April is Financial Literacy Month

April 6, 2012

April is National Financial Literacy Month! @NatlJumpStart http://www.jumpstart.org/


Three Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Finances

April 4, 2012

Spring is traditionally the time to clean up the old and get ready for the new. Why should your finances be any different? Now is the perfect time to spring clean your retirement plans.
Check the beneficiaries on your existing IRAs, 401k and 403B accounts
Assets held in these types of accounts (Roth IRAs too!) will pass outside of your will. This means that  your retirement assets will pass to the beneficiaries that you named when you opened your account. So, make sure that the beneficiaries that you named are still those that you want to pass your retirement assets to.  –You would be amazed at how many ex-spouses are the beneficiaries of their former spouses 401ks! This oversight leaves the current spouse with no claim to these 401k assets.

Reclaim the 401k or 403b held at a former employer
Many folks have the set it and forget it mentality especially when it comes to their retirement assets held in an account at a former employer. Well, this is probably not the best idea.
Consciously decide what to do with your 401k, 403b, IRA held at a former employer. Do you really need to leave your monies there? Should you move them to your current employer’s 401k? Or should you roll the monies over into an IRA? These questions need to be answered and action taken. If you are not sure what to do, consult with a trusted financial advisor. Research your options and take action. Make time to reclaim your abandoned retirement money!

sweep broom

Review and adjust your portfolio asset allocations

While most of us are content to let ‘things rock along’ and leave our investments untouched for years, your retirement portfolio should be analyzed and rebalanced annually. Make sure that you have an asset allocation plan and stick to it.  
In keeping with your plan for asset allocation, sell both assets that have gone up and holdings that no longer serve you. Then, buy more of the assets that have gone down in value. It’s the perfect way to execute your ‘buy low, sell high’ strategy.

Springtime is the perfect season to ‘till the asset allocation soil’ and prepare your portfolio for future growth, check your beneficiary designations and reclaim those 401ks that you have left as orphan investments .

If you need help with your asset allocation or reclaiming your abandoned retirement accounts, just give me a call at 770-333-0113 option 1 x110.

Jane Nowak  is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst ™ at Kring Financial Management in Atlanta, GA.  Jane is a Retirement Specialist and Divorce Financial Analyst who provides financial planning for clients in their prime.

 She has recently had articles published or has been quoted in articles that have appeared online at theNASDAQ, Yahoo Finance, Womenetics.com, Smart Money Chicks, Fox Business News, CreditCards.com, U.S. News &World Report, Financial Planning Association (FPA) and Equifax Personal Finance blog web sites.   

Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC
      NASDAQ              CreditCards.com 

Just Scratching the Surface -Divorce and Social Security

October 11, 2011

For those of you who are divorced, you may have some Social Security eligibility options that you don’t even know about. Everyone’s case is different. But, in this article, I have touched on some of the most general eligibility rules for those of you who are divorced.

Please read the footnotes too. There are lots of potential disqualifying events. 

Can I claim Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s earnings? 

In many cases, if all 5 requirements below are met, a divorced party can qualify as a dependent for Social Security purposes. As a dependent, you may be entitled to 50 percent[1] of your former spouse’s benefits. 

So,  if your former spouse has reached full retirement age and he/she is still alive, to qualify for one-half of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits, all of the following conditions must be met: 

  1. Your ex-spouse is now entitled to receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  2. You and your ex-spouse had been married for at least 10 years before the divorce became final
  3. You are not currently married
  4. You are age 62 [2]or older
  5. You aren’t entitled to collect a retirement or disability benefit based on a PIA[3] that equals (or exceeds) one-half of your ex-spouse’s PIA 

Example: Assume John has retired and collects $1000 per month in Social Security benefits. If he was married to Jean for at least 10 years before he divorces her, Jean can collect $500/month (one-half of John’s benefit) when she reaches age 65. Note that Jean will have the option to take the Social Security benefits she earned in her own name. Of course, she’ll choose the higher figure. 

What if one or both of us has remarried?  

If your ex-spouse gets remarried and you don’t, your Social Security entitlement will be unaffected. If your ex-spouse is married to a second spouse for at least 10 years and then they get a divorce, you and that second spouse will each be entitled to collect an amount equal to one-half of the former spouse’s benefits (assuming that you each meet the requirements set forth above).

If you’re the one who remarries, you would then look to your current spouse’s PIA in computing your dependent Social Security benefit. However, if you worked for a sufficient period of time, you may be entitled to a larger benefit amount computed based on your own earnings record.[4] 

I know that many of you may think that understanding Social Security eligibility is easy. But, if the number of footnotes for this short article is any clue, you’ve already guessed that determining Social Security eligibility is neither easy nor straightforward. There are many qualifying events and specific guidelines that will be used to determine eligibility including: the age of recipients,  the number of  years you were married, number of years you’ve been divorced, if there are children, the ages of the children, if the ‘wage earner’ is alive or deceased etc. 

