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Social Security “Facts” Or Myths

My Comments: It’s clear from the questions I get that people starting the transition to ‘retirement’ are easily confused by Social Security. They know it’s there; they’ve been paying into it for years. But there are enough variables to paralyze you if you let them.

Todd Campbell \ Jun 26, 2017

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Social Security that could lead people to believe things about this valuable program that simply aren’t true. Can you spot fact from fiction? Here are seven statements about the program that don’t pass muster.

1. Members of Congress don’t pay into Social Security

This isn’t true anymore. Beginning in 1984, all the members of Congress (and the president and vice president too) pay into the Social Security system. Prior to 1984, most federal government workers were covered by an entirely different program, called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Therefore, the only federal employees who aren’t paying into Social Security are those who were employed prior to 1984 and who didn’t switch to Social Security from CSRS.

2. Life expectancy was less than 65 when Social Security was enacted

Yes, higher infant mortality rates meant life expectancy from birth was less than 65, but the majority of people who reached adulthood and were working and paying into the system lived to 65 and beyond. In fact, those who made it to age 65 could expect to live an additional 13 years.

3. Social Security numbers include a code indicating a person’s race

Nope. That’s not true. At one point, though, the numbers did show what region of the country a person lived in at the time they filed for their number. Today, however, the numbers are random.

4. The government has raided the trust fund

The federal government does not take money from Social Security to pay general operating expenses. Payroll tax revenue has gone into Social Security’s trust fund ever since the fund was created in 1939, and this trust fund is separate from the country’s general funds.

However, the trust fund does invest in government-backed securities, including special obligation notes, that pay interest. So, in this way, it does provide funding for the federal government, but it does so no differently than an individual who buys U.S. Treasury bonds as an investment.

5. I can’t collect on my ex’s Social Security

Your ex might not want this to be true, but former spouses can collect on their ex-spouse’s Social Security record, as long as certain conditions are met. And it won’t reduce an ex-spouse’s payment.

In order for this to happen, a marriage has to have lasted at least 10 years, and the individual has to be unmarried. An ex-spouse can collect up to 50% of the former spouse’s full retirement benefit; however, that amount can’t exceed what the person would otherwise receive based on their own work record. If their own payment would be bigger, then that’s the payment they’d receive.

6. Social Security is broke

No, it’s not broke, but there are financial question marks that need to be addressed.

Social Security is financed by payroll taxes on current workers, and the number of retiring baby boomers means there are more recipients and fewer workers paying taxes. As a result, payroll tax revenue hasn’t covered the program’s expenses since 2010, and that’s forcing Social Security to tap its trust fund to make up the difference.

If Congress doesn’t make some changes beforehand, Social Security’s trustees estimate that the trust fund will no longer be able to close the funding gap beginning in 2034. At that point, Social Security payments will have to be reduced by 25% across the board to match whatever money comes in from payroll taxes.

7. Social Security guarantees financial security in retirement

Not necessarily. Social Security is designed to replace about 40% of pre-retirement income, and increasingly, people are entering retirement with bigger mortgages and more student loan debt, and that’s straining their budgets. Financial security in retirement is also under pressure because fewer employers are offering pensions, and workers are failing to save enough money in retirement accounts to pick up the slack. About half of baby boomers have less than $100,000 in retirement accounts. That’s unlikely to be enough to guarantee a worry-free retirement — especially since the average retired worker is only collecting $16,320 in Social Security income this year.

Where To Invest

My Comments: There is a lot of fear these days about money. We all know that from time to time the markets experience a correction. Depending on how old you are and when you expect to use the funds you have, this fear is normal.

So how do you deal with it? Again, depending on your age and attitude about investment risk, you turn either to a trusted third party to make those decisions for you or you figure it out on your own. Or a little of both.

As a professional retirement income planner, I’ve got some experience with this question. But like everything else in life, I can only make an informed guess about the future. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.

By James Connington / Jun 26, 2017

With markets at all-time highs, investors are sitting on cash and struggling to decide how to use it.

The fear is that they will be investing at the worst possible moment, and face seeing investment values plunge if and when the market takes a downturn.
In Britain, seemingly unending political turmoil has been accompanied by a meteoric rise in the FTSE 100 index that many worry can’t continue.

When it comes to the US, neither active funds – which mainly fail to beat the market over any meaningful time period – or buying the incredibly expensive market, via an index tracker fund, look like appealing options.

