Nick Defenthaler

Retiring? Here’s How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

Retiring? Here's How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

So you’ve decided to hang ‘em up – congratulations! Retirement is an extremely personal decision made for a multitude of reasons.

Some of our clients have been able to afford to retire for several years and have reached a point where the weekly grind isn’t as enjoyable as it once was. Probably dozens of thoughts are running through your head. What will life look like without work? How will I spend my days? Where do I/we want to travel? Do I want to work part-time or volunteer?

With so many emotions and thoughts churning, you might easily miss potentially good opportunities to really maximize your final year of full-time work. In this blog, I’ll touch on planning concepts you should consider to get the most “bang for your buck” as you close out your full-time career:

Maximizing Employer Retirement Plans (401k, 403b, etc.)

If you aren’t already doing so, consider maximizing your company retirement plan. If you are retiring mid-year, if appropriate, adjust your payroll deduction to make sure you are contributing the maximum ($25,000 for those over the age of 50 in 2019) by the time you retire. If monthly cash flow won’t allow for it, consider using money in a checking/savings or taxable account to supplement your cash flow so you can max out the plan. Making pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan is something you should consider.  

“Front-Load” Charitable Contributions

If you are charitably inclined and plan to make charitable gifts even into retirement, you might consider “front-loading” your donations. Think of it this way: If you are currently in the 24% tax bracket, and you will drop into the 12% bracket once retired, when will making a donation give you the most tax savings? The year you are in the higher bracket, of course! So if you donate $5,000/year to charity, consider making a $25,000 contribution (ideally with appreciated securities and possibly utilizing a Donor Advised Fund) while you are in the 24% bracket.

This strategy has become even more impactful given recent tax law reform and the increase in the standard deduction. (Click here to read more.) This would satisfy five years’ worth of donations and save you more on your taxes. As I always tell clients, the more money you can save on your tax bill by being efficient with your gifts, the less money in the IRS’s pocket and more for the organizations you care about!

Health Care

This is typically a retiree's largest expense. How will you and your family go about obtaining medical coverage upon retirement? Will you continue to receive benefits on your employer plan? Will you use COBRA insurance? Will you be age 65 soon and enroll in Medicare? Are you retiring young and need to obtain an individual plan until Medicare kicks in?

No matter what your game plan, make sure you talk to the experts and have a firm grip on the cost and steps you need to take so that you don’t lose coverage and your insurance is as affordable as possible. We have trusted resources to help guide clients with their health care options.  

Those are just a few of many things you should be thinking about prior to retirement. With so many moving parts, it really makes sense to have someone in your corner to help you navigate through these difficult, and often confusing, topics and decisions. Ideally, seek out the help of a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) to give you the comprehensive guidance you need and deserve!

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Generally, if you take a distribution from a 401k prior to age 59 ½, you may be subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty on the amount that you withdraw, in addition to any relevant state income tax. Contributions to a Donor Advised Fund are irrevocable. Changes in tax laws or regulations may occur at any time and could substantially impact your situation. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

The Power of Working Longer

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

The Power of Working Longer Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

Saving 1% more towards retirement for the final 10 years of one’s career has the same impact as working one month longer.

Yes, you read that correctly. Saving 15% in your 401k instead of 14% for the 10 years leading up to retirement has the same impact as delaying retirement by only 30 days! Hard to believe but that’s exactly what the National Bureau of Economic Research found in their 2018 research paper titled “The Power of Working Longer”. To make your eyes pop even more, consider that saving 1% more for 30 years was shown to have the same impact as working 3-4 months longer. Wow!

If you’re like me, you find these statistics absolutely incredible. This clearly highlights the impact that working longer has on your retirement plan. As we’re getting very close to retirement (usually five years or less), most of us won’t be able to make a meaningful impact on our 25-35 year retirement horizon by increasing our savings rate. At this point in our careers, it just doesn’t move the needle the way you might think it would.  

Without question, the best way you can increase the probability of success for your retirement income strategy in the latter stages of your career is to work longer. But when I say “working longer”, I don’t necessarily mean working longer on a full-time basis.  

A trend I am seeing more and more, one that excites me, is a concept known as “phased retirement”. This essentially means that you’re easing into retirement and not going from working full-time to quitting work cold turkey. We as humans tend to view retirement as “all on” or “all off”. If you ask me, that’s the wrong approach. We need to start thinking of part-time employment as part of an overall financial game plan.  

