Wednesday, February 25, 2009
American Council on Life Insurance
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004-2599
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
444 North Capitol Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
National Association of People with AIDS
1413 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
National Viatical Association
1200 G Street, N.W., Suite 760
Washington, DC 20005
For more information, you can also contact your state insurance commissioner or state attorney general. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has state-by-state contact information for insurance commissioners here.
For America Saves Week, WISER has new resources for women who are going through a divorce or who have been widowed. WISER’s guide, “Divorce and Retirement: Take Control of the Retirement Benefits,” helps women navigate the complicated world of dividing retirement benefits at divorce, while “WISER’s Report on Widowhood” offers financial tips for widows of all ages.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
For those who did not initially elect COBRA coverage, the legislation also provides an additional 60 day election period.
Q:Why would I sell my life insurance?
A: A viatical can provide needed money if you are terminally or chronically ill and in a difficult financial situation.
Q: Who is involved?
A: You, as a terminally or chronically ill person sell your life insurance policy to an investor in return for a lump-sum payment. The investor then takes over payments on the policy and is the beneficiary of the policy upon your death. Usually, a viatical broker arranges the agreement between you, the seller of the policy, and the buyer using a viatical purchase agreement. The broker is paid a commission.
Q: What should I find out?
A: If you are considering a viatical, it is important to ask some questions and learn about all the options on your life insurance policy before you make your decision.
Here are some questions to ask and people to check with before you decide on a viatical:
- Do you have any cash value in your life insurance policy? If so, you may be able to use some of the cash value to meet your immediate needs and still keep your policy in force for your beneficiaries without having to sell it to a third party.
- Does your life insurance carrier offer accelerated death benefits? Those benefits could pay you a substantial portion of your policy’s death benefit and you wouldn’t have to sell your policy to a third party.
- Will your receipt of cash from a viatical agreement be taxed? Check with your financial or tax advisor.
- Will you lose any public assistance or social service benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid if you receive a cash settlement?
- Will buyers of your policy be able to learn your identity and will they know certain medical and personal information about you, such as your address and life expectancy?
Before you make any major decisions, you may also want to consult your own financial advisor or attorney. Shop around. Talk with several companies and/or brokers to find the best arrangement. Don't fall for high pressure tactics. You don't have to accept an offer, and you can change your mind. Check with your state insurance department to verify the company or broker you are considering is licensed. Check with your state attorney general’s office for complaints against the company.
Tomorrow: Find Out More: Viaticals Resource Guide
Monday, February 23, 2009
-On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This new legislation provides a one-time payment of $250 to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries. Over 60 million beneficiaries will receive a one-time payment. Social Security expect all payments to be delivered by late May 2009. To assist Social Security in issuing these payments as quickly as possible, beneficiaries should not contact Social Security unless they do not receive their payment by June 4th.
-A new law may make it easier for some Americans to allow their retirement funds to recoup losses. That’s because mandatory withdrawals from certain retirement accounts have been waived for tax year 2009. Usually, anyone age 70 1/2 or older is required to withdraw funds from their retirement plans each year, even if the money isn’t needed. These plans include 401(k)s, 403(b)s, some 457(b)s as well as IRAs and IRA-based plans such as Simple IRAs and SEPs.
However, The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 waives the requirement to withdraw funds in 2009. To learn more, visit www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-09.pdf.
-For people who want to save, Social Security offers online planning tools such as the Retirement Estimator. The Estimator allows people to try out different retirement scenarios. Just plug in some quick information and you’ll get estimates of your future benefits based on your personal earnings record. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In The Observer’s
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"Divorce is complicated enough without having to worry about retirement benefits," says Cindy Hounsell, President of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement. "Our goal is to arm women against their biggest enemy, and it's not the husband -- it's a lack of information."
Written by WISER staff, including D.C.-based divorce attorney and expert Anne E. Moss, Divorce and Retirement claims that what you don't know -- and don't ask about -- can and will hurt you in a divorce. WISER urges readers to get as much information as possible prior to the divorce because "it's nearly impossible to go back to court and ask about a share of your ex-husband's benefit that you learn about after the fact."
