Thursday, August 06, 2009

You and Yours Blawg is Moving

Category: Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate and Inheritance Tax, Business Law and Planning, Tax Law and Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Financial Planning, Miscellaneous Musings

You and Yours Blawg is moving its platform over to New Jersey Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog. My thoughts on happenings in the world of Estate Planning and Elder Law can be found there, including tax law happenings.  You and Yours Blawg will stay alive for now with reference to business law issues that relate to entrepreneurs and closely held businesses.  I appreciate you updating your reader and links. Happy reading!
- Deirdre

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Haven't Paid NJ Taxes? Now Might Be the Time

Category: Tax Law and Planning

Courtesy of JH Cohn:

New Jersey Enacts Tax Amnesty Program

"New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has signed a bill creating a 45-day New Jersey state tax amnesty period that will end no later than June 15, 2009. Presumably the program will begin on or about May 1, allowing the New Jersey Division of Taxation some time after the April 15 filing deadline to gear up for the program.

Under the program, taxpayers who pay outstanding state tax liabilities for tax returns due on or after January 1, 2002 and prior to February 1, 2009, plus one-half of interest owed as of May 1, 2009, will not have to pay the other half of the interest owed, nor will they be liable for collections costs or civil or criminal penalties. Taxpayers under criminal investigation for a state tax matter are ineligible for the program. On the other hand, taxpayers involved with civil tax audits are eligible.

Similar to the most recent New Jersey tax amnesty program conducted in 2002, a five percent "amnesty eligible" penalty will be imposed after the amnesty period concludes on any additional taxes found due by a taxpayer that were not paid during the amnesty period for a tax period falling under the amnesty program."

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Lets get Banks Lending - SBA Loan Guarantee Amount to 90%

Category: Business Law and Planning

As reported by NJBIZ, in an effort to get banks lending again, "Starting today, the U.S. Small Business Administration is raising to 90 percent the federal guarantee on most SBA loans and temporarily suspending a fee that is charged to banks, but passed along to borrowers. "

"The 90 percent guarantee will be on loans up to $1.5 million. The portion of the loan above $1.5 million, up to the maximum SBA loan of $1 million, will be subject to a lower guarantee amount. "

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tax Changes in Stimulus Bill that may Impact You

Category:Tax Law and Planning

Well, the behemoth stimulus package has passed - what now?  And how will it affect you?  A summary of the tax law changes in the bill courtesy of
JH Cohn.

Economic Stimulus Bill Contains Numerous Tax Changes

On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinstatement Act of 2009 into law. The legislation commonly referred to as the economic stimulus bill is a close to $800 billion stimulus package that includes nearly $300 billion in tax relief. The major tax provisions are as follows.

Making Work Pay Credit - a tax credit calculated at a rate of 6.2% of earned income up to $400 for individuals and $800 for joint filers applied retroactively to the start of 2009 continuing through 2010. The credit will be claimed either through a reduction in wage withholding or in a lump sum when filing one's tax return. The credit is phased out at a rate of 2% above adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 ($150,000 in the case of joint filers). Employer FICA taxes are not changed.

Economic Recovery Payment - a one-time payment of $250 to Social Security recipients, railroad retirees and disabled veterans (reduces any Making Work Pay credit that the individual is entitled to).

AMT Patch - what has become an annual legislative exercise in recent years; the 2009 AMT exemption amounts have been raised slightly above their 2008 levels to insulate approximately 26 million middle-income taxpayers from the grasp of the AMT.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit - for purchases of a principal residence between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009, the credit has been increased from $7,500 to $8,000 and does not need to be repaid unless the house is sold within three years of the purchase. The credit phase-out remains for taxpayers with AGI in excess of $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers).

New Car Deduction - individuals purchasing new vehicles in 2009 on or after the date of enactment can deduct sales taxes and excise taxes "above-the-line" attributable to the first $49,500 of the purchase price of any one vehicle. This deduction will be phased out once AGI reaches $125,000 ($250,000 for joint filers). Sales taxes paid on a lease agreement are not included.

Unemployment Compensation - in addition to increasing and extending unemployment compensation benefits for various workers, the first $2,400 of unemployment compensation is excluded from income for 2009.

Bonus Depreciation - extended through December 31, 2009 allowing for 50% first-year depreciation.

Sec. 179 Expensing - the increased 2008 limits have been extended to 2009. The maximum Sec. 179 expense will continue at $250,000 and the phase-out will not begin until fixed asset additions exceed $800,000.