Let’s look at a real-life client I recently encountered (whose name was changed to protect identity):

Mary, age 62, came in for her annual planning meeting and shared with me that the stress of her well-paying sales position was completely wearing her down. At this stage in her life and career, she no longer had the energy for the 50-hour work weeks and frequent travel. Now a grandmother of three, she wanted to spend more time with her kids and grandkids but feared that retiring at 62, compared with our plan of 65, would impact her long-term financial picture.  

The more we talked, the more clear it became that Mary did not want to completely stop working; she just could not take the full-time grind anymore. When we put pen to paper, we concluded that she could still achieve her desired retirement income goal by working part-time for the next three years (to get her to Medicare age). Her income would drop to a level that would not allow her to save at all for retirement, but believe it or not, that had no meaningful impact on her long-term plan. Earning enough money to cover virtually all of her living expenses and not dipping into her portfolio until age 65 was the key factor.

Having conversations around your desired retirement age is obviously a critical component to your overall planning. However, a sometimes overlooked question is, “WHY do you want to retire at that age?”. As a society, we do a good job of creating social norms in many aspects of life, and retirement is not immune to this. I’ve actually heard several clients respond to this question with, “Because that’s the age you’re supposed to retire!”. When I hear this, I get nervous, because these folks usually make it three months into the retirement transition, only to find they are not truly happy. They found purpose in their careers, they enjoyed the social aspects of their jobs, and they loved keeping busy, whether or not they realized it at the time.

The bottom line is this: Don’t discount the effectiveness of easing into full retirement, both from a financial and lifestyle standpoint.

Some clients have found a great deal of happiness during this stage of life by working less, trying a different career, or even starting a small business they’ve dreamed about for years. The possibilities are endless. Have an open mind and find the balance that works for you, that’s what it’s all about.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Keep in mind that there is no assurance that any strategy will ultimately be successful or profitable nor protect against a loss.

Consider these options and strategies to pump up your Social Security benefits

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

As a frequent speaker on Social Security, I’ve had the pleasure of educating hundreds of retirees on the nuances and complexities of this confusing topic. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that, unfortunately, many of us do not take the decision about when to file as seriously as we should.

your social security benefits

In 2018, the average annual Social Security benefit was roughly $17,000. Assuming a retiree lives for 20 years after receiving that first benefit check, you’re looking at a total of $340,000 in lifetime benefits – and that’s not accounting for inflation adjustments along the way!

We work to help our clients receive nearly double that amount each year – $33,500 – which is close to the maximum full retirement age (FRA) benefit one can receive. Assuming the same 20-year period means nearly $700,000 in total lifetime benefits. It’s not unreasonable for a couple with earnings near the top of the Social Security wage base to see a combined, total lifetime benefit amount north of $1,500,000 as long as you are award of the decision process.

As you can see, the filing decision will be among the largest financial decisions – if not THE largest – you will ever make!

Longevity risk matters

Seventy-five percent of Americans will take benefits prior to their full retirement age (link #1 below) and only 1 percent will delay benefits until age 70, when they are fully maximized. In many cases, financial and health circumstances force retirees to draw benefits sooner rather than later. But for many others, retirement income options and creative strategies are oftentimes overlooked, or even taken for granted.

In my opinion, longevity risk (aka – living a really long time in retirement) is one of the three biggest risks we face in our golden years. Research has proven, time in and time out, that maximizing Social Security benefits is among the best ways to help protect yourself against this risk, from a retirement income standpoint. Each year you delay, you will see a permanent benefit increase of roughly 8 percent (up until age 70). How many investments offer this type of guaranteed income?

Let’s look at the chart below to highlight this point.

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You can see a significant difference between taking benefits at age 62 and at age 70 – nearly $250,000 in additional income generated by delaying! Keep in mind, this applies for just one person. Married couples who both had a strong earnings history or can take advantage of the spousal benefit filing options receive even more benefits.

Mark’s story

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a gentleman named Mark after one of my recent educational sessions on Social Security. As we chatted, he made a comment along the lines of, “I have just close to $1.5 million saved for retirement, I just don’t think Social Security really matters in my situation.” I asked several probing questions to better understand his earnings record and what his benefit would be at full retirement age.