Telegraph Money spoke to a selection of fund managers to help narrow some options that still offer a good balance between risk and reward.

All of these managers run multi-asset or multi-manager funds – all-in-one portfolios that contain a mix of shares, bonds, funds or other assets from a variety of sectors.

In theory, this should minimise the bias to a particular asset or region specialist managers may fall victim to.

Their picks include investment trusts specialising in property, European and Asian stocks, and the US energy sector.

Jacob Vijverberg, Kames Capital

Mr Vijverberg said he is less comfortable with assets that are dependent on earnings growth, such as regular stocks, because he thinks earnings expectations are too high.

Instead he highlighted global real estate investment trusts (Reits) as offering a good risk-reward balance.

A Reit is a listed company that owns and runs buildings to generate an income for investors.

Mr Vijverberg said: “We expect rates to stay low in the developed world, meanings Reits can continue borrowing cheaply. Additionally, rental contracts are generally linked to inflation, offering guaranteed income increases.”

He favours Reits that own properties used for logistical or industrial purposes, or hotels, rather than residential buildings.

In its multi-asset funds, Kames holds Tritax Big Box; this Reit invests in large warehouses and logistics facilities in Britain used by retailers such as Amazon. It charges 1pc.

Late last year, the Kames multi-asset team increased its investment in American Reits too, including Welltower, which invests in care homes and health facilities.

Welltower is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is a part of the S&P 500 index. British investors should be able to access it via “fund shops” that offer international share dealing such as Hargreaves Lansdown and TD Direct.

John Husselbee, head of multi-asset at Liontrust

Mr Husselbee said that while stock markets continue to “shrug off” political events, “it’s hard to point to any sector that screams real value on a short to medium term view”.

He explained that diversification is therefore more important than usual, and so the best risk-reward proposition at present “lies in the developing markets of the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) and emerging markets sectors”.

For Asia Pacific specifically, he said the region offers an “attractive and diversified dividend income”, which has value given many investors’ desperate hunt for income producing investments.

He highlighted Schroder Asian Income as one way to gain exposure, as it “provides a degree of safety in what can be a volatile market”. The fund charges 0.93pc and yields 3.5pc.

In the wider emerging markets sector, Mr Husselbee recommended Stewart Investors Global Emerging Markets Leaders. The fund charges 0.92pc.

Marcus Brookes, head of multi-manager investing at Schroders

Mr Brookes said European and Japanese stock markets offer better value than the US market at the moment.

This, he explained, is largely due to the lower valuations on offer, but also due to concerns that US company margins and sales “could be peaking”.
He said this would be a “worrying condition should the US experience an economic misstep”.

He explained: “In Europe and Japan we find relatively attractive valuations combined with margins and sales that are far from their peak.”

In his popular Schroder Multi Manager Diversity fund, Mr Brookes has around 6pc invested in the TM Sanditon European Select fund, and 4pc in the Man GLG Japan Core Alpha fund.

These charge 1.16pc and 0.9pc respectively.

Bill McQuaker, Fidelity

The US is the world’s biggest market, yet not all of its component sectors have been doing as well as the overall market.

Mr McQuaker picked out the energy sector as offering an investment opportunity.

He said: “The energy sector is down by around 20pc relative to the S&P 500 over the year to date, and would benefit from any rally in the oil price.”
This is something he views as likely due to global oil cartel OPEC’s extended production cuts, and the “overestimated” impact of US shale oil production on the global price of oil.

If you want to buy the whole US energy sector, BlackRock offers its iShares S&P 500 Energy Sector “exchange traded fund”.

The charge is 0.15pc, to track an index comprised of the S&P 500 stocks categorised as energy companies. Exxon Mobil and Chevron account for more than 40pc of the index.

The other option is a global energy fund that invests heavily in the US. Guinness Global Energy is often tipped by experts Telegraph Money speaks to. It is around half invested in the US, and charges 1.24pc.

Artemis Global Energy, Investec Global Energy and Schroder Global Energy are all between 40pc and 60pc US invested too.

Retirement Can Be Hard

My Comments: Retirement means different things to each of us; it may be when we quit a long career, or we need something less intensive, our current employer sucks, or maybe we simply stop working. If you’ve been disciplined, it’s time to let your money start working for you, always assuming you have some. But it can still take a lot of work to get it right.