Net Operating Loss (NOL) Carryback - this measure was scaled back significantly from earlier proposals. A 2008 NOL can be carried back up to five years (current law permits a two-year carryback) but only for qualified small businesses with average gross receipts of $15 million or less.

Transit Benefits Parity - the current $120 per month income exclusion for transit passes and van pooling is increased to $230 per month starting in March 2009, thus equalizing it with the $230 per month permitted for parking.

Qualified Tuition Programs - for 2009 and 2010 distributions from Sec. 529 plans will be tax-free when used to pay for computers and computer technology, including internet access.

Residential Energy Property Credit - the new law increases the credit from 10% to 30%, raises the maximum cap to a $1,500 aggregate amount for 2009 and 2010 installations, and eliminates the $500 lifetime cap. There are other energy incentives including credits for electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind and for plug-in electric vehicles.

COBRA Benefits - an individual who is involuntarily separated from employment between September 1, 2008 and January 1, 2010 can elect to pay 35 percent of his/her COBRA coverage with the former employer paying the remaining 65 percent. The former employer will receive a credit against income tax withholding and payroll taxes it is otherwise required to remit to the federal government.

To find out how these changes impact you, contact your J.H. Cohn service professional at 877-704-3500.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Prevent Identity Theft

Category: Financial Planning

HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT - Courtesy of Valeria and Carolyn Messina of

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the unlawful use of another person’s identification, and may take many forms. Common methods of identity theft include credit card or other financial institution fraud, phone or utility services theft, and the taking of government documents or benefits.

Unfortunately, every day thieves are finding new ways of using the identities of their victims.

Identity thieves typically get this information from:
Stolen wallets and purses
Stolen mail
Unauthorized access to computers
Telemarketing scams
Sharing of passwords
Fraudulent e-mails
Dumpster diving (searching through your trash can)

How can I keep my identity safe?
Check your credit reports and scores on a regular basis.
Shred any documents and mail that contain your Social Security Number (SSN), account numbers and other personal information.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Memorize your SSN.
Check financial statements and bills as soon as they arrive. Report any unauthorized transactions to the companies immediately.
Lock your mailbox. Deposit outgoing mail containing checks in a postal box—don’t leave it sitting in your unlocked mailbox or apartment lobby.
At home, secure sensitive information like bank and credit card statements, insurance records, etc., where they can’t be seen by visitors or workers.
At teller machines (ATMs), shield the PIN keypad while entering credit and debit card passwords.
Try to keep an eye on your credit card when you give it to a merchant or waiter.
When you order new checks, look out for them. Make sure they are delivered to a locked mailbox.
Change your passwords regularly and do not share them with anyone.
Nver respond to requests by phone or e-mail for personal information, no matter how urgent the request seems. Find the number of the company online and call to ask if the request is legitimate.
Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you’ve initiated the call or you are absolutely sure you know the company or person you’re dealing with.
Read your bank’s privacy notice so that you understand how it uses your information for marketing. If you don’t want to get preapproved credit offers, call 888-5OPT-OUT (567-8688) to stop them.
Be careful about giving away information about yourself. Question why a business needs your SSN, mother’s maiden name or other information.
Monitor your mail for missed bills, credit card statements and other mail that you expected. A missing bill might mean that a thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address.
Investigate mysterious purchases, charges, bills or collection calls immediately. If you receive a credit card you didn’t apply for, find a strange charge on your credit card or get calls or letters from debt collectors about bills you don’t recognize, call the companies immediately to address the problem.
Question credit offers. If you know you have good credit but your application for a new credit card is denied, it could signal identity theft. When you are denied credit, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the credit bureau used by the lender.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Silver Alert Legislation Making its Way Through Trenton

Category: Elder Law

A good and reasonable new law to help families of those suffering from dementia and other diseases is making its way through Trenton.

Baroni Silver Alert Legislation Approved by Committee New Jersey Senator Bill Baroni NJ District 14: "The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved bill S1551/S1844, establishing a “Silver Alert System” for missing people who are believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments."

"This emergency alert plan is based on the “Amber Alert” used by State Police to locate missing children. The alerts will include a description of the missing person and other information deemed appropriate by the State and local law enforcement agencies."

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Monday, January 05, 2009

It's A GO! New Jersey Combines Medicaid Waivers For Seniors & Adults With Physical Disabilities

MediLexicon News - It's A GO! New Jersey State Combines Medicaid Waivers For Seniors & Adults With Physical Disabilities: "Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Heather Howard announced today the State has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to consolidate three Medicaid-supported home and community-based service programs currently operated by DHSS into a single program known as Global Options (GO) for Long Term Care."

