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Electing Early Social Security Retirement Benefits

Definition
You can elect to receive Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 instead of waiting until normal retirement age.

Prerequisites
You want to optimize your Social Security retirement income, and:

  • You are at least age 62
  • You are fully insured for retirement benefits
  • You have applied for early retirement benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration

Key Strengths

  • You will receive more benefit checks, making your lifetime benefit potentially greater than if you wait to receive benefits until normal retirement age. See Tradeoffs.
  • You can invest some or all of your Social Security benefit

Key Tradeoffs

  • Your retirement benefit is permanently reduced
  • You will have less chance to increase your average indexed monthly earnings
  • You may outlive the financial value of receiving early retirement benefits
  • Your surviving spouse's benefit may be permanently reduced
  • Your total family benefit may be especially limited if both the early retirement reduction and the family maximum apply

Variations from State to State

  • None

How Difficult Is It to Implement?

  • For information on how electing early retirement benefits will affect you, you can order a Social Security Statementfrom the Social Security Administration.
  • To apply for early benefits, contact the Social Security Administration two or three months before your 62nd birthday (or the date you want to begin receiving benefits, if later). Visit a local office or call (800) 772-1213.
  • For investment options or retirement planning advice, contact a financial professional.


This article was provided by Forefield and distributed by Lawrence Sprung.

Happy Holidays!!!

To everyone,

Whatever holiday you celebrate I hope you enjoy your holiday season. We at Mitlin Financial would like to also wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2010!!

We will be back Monday, January 4, 2010 with a new posting. Till then enjoy this time with your family and friends!!

Regards,

Mitlin Financial, Inc.

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009

On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (the "Act"). The Act provides up to an additional 14 weeks in benefits to unemployed individuals. An extra 6 weeks of benefits is available to individuals in states with unemployment levels over 8.5 percent. The legislation also includes the following provisions:

First-time homebuyer credit

The Act extends and modifies the first-time homebuyer tax credit. Specifically, the Act:
Extends the first-time homebuyer credit to principal residences purchased before May 1, 2010. The credit is extended to principal residences purchased before July 1, 2010 if a written binding contract is entered into prior to May 1, 2010.

Increases the income limits that apply to the credit. For the purchase of a principal residence after November 6, 2009 the credit is reduced if modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds $125,000 ($225,000 if married filing a joint return) and is completely eliminated if MAGI reaches $145,000 ($245,000 if married filing a joint return).

Establishes a new limitation: effective for purchases made after November 6, 2009, the first-time homebuyer credit is not available if the purchase price of a principal residence exceeds $800,000.

Expands eligibility (purchases made after November 6, 2009) by allowing some existing homeowners to qualify for the credit when they purchase a new principal residence. Specifically, an individual (and, if married, the individual's spouse) who has maintained the same principal residence for at least five consecutive years in the eight-year period ending on the date that a subsequent principal residence is purchased, will be considered a first-time homebuyer for purposes of the credit. In such a case, the maximum amount of the credit is $6,500 ($3,250 for a married individual filing separately).

For purposes of the credit, in the case of a purchase of a principal residence after December 31, 2008, a taxpayer may elect to treat the purchase as if it were made on December 31 of the calendar year preceding the purchase for purposes of claiming the credit on the prior year's tax return. This means qualifying purchases in 2009 can be treated as if they were made on December 31, 2008, and qualifying purchases in 2010 can be treated as if they were made on December 31, 2009.

The Act also imposes additional new limitations on purchases made after November 6, 2009:

No credit is allowed unless the taxpayer is 18 years of age as of the date of purchase. A taxpayer who is married is treated as meeting the age requirement if the taxpayer or the taxpayer's spouse meets the age requirement.

The definition of purchase excludes property acquired from a person related to the person acquiring such property or the spouse of the person acquiring the property, if married.

No credit is allowed to any taxpayer if the taxpayer is a dependent of another taxpayer.

For tax years ending after November 6, 2009, no credit is allowed unless the taxpayer attaches to the relevant tax return a properly executed copy of the settlement statement used to complete the purchase.

The Act also includes special provisions for members of the uniformed services and others who receive government orders for qualified official extended duty service. These provisions include extended time to claim the credit.

Five-year carryback of net operating losses

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allowed eligible small businesses to elect to extend the general two-year net operating loss (NOL) carryback period for 2008 net operating losses to three, four, or five years. An eligible small business was defined as a taxpayer meeting a maximum $15,000,000 gross receipts test. The provision applied to an eligible taxpayer's NOL for any taxable year ending in 2008, or if elected by the taxpayer, the NOL for any taxable year beginning in 2008. However, the election was allowed only with respect to one taxable year.