These remarks by Rodney Brooks from the Washington Post are a great summary of the issues that need to be thought about as you start the transition to retirement. But don’t take what he says without relating it to your personal circumstances. There are lots of “what if’s” to consider. It will also be helpful to those of you who think you are already in retirement.

By Rodney Brooks, on October 15, 2016

We get busy in life. Between raising a family, starting a career, buying a home and then eventually sending the kids to college, it’s not a big surprise that retirement planning takes a back seat.

Some people don’t even start thinking about retirement until they are in their 50s. That’s late. But still, you should never throw your hands up and give up on retirement planning. And even though I say it’s never too late to start, you may have to deal with some unfortunate realities.

The fact is that retirement can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to do and a lot to think about. Which is why even people who think they are well prepared for retirement might find that there are things for which they simply forgot to plan, or didn’t know they needed to plan.

Financial planners describe some of those things:

The emotional side

“There’s been a lot of times when people aren’t prepared emotionally to retire,” says Scott Thoma, at Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Your identity has been what you did. You stop working. You stop you career. The question is now, what will I do with my time? A lot of people go back to work because they weren’t ready mentally or emotionally for retirement.”

Enrolling in Medicare

“You still have to enroll in Medicare at 65,” says John Piershale, a wealth adviser at Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Ill. “If you delay until 66, you have to take the initiative. It doesn’t happen automatically. If you are late, there is a 10 percent penalty for every 12 months you are late. If someone waits 24 months, there is a 20 percent penalty built in. It’s a permanent penalty, just because you forget to re-enroll. That is a big-time penalty.

“Enrollment is three months before your birthday to three months after your [65th] birthday,” he says. “A lot of people delay Social Security. If you delay Social Security, you have to actively enroll in Medicare on your own.”

Health-care costs

“A lot of studies say health care will cost $250,000” for a couple in retirement, Thoma says. “That number is about $5,000 per year per person. You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it.”

People may plan for but underestimate health-care costs in retirement, says Scott Moffitt, president of the Summit Financial Group in Loveland, Ohio.

“People forget prescription drug costs and long-term care are costs,” Moffitt says. “They can eat up a substantial amount of money if you are not careful. “

Ditto dental expenses, says John Gajkowski at Money Managers Financial Group in Oak Brook, Ill: “A lot of people have work done. Medicare doesn’t cover dental. They are having [dental] posts put in, and that can cost $10,000, $20,000, $30,000.”

Major purchases and repairs

“They forget to plan for major purchases, like home repair and upkeep,” Moffitt says. “Retirees tend to do a good job of covering monthly bills. What seems to be getting many retirees caught up is that occasional large purchase. The first piece of advice I give them is to look at your budget on an annual basis so you are making sure you take into account things that come up quarterly or semiannually.

“If they go into retirement with cars owned, put in the replacement cost,” he says. “Put in home upkeep.”

Life events, such as weddings, graduations and sometimes just spoiling the grandkids, can be major unanticipated costs, Gajkowski says.

Planning for a long life

“Planning for a long life is very important,” Thoma says. “For a 55-year-old couple, there is a 50 percent chance that one of them will live into their 90s. If you will live to 90, will your money last? Are there changing needs, like how your home was set up? Does your home have a lot of stairs? Do you want to downsize? There are a lot of considerations as you think about 25 years in retirement.”

Needs of a surviving spouse

Consider which streams of income are attached to one spouse that may go away when he or she dies, especially pensions, annuities and Social Security. “Do a ‘what if’ analysis,” Thoma says. “If one passes away, will the other be covered? Are there income streams that will stop? Think about long-term care. If one passes away, who will help the other?”
Legal affairs, estate planning

“A lot of people think estate plans are only for the wealthy,” Thoma says. “They say, ‘I don’t have a lot of money, so I don’t need an estate plan.’ If you are not proactive, all those decisions will be he handled by the state. Do you want to leave it in the hands of the state and the court?”

Make sure all your beneficiaries are correct and up to date. Also, make sure you have a financial power of attorney and health-care directive.

“How do you want your assets to be handled if you are no longer able to make those decisions?” Thoma says. “One thing we recommend is having a family meeting — with your family and your financial adviser. What are your wishes? Make sure family understand your desires.”