The booklet includes Moss's "10 Ways to Avoid Losing the Pension During a Divorce," -- a harsh wakeup call to anyone who currently trusts her lawyer completely. As Moss says, "Ask your lawyer these questions!"
Hounsell agrees. "Knowing what to ask your lawyer can save you from additional heartache during a divorce," she says. "Trust no one -- and never assume that your attorney is an expert on the many federal and state laws in place for splitting retirement benefits."
Because pension and retirement benefits are not automatically split in a divorce, they are often overlooked, and women especially can end up losing big. Divorce and Retirement reiterates the importance of these benefits and breaks down the legal jargon that usually accompanies information on marital property, negotiating an agreement, and getting a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). WISER also points readers to additional resources, such as AoA-funded Pension Rights Projects across the country, and fact sheets that go into further detail.
"This booklet is not about getting more than your share, or getting back at your former spouse," says Hounsell. "It's about money -- your money -- and how to make sure an innocent oversight (or not-so-innocent) doesn't prevent you from receiving extra help when you'll probably need it most -- in retirement."
Divorce and Retirement is available for free online at www.wiserwomen.org, or in hard copy for $4. Contact WISER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-393-5452 for more information.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Usually, anyone age 70 1/2 or older is required to withdraw funds from their retirement plans each year, even if the money isn’t needed. These plans include 401(k)s, 403(b)s, some 457(b)s as well as IRAs and IRA-based plans such as Simple IRAs and SEPs. However, The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 waives the requirement to withdraw funds in 2009. To learn more, visit www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-09.pdf.
[Government Gives Retirement Funds Room to Recover] IRS.gov
Friday, February 6, 2009
- Possess a valid Social Security number.
- Meet certain residency and filing criteria, including following guidelines for a qualifying child.
- Have an investment income that's no more thatn $2,950.
- Have a total earned income of at least $1 and and an earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) that's less than:
- $12,880 with no qualifying child ($15,880 if married, filing jointly)
- $33,995 with one qualifying child ($36,995 if married, filing jointly)
- $38,646 with more than one qualifying child ($41,646 if married, filing jointly)
If you meet the criteria above, you may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable credit for low and moderate-income taxpayers. If you qualify, you could pay less federal income tax, pay no tax or receive a refund. To find out if you're eligible for an EITC this year, visit the IRS website and use their eligibility tool. If you know you're eligible, find out how much your EITC will be for 2008.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and allow it to fulfill its promise that women would receive equal pay for equal work, a promise that has remained unfulfilled now for forty five years. The EPA narrowed the wage gap, which previously had women earning 59 cents to a man's dollar, but so far it still has not been able to close it. Women now make 78 cents to a mans dollar, an negligible increase from 2006 when women made 77 cents. The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who share salary information. This information is often key to uncovering instances of pay discrimination. The bill would also ensure that if there are pay-disparities, they are based on legitimate work-related reasons rather than gender. Essentially, it would close the loopholes that riddled the EPA and create systems and tools that would offer women legal protection from pay discrimination.
We will continue providing you with updates on the Paycheck Fairness Act. For more information, check out these resources:
- How the Paycheck Fairness Act Will Strengthen the Equal Pay Act from the National Women's Law Center
- The Paycheck Fairness Act, H.R. 1338, is Essential to Combating Pay Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace from the National Partnership for Women & Families
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Learn about the Savers's Tax Credit: The Saver's Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit for contributions to qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s, IRAs and others. This credit is for low and middle income taxpayers and provides a credit between 10% and 50% of your retirement plan contribution each year, up to $2,000.00. Think you might qualify? Find out more by dowloading WISER's new fact sheet "The Saver's Tax Credit."
Consider a $50 a month – or more – automatic deduction from your paycheck or checking account to invest in a mutual fund or to buy U.S. Savings Bonds: The sooner you start the better! Investing early pays off because the interest compounds for more years.
Find out if you qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Locate the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance office near you for free in-person tax help by contacting the IRS at: 800-829-1040 or visiting www.irs.gov.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Still looking for more resources on Social Security? Check out the Social Security section of the WISER website for more information.