Tag Archives: financial advice

When Patience Disappears

Interest-rates-1790-2012My Comments: We’ve talked extensively about the likelihood of a market correction, if not a crash, coming in the near future, maybe this year. What many have not talked about are the implications of a rise in interest rates.

This is going to happen, given that they’ve been on a downward trend for twenty plus years and can’t go much lower, if at all. If you want folks like me who manage your money to anticipate these things to avoid chaos and help you make money, you should at least be aware of some of the variables. Here’s an articulate overview.

Commentary by Scott Minerd / February 13, 2015

Advance notice of the timing of a rate hike by the Federal Reserve may hinge on the removal of just one word, warns St. Louis Fed President Bullard.

Market observers keen to anticipate the Federal Reserve’s next move are wise to follow the trail of verbal breadcrumbs laid down by St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a policymaker I hold in high regard. When Fed policy seems uncertain or even inert, Dr. Bullard’s public statements have historically been a Rosetta stone for deciphering the Fed’s next move.

For example, in July 2010, Bullard wrote in a report ominously titled “Seven Faces of the Peril” that it was evident the Fed’s first round of quantitative easing had not been sufficient to stimulate the economy. In the report, which was widely picked up by the financial press, Bullard warned about the specter of deflation in the U.S. economy, and that the U.S. was “closer to a Japanese-style outcome today than at any time in recent history.”

That summer, months ahead of any Fed decision to proceed with QE2, it was Bullard who began a drumbeat of steady public messages about the necessity of a second round of easing. By August, the Fed was not talking about whether it should implement a new round of QE, but how. In November 2010, the Fed announced its plan to buy $600 billion of Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011. If you followed Bullard, you were expecting it.

While Bullard is not a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee this time around, I still view him as an important policy mouthpiece. That is why it was so interesting when he underscored Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments at a press conference following the committee’s Dec. 16-17 meeting in an interview with Bloomberg, saying that the disappearance of a specific word—“patient”— from the Fed’s statement may be code that a rate increase will come within the next two FOMC meetings. He reiterated the point in a subsequent speech, saying “I would take [“patient”] out to provide optionality for the following meeting…To have this kind of patient language is probably a little too strong given the way I see the data.” When Bullard, the man who told us months in advance to expect QE2, goes to great length to describe when the Fed will raise rates, I tend to pay attention.

While Bullard says the Fed could raise rates by June or July (and I wouldn’t rule that out), I think the likelihood is closer to September and that the central bank will likely raise rates twice this year. Whenever “lift off” actually occurs, we’ve long been anticipating that this day would come. It is a particularly interesting time for investors to consider increasing fixed-income exposure to high quality, floating-rate asset classes, such as leveraged loans and asset-backed securities. The good news is there is still time to prepare for when the Fed finally runs out of patience.

When Underperforming the S&P 500 Is a Good Thing

InvestMy Comments: I’ve spent time recently with clients talking about our mutual frustration with the performance of their investment portfolios over the past 18 months. They want their accounts to grow aggressively and I want them to grow aggressively, if for no other reason than it makes me look smart.

We can argue that the stock market is overdue for a crash, and that their respective portfolio managers are factoring that into the mix. The idea is to find ways to avoid the downturn since that alone makes it possible to make gains on the inevitable upturn.

Here is a perspective that will give you another way to look at this. I’m told patience is a virtue, but it’s still hard to come by.

Feb 1, 2015 | By Jeff Benjamin

As financial advisers roll through annual client reviews, many will face the task of having to explain how their portfolio strategies so badly lagged the 13.7% gain by the S&P 500 Index last year.

Fact is, a truly diversified investment portfolio should have returned less than 5% in 2014. It was that kind of year. Any adviser who generated returns close to the S&P was taking on way too much risk, and should probably be fired.

Blame the ever-expanding financial media or the increased awareness among investors, but there is no getting around the reality that clients have become programmed to dwell on the performance of a few high-profile benchmarks.

“Sure, the S&P 500 had a good 2014, and if you had all or most of your money invested in [that index], you did, too,” said Ed Butowsky, managing partner at Chapwood Capital Investment Management. “But what were you doing with most of your money in a single index?”

Most years, a globally diversified portfolio that spans multiple asset classes can hold its own relative to something like the S&P. But when a year like 2014 happens and the S&P essentially laps the field, financial advisers who have done their job might suddenly feel as if they have to make excuses for doing the right thing.