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 provides for an election similar in nature to the NOL carryback provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

Businesses may elect to extend the general two-year NOL carryback period to three, four, or five years.

The election is not limited to businesses that meet a specified gross receipts test.

The election can be used for an NOL for a taxable year beginning or ending in either 2008 or 2009. The election can be used for only one year, however.

Under the terms of the election, NOLs carried back five years would be able to offset up to 50 percent of the taxable income from the fifth year, but could offset all of the income from the other carryback years.

Eligible small businesses that elected to carry back 2008 net operating losses under the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 can still elect to carry back a 2009 NOL under the provisions of this Act.

The Act specifically excludes certain taxpayers. For example, a business in which the Federal government acquired an equity interest pursuant to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 is not eligible for the election.

Health-Care Reform

Confused by the ongoing health-care reform debate? If so, you're not alone. With multiple bills and proposals in play, it's often hard to get a grasp on even the most basic elements of the discussion. While the outcome of the debate is uncertain, here are some of the major issues that are being discussed.

Universal vs. mandatory coverage

One of the main goals of health-care reform is to make affordable health coverage available to all Americans. To help provide coverage to individuals and families who can't afford it, most of the proposals provide assistance in various forms, including new tax credits, an expansion of eligibility for Medicaid, and insurance premium subsidies.

In fact, most of the major proposals currently being discussed actually require individuals to obtain health-care coverage (i.e., "mandatory" coverage). Under these proposals, individuals who refuse to get coverage would pay a financial penalty. Similarly, employers would be required to offer health-care coverage or pay a fine.

The "public option"

One of the most significant areas of debate centers on the so-called "public option." The term "public option" generally refers to the establishment of a government-run health-care plan that would compete with private insurers and provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. There has also been some discussion of establishing health-care cooperatives (nonprofit organizations that would be completely independent of the federal government) as an alternative to a government-run health-care plan.

Paying for reform

The costs associated with most of the health-care reform proposals being discussed are significant. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation currently being considered in the House would cost more than $1 trillion over ten years, with a corresponding increase to the federal deficit over that period of time exceeding $200 billion. To help pay for health-care reform, reductions in Medicare spending are built into the House bill. Other proposals to raise revenue include raising taxes on high-income families, and taxing high-end health plans.

In his address to Congress on September 9, 2009, President Obama proposed a health-care reform plan he estimated would cost $900 billion over ten years, and pledged that he would not sign legislation that increased the deficit. The President described a plan in which savings within the current health-care system paid for most of the cost, with at least a portion of any shortfall paid by charging insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies.

An evolving landscape

There are, of course, many specific provisions being discussed that we haven't mentioned here, and not all of them are controversial. For example, any health-care reform legislation is likely to tackle some of the current issues relating to pre-existing conditions. The entire discussion is evolving very quickly, however, with new proposals and ideas coming into play daily. The legislation that emerges will affect all of us in one way or another, so it's important to stay informed.
 
This article was provided by Forefield and distributed by Lawrence Sprung.

College Board Releases New College Cost Numbers

College cost trends

Every October, the College Board releases its Trends in College Pricing report that highlights college cost increases and trends. While costs can vary significantly by region and individual college, the College Board publishes average cost figures, which are based on its survey of 3,500 colleges across the country.

Here are highlights from its latest report:

  • At four-year public colleges for in-state students, tuition, fees, and room and board increased by 5.9% from last year, with the total cost for 2009/2010 averaging $19,388
  • At four-year public colleges for out-of-state students, tuition, fees, and room and board increased by 6.0% from last year, with the total cost for 2009/2010 averaging $30,196
  • At four-year private colleges, tuition, fees, and room and board increased by 4.3% from last year, with the total cost for 2009/2010 averaging $39,028

“Total average cost” includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and a small amount for miscellaneous expenses.

To read the Trends in College Pricing report, visit www.trends-collegeboard.com.

Student aid trends

The College Board is quick to point out that the average "sticker price" cost figure is not necessarily representative of what most students pay. That's because almost two-thirds of undergraduate students receive grants that reduce the actual price of college. The largest provider of grant aid is individual colleges, followed by the federal government, private sources and employers, and state governments.

For the 2009/2010 year, the College Board estimates that students at public colleges will receive an average of $5,400 in grant aid from all sources and federal tax benefits, and students at private colleges will receive an average of $14,400 in grant aid from all sources and federal tax benefits. Federal tax benefits include the American Opportunity tax credit (formerly called the Hope credit), the Lifetime Learning tax credit, and the deduction for qualified higher education expenses.

Every year, the College Board also releases a sister report to Trends in College Pricing, called Trends in Student Aid, that examines student financial aid in more detail. To read this report, visit www.trends-collegeboard.com.


This article was provided by Forefield and distributed by Lawrence Sprung.

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