Retirement Roulette

My Comments: I’ve been known to place a bet now and then. But Las Vegas, for me, is nothing more than a place to visit from time to time. But it takes all kinds, and if you are one who enjoys the uncertainty of your financial future, here’s an article for you to consider. Thanks Dirk.

April 19, 2017 / Dirk Cotton

Phyllis loves to play roulette at the casinos. She knows there are games with better odds but there’s something about the large spinning wheel and the big green table with its field of many bets that she finds irresistible.

Phyllis has a roulette strategy – she calls it a “system” – that she adheres to rigorously. Because a fair roulette game is totally random and the odds favor the house her strategy isn’t statistically profitable but that isn’t something that concerns a typical gambler. Watching a YouTube video of a roulette game, I heard one player say he watches for trends in the random winning numbers (humans are really good at seeing trends, even when they don’t exist) and I hear another say that he seems to win a lot with the number 26.

Phyllis’ strategy is to place several small bets on the first spin of the wheel and to double the bets each time she loses. After a winning bet, she bets the same amount on the next spin.

She places a bet on red, another bet on 36, a corner bet, and a street bet for each spin. (Watch a few minutes of this YouTube video if you’ve never seen a roulette game. Notice the multiple bets placed by each player at each spin of the wheel.)

After each spin, she calculates the revised amount of her bankroll and places another set of bets on the next round. Her strategy is to stop playing should she double her initial bankroll and, of course, she will stop playing when she is ruined.

At this point, you may wonder what Phyllis and her roulette strategy have to do with financing retirement. The answer is that the mechanics of her roulette game are somewhat analogous to the way in which retirement should be played. Visualizing retirement funding as a roulette game can demonstrate the process as a whole as opposed to seeing a set of related but independent strategies for income generation, asset allocation, annuitization, and the like.

We start with a grand strategy, hopefully one that is more profitable than a roulette strategy, and play one year at a time in the same way that Phyllis plays one spin of the roulette wheel at a time. We stop playing retirement when no one in our household is still alive.

It’s not a perfect analogy. Phyllis stops playing roulette when she runs out of money but, unlike roulette players, we can’t stop being retired when we go broke. We have to figure out how to continue playing retirement until the end, perhaps getting by on Social Security benefits alone – not a pleasant prospect2.

Now, let’s play a game of Retirement Roulette. Over my working life, I have accumulated wealth that I can use to pay for retirement. That wealth is represented by the three stacks of chips in front of me that constitute my “bankroll.”

My financial capital (pink), social capital (red) and human capital (blue) at retirement. (Image from designinstruct.com)

The first stack of chips represents my financial capital. It represents my wealth held in taxable accounts, retirement accounts, home equity, etc. The second stack of chips represents my human capital, my ability to generate income from labor. Perhaps I can retire as a college professor and still teach a couple of classes each semester for a few years. This stack of chips will shrink over time whether or not I use it as my ability to generate income from labor diminishes.

The third stack of chips represents my “social capital” and includes my Social Security benefits and a small pension I earned from a previous employer. I have three chips. The first represents my pension, the second represents my wife’s Social Security benefits and the third chip represents my own Social Security benefits.

My social capital.

On the “Retirement Roulette” table in front of me lies a broad array of potential retirement bets including:
• a bet on a retirement date
• a bet on an amount to spend this year
• a bet on stocks
• a bet on bonds
• a bet on cash
• a bet to claim or delay Social Security benefits
• a bet to purchase an annuity
• a bet to purchase long-term care insurance
• a bet on a legacy for our heirs
I refer to these as “bets” because each has a cost, each has a payoff, and each payoff is uncertain.

I use my strategic retirement plan to guide my bets in much the same way Phyllis uses her strategy to place roulette bets. That plan identifies my strategic objectives – the long-term financial retirement goals I’m trying to achieve. I now need to identify the best tactical moves I can make in the present round (this year) to further those long-term objectives. For example, I have a strategic goal to not outlive my savings so perhaps a good tactic for the current round is to not claim my Social Security benefits, yet.

First, I bet that I have enough retirement resources to retire this year at age 65.

I decide to wager the pension bet immediately because I am 65 years old and, unlike postponing Social Security benefits, delaying my pension claim has no financial benefit. The payoff for this bet is $1,000 of income monthly for as long as I live.

