News Stories and Articles
Spousal Benefits Can Provide Found Money
Social Security’s spousal benefit was created in 1939, at a time when women, by and large, didn’t work outside their homes. So, even though they had never received a paycheck, it was a way for the government to recognize women’s unpaid contribution for raising children and running a household.
Today, both spouses often work, and the spousal benefit is providing an unintended reward for married couples. In fact, there are stories of three divorced wives all collecting the spousal benefits from their marriages to the same man. A few years ago, academics and financial advisors started touting the benefit as “found money.” In fact, this benefit strategy has been so well-publicized that the Obama administration has proposed ending it, reportedly because the benefit is taken mainly by wealthier workers. Read more.
Obama Budget Would Upend Estate Plans
Just when you thought the estate tax laws were permanent, President Barack Obama comes out with a comprehensive plan for changes that would take away many strategies that save wealthy families taxes. GRATs, annual exclusion gifts, generation-skipping trusts, you name it, it’s on the list of tax-saving strategies under attack in the FY2016 budget. And the bigger picture: Obama wants to turn the clock back to 2009 when the estate tax exemption was $3.5 million per person, the lifetime gift/GST exemptions were just $1 million per person, and the top tax rate was 45%. There’s real money at stake. Read more.
Don't Be a Statistic: Preventing Diabetes
The numbers are staggering. An estimated 29 million Americans are diabetic, and an additional 86 million suffer from prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Half of all seniors over the age of 65 suffer from prediabetes, which means that blood-glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. Diabetes is something to take seriously, because, if left untreated, diabetics can suffer from kidney damage, blindness, hearing impairment, amputation, stroke and heart disease. The good news is that, because so many Americans either have the disease or are at risk for it, research and government programs are eager to find solutions and offer support. One of the most effective prevention methods is a CDC program that offers weekly group sessions. Read more.
6 Sustainability Investing Trends for 2015
Socially responsible investing is catching on and will soon spread to all types of investing.
“Today our world is changing faster than ever before–economic, geo-political, and environmental challenges abound,” wrote Warren Buffett in a recent report. “In times such as these, a company must invest in the key ingredients of profitability: its people, communities and the environment.”
More and more investors are following Buffett’s lead and widening their perspective beyond quarterly profits. Indeed, sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) assets in the US grew 76% between 2012 and 2014, according to a survey by US SIF. Assets managed by investment firms considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues increased more than three-fold, the survey said. US institutional investors, including pension funds, expanded SRI assets by 77%, and assets held by private equity and other alternative investment funds considering ESG factors rose 70%. Read more.
Strategic Giving: 5 Steps To Get The Most Bang From Your Philanthropic Buck
ed note: this was written in December in time for end-of-year giving. But, as more and more emphasis is being placed on giving thought before giving money, the concepts are valid at any time.
At this time of year, when people are feeling particularly generous, nonprofits work hard to raise needed funds for the upcoming year. Although critically important to nonprofit budgets, most year-end giving is transactional rather than transformational. Givers give one time — devoid of strategy — and nonprofits receive a one-time donation. Next holiday season, the whole process starts over.
Donors who wish to truly maximize the impact of their giving must develop a strategic rather than a random approach to philanthropy. As with any important decision — investment, business or personal — a thoughtful longer-term strategy enables you to determine what you want to achieve and how to do so effectively. Read more.
Nonprofits Find Much to Like in Obama Tax Plan
A higher estate tax, as envisioned in a proposal released by President Obama this weekend in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, would spur more charitable giving in the form of bequests and charitable trusts, according to some nonprofit tax experts.
The estate-tax increase was included in a broad proposal to raise taxes on the most wealthy Americans and reduce the burden on poor and middle-income taxpayers. His proposal would increase fees on big banks that are highly leveraged and expand tax credits for the working poor, child care, and college tuition.
President Obama’s proposal would raise the capital-gains tax, paid on inheritances of money and property, from its current rate of 23.8 percent to 28 percent for high-income tax filers. In addition, the tax plan would close what some tax specialists call the “trust-fund loophole." Read more.
A detailed fact sheet provided by the White House is available here.