Category Archives: Spouse

6 Pointers to Help Seniors Live at Home Longer

Seniors on culinary workshop 

The vast majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes as they grow older, also known as aging in place. ABA is offering the following tips for older Americans considering this option:

Take a hard look at your finances.

Arrange a meeting with a trusted family member or friend and a banker. It’s critical to understand your financial resources, how long they’ll last and what housing options are the most cost effective for you. Be sure to consider all costs associated with aging in place, including:

  • Home modifications, home insurance and property taxes
  • Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
  • In home caregiver for house upkeep and medical purposes

Consider a reverse mortgage.

Though not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can provide monthly cash payments based on your home’s equity.

  • Shop around. Be sure to check with multiple lenders. You can use sites like http://www.reversemortage.org, sponsored by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, to find lenders in your area.
  • Make sure to read all loan documents carefully. There are a number of actions that could cause the loan to become due. For more information on reverse mortgages, visit aba.com/consumers.

Assess your home and determine what modifications are necessary.

While staying in your home is preferable for many, there are often design changes that must be made to ensure it’s also safe and comfortable.

  • Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home.
  • Update lighting inside and outside of the house so that all walkways and stairs are well lit.
  • Clear pathways throughout house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping.
  • If a bedroom and bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing an elevator or chairlift. At a minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, or near the toilet.

Make security a priority.

Older Americans are often targets for scams and other criminal behavior. Be cautious about who you allow in your home and disclose sensitive information to.

  • Install up to date and easy to use locks. Make sure your front door has a peep hole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.
  • Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor, etc. Look into community resources. If mobility is limited, look in to services offered in your area. Many communities have established non-profit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost.

Be prepared for possible emergencies.

  • Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
  • Consider a Personal Emergency Response System. Transmitters can be worn as a bracelet or around your neck and require the simple push of a button to send a signal to a call center.
  • Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.

Reevaluate every six months to make sure all needs are being met.

As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or as needed, to sit down with your trusted family or friend and make sure your current living situation is still the right one.​

Resource Information Provided by the American Bankers Association.
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Playing by the IRA Rules

ira rulesUntitled-logoIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer favorable tax-deferral benefits to individuals who are saving for retirement. But with those benefits, there are certain rules about when distributions may be taken to avoid penalty taxes. Contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on your income and participation in employer-sponsored plans, may entitle you to certain current income tax deductions. Further, because your funds are not taxed until distributions begin, your savings have the potential for tax-deferred growth.

Generally, IRAs are designed to work as long-term savings vehicles, but you may be able to withdraw funds early and without penalty, provided your situation qualifies as an exception.

The Age 59½ Rule

The age 59½ rule provides that, if you take distributions from your traditional IRA before you reach the age of 59½, you may be subject to a 10% Federal penalty tax in addition to regular income tax. However, you may not have to pay the penalty tax if your early distribution meets certain requirements.

Exceptions

You may be eligible for penalty-free qualified distributions, if one of the following exceptions applies:

  1. You are taking distributions as the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner. Generally, if you inherit an IRA, you are required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) over a period no longer than your life expectancy. For non-spousal beneficiaries, RMDs must begin in the year following the year in which the IRA owner died.  Spousal beneficiaries may have additional time to begin taking RMDs, depending on certain factors, including whether they opt to treat an inherited IRA as their own. This penalty tax exception does not apply to spousal beneficiaries who opt to treat the account as their own IRA.
  2. You are paying for certain first-time home buyer expenses, generally referred to as qualified acquisition costs, such as buying, building, or renovating a first home. Distributions, which may not exceed $10,000, may be used to cover qualified costs for you, your spouse, your children, or your grandchildren.
  3. You, your spouse, or dependents have un-reimbursed medical expenses that total more than 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) (7.5% if you are age 65 or older, but only through 2016). If a medical expense for you, your spouse, or a dependent qualifies as an itemized deduction on your income tax return, it will generally qualify for this penalty tax
  4. The distributions are part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments (SEPPs) made at least annually that meet certain additional requirements. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently recognizes three methods for calculating SEPPS: the required minimum distribution method, the fixed amortization method, and the fixed annuitization method.
  5. Once SEPPs begin, they must be made for five years or until you reach age 59½, whichever is later.
  6. You qualify with certain physical and/or mental conditions as being disabled, determined by a physician and if the disability can be expected to result in death or continue for an indefinite duration.
  7. You are paying medical insurance premiums due to unemployment. If you lost your job, and received unemployment compensation for 12 consecutive weeks, you may take distributions from your IRA account, penalty tax-free, during the year in which you received unemployment compensation, or in the following year, but no later than 60 days after you have been re-employed.
  8. You are paying for higher education expenses, such as tuition, fees, and books at an eligible educational institution (generally all accredited postsecondary institutions). The distributions may not exceed your qualified education expenses, or those of your spouse, your children, or your grandchildren.
  9. The distribution is attributable to an IRS levy of the IRA.
  10. Reservists qualify while serving on active duty for at least 180 days.