We were able to determine that at age 66, his benefit would be nearly $33,000. Mark was 65, in good health, and mentioned several times that his parents lived into their early 90s. Longevity statistics suggest that an average 65-year-old male has a 25 percent chance of living until 93. However, based on Mark’s health and family history, he has a much higher probability of living into his early to mid-90s!

If Mark turned his benefits on at age 66, and he lived until age 93, he would receive $891,000 in lifetime benefits. If he waited until age 70 and increased his annual benefit by 32 percent ($43,500/yr.), his lifetime benefits would be $1,000,500 (keep in mind, we haven’t even factored inflation adjustments into the lifetime benefit figures).

I then asked, “Mark, if you had an IRA with a balance of $891,000 or even $1,000,000, could we both agree that this account would make a difference in your retirement?” Mark looked at me, smiled, and nodded. He instantly understood my point. Looking at the total dollars Social Security would pay out resonated deeply with him.

All too often, we don’t fully appreciate how powerful a fixed income source can be in retirement. It’s astounding to see the lifetime payout provided by Social Security. Regardless of your financial circumstance, it will always make sense to review your options with someone who understands the nuances of Social Security and is well educated on the creative ways to draw benefits. Don’t take this decision lightly, too many dollars are at stake!

Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to talk through your plan for Social Security and how it will fit into your overall retirement income strategy.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


Sources: 1) https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html 2) https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/social-security/articles/2018-08-20/how-much-you-will-get-from-social-security The information herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making a decision and does not constitute a recommendation. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Why Retirees Should Consider Renting

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

“Why would you ever rent? It’s a waste of money! You don’t build equity by renting. Home ownership is just what successful people do.”

Sound familiar? I’ve heard various versions of these statements over the years, and every time I do, the frustration makes my face turns red. I guess I don’t have a very good poker face!

why retirees should consider renting

As a country, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that homeownership is always the best route and that renting is only for young folks. If you ask me, this philosophy is just flat out wrong and shortsighted.

Below, I’ve outlined various reasons that retirees who have recently sold or are planning to sell might consider renting:

Higher Mortgage Rates

  • The current rate on a 30-year mortgage is hovering around 4.6%. The days of “cheap money” and rates below 4% have simply come and gone.

Interest Deductibility

  • Roughly 92% of Americans now take the standard deduction ($12,200 for single filers, $24,400 for married filers). It’s likely that you’ll deduct little, if any, mortgage interest on your return.

Maintenance Costs

  • Very few of us move into a new home without making changes. Home improvements aren’t cheap and should be taken into consideration when deciding whether it makes more sense to rent or buy.

Housing Market “Timing”

  • Home prices have increased quite a bit over the past decade. Many experts suggest homes are fully valued, so don’t bank on your new residence to provide stock-market-like returns any time soon.

Tax-Free Equity

  • In most cases, you won’t see tax consequences when you sell your home. The tax-free proceeds from the sale could be a good way to help fund your spending goal in retirement.  

Flexibility

  • You simply can’t put a price tag on some things. Maintaining flexibility with your housing situation is certainly one of them. For many of us, the flexibility of renting is a tremendous value-add when compared to home ownership.

Quick Decisions

  • Rushing into a home purchase in a new area can be a costly mistake. If you think renting is a “waste of money” because you aren’t building equity, just look at moving costs, closing costs (even if you won’t have a mortgage), and the level of interest you pay early in a mortgage. Prior to buying, consider renting for at least two years in the new area to make darn sure it’s somewhere you want to stay.

Every situation is different, but if you’re near or in retirement and thinking about selling your home, I encourage you to consider all housing options. Reach out to your advisor as you think through this large financial decision, to ensure you’re making the best choice for your personal and family goals.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP® and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.

I’m a Millennial and I Inherited a Million Dollars – Now What?

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

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More than 75 million millennials born between 1981 and 1997 are set to take over an estimated $30 trillion in wealth from baby boomers (source – AARP).  No, that is not a typo - $30 TRILLION dollars.  Personally, I’ve had several circumstances arise in the past several years where friends in their mid 30s have lost parents.  For someone in a similar age group as the folks that have experienced this loss, it scares the heck out of me.  I’m getting to that stage in life where it’s not beyond uncommon for a child to lose a parent.  That’s a pretty big reality check to digest. 