This is great news and hopefully will proivded needed efficiencies and consolidated review of services.

Category: Elder Law

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Changing your 529 Investment - Not so Fast

Category: Financial Planning

I learned something new this week - 529 plans (Qualified Tuition Plans under Internal Revenue Code Section 529) only allow one (1) investment change a year.  So, if you reallocated in February, you can't do it again in September.  Now, prior to the recent market turmoil, I don't know if many parents gave it much thought.  With the recent market turmoil, I am sure the performance of 529 Plans has become a priority conversation topic at kitchen tables round the country.  One possible solution offered - tranfer the 529 Plan to a plan operated in a different state, so you can have "new" investment options.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Different Approach to $700,000,000,000.00 "Bailout"

Category: Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate and Inheritance Tax, Business Law and Planning, Tax Law and Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Financial Planning, Miscellaneous Musings

I can't seem to stop reading about this "bailout" or No Banker Left Behind Act. It is like watching a car wreck in slow motion - you would do something if you could, but you don't have the power to stop it.

Then, I came across the below that I think offers a better way to look at a bailout. Apparently, Sweden found itself in a strikingly similar bank credit crisis back in 1992: "The country was so far in the hole in 1992 — after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom — that its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent." Sound familiar?

How Sweden Solved Its Bank Crisis - "But Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government."

The article goes on to say that Sweden spent about the same percent of its GDP (4-5%) on is 1996 bailout of the banks, but took equity back so the out of pocket to the government (ie the taxpayers) was really only 2%.

I am thinking I am liking the Swedish plan much better than take all my money, do what you like, have no oversight, and no real change plan I see now - oh, and I really love that we have to do it NOW or life as we know it will end, when as we know it is already long past.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The No Banker Left Behind Act

Category: Miscellaneous Musings

To all Taxpayers - the proposed $700,000,000,000.00 (yeah, that is a real big number - looks much more menacing with all the zeros spelled out) bailout represents a cost of $2,310.23 per each man, woman and child in US.  For a family of 4, that amounts to $9240.92 of money our government currently does not have going to a group of institutions that not only have made horrendous investment decisions, but already profited from them. 

Per the International Herald Tribune December15, 2006:

NEW YORK: Lehman Brothers Holdings and Bear Stearns, the Wall Street firms most dependent on the fixed-income market, crowned their best year with record fourth-quarter earnings, bolstered by corporate bonds and derivatives.

Profit at Bear Stearns rose 38 percent to a record $562.8 million, and Lehman's earnings rose 22 percent to $1 billion in the quarter ended Nov. 30. While both beat analysts' estimates, they lagged behind Goldman Sachs Group, which reported a better- than-expected 93 percent jump in quarterly profit this week.

If I were going to be investing $9240.92 this week, it would certainly not be in financial institutions. While some sort of government action may be necessary, an un-critiqued $700,000,000,000.00 blank check cannot be the answer. Call, write to, or email your Congressperson. Regardless of your beliefs, demand that they take the time to analyze the No Banker Left Behind Act. Congress should give as much attention to this bill as you would to you investing $2,310.23 in the current market for every member of your family.

To reach your Represenatives in the House of Representatives:

To reach your Senator:


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Monday, September 15, 2008

Fein Such Awarded for Excellence in Workplace Flexibility

Category: Miscellaneous Musings

As a pat on the back to our firm and its wonderful employees, Fein Such is a proud recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility. The Sloan Awards recognize organizations that are dedicated to making work “work” for both the employer and the employees by creating effective and flexible workplaces that meet the needs of the 21st century.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Moves for Permanent Estate Tax Reform

Category: Estate and Inheritance Tax

Courtesy of Donald Vanarelli, Esq. Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Fix Estate Tax at 2009 Level

"Senate legislation, S.3284, was introduced July 17, 2008, by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The bill would create a lifetime estate tax exemption of $3.5 million, indexed for inflation, and impose a top tax rate of 45 percent." Note that this is the Estate Tax reform proposed by Sen. Obama (see What's the Tax Plan Mr. President in Waiting)

"That amounts to 11,000 estates by 2012. By comparison, 50,000 estates were taxed in 2001 when the tax started being phased out. "

On July 15, 2008 "Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced an estate tax reform bill in the House. H.R. 6499 would freeze the current $2 million estate tax exemption and impose other reforms, including providing for estate and gift tax reunification by permitting lifetime gifts up to a maximum of $2 million rather than the $1 million gift tax limit under current law. "

A link to the Senate bill can be found here - Senate Bill
A link to the House bill can be found here - House Bill

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Long-Term Care Costs Rising - NJ Averages $280 a day

Category: Elder Law

It is no surprise that a lead NJBiz article is "Long-Term Care Costs on the Rise". It is less of surprise that NJ is on the high side of average for the cost of long term care nationwide.