IRAs are strictly regulated to ensure that they are used as vehicles for retirement savings. Therefore, they generally work best as long-term savings vehicles. However, if you do need income from your IRA before you reach age 59½, it is important to know if your situation excuses you from the penalty tax levied on early distributions before making a withdrawal. Playing by the rules may save you money and help preserve your savings for retirement. Be sure to consult your tax advisor to determine whether your individual situation will qualify as an exception.

Please visit https://syb.com/wealth-management-and-trust/how-we-serve-our-clients/ira-retirement-rollovers/.  for more information.

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Suddenly Single: Planning to Go It Alone

Untitled-logo trustMost of us cannot imagine the sudden loss of our spouse. Yet, difficult as it may seem to accept, U.S. Census data indicates that the overwhelming majority of married women will be on their own for a significant number of their later years. Should this happen to you, you might be thrust into economic self-survival at a time when you may feel particularly vulnerable and least able to cope. Nevertheless, serious decisions would have to be made, often having a lasting impact on your future financial well- being.

Planning for the Unimaginable

There is an unpredictable aspect of “sudden loss” in that we never quite know how we will react to certain events until they actually occur. While no one can ever be totally prepared to deal with personal trauma compounded by legal and financial matters, there are steps you can take to help you navigate through this difficult period.

The key is to find a way to help provide structure in your life at a time when structure may be disintegrating.

It Happened. . .What Do I Do?

When the initial shockwaves hit, there are matters that will require immediate attention: notification of family and friends; funeral arrangements; and contacting an attorney to review the will and handle the legal aspects of your spouse’s estate. Let your closest friends and most trusted advisors help you with some of these details and short-term decision-making, but proceed with caution regarding major financial decisions such as whether to sell your home, borrow or lend money, invest, make major purchases, and make work/career changes.

During this period, you will most likely face competing demands on your financial resources. If your spouse was the primary income earner, it may take some time to assess your financial situation. During the first few months, pay bills that need to be paid, but spend cautiously, paying attention to cash flow and liquidity.

Rebuilding After the Shockwaves

Certain timetables (e.g., timely filing of tax returns) can’t be overlooked, but much of the financial recovery process should be orchestrated to match your emotional recovery. Some of the important aspects that will have to be addressed eventually will include assessing the needs of dependent children; making housing decisions; determining your income needs; making decisions about insurance settlements; evaluating your insurance needs; and managing money on your own.

Many of these decisions may flow naturally from an appraisal of your needs (and/or desires) to participate in the workforce. Will you want to work? Will economic necessity dictate that you must work? If you are currently employed, will you stay in the same position? If you have not worked for some years, how well will your skills fit the job market? Will you need to acquire more education or enhance your technical skills?

While professional advice will be helpful, don’t allow yourself to be pressured in areas in which you need more time. Your goal should be to develop a sense of command and control concerning your financial future. Align yourself with advisors who will have the patience to work with you at your pace, advisors who will help you gain the knowledge and confidence necessary to go it alone.

Obviously, the earlier you begin to educate yourself concerning financial matters, the better prepared you will be to withstand the impact of facing sudden loss. The quality of your life may depend on your financial skills and your willingness to take responsibility for managing your own financial affairs.

If you have questions about the financial implications of divorce, email our Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Marcia.Henderson@syb.com, for help!

Resource information provided by Financial Media Exchange.

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