So, always check directly with the Social Security Administration to see what benefits you may be entitled to. And, take the time to understand the advantages and disadvantages (penalties) of each option that you may have.

 Jane Nowak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ specializing in , Women’s Retirement,  Financial Planning for Women and AT&T Retirement Plans. Located in the Smyrna, Marietta, Vinings area of Atlanta, GA, Jane’s goal is to educate and help her clients to take control of their daily finances so they can fully fund their retirement dreams and needs. Jane has recently been quoted in articles or published  on-line at the: NASDAQ, Yahoo Finance, Womenetics.com, Smart Money Chicks, Fox Business News, CreditCards.com, U.S. News and World Report and Financial Planning Association (FPA) websites. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter as @MoneyGal2020.

 Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC



[1] Note: That this entitlement doesn’t reduce your ex-spouse’s benefits by one-half; rather, this merely establishes the amount of money you may collect. For basic information about the Social Security program and for detailed treatment of Social Security rules, see Social Security.

[2] Note: If you’re age 62 or older and you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can receive Social Security benefits immediately (based on your former spouse’s earnings) regardless of whether that spouse has chosen to retire or has submitted an application for Social Security benefits. This, of course, is assuming that the other four requirements listed above have been satisfied. However, if you choose to receive benefits at age 62 instead of your normal retirement age, the benefit that you would have received at your normal retirement age will be reduced by at least 25 percent (assuming you don’t have a dependent child who’s entitled to benefits on the deceased spouse’s Social Security record). In other words, if you choose to receive reduced benefits at age 62, you will not be entitled to collect full benefits when you reach your full retirement age.  Jane’s comment: Be aware of the penalty!

[3] The “primary insurance amount” (PIA) is the benefit (before rounding down to next lower whole dollar) a person would receive if he/she elects to begin receiving retirement benefits at his/her normal retirement age. At this age, the benefit is neither reduced for early retirement nor increased for delayed retirement.

[4] Portions of this text were excerpted from material provided by Forfield Advisor

Must Read:Enough with the #Social #Security

October 2, 2011

Must Read:Enough with the #Social #Security scare tactics @BaltimoreSun http://ow.ly/6K8Qh Turning down the noise and swirl RE #SS

Paying for your kids’ college vs. your

September 12, 2011

Paying for your kids’ college vs. your own retirement @USAToday
http://ow.ly/6khq1 NEVER use #401K or #IRA to pay for college for your kids

Social Security – Living With or Without It

September 8, 2011

Is It Time to Just Live With It or Just Live Without It?  

There certainly is a lot of ongoing press about the state of our Social Security System. And, just like that old joke about one’s spouse, I think with a couple of tweaks,  it’s safe to say the same thing about Social Security. “We can’t live with (funding) it, but, we can’t live without it (retirees and near-retirees).’  In this month’s newsletter I’m sharing a brief  history of Social Security System, its funding mandate and my conclusions about one of America’s favorite ‘sacred cows’ -Social Security.

 A Brief History of Social Security
Social Security as we now know it emerged as a part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal  programs of the 1930’s. The post-depression days of the 1930’s were very tough for most Americans. In fact, more that 50% of our ‘older’ population lived in poverty. In order to take care of our older citizens, Social Security was signed into law on  August 14, 1935. Originally enacted as a system that was not meant to be permanent (sound familiar?),  for many retired Americans, Social Security has become their largest source of income. In fact, 48% of Americans currently receiving Social Security benefits would be below the poverty level without their monthly check from Social Security.

Current day Social Security benefits and benefit coverages have evolved a lot over the last 70 years. Initially benefits did not extend equally to all citizens. Many workers were excluded from the system due to race, gender and/or job title. Simply put, benefits did not extend equally to all citizens. 

  • A 1939 change in the law added survivors’ benefits and benefits for the retiree’s spouse and children.
  • By 1950, Social Security laws expanded coverage to all non-government workers, including the self-employed.
  • 1956 saw the expansion of the program to provide monthly cash benefits for disabled workers and their dependents who have paid into the system, and met minimum work requirements.
  • Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 under a Social Security reform law.
  • In 1983 that civilian federal workers—such as the President of the United States and your Congressional Representatives—were eligible for Social Security benefits.
  • 1970’s cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were added to Social Security payments

How was Social Security Supposed to be Funded?
Designed as a pay as you go system, the system was not designed with the idea of creating an individual savings account for each working adult. It is a pool of money held in trust that pays benefits to our retired workers that have met set eligibility requirements. So, although the payment formula allows for payments based upon contribution levels,  we are not necessarily supposed to be getting back the dollar amount that we paid into Social Security. Further, the working public and their employers are supposed to be carrying the tax burden for the country’s qualified Social Security recipients.