Average long-term care costs have jumped between 5 percent and 13 percent
nationwide since 2006, according to a study released today.

In New Jersey, the average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home in the Somerset area is $280 per day, or $102,200 annually, according to the "2008 Long-Term Care Cost of Care" report by Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU). In the U.S., the average cost is $217 per day, or $72,205 per year.

"Many Americans mistakenly believe that Medicare or private health insurance will pay for their long-term care needs," said Andy Mako, senior vice president of long-term care insurance at Newark-based Prudential Financial. "The reality is long-term care risk is substantial, and under current Medicare and Medicaid policy, much of it
is the uninsured private responsibility of individuals."

Other average long-term care costs highlighted by the study include:
Semi-private room in a nursing home
N.J.: $254 per day
U.S.: $194 per day

Assisted-living facility
N.J.: $3,538 per month
U.S.: $3,241 per month

Home care from a home-health aide or certified nursing assistant
N.J.: $26 per hour
U.S.: $21 per hour

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Friday, August 15, 2008

"Legal Eagles" at Fein, Such, Kahn and Shepard, PC

Category: Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate and Inheritance Tax, Business Law and Planning, Tax Law and Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Financial Planning, Miscellaneous Musings

Fein, Such, Kahn & Shepard PC Shareholders Jim Shepard, Eric Kapnick, and Deirdre Wheatley-Liss were featured in local newspaper Parsippany This Week "Legal Eagles". I bet you don't know the best advice Jim got from his parents, Eric's craziest experience, or Deirdre's favorite part of practicing law. You can find out and catch the full article on-line here:

While FSKS provides legal services to clients throughout the Garden State, we are proud to be part of the fabric of Parsippany and Morris County. Our neighbors rely on us when buying or selling a house, creating a Will, starting or growing a business, dealing with aging parents, or exercising their rights in court.

People call us because "We fix problems". Please feel free to use us as your resource when evaluating legal issues. We invite you to forward the article along as it shows that attorneys are people too!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Most companies in US avoid federal income taxes - Yahoo! News

Category: Tax Law and Planning

While there are certainly causes for issue with Washington and the tax code, the misleading tone of this article from the top Yahoo News stories today is creating an issue where none exists:

Most companies in US avoid federal income taxes - Yahoo!: "WASHINGTON - Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.

The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period. Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO's estimate.

'It's shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country,' said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich."

Well, duh! The only companies that pay corporate level tax - that is to say that the company itself is the taxpayer instead of its owners, are C-Corporations and Professional Corporations. An S-Corporation, LLC, or partnership is a tax-reporter, but the actual tax is paid by its owners. There is no tax avoidance here, the tax is paid either by the corporation or its owners - trillions of dollars of revenue are still created.

I think it is shameful that Sen. Dorgan is misconstruing true statistics to create an issue that does not exist - perhaps Congress should focus on more taxing problems?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Welcome to NJ - The most expensive place to live and die

Category: Tax Law and Planning

From Tax Girl: New Jersey is #1!: "According to the Tax Foundation, New Jersey residents paid the highest percentage of state and local taxes. Folks from New Jersey paid a whopping 11.8% of income in state and local taxes, more than 2% above the national average. New York residents just eked out a second place finish, paying 11.7%."

But wait, there is more - New Jersey is also the most expensive state to die in, as there are state level estate taxes on estate's over $675,000, the lowest estate tax threshold in the country. With all these taxes, isn't it amazing our state in broke?

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gov't Borrows Money to Give to Banks to Give to People who Can't Pay Back Current Loans???

Category: Miscellaneous Musings

According to Yahoo News, the US government is borrowing an additional $27 BILLION dollars. This is because the business that is our country spends more than it takes in. President Bush also just signed the new housing law package. "As part of the housing measure, Congress voted to increase the national debt limit by $800 billion from $9.815 trillion to a new limit of $10.615 trillion."