“Periods like 2014 are why people think they should just go buy the index,” said David Schneider, founder of Schneider Wealth Strategies. “Investors tend to fixate on the S&P because it’s the most famous index out there, and when it outperforms everything, it just makes the case for passive investing for all the wrong reasons,” he added. “People think they can just get rid of foreign stocks.”

While long-dated U.S. Treasuries emerged as a surprise outperformer last year with a 27.4% gain, most risk assets around the world didn’t even show up for the game.

Developed markets, as represented by the MSCI EAFE Index, fell 4.9% last year, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 2.2%.

SMALL CAP LAGGED

Midsize companies, as tracked by the Russell Midcap Index, generated a 13.2% gain last year and almost kept pace with the larger companies that make up the S&P 500. But the 4.9% gain by the Russell 2000 small-cap index shows that smaller companies were not really participating.

With everything packaged into a diversified portfolio, it would have been near impossible to generate anything eye-popping last year.

Applying allocations based on Morningstar Inc.’s five main target risk indexes, ranging from conservative to aggressive, the best performance last year would have been 5.23%, which includes a 1.51% decline during the second half of the year.

To get that full-year return would have required a 91% allocation to stocks, divided between 59% in U.S. stocks and 32% in foreign stocks.

That portfolio, Morningstar’s most aggressive, also included 4% in domestic bonds, 1% in foreign bonds and 4% in commodities, as an inflation hedge.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most conservative Morningstar portfolio had just an 18% allocation to stocks, including 13% domestic and 5% foreign. The 61% fixed-income weighting had 50.5% in domestic bonds and 10.5% in foreign bonds. The 10.5% inflation hedge included 2% in commodities and 8.5% in Treasury inflation-protected securities.

HISTORY LESSON

That portfolio gained just 3.38% last year but fell 0.73% during the second half of the year. “ History has taught us that at the beginnning of any 12-month period, stocks have as good a chance of gaining 44% as they do of losing 25%.” Mr. Butowsky said.

The onus is always on advisers to turn years like 2014 into teachable moments with clients, and a lot of advisers are doing exactly that.

Thomas Balcom, founder of 1650 Wealth Management, took a proactive approach in December by addressing the issue in his holiday greeting card message, which focused on “not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

“My clients were definitely surprised they weren’t up as much as the S&P, because everyone uses the S&P as their personal benchmark,” he said. “But we had things like commodity exposure and international stocks that were both down last year, and that doesn’t help when clients see the S&P reaching record highs.”

Veteran advisors recognize 2014 as a truly unique year for the global financial markets.

In 2013, for example, when the S&P gained 32.4%, developed international stocks gained 22.8%. But domestically, the S&P was outpaced by both mid- and small-cap indexes, meaning a diversified portfolio was riding on more than just the S&P’s positive numbers.

Prior to 2013, the S&P had outperformed international developed- and emerging-market stocks on only three other occasions since 2000. Domestically, the S&P has outperformed midcap and small-cap stocks only one other time since 2000, in 2011, with a 2.1% gain.

“It’s tough dealing with clients, because the S&P is the benchmark you can turn on the TV and hear about, and everyone wants to know why they aren’t experiencing the same returns as the S&P.” says Michael Baker, a partner at Vertex Capital Advisors.

“The S&P 500 really represents one asset class – large cap stocks,” he added. “And most investors only have about 15% allocated to large-cap stocks.”

Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy

US economyMy Comments: This is a helpful analysis if you are like me and worried about our financial future.

Retirement planning and what to do with our money so it grows and remains safe for the future is what I do. I’m not sure I like it all the time, but at this stage of my life, doing something else is probably not in the cards.

What caught my attention here is that I had no idea anything was killing the American economy. But a quick read of this caused me to include these thoughts with those I have about income inequality and how, if left unchecked, will lead to social chaos in this country.

By Nick Hanauer / February 8, 2015

President Obama should be lauded for using his State of the Union address to champion policies that would benefit the struggling middle class, ranging from higher wages to child care to paid sick leave. “It’s the right thing to do,” affirmed the president. And it is. But in appealing to Americans’ innate sense of justice and fairness, the president unfortunately missed an opportunity to draw an important connection between rising income inequality and stagnant economic growth.

