, lifestyle funds, and target-date funds.
An Affordable Insurance Solution
Many people allow their term life insurance policies to expire once their children are grown. This may not be a good idea because a new term policy can be quite expensive as people age. Survivorship life insurance may be a more cost-effective solution.
Down the Donut Hole — The Medicare Coverage Gap
One of the most confusing Medicare provisions is the prescription drug coverage gap, often called the “donut hole.” This article explains the gap within the annual “lifecycle” of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage.

June 2018

Higher Health Hurdles for U.S. Seniors
Seniors in the United States are more likely than those in other developed countries to have chronic health conditions and to forgo needed health care due to cost. Accompanying chart illustrates data from the U.S. and 10 other nations.
Good News, Bad News for Boomer Retirement
Considering the 18-year spread of the baby boomer generation, it’s natural that older boomers have different feelings and experiences regarding retirement than younger boomers. This article features results of a recent boomer survey and highlights some areas where younger boomers may face a more challenging retirement landscape.
When to Think Twice About a Rollover
When leaving an employer — to change jobs or step into retirement — transferring assets from a workplace plan to an IRA is often a wise decision. However, there are certain situations when it might make more sense to leave assets in the former employer’s 401(k) plan or transfer the funds to a new employer’s plan.
Credit Smarts
A credit score can influence loan approvals and terms for a variety of financial transactions. This article offers tips to improve a credit score or maintain a current high score.

May 2018

Inflation Breakdown
Overall inflation was low in 2017, but the cost of energy rose at a higher rate than other goods and services. An accompanying chart illustrates the inflation rate percentage change for energy, food, and other categories in 2017.
Beyond Medicare: What Are Your Options?
Medicare covers only a little more than 60% of total health-care costs for Americans ages 65 and older. This article explains how a Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage Plan could help provide more stability for health-care spending during retirement.
Corporate Tax Cut Could Spur Buybacks
The lower corporate tax rate and repatriation of foreign earnings are likely to increase corporate tax reserves, which were at a record level before the 2017 tax legislation was enacted. This article discusses why share buybacks are likely to increase and what that might mean for individual investors.
Travel Time
Travel is not only fun and educational, but spending by travelers makes a big contribution to the local economy wherever they go. Readers can test their knowledge of travel economics using this quiz.

April 2018

Health-Care Satisfaction
Over the last decade, Americans have consistently expressed more satisfaction with the quality and cost of their personal health care than with U.S. health care in general. Accompanying chart illustrates satisfaction levels for both personal and national health care.
How Will the New Tax Law Affect Your 2018 Taxes?
After taxpayers file their 2017 taxes under the old rules, they might consider how the new tax law could impact taxes for 2018. This article outlines provisions that are most likely to affect individual taxpayers and includes a chart of 2018 federal income tax brackets and income thresholds.
The Cost of Caregiving
About 40 million family caregivers in the United States provide unpaid care to another adult. This article explores the financial, physical, and emotional costs that caregivers may face.
A Steady Strategy
One of the most fundamental investing truths is that investors can’t time the market. This article explains how making regular investments using dollar-cost averaging can be an effective way to accumulate shares without focusing on market movements.

March 2018

Disappearing Pensions
In 2017, only 15% of workers in private industry were participating in a traditional pension plan. This chart shows the declining number of pensions over the past 30 years.
Income for the Long Run
Almost two-thirds of Americans ranging in age from 20 to 70 said they feared running out of money in retirement more than they feared death. This article explains how a longevity annuity can bring some stability to a retirement strategy by providing a steady income late in life.
Voluntourism: A Vacation That Makes a Difference
A volunteer vacation allows a traveler to give back, meet new people with similar interests, and experience a different culture with experiences that are not available to the average tourist. This article offers some tips and basic information about volunteer vacations.
Understanding the Roth Five-Year Rules
There are two separate five-year holding periods associated with Roth IRAs: whether a withdrawal of earnings will be tax-free, and whether a withdrawal of converted principal will be penalty-free. Both are explained here.

February 2018

What’s Your Investing Style?
When assessing their own investing styles, U.S. investors consider themselves to be listeners, snoozers, instinctive investors, or pros. Accompanying chart breaks down these individual investment styles by retiree and nonretiree groups.
Phasing Out...or Practice Makes Perfect
Transitioning from full-time work to retirement can be challenging. Many people are attracted to a gradual approach, and more companies are offering phased retirement programs. Here are some ideas for arranging a phased program, as well as tips for trying a practice run.
Four Tips for Fighting Fraud
In a Stanford University study, half of the respondents indicated they had been victimized by one or more types of fraud. This article offers some guidelines that may help readers protect themselves and their families.
Do You Need an Umbrella?
Although the number of civil lawsuits has dropped in recent years, American society remains litigious, and some legal judgments may seem excessive. An umbrella insurance policy can provide additional coverage for personal liability as well as coverage for some situations that are not included in standard homeowners policies.

January 2018

Who Owns U.S. Houses?
More than half of U.S. owner-occupied houses were owned by a householder age 55 and older in 2016. This is the highest percentage on record dating back to 1900. Accompanying chart illustrates the percentage of owner-occupied houses in 1986 and 2016 by age of head of household.
Taking Control of Your Retirement Savings
Leaving a job or retiring offers an opportunity to take control of any funds accumulated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This article focuses on four possible options, with an in-depth discussion of the rules for rolling over funds to IRAs.
The Social Security Earnings Test
Many people claim Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce, but others continue to work or return to work after claiming. This article explains how the retirement earnings test could reduce benefits for people who are receiving benefits and still working but haven’t reached full retirement age.
Why Hold Money Market Mutual Funds?
Even though there was a slight increase in 2016, returns on money market mutual funds are so low that it might not seem worth investing in them. This article explains why investors still hold about $2.7 trillion in these low-yield funds.

December 2017

The Middle Class Is Back
In 2017, 62% of Americans identified themselves as middle class or upper-middle class, surpassing the 60% pre-recession level in 2008. Accompanying chart shows the percentage of Americans who considered themselves middle class in 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2017 by age group.
Strategic Giving with a Donor-Advised Fund
A donor-advised fund can provide a current-year tax deduction and a flexible structure for future giving. The article describes how delayed donations can be made and outlines the benefits and limitations of a donor-advised fund.
UITs May Provide Some Certainty
A unit investment trust is structured differently than a mutual fund and offers unique features that may appeal to some investors. UITs provide investors with a relatively clear picture of their holdings throughout the life of the investment. They can also be useful when laddering investments because of their defined termination dates.
End-of-Year Tax Planning
The end of the year is a busy time, but taxpayers may gain knowledge from reviewing their tax situations while they can still make adjustments for 2017. This article offers three ideas to consider.

November 2017

Retirement May Be Better Than You Think
A survey of investors ages 55 to 75 in the United States and three other countries found that the financial satisfaction of recent retirees was higher than the expectations of those approaching retirement. This chart shows percentages for pre-retirees and retirees in each country.
Positioning Your Portfolio for Volatility
The U.S. stock market was unusually calm during the first half of 2017, but investors should not count on that kind of stability over the long term. This article explains that some stocks and funds tend to be more volatile than others, and presents beta as a measure of market sensitivity and a guideline for gauging volatility.
How a Pension Could Affect Social Security Benefits
Receiving a pension that was earned while not paying into the Social Security program could reduce Social Security benefits earned through other employment or a spouse’s employment. This article explores the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.
Why the Hubbub Over Holiday Spending?
Every year the retail industry looks nervously toward the winter holidays, hoping that this year’s shopping season will be better than the last. Here’s a look at holiday spending in a broader economic context.
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