I have determined that the optimal Social Security claiming strategy for our household is for my wife to claim at age 66 and for me to claim at age 70. Since she is now 66, I will bet her Social Security benefits chip now and save mine for the year I turn 70. Of course, I can decide to bet my chip sooner should I need the money.

The payoff for this bet is some immediate income from my wife’s benefit and maximum lifetime retirement and survivor benefits for both of us should we live longer than an average life expectancy at the claiming age.

I won’t bet the home equity chips right away in case I need those for an emergency later in retirement.

My strategic retirement plan calls for a floor-and-upside retirement strategy so I will add a small pension bet to my wife’s Social Security benefits to create the floor. I move chips from my financial capital pile to the pension bet.

After calculating the income from my floor bet, I decide that I will need to spend 3% of my remaining portfolio balance on expenses for the coming year. I move that amount of chips to the spending bet on the table.

I count the number of chips left in my financial assets pile and decide on an asset allocation. I move 5% of the chips remaining in that pile to the cash bet on the roulette table, 35% to the bonds bet, and 60% to the stocks bet. All of my chips are now on the table on eight different bets and they look something like this:

I am actually making 12 bets, not eight, because not buying Long-term Care Insurance (LTCi), for example, is also a bet. It’s a bet that I won’t need the insurance in the coming year and that I will have both the resources and the health to enable me to make that bet a year from now should I so decide.

I win this “non-bet” when I don’t need to claim LTCi in the coming year and the payoff is a year of typically substantial premiums. I lose this non-bet when I do need to make a claim but don’t have insurance or when my health deteriorates to the point that I can’t qualify for the insurance in the future. I would lose a purchase bet if the insurer raises my future premiums so much that I am forced to let the policy lapse before I need it. And, of course, I lose the bet if delaying the purchase results in significantly higher premiums when I eventually do buy. Retirement bets can be very complicated and understanding them in their entirety is critical.

In Retirement Roulette, we bet all of our chips every year and we make every bet even if the bet is that we should wager nothing on it.

I “spin the wheel” and nature takes its turn. A year later the results are in.

The payoff on my stock bet will be about 8% with a standard deviation of about 12%, meaning that about two-thirds of annual returns will fall between a 4% loss and a 20% gain. The payoff on my bonds bet will be about 3% with a standard deviation of about 3%. My cash bet will return about the rate of inflation, or about zero in real dollars.

My pension bet will pay off $12,000 and my wife’s Social Security benefit will pay off about $20,000. My cash will increase by about the rate of inflation but decrease by about the 3% I planned to spend. Of course, expenses are unpredictable and I may actually spend more or less. The “payoff” for the spending bet will be about a 3% loss.

My life expectancy and that of my wife have decreased by a little less than one year. (Life expectancy is a key factor in many retirement decisions.)

And so ends round one.

To prepare for round two I must evaluate the results of all my bets, changes in my life expectancy and my wife’s, changes in our health, our expectations for the financial markets going forward, and other critical factors to decide which if any of my bets I should change for the coming round.

How will I bet in future rounds? I won’t know for certain until I see how retirement unfolds between now and then, but my plan is to play my Social Security chip when I reach 70. My spending next year might go up or down a little depending on this year’s market returns. I may move some chips from the stocks bet to the bonds bet after a really good run for stocks, or vice versa after a poor run, but only if the percentages get seriously out of whack. Most years I will tweak my bets just a little and spin again.

The game will continue as long as one of us survives. Unlike roulette, our game doesn’t end if we deplete our bankroll, though our lifestyle is likely to be severely curtailed in that event.

The important perspectives of the roulette analogy are:
• Like roulette, retirement funding has a very large element of uncertainty. This includes the length of our careers, how long we will live, market returns, interest rates, annuity payouts, inflation, discretionary spending and spending shocks, which is to say all of the critical factors are uncertain. Even households who generate retirement income completely with “risk-free” assets will be exposed to expense risk.
• Like roulette, retirement funding is a series of “rounds”(typically years) during which the retiree makes a series of decisions (bets) and the universe responds. These first two characteristics define what game theorists refer to as a sequential stochastic game against nature.5
• Retirement ends with death; roulette ends when the gambler decides to walk away or is ruined. Retirees can’t walk away but they can lose their standard of living.
• Unlike roulette, a retiree plays all her wealth every round. Some bets, like cash, will have very little risk. Bets we don’t make are as important as those we do.
• A “round” typically involves multiple bets that are separate, yet the ultimate result of the round is the sum of the bets won less the sum of the bets lost.
• Critical factors can change from one round to the next and these must be considered when placing next year’s bets. Retirement funding is dynamic, not set-and-forget.