As economic power has shifted from workers to owners over the past 40 years, corporate profit’s take of the U.S. economy has doubled—from an average of 6 percent of GDP during America’s post-war economic heyday to more than 12 percent today. Yet despite this extra $1 trillion a year in corporate profits, job growth remains anemic, wages are flat, and our nation can no longer seem to afford even its most basic needs. A $3.6 trillion budget shortfall has left many roads, bridges, dams, and other public infrastructure in disrepair. Federal spending on economically crucial research and development has plummeted 40%, from 1.25 percent of GDP in 1977 to only 0.75 percent today. Adjusted for inflation, public university tuition—once mostly covered by the states—has more than doubled over the past 30 years, burying recent graduates under $1.2 trillion in student debt. Many public schools and our police and fire departments are dangerously underfunded.

Where did all this money go?

The answer is as simple as it is surprising: Much of it went to stock buybacks—more than $6.9 trillion of them since 2004, according to data compiled by Mustafa Erdem Sakinç of The Academic-Industry Research Network. Over the past decade, the companies that make up the S&P 500 have spent an astounding 54 percent of profits on stock buybacks. Last year alone, U.S. corporations spent about $700 billion, or roughly 4 percent of GDP, to prop up their share prices by repurchasing their own stock.

In the past, this money flowed through the broader economy in the form of higher wages or increased investments in plants and equipment. But today, these buybacks drain trillions of dollars of windfall profits out of the real economy and into a paper-asset bubble, inflating share prices while producing nothing of tangible value. Corporate managers have always felt pressure to grow earnings per share, or EPS, but where once their only option was the hard work of actually growing earnings by selling better products and services, they can now simply manipulate their EPS by reducing the number of shares outstanding.

So what’s changed? Before 1982, when John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission loosened regulations that define stock manipulation, corporate managers avoided stock buybacks out of fear of prosecution. That rule change, combined with a shift toward stock-based compensation for top executives, has essentially created a gigantic game of financial “keep away,” with CEOs and shareholders tossing a $700-billion ball back and forth over the heads of American workers, whose wages as a share of GDP have fallen in almost exact proportion to profit’s rise.

To be clear: I’ve done stock buybacks too. We all do it. In this era of short-term-focused activist investors, it is nearly impossible to avoid. So at least part of the solution to our current epidemic of business disinvestment must be to discourage this sort of stock manipulation by going back to the pre-1982 rules.

This practice is not only unfair to the American middle class, but is also demonstrably harmful to both individual companies and the American economy as a whole. In a recent white paper titled “The World’s Dumbest Idea,” GMO asset allocation manager James Montier strongly challenges the 40-year obsession with “shareholder value maximization,” or SVM, documenting the many ways that stock buybacks and excessive dividends have reduced business investment and boosted inequality. Almost all investment carried out by firms is financed by retained earnings, Montier points out, so the diversion of cash flow to stock buybacks has inevitably resulted in lower rates of business investment. Defenders of SVM argue that investors efficiently reallocate the profits they reap from repurchased shares by investing the proceeds into more promising enterprises. But Montier shows that since the 1980s, public corporations have actually bought back more equity than they’ve issued, representing a net negative equity flow. Shareholders aren’t providing capital to the corporate sector, they’re extracting it.

Meanwhile, the shift toward stock-based compensation helped drive the rise of the 1 percent by inflating the ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation from twenty-to-one in 1965 to about 300-to-one today. Labor’s steadily falling share of GDP has inevitably depressed consumer demand, resulting in slower economic growth. A new study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development finds that rising inequality knocked six points off U.S. GDP growth between 1990 and 2010 alone.

It is mathematically impossible to make the public- and private-sector investments necessary to sustain America’s global economic competitiveness while flushing away 4 percent of GDP year after year. That is why the federal government must reorient its policies from promoting personal enrichment to promoting national growth. These policies should limit stock buybacks and raise the marginal rate on dividends while providing real incentives to boost investment in R&D, worker training, and business expansion.

If business leaders hope to maintain broad public support for business, they must acknowledge that the purpose of the corporation is not to enrich the few, but to benefit the many. Once America’s CEOs refocus on growing their companies rather than growing their share prices, shareholder value will take care of itself and all Americans will share in the benefits of a renewed era of economic growth.

The Good News Behind GDP’s Decline

Bruegel-village-sceneMy Comments: For almost four years now, I’ve posted ideas and comments that related to the economy, to investing, sometimes to politics, sometimes just weird stuff. The idea was to give me an outlet where I could be free to share ideas that I thought might be helpful to friends and clients and whomever happened across my posts.

This post and the next are an attempt to help anyone get a better handle on what is happening to the economy, and to a lesser extent, how you should prepare to have your money invested going forward. The next big thing we can look forward to is a rise in interest rates.