Although it can be tough to even think about, it’s a reality.  More and more people who are in their 30s who are busy building a family, career and overall great life, will inherit a level of wealth that previously seemed unfathomable.  Recently, a friend reached out to me after his father passed and left him $1,000,000 in retirement assets and life insurance proceeds.  He was overwhelmed and had no idea what to do next (thus the title of this blog!).  He was a teacher and his wife was in IT.  Needless to say, navigating the investments, required distributions and tax rules (just to name a few) associated with his inheritance was extremely stressful.  The stress caused a state of paralysis in making any decisions with the dollars out of fear of stepping on any unintended land mines or making the wrong move with the dollars.  The more we talked, it was clear that now was time for them to have a professional partner in their life who they knew was qualified but more importantly, fully trusted to provide recommendations that made the most sense for their own personal situation and goals.

My friends decided to hire me as their planner and we were able to provide advice and value not only on the planning items directly associated with their inheritance, but also in the areas that were more near term and important to them (student loan payoff strategies, discussing how to pay for child care expenses tax efficiently, helping them through the process of purchasing their first home and drafting their estate plan – just to name a few).  After 6 short months of working together, we got to place where the most time sensitive issues were addressed and we had developed a financial action plan to review annually and keep them moving in the right direction.  Of course, we plan to meet at least once a year to address other life events that come up and work towards the goals they’ve set as a family. 

Financial planning doesn’t always have to be associated with retirement.Helping clients through significant life events and providing advice beyond the dollars and cents is an environment in which our team thrives.Don’t feel paralyzed.Please feel to reach out if you’re in a similar position and need a professional to help guide you through these tough conversations and complicated matters.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.

Why Retirement Planning is Like Climbing Mount Everest

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

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Mount Everest.  One of the most beautiful, natural wonders in the world.  With an elevation of just over 29,000 feet, it is the highest mountain above sea level on the planet. As you would expect, climbing Mount Everest is an incredibly difficult and dangerous feat. Sadly, over 375 people have lost their lives making the trek. One thing that might surprise you is that the vast majority who have died on the mountain, did not pass away while climbing to the top. Believe it or not, it’s actually the climb down, or descent, that has caused the greatest amount of fatalities.

Case in point, Eric Arnold was a multiple Mount Everest climber who sadly died in 2016 on one of his climbs. Before he passed, he was interviewed by a local media outlet and was quoted as saying “two-thirds of the accidents happen on the way down. If you get euphoric and think ‘I have reached my goal,’ the most dangerous part is still ahead of you.”  Eric’s quote really struck me and I couldn’t help but think of the parallels his words had with retirement planning and how we, as advisers, help serve clients.  Let me explain.   

Most of us will work 40+ years, save diligently, and hopefully invest wisely with the guidance of a trusted professional with the goal of retiring and happily living out the ‘golden years.'  It can be an exhilarating feeling – getting towards the end of your career, knowing that you’ve accumulated sufficient assets to achieve the goals you’ve set forth for you and your family. However, we can’t forget that the climb is only half way done. We have to continue working together and develop a quality plan to help you on your climb down the mountain as well! When do I take Social Security? Which pension option should I elect? How do I navigate Medicare? Which accounts do I draw from to get me the money I need to live on in the most tax-efficient manner? Even though you’ve reached the peak of the mountain – aka retirement, we have to recognize that the work is far from over. There are still monumental financial decisions that need to be made during the years you aren’t working that most of us simply can’t afford to get wrong. 

As with those who climb Mount Everest, many financial plans that are in good shape when entering retirement can easily be derailed on the descent or when funds start to be withdrawn from your portfolio – aka the “decumulation” phase of retirement planning. A quality financial and investment strategy doesn’t end upon retirement – this is the time when proper planning becomes even more critical.  Email me if I can help you on the climb – both on the way up and on the way down the mountain.  Learn more about our process here.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Any information provided has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed by Raymond James Financial Services and is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision. Any information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and CFP® in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Is My Pension Subject to Michigan Income Tax?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly seven years since Governor Snyder signed his budget balancing plan into law in 2011, which became effective January 1, 2012.  As a result, Michigan joined the majority of states in the country in taxing pension and retirement account income (401k, 403b, IRA, distributions) at the state income tax rate of 4.25%. 