Here’s the source article link: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4063573-retirement-roulette

 

“…the Nature of Capitalism”

My Comments: There are changes afoot, and 45 and his cronies seem to have few clues. Or, more likely, they don’t give a damn.

The disparity between those at the top of the economic food chain and the rest of us not at the top, is called ‘income inequality’. The different approach taken by the two primary political parties, assuming there is a motivation to govern, is that ‘income inequality’ results from laziness and social giveaways, while the other party argues there are pressures whose origins are beyond the capacity for anyone to influence.

The disparities show up now as anemic job growth numbers across the nation, to the rise in disaffected people who show up at Trump rallies, to the tension in so many communities between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to be protecting, to the tension between rural and urban populations, and on and on and on.

There are huge implication for people with years of retirement left to navigate. This is a good read and very thought provoking.

by Oscar Williams-Grut | November 5, 2016

Lord Adair Turner, the former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe and ex-head of the Britain’s financial watchdog, is “increasingly worried” that advances in technology are undermining capitalism and stopping the global economy recovering from its “post-crisis malaise.”

In an interview with Business Insider, Lord Turner said: “We have an economic malaise where the capitalism system is not delivering as well or to enough people to maintain its legitimacy.

“There’s a certain sort of equality of citizenship that requires that everybody does OK. I think that may breakdown. I think it may breakdown because of the fundamental nature of technology. You have to be aware that the way that capitalism works will vary depending on the different stages of technology that we’re in.”

‘Huge returns for them and relatively low and precarious returns for an increasing percentage’

Lord Turner ran the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the mid-1990s, before becoming vice chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe from 2000 to 2006. He then served as head of the UK’s former financial watchdog the Financial Service Authority from 2008 to 2013, taking the jobs on the eve of the global financial crisis sparked by the US mortgage security bubble.

Lord Turner is now chairman of George Soros’ economic think thank the Institute for New Economic Thinking and this year authored “Between Debt and the Devil” on the global financial crisis. (There are those on the right who claim George Soros, despite his billions, it really a communist, interested in destroying capitalism – TK)

He told Business Insider that businesses like Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb are focusing huge amounts of wealth in the hands of relatively few people and generating fewer jobs than previous technological breakthroughs. This is undermining the fundamental promise of capitalism that advances in technology and the wider economy will bring some benefit to everyone.

He said: “Look at Facebook — it now has a market cap of about $370 billion. It only employs 14,000 people and it had to do very little investment in order to get there. The reason is this technology has this extraordinary feature that once you develop one copy of software, the next billion copies don’t cost you anything.

“There’s zero marginal cost of replication. That is just completely different from the world of electromechanical machinery. Once Henry Ford had built one factory, if he wanted another he’d have to build it all over again. He had to put in lots of millions of stock.”

Technological innovations, such as industrialisation, have traditionally generated more jobs than they destroyed. But research by Citi and Oxford University earlier this year found a “downward trend in new job creation” from the 1980s onwards, with technology generated fewer, lower-skilled jobs than past revolutions.

The World Economic Forum has already forecast that 5 million jobs could be eradicated by technology by 2020 and 57% of all jobs across the OECD are at risk of automation, according to research by Citi and Oxford University.

Lord Turner says: “The problem is this: I think we probably are on the verge of a wave of automation and robotisation and the application of big data etc., which will tend to create an economy of huge returns for the people clever enough to create the software, do the big of data analytics, create the computer game, create the new business model or the data system that sits at the centre of Airbnb or Uber.

‘One of the things is it does seem to be driving inequality’

Multi-billion dollar tech platforms like Airbnb and Uber pitch themselves as part of the “gig economy,” which they say helps people earn extra money through either flexible work or renting out their assets.

But British economist Guy Standing argues that most of the people who work on these types of platforms are part of what he terms the “precariat” — low-paid workers with precarious job security. He claims these types of platforms that connect workers with employers are part of a wider trend of low-paid agency work.