Commentary by Scott Minerd, February 05, 2015

As the U.S. economy maintains its momentum and with the euro zone showing signs of improvement, all eyes are now on the Fed’s next move on rates.

On Friday, it was announced that U.S. gross domestic product rose an annualized 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter—a marked slowdown from the 5 percent growth we witnessed in the third quarter of 2014. But what the market took to be bad news was actually a sign of economic strength.

Falling net exports subtracted a full percentage point from GDP growth. But net exports—exports minus imports—only looked relatively weak because consumer demand for imports was so strong, growing at an annualized rate of 8.9 percent quarter over quarter. In fact, this past December, U.S. companies imported $48.8 billion worth of consumer goods, an all-time record figure.

In the fourth quarter, household consumption was the main driver of GDP growth, up by over 4 percent. This is a positive sign for the U.S. economy, particularly when considering that nearly 70 percent of economic activity in the United States stems from private consumption.

Durable goods orders, which fell by 3.4 percent in December, also rattled investors when the number was released last week. Durable goods orders is the one data set I actively ignore—it is one of the most volatile economic indicators and is often revised significantly from one month to the next. Taken in isolation, a one-month drop in durable goods orders does nothing to support the thesis of a weaker economy.

Fluctuation just means some big order came through or some big order didn’t come through, and it should not move markets. That investors latched onto the weak durable good numbers is, I believe, as misguided as their take on the GDP print. Economic fundamentals in the United States remain sound.

The economic environment in Europe is also showing signs of improvement, and I expect this trend to continue throughout the year. Loan growth is picking up, quantitative easing starts in March, and while the latest Greek tragedy plays out in Athens, I expect European policymakers will be diligent in not allowing Greece to write off any of its debt for fear such an occurrence may inspire others, such as Spain or Portugal, to demand the same.

As the global economy gains strength and U.S. economic data continues to improve, investors are now likely to focus on the Federal Reserve’s next move. In an interview with Bloomberg last week, James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, expressed his view that investors are wrong to expect the Federal Reserve to postpone an interest-rate increase beyond midyear, citing the decline in unemployment levels and the underlying momentum in the U.S. economy.

Bullard is a policymaker I hold in high regard and, judging by his comments, market chatter of interest rates hikes being postponed into 2016 now appears overdone. In all likelihood, given policymakers’ concern that the economy will overheat if they leave rates too low for too long, I think that a rise in rates somewhere between September and December is a fair estimate.

Import Growth Is a Good Sign for the U.S. Economy
Though fourth-quarter GDP came in below expectations at 2.6 percent, much of the apparent weakness was due to falling net exports, which subtracted a full percentage point from the growth figure. But net exports fell because imports grew at a faster rate, a sign of strong domestic demand. In other words, the same factors that are leading to a healthy growth rate in consumption, such as an improving labor market and increased consumer confidence, are also causing higher demand for imports.

The bottom line is that the U.S. economy is doing very well and looks set to continue this momentum.

Group Health Insurance is Bad For America

healthcare reformMy Comments: Followers of this blog know my reasons for wanting to keep the PPACA in place, mindful of the need for a lot of modifications. What you may not know was about 40 years ago I cut my teeth in the insurance world selling individual health insurance policies.

My market was staff and faculty at the University of Florida where there was a one price, one plan fit all program. Those younger than average were paying the same as those in their sixties, thus subsidizing the old folks. I was able to provide equal or better coverage at far less money for those in my target market.

The health care industry, in all its forms, represents about almost 1/5th of our entire Gross National Product. Before the PPACA, the annual increase in health insurance premiums was about 7% per year, meaning before long, unless checked, it would choke us. You can argue that the PPACA should be abolished, but not before you come up with a meaningful alternative.

By Rick Lindquist February 3, 2015

(Editor’s note: This blog has been republished here with permission from Zane Benefits. This is part three of an ongoing series. You can check out the original, in its entirety, here.)

When you drive to work today, look around at the people, cars, and buildings you pass by. Between one-sixth and one-fifth of the people you pass on their way to work, representing 17.5 percent of our gross domestic product, work producing a product or service nobody really wants to buy—health care, or more accurately sickness care, since what most Americans call healthcare has very little to do with health.

Despite the fact that the United States spends two-and-a-half to three times per person what other developed nations spend on healthcare, the United States is the unhealthiest developed nation on earth. There are many reasons proposed for why this is so.