As a refresher, here are the different age categories that will determine the taxability of your pension:

1)     IF YOU WERE BORN BEFORE 1946:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $50,509 if filing single, or $101,019 if married filing jointly.

2)     IF YOU WERE BORN BETWEEN 1946 AND 1952:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $20,000 if filing single, or $40,000 if married filing jointly.

3)     IF YOU WERE BORN AFTER 1952:

  • Benefits are fully taxable in Michigan.

What happens when spouses have birth years in different age categories?  Great question!  The state has offered favorable treatment in this situation and uses the oldest spouse’s birthdate to determine the applicable age category.  For example, if Mark (age 65, born in 1953) and Tina (age 70, born in 1948) have combined pension and IRA income of $60,000, only $20,000 of it will be subject to Michigan state income tax ($60,000 – $40,000).  Tina’s birth year of 1948 is used to determine the applicable exemption amount – in this case, $40,000 because they file their taxes jointly. 

While this taxing benefits law angered many, I do think it’s important to note that it’s a very common practice for states to impose a tax on retirement income.  The following states are the only ones that do not tax retirement income (most of which do not carry any state tax at all) – Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.  Also, Michigan is 1 of 37 states that still does not tax Social Security benefits.

Here is a neat look at how the various states across the country match up against one another when it comes to the various forms of taxation:

Source: www.michigan.gov/taxes

Source: www.michigan.gov/taxes

Taxes, both federal and state, play a major role in one’s overall retirement income planning strategy.  Often, there are strategies that could potentially reduce your overall tax bill by being intentional on how you draw income once retired.  If you’d ever like to dig into your situation to see if there are planning opportunities you should be taking advantage of, please reach out to us for guidance. 

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to  be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. The above is a hypothetical example for illustration purposes only.

Explaining the What is the “Restore” Option for Pensions, Part 3 of a 3 Part Series on Pensions

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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Selecting your pension benefit option as you near retirement could quite possibly be the largest financial decision you ever make.  If you’ve received a breakdown of the various ways you can elect to have your pension benefits paid and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone!  In many cases, employers give you the option to select from upwards of 30 different options that have various survivor benefits, lump-sum payouts, Social Security bridge payments and more.  Is your head spinning yet? 

One of the more appealing pension options that our team is seeing more and more of is the “restore” option.  The restore feature of a pension is a way to protect the person receiving the pension if their spouse dies before them.  If that were the case, the restore option allows the retiree to “step-up” to the higher single/straight life payment.  Similar to the survivor benefit, the restore option is another layer of “insurance” to protect the retiree from being locked into a permanently reduced pension benefit if their spouse pre-deceases them. 

Let’s take a look at an example of the restore feature:

Tom (age 61) is retiring from XYZ Company in several months.  Tom would like to evaluate his pension options to see which payment would be best for him and his wife Judy (age 60).  Tom has narrowed it down to 3 options:

Option 1:

  • $45,000/yr single/straight life (no survivor benefit)

    • Payment would cease upon Tom’s passing – $0 to Judy

Option 2:

  • $41,000/yr 50% survivor option

    • Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her

 Option 3:

  • $40,200/yr 50% survivor option with “restore” feature

    • Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her

    • Tom would step-up to a $45,000/yr benefit (straight/single life benefit figure) if Judy pre-deceases him

The more Tom and Judy have discussed their overall financial plan; they are not comfortable selecting the single/straight life option and risking Judy not receiving a continuation of benefits if Tom pre-deceases her.  However, because Judy has had some health issues in the past, they feel the 50% restore payment option makes more sense for their situation because it is very possible that Judy will die before Tom.  They are comfortable with an $800/yr reduction in payment to have the “insurance” of Tom stepping up to the higher single/straight life option if he survives Judy. 

While the restore option for Tom and Judy seems to make perfect sense, there truly is no a “one size fits all” pension option that works for everyone.  Every situation is very unique and it’s important that you evaluate your entire financial picture and other sources of retirement income to determine which pension option is right for you and your family.

Click to see part 1 of pension blogs How to Choose a Survivor Benefit for Your Pension and part 2 What You Need to Know About Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP© and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. 

WEBINAR IN REVIEW: Retirement Income Planning: How Will You Get Paid in Retirement?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

One of most common questions I hear from clients as they approach retirement is, “How do I actually get paid when I’m no longer working?” It’s a question that I feel we as planners can sometimes take for granted.  Because we are helping hundreds of clients throughout the year with their retirement income strategy, we can sometimes forget that this simple question is often the cause of many sleepless nights for soon-to-be retirees.   