So, the US government is borrowing money to give to banks, so that the banks (who ran out of money due to their own bad lending practices) can give money to borrowers, who already can't pay back the money they already borrowed?

What??? And who is going to be responsible at the end of the day? You, me and anyone else who pays taxes, as that is the only way to raise revenue.

See Government announces plans to borrow $27 billion

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Resources for sunset planning for aging parents

Category: Elder Law,

This question was asked on
What approach have you taken when faced with sunset planning for aging parent(s)?I am looking for information related to resources available for helping surviving children understand and execute their aging parent(s) wishes in the sunset years. Specifically, what resources did you turn to and/or what research did you do to determine the ideal solutions related to your aging or terminally ill parent(s) living conditions, medical benefits and options, estate planning, funeral arrangements, etc?

My reply:

When dealing with these issues, the family needs to consider a team of professionals to educate them on the options that will best meet your parents goals. There are a host of people out there who can help you, but their existence isn't always well known, and the type of care depends on your family’s needs. Speaking as an elder law attorney, I often work with and refer to various other professionals as needed. I have listed them below.

Note that the single most important thing is to find one of more of these professionals who you feel comfortable with who can be your trusted advisor and get you to other professionals as needed.

Elder Law Attorney - will advise you on what documents to have in place to give authority to execute the wishes, as well as how to structure assets to best pay for long term care (using private assets, long term care insurance, Medicaid) and the pros and cons of transferring assets.

Financial Planner - Where children may find themselves in the position of managing parents assets, it is critical that the assets be gathered and centrally located and the investments critically reviewed sooner rather than later. Consolidate investments to a single location, with on-line access for children to monitor. Make sure the investments are appropriate for the seniors age and income needs - many times we see seniors who have entered into investments that may not really be appropriate to their income needs.

Geriatric Care Manager - This is essentially a private social worker who can make an independent assessment of the seniors needs and create a plan of action to fulfill those needs in the reality of a family. They address the tough questions of if mom can live at home and what kind of assistance might be necessary to make that a reality, or what if they move in with a child or to a continuing care community or just senior community, as well as facilitate referrals to home care agencies, assisted living and nursing facilities and/or hospice.

Other professionals you may want to bring in:
  • Insurance Professional - Long Term Care insurance may be appropriate depending on the ages and needs.
  • Reverse Mortgage Specialist - To reach their goals, it make may sense to use the equity in the home.
  • Home Care Agency - These will provided nursing and companion care at home or at an assisted living or nursing home facility.
  • Realtor specializing in Seniors - He or she can maximize the value of the largest asset by addressing the marketing realities of a home that has likely been lived in and not updated for decades (cleanout, donation, upgrades, staging).
  • Therapist - Parenting your parents in hard. A qualified therapist can give family members tools to cope with emotional issues.
  • Accountant/Bookkeeper - Bill paying services and tax information.


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Friday, July 25, 2008

A Check-Up on your Health Care Provider

Category: Elder Law

Sometimes I run across the question of if a senior (or any person for that matter) is receiving the best possible health care. A site I was introduced to gives consumer feedback on health care ( ). Health care is a choice - just because you saw a doctor once doesn't mean that he or she is best for you needs. Like any decision, you should feel you are getting the most value for your dollar. With health care, value often comes in the form of surroundings, staff attitudes, waiting times, communications, and approach to health care.

Welcome to CiteHealth

Give your Health Care Providers a Check Up
Ensure you are receiving the best care. Give your hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, home care agencies and other providers a free check up with our reports. We combine data from government and commercial data sources, direct verification, and people just like you give a complete picture of each provider.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Longer Life Puts Women at Risk in Retirement

Category: Financial Planning

We ladies have it hard enough dealing with glass ceilings, boys networks, balancing family and careers, and caring for older family members. Even with balancing all this, we statistically live longer than men. The problem with this? Our "family first" and "go along to get along" attitudes can cost of down the road when we live longer, save less, and have higher health care costs.

Longer lives, less pay — women not saving enough - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK - Women may not earn as much as men or fly up the corporate ladder as quickly, but They get the last laugh since they live longer. Right? ADVERTISEMENT As it turns out, women probably aren't saving enough to bankroll those extra years in style.

They invest more conservatively, start saving later and are more likely to be in and
out of the work force, according to a study released Wednesday by Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting firm. Suddenly, retirement isn't looking so rosy.

Women live an average of 22 years after retirement versus 19 years for men and medical costs are rising, so women will need to save 2 percent more than men every year over 30 years to maintain their standard of living upon retirement, the study found."

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