For example, 95 percent of the pharmaceutical prescriptions filled each year in the United States are for drugs you are expected to take for the rest of your life—because drug companies find it much more profitable to create customers for life by producing maintenance drugs that treat the symptoms of diseases versus drugs that cure diseases.

Medical providers from the individual doctor to the largest hospital are paid for their procedures and time spent versus their outcomes or health of their patients. However, the major reason that the U.S. health care industry costs so much is because the employers who pay for most U.S. health care do not have a financial stake in the long-term health of their employees.

Employees used to stay with one company for 25 years or more. Today, the average employee is projected to change jobs more than 10 times over his or her 45-year working life. Most of the major illnesses on which you can spend $1 today to save $100 tomorrow (like heart disease from obesity or cancer from poor nutrition) will not show up until an employee is long gone or retired, at which time the $100 cost is picked up by another employer or by taxpayers through Medicare.

As medical costs have escalated, employers have, in effect, told their medical providers to pay for only those expenses related to keeping or getting the insured back to work—and this does not include paying for the prevention of a disease that will not manifest itself during the expected tenure of the employee with the company.

Despite a new federal mandate in PPACA that employers must cover preventive care, the federal definition of preventive care includes tests like mammograms and prostate exams that merely screen for diseases rather than help prevent them.

Significant weight reduction, nutritional advice, vitamins, minerals, smoking cessation, and hundreds of other wellness-related treatments are excluded from most group and most individual health insurance plans. Although at least with individual health insurance plans you can choose to apply the savings to your wellness care.

In summary, rising health care costs, driven mostly by group health insurance, punish our nation on multiple fronts:
1. For you and your family, rising healthcare costs means less money in your pockets and forces hard choices about balancing your children’s education, food, rent, and needed care.
2. For your company, rising healthcare costs make it more expensive to add new employees and reduces budgets available for marketing, customer service, and product development.
3. For the government, rising healthcare costs lead to reduced funding on other priorities such as infrastructure, education, and security.

What’s the solution?
You should switch to individual health insurance because its good for America. With an individual plan, it empowers Americans to manage their own healthcare and it makes American businesses more competitive.

Tricks of the Mind Turned Oil Into Gold

oil productionMy Comments: Once again, I have a blog post about OIL. Clients are asking me how was it possible for the price of oil to rise as far as it did just a year ago and yet here we are, with the per barrell price 40% of what it used to be. If it’s economically realistic at $50 per barrell, how come the price was $140 or more just 18-24 months ago?

A basic premise found in Economics 101 is that the price of anything is a function of supply and demand. That rule is working now, but it still doesn’t explain where the money went when the price was $140 per barrell. These comments will help you better understand this phenomena.

Mikhail Fridman / January 28, 2015

In 2007 I made a bet with a fellow Russian businessman. The price of oil, he told me, would never drop below $80 again. This was the consensus among oilmen at the time. And that, I thought, was the surest sign that the oil price would soon start falling.

I told my acquaintance that the oil price could easily go down to $40. What determines it, I said, is not supply, demand or the cost of production. Rather, what matters is the mere perception of a potential shortage.

The price of oil stayed high only because people believed there was not enough of it to go around. But once people believe that, consumers start looking for an alternative while producers try to pump more of the stuff — and then prices fall.

I am not a professional oilman and my assumptions were based not on knowledge of geology or the rate of economic growth in China, but on the simple fact that humanity usually finds a way around any obstacle in its path.

While many of my colleagues in Russia and elsewhere are arguing about when the oil price may bounce back, I am convinced that we have entered a new period of low oil prices. It is like alchemy, but in reverse: black gold, a precious substance whose price was determined by its scarcity, has turned into a black, smelly liquid that makes wheels turn.

It is not the first time this has happened. The price of oil was relatively stable until the 1970s brought the psychological shock of an embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia on the export of oil to America.

In 1975, the US started its petroleum strategic reserve, contributing to the perception that oil was scarce. Oil producers saw their main objective was to guard their oligopoly. No one cared about such trifling matters as efficiency — the distribution of licences was far more important. A good lobbyist was worth more to an oil company than a good engineer.

To deal with this challenge, developed countries started to invest in energy saving and new technologies, and by the early 1980s this started to yield results. The ensuing fall in oil prices eventually sapped the Soviet Union of its economic lifeblood.

The price of oil stayed high only because people believed there was not enough of it to go around. But once people believe that, consumers start looking for an alternative while producers try to pump more of the stuff — and then prices fall.