Saving money throughout your career can be simple, but certainly not easy. Prudent and consistent saving requires a tremendous amount of discipline. However, if you elect the proper asset allocation in your 401k and you’re a quality saver, in most cases, accumulating really doesn’t have to be all that difficult.  However, when it comes time to take money out of the various accounts you’ve accumulated over time or have to make monumental financial decisions surrounding items such as Social Security or which pension option to elect, the conversation changes. In many cases, this is a stage in life where we frequently see those who have been “do it yourselfers” reach out to us for professional guidance. 

The first step in crafting a retirement income strategy is having a firm grip on your own personal spending goal in retirement. From there, we’ll sit down together and evaluate the fixed income sources that you have at your disposal. Most often these sources include your pension, Social Security, annuity income or even part-time employment income. Once we have a better sense of the fixed payments you’ll be receiving throughout the year, we’ll take a look at the various investable assets you’ve accumulated to determine where the “gap” needs to be filled from an income standpoint and determine if that figure is reasonable considering your own projected retirement time horizon. Finally, we need to dive into the tax ramifications of your income sources and portfolio income. If you have multiple investment or retirement accounts, it’s critical to evaluate the tax ramifications each account possesses. 

Make sure you listen to the replay of our webinar “Retirement Income Planning: How Much Will You Get Paid In Retirement?” for additional tips and information on how you might consider structuring your own tax-efficient retirement income strategy.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This material is being provided for information purposes only. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

What You Need to Know About Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC, Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Pensions

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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In many cases, the decision you make surrounding your pension could be the largest financial choice you’ll make in your entire life.  As such, the potential risk of your pension plan should be on your radar and factored in when ultimately deciding which payment option to elect.  This is where the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation comes into play.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or “PBGC” is an independent agency that was established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to give pension participants in plans covered by the PBGC guaranteed “basic” benefits in the event their employer-sponsored defined benefit plans becomes insolvent.  Today, the PBGC protects the retirement incomes of nearly 40 million American workers in nearly 24,000 private-sector pension plans. 

Municipalities, unions and public sector professions are almost never covered by the PBGC.  Private companies, especially larger ones, are usually covered (click here to see if your company plan is).  Each year, companies pay insurance premiums to the PBGC to protect retirees.  Think of the PBCG essentially as FDIC insurance for pensions.  Similar to FDIC coverage ($250,000) that banks offer, there are limits on how much the PBCG will cover if a pension plan fails.  It's important to note that in most cases, the age you happen to be when your company’s pension fails is the age the PBGC uses to determine your protected monthly benefit. 

For example, if you start receiving a pension at age 60 from XYZ company and 5 years later, XYZ goes under when you’re 65, your protected monthly benefit with the PBGC would be $5,2420.45 – assuming you are receiving a straight life payment (see table below).  As we would expect, the older you are, the higher the protected monthly benefit will be due to life expectancy assumptions.    

*chart is from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation website

*chart is from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation website

When advising you on which pension option to choose, one of the first things we'll want to work together to determine is whether or not your pension is covered by the PBGC.  If your pension is covered, this is a wonderful protection for your retirement income if the unexpected occurs and the company you worked for ends up failing.  If you think it will never happen, let’s not forget 2009 when many unexpected things occurred in the world such as General Motors filing for bankruptcy and Ford nearly doing the same.  If your pension is not covered, we'll want to take this risk into consideration when comparing the monthly income stream options to a lump sum rollover option (if offered). 

While PBCG coverage is one very important element when evaluating a pension, we’ll also want to analyze other aspects of your pension as well, such as the pension’s internal rate of return or "hurdle rate" and various survivor options offered. 

As mentioned previously, the decision surrounding your pension could quite possibly be the largest financial decision you ever make.  When making a financial decision of such magnitude, we’d strongly recommend consulting with a professional to ensure you’re making the best decision possible for your own unique situation.  Let us know if we can help!   

Be sure to check out our pension part 1 blog How to Choose a Survivor Benefit for Your Pension posted April 5th and our next blog Explaining What the “Restore” Option is for Pensions posted May 10.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP© and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.