Tech platforms’ role in society has been in focus recently, with a British employment tribunal ruling that Uber drivers were in fact staff rather than freelancers on the platform. As a result, they are legally be entitled to things like holiday pay and sick pay.

Lord Turner says: “I think we’re just at the beginnings of understanding what deep things this [technological change] does. One of the things is it does seems to driving of inequality. This information and communication technology enables huge wealth creation with very little investment for some categories of people in the economy and creates jobs that are very low pay for others.”

Lord Turner thinks this tech-driven inequality has contributed to the popular resentment for elites and mainstream politics that drove the Brexit vote and support from Donald Trump in the US elections.

He says: “I think we may be at a turning point in the nature of capitalism. Our assumption for the last 200 years has been that although there are ups and downs year by year, broadly speaking decade-by-decade capitalism delivers an increase in GDP per capita and although it’s not an equal system, some people do better than others, on average over a couple of decades everybody does OK.”

‘I am increasingly convinced and worried there are more fundamental forces at work’

Lord Turner suggested that a solution the tech-driven equality could be a universal basic income — a flat wage paid to all citizens that is enough for them to live on. Experiments with this are being carried out in Holland and Kenya.

An alternative could be that the government ensures people are paid a “living wage” for essential human roles such as health and social care, Lord Turner says.

He told BI: “There are many jobs that we need to do in our society, care etc., that you can’t automate and you wouldn’t want to automate. They need to be done but it may be that if you leave those entirely to the private sector or the state in trying to buy them, using competitive bidding processes to continually drive the price down, those things where we do need people to do the job will be at rates so low that it doesn’t give people enough income and dignity.

“Does that mean that we just have to accept that the state has to say through the social care system and health care system it’s going to employ people and pay people at a rate which it considers reasonable — a living wage or whatever — rather than at the lowest rate at which it can put it out to competitive bidding?”

But Lord Turner added: “I think it’s a fundamental social issue that we will increasingly have to debate and I think we don’t really know what the policy levers there are.”
Lord Turner believes that finding a solution to the problems presented by the new tech economy are essential not just to repairing global trust in capitalism but also in repairing the global economy itself.

Lord Turner argued in his book, “Between the Debt and the Devil”, that the global economy’s painfully slow recovery from the 2008 crisis has been caused by the huge debt overhang created by a half century of loose credit conditions in the run up to the crash.

But he told BI: “Whereas soon are 2008 I felt our problem was fundamentally just an enormous debt overhang generated by an out of control credit boom, I am increasingly convinced and increasingly worried that there are some more fundamental forces at work which is why it’s taking so long to get out of, and why we’re still not out of, this post-crisis malaise.”

Demographics and Money

My Comments: If you are in pretty good health today, chances are you’re going to live into your 90’s. Which begs the next question: “How are you going to pay for food, shelter, medical care, etc.”?

This is a global conundrum, brought about by medical advances and a reluctance on the part of people like me to simply roll over and die.

If you are starting the transition to what we euphemistically call ‘retirement’, you had better pay attention. There are existential risks out there which will determine if the last ten years of our lives will be ‘good’ years or ‘not so good.

My message here is for you to ignore those risks over which we have no control and spend your time and effort on mitigating the risks over which you do have some control.

Demographics Will Be The Biggest Driver Of Financial Markets Going Forward By Stephen McBride, May 25, 2017

Demographics are destiny, and unfortunately for Western economics, destiny isn’t on their side.

Speaking at the Mauldin Economics’ Strategic Investment Conference in Orlando, founders of Real Vision TV Raoul Pal and Grant Williams dissected the profound demographic changes now taking place and how investors should position their portfolios for those changes.

Most of the population growth in the past half-century has come from Middle-Eastern and Asian regions. In contrast, population growth in Western democracies has been in sharp decline.

What Are the Implications of Aging Populations for the West?

As people near retirement, they become more conservative in their spending. With consumption accounting for 70% of the US economy, this acts as a huge headwind to economic growth.

In fact, adverse demographics are a key reason why this recovery has been the slowest one on record in the post-war period.

Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse…

This year, the first Baby Boomers turn 70, and that’s significant for financial markets.

Due to the mandatory minimum drawdown laws for retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s, when you turn 70 ½, you are forced to withdraw at least 5% of the value of the plan each year.

This forced selling will flood the market with billions worth of equities and bonds, which will push down prices.