Rapid economic growth in China and India in the early 2000s changed the perception about the balance between demand for oil and its scarcity. And once again developed countries with high levels of entrepreneurial freedom set themselves to work on solving the bottleneck.

There was no single solution, but everyone thought of something: biofuel, wind energy, oil sands, shale.

It was no accident that the countries that led the innovation were liberal market economies with strong property rights, while the countries that wished to thwart these efforts were resentful of competition and riddled with monopolists. They treated private property as a concession that could easily be taken away.

Political systems based on the distribution of rent demoralise people. Political regimes based on free competition motivate people. It is because of free initiative and competition that humanity can overcome bottlenecks.

The reason America has led the way in the production of shale oil and gas is not that it has a lot of shale — many other countries have a similar geology. It is that America has a lot of economic freedom.

This is a precious resource that many other countries lack. Its government does not sell licences for onshore drilling. It lets people buy land, and promises that nobody can take away from you what it is yours.

The dizzying oil prices of recent years were profoundly abnormal. The fall will turn oil production into a proper business where costs and efficiency matter more than lobbying power. This stands to make the world freer and safer, by reducing the power of illiberal regimes that thrive on oil rents.

Two years ago, I found myself in Manaus, a unique city in Brazil’s Amazonas, in the middle of the rainforest. In the late 19th century Manaus became one of the richest and most extravagant cities thanks to the rubber it had.

It built a splendid Belle Époque-style opera house out of Italian marble with vast domes and gilded balconies. But a few years later the seeds of the rubber tree were smuggled out of the Amazon and Brazil lost its monopoly.

Then the invention of artificial rubber finally buried the entire prosperity of this tropical Paris. Manaus fell into poverty, electricity generation became too expensive and the opera house went dark. It is a powerful lesson to the futility of suppressing competition.

The writer is an international businessman and chairman of LetterOne Group and Alfa Group Consortium

Social Security: 5 Facts You Must Know

retirement_roadMy Comments: With the GOP now controlling the House and Senate, there is increased talk about threats to the Social Security system. After all, this is a socialist program, designed to help the financially weakest among us.

I’ve long maintained that small tweaks, similar to what Congress has already done some 20-25 years ago, will allow the system to remain viable for the next 50 years. By then it is anyone’s guess how long people will be living and expecting to receive benefits.

If you are not yet signed into the system and receiving SSA benefits, get in touch with me. I have access to sophisticated software that will be help you optimize your benefits. As the author says below, Social Security is a complicated program, one that gives you a choice of 97 months during which you can choose to sign up. The difference between the worst and best month can be hundreds of thousands of dollars to you and your family.

By: Jordan DiPietro

Social Security is a complicated program, yet you cannot afford to NOT know everything you should about your benefits. Even knowing this, it can be hard to find the information you need in order to make the most informed decisions for you and your family.

In the following TOP 5 list below, The Motley Fool’s Financial Planning Team reveals five essential, but little known facts, about the Social Security Program and how it will affect millions of Americans. Although most people expect Social Security to be there for them when they retire, they could be wrong – and by then it might be too late.

Number 5: Social Security Is Massive
In 2014, over 59 million Americans will receive Social Security. Among them are:
• 40.9 million retired workers and their dependents
• 10.8 million disabled workers and their dependents
• 6.2 million people receiving survivors benefits

Number 4: The Elderly Could Not Survive Without This Program
Many elderly Americans heavily rely on Social Security; it’s the major income source for most older Americans. In fact, Social Security benefits account for 38% of the U.S. elderly population’s income. Even more important, half of married couples and three quarters of singles receive at least half their retirement income from Social Security.

Number 3: The Workforce Is Having to Support More Retirees

Demographics are not in our favor as fewer workers support more retirees. In 1950 there were 16 workers per Social Security recipient. In 1960 there were 5 workers per recipient. By the year 2033, only 2.1 workers will support one retiree.

Number 2: The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up
Social Security relies on its trust fund in order to cover shortfalls between tax revenue it receives from workers and benefits it pays. The trust fund is projected to run out of money in 2033. Once that happens, retirees can only expect to receive about 75% of the benefits they would have received.

Number 1: The #1 Way to Increase Your Benefits

Every year you wait between full retirement age and age 70 before claiming Social Security benefits boosts the amount you receive by 8%. Those who wait until the age 70 maximum will get 32% more in benefits than those who take them at 66, and 76% more than those who take early benefits at 62. If you can afford to delay benefits until age 70 and if you live past age 82, you will receive more in lifetime income from Social Security than if you had waited until full retirement age.