With our country wallowing in a tremendous amount of debt, large numbers of unemployed workers, many underemployed workers, an ever more vocal group opposing any tax increases and the looming retirements of the Baby Ka-Boomers, many American citizens are plainly fearful of losing or never receiving their Social Security benefits.
While there aren’t any easy answers, I believe that there definitely are  government solutions for keeping Social Security practical well past 2035. (2035 is the alleged year that naysayers tell us that Social Security is supposed to be out of money.) But, because our government coffers are weighed down by crushing debt, our legislators have clung to their political planks cheering themselves for failing to compromise and our electorate is (understandably)not fond of paying more taxes, some compromises will need to be made (i.e remove the cap for OASDI ‘taxation’ limits, .raise retirement ages, lower benefit payments).
Most importantly, I think that we as a people need to begin to come up with more of our own answers. We should re-assume more of the responsibility for taking care of our elders and ourselves as we age.  Regardless of what we’d like to believe, governments can’t be all things to all people.
After all,  Social Security was initiated in the 30’s because over 50% of ‘older’ Americans were below the poverty level. Now 75 years later, 48% of Social Security recipients would be below the poverty level without their monthly Social Security check. Clearly, we as a people have lived through some of the most prosperous years that our nation has ever experienced. Yet, we have not done better job saving for our financial futures. We have come to rely way too heavily on what was meant to be a ‘temporary solution’. Over the decades, our ‘temporary solution’ has become our very own beloved  and very necessary ‘sacred cow’ known as Social Security.


Jane Nowak  is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ specializes in AT&T Retirement Plans, Women’s Retirement and Financial Planning for Women. Located in the Smyrna, Marietta, Vinings area of Atlanta, GA,  Jane’s goal is to educate and empower her clients to take control of their daily finances so they can fully fund their retirement dreams and needs. Jane has recently been quoted in and had articles published     on-line at the NASDAQ, Yahoo Finance, Womenetics.com, Smart Money Chicks, Fox Business News, CreditCards.com, U.S. News and World Report and Financial Planning Association (FPA) websites.

Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC

Elder Abuse – Financial Style

April 2, 2011

You might be wondering why I’m writing about elder abuse on a financial blog, right? Unfortunately, all types of elder abuse are on the rise in lock step with our aging population -including financial abuse. Regarding abuse of our seniors, in a study done by MetLife in 2009, only 1 in 6 cases of  elder abuse is even reported. And, in dollar terms alone, the estimated losses from reported cases of elder abuse adds up to whopping $2.6 billion per year. So, what  is being reported is just the tip of the iceberg.

From a health care point of view the concerns are multiple. The early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s often go undetected by friends and family members. The number of cases of Alzheimer’s in our population is on the rise. And, these cognitive diseases whether diagnosed or not diagnosed can make our seniors even more vulnerable as targets for emotional, verbal, physical and financial abuse.

Recently actor Mickey Rooney, now 90 years old testified to Congress about the alleged financial abuse that he suffered at the hands of his stepson. Rooney a fixture on the American screen since the 1920’s is quoted as saying “If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.”

When it comes to elder financial abuse, what are some specific things that you should be on the look out for? 

  • Disaster-home repair fraud after a tornado, flood, hurricane etc.
  • Price gouging for goods and services
  • Unscrupulous charities
  • Unusual changes to financial situation
  • Monthly bills going unpaid
  • Changes to wills, trusts or powers of attorney
  • Lottery scams

Frankly, the list is potentially endless. The ‘bad guys’ and their scams are coming after our seniors from all over the world via telephone, U. S. mail, email and the internet. And, sadly, sometimes the ‘bad guys’ come in the form of  trusted care givers and family members.

What can you do?

  • Keep an eye out for your parents, grandparents,elder friends and family members
  • Be aware of changes in their financial, emotional and mental health
  • If cognitive diseases run in your family, plan ahead on how you are going to deal with financial and health care issues that will come up due to dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Be ready to take appropriate action
  • Use the National Elder Care Locator if you need a starting place for available resources www.eldercare.gov 1-800-677-1116
  • In Georgia to learn about available resources contact the Georgia Department of Human Services

About Jane Nowak, CFP® – MoneyGal2020

Jane Nowak  is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with a focus on Women’s Retirement and Financial Planning for Women. Located in Smyrna, GA, Jane’s goal is to educate and empower women to take control of their daily finances so they can fully fund their retirement dreams and needs. Jane has recently had articles quoted and published on-line at the NASDAQ, Womenetics.com, Smart Money Chicks, Fox Business, Credit Cards and Financial Planning Association websites.

Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC

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