Another reason Raoul and Grant believe adverse demographics spell trouble for the West is that historically, debt levels have tracked median age.

In fact, for over four decades, the labor force participation rate has been highly correlated to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

With over 3.5 million Baby Boomers turning 65 each year for a dozen years, Raoul and Grant believe economic growth will continue to be sluggish and debt levels will rise.

So, with demographics weighing down on the US, where should investors deploy capital based on these powerful trends?

India’s Potential

With an exploding population now accounting for over 17% of the global total, both Raoul and Grant are bullish on India.

To conclude, Raoul named his three top trades going forward: “Longer term, I think US Treasuries and Iran are a great play. Shorter term, I think being short oil could prove profitable.”

Social Security Rules

My Comments: For millions of us, Social Security is critical for keeping our heads above water. If you are just now entering the transition to retirement, what you read here is basic information you need to be aware of.

Wendy Connick / May 12, 2017

Calculating your Social Security benefits can get…complicated. It’s not just a matter of looking at the number on your Social Security statement and figuring that’s how much you’ll get. A number of different rules will have an impact on determining your final, actual benefit check, so it’s important to understand these rules and how they may affect your benefits.

Rule No. 1: Your base benefits are determined by your 35 highest-income years

When calculating your benefits, the Social Security Administration only looks at your 35 highest-income years. If you worked more than 35 years, the rest of your work history (and the money you paid into Social Security) simply doesn’t count toward your benefits calculation.

Rule No. 2: Social Security retirement benefits come in three flavors

Setting aside disability benefits, there are three kinds of Social Security benefits paid out during retirement: basic retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and survivor benefits. Retirement benefits are based on your earnings; spousal benefits are based on your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s earnings; and survivor benefits are based on your deceased spouse’s earnings. Spousal benefits can be up to one-half of your spouse’s full retirement benefits, while survivor benefits can be up to your deceased spouse’s full retirement benefits.

Rule No. 3: You can’t get both spousal and retirement benefits

If you are eligible for spousal benefits and standard retirement benefits based on your own earnings, you can’t get both types of benefits — you can only claim one. If your spouse earned significantly more than you did, this could result in your never actually getting your own retirement benefits.

Rule No. 4: Taking benefits early will cost you forever

If you start taking your Social Security benefits before “full retirement age” (which is typically either age 66 or 67, depending on your birth date), then your monthly benefit amount will be permanently reduced. Start taking benefits at age 62, the earliest possible start date, and your benefits will be reduced by as much as 30% for the rest of your life.

Rule No. 5: Claiming your benefits late results in larger monthly checks

If you wait until after full retirement age to claim your Social Security benefits, your monthly benefit check will increase by 8% for every year you wait. However, these credits stop accruing once you hit age 70 — meaning that it doesn’t make sense to wait longer than that to claim your benefits.

Rule No. 6: Working while receiving Social Security benefits may reduce your benefit checks

If you earn more than $16,920 per year (in 2017) while also receiving Social Security benefits and are under full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced by one dollar for every two dollars that you earn above this base amount. Once you’re above full retirement age, your earnings will no longer limit your benefits. What’s more, the Social Security Administration will credit you for the benefits you didn’t receive in previous years due to earning extra money, and will add that amount to your future benefits.

Rule No. 7: Social Security benefits are capped

For 2017, if you claim your Social Security benefits at full retirement age, the most you can get is $2,687 per month. You’ll get the maximum if your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings during your 35 highest income years was at least $8,843 (indexed means that your earnings are weighted to account for inflation). If you wait until age 70 to claim your Social Security benefits, then the most you can get in 2017 is $3,538 a month. The average Social Security benefit for 2017 is $1,360 per month.

Rule No. 8: Your Social Security benefits may be taxed

If one half of your Social Security benefit plus your other taxable income for the year plus nontaxable interest is equal to or greater than $32,000 (for married filing jointly) or $25,000 (for unmarried taxpayers) then your Social Security benefits will be partially taxable. Just how much of your Social Security benefits will be taxed depends on how much taxable income you have for the year. Nontaxable income, such as distributions from a Roth account, doesn’t count toward this threshold.

Putting it all together

It’s best to get familiar with the Social Security rules well before you’re ready to retire. If you wait until you want to start claiming benefits, you may miss some important opportunities to bump up your benefits. Still, it’s better to learn these rules late than to never learn them at all.