Social Security

3 Pitfalls of Social Security Optimizers

Social Security is an important source, and in many households, the largest source, of income for retirees. You can start collecting benefits at any time between age 62 and 70. Since Social Security is an income annuity, the longer you wait, the greater your monthly income will be for the rest of your life.

The Social Security start date decision is complicated by the fact that there are different types of retirement benefits for which you may be eligible. These include spousal, divorcee, and survivor options in addition to benefits based on your earnings. Furthermore, you may qualify for more than one type of benefit at a given time.

How do you learn about all the available strategies and choose the one that will provide you, and your spouse, if married, with the greatest amount of income during your lifetime? Recognizing the opportunity, a Social Security optimizer software industry has evolved with programs targeted for consumers and financial advisers.

Before using any Social Security optimizer, you need to be aware of three pitfalls.

1. Longevity

The results of all Social Security optimizers are dependent upon assumed longevity, i.e., how long you’re going to live. This is the most important assumption that will affect your results. Since it’s also the most difficult to forecast, multiple scenarios should be run with different assumed ages of death.

2. Inconsistent Results

Social Security optimizers vary as to the type and detail of requested data, including, but not limited to, summarized vs. detailed historical earnings, projected earnings, government pensions, and economic assumptions. Consequently, results and recommendations can vary from program to program.

3. Optimized Result May Not Optimize Retirement Cash Flow

Let’s assume that you or your financial adviser use a high-quality Social Security optimizer that captures all of the data points and assumptions needed to recommend the best strategy for your situation. Should you implement the recommended solution? Not necessarily.

It’s important to keep in mind that the overriding goal of retirement income planning is to optimize lifetime cash flow. You want to make sure that you have the right types of assets and income when needed to provide you with sufficient after-tax income to cover your projected inflation-adjusted expenses for the duration of your retirement. The key is timing.

None of the standalone Social Security optimizer programs consider the myriad of financial information and assumptions that are required to determine how the recommended results will impact your projected retirement cash flow. For this reason, an optimized Social Security strategy may not be the best plan of action for ensuring that sufficient cash is available when needed.

I’ve had situations where the recommendation from one of the leading Social Security optimizers was projected to result in earlier depletion of my clients’ retirement assets than would have been the case using another strategy. As an example, deferring the Social Security start date to age 70 to maximize monthly income may not be the best recommendation for a single individual who retires at age 65 with limited investments or other sources of sustainable income.


The Social Security start date determination is one of the most, if not the most, important retirement income planning decisions most people will make. You shouldn’t rely solely on the recommendation of a Social Security optimizer when choosing your start date given the fact that the decision is generally irrevocable and will have long-term consequences for you and your family. Multiple strategies, not simply the “optimal” one, need to be analyzed using comprehensive retirement income planning software to determine the one that’s projected to optimize your retirement cash flow.

Annuities Deferred Income Annuities Income Tax Planning Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (QLAC)

Is a QLAC Right for You?

2014 marked the introduction of qualified longevity annuity contracts, or QLACs. For those of you not familiar with them, a QLAC is a deferred fixed income annuity designed for use in retirement plans such as 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs (a) that’s limited to an investment of the lesser of $125,000 or 25% of the value of a retirement plan and (b) requires that lifetime distributions begin at a specified date no later than age 85. QLAC investment options are currently limited to deferred income annuities, or DIAs.

The purchase of deferred fixed income annuities in retirement plans for longevity protection isn’t a new concept. What’s unique about QLACs is the ability to extend the start date of required minimum distributions (RMDs) from April 1st of the year following the year that you turn 70-1/2 to up to age 85. This provides potential income tax planning opportunities for QLAC holders subject to the purchase cap.

Potential Income Tax Savings

A lot of individuals are selling QLACs short due to the purchase cap. While on the surface, $125,000 may not represent a sizable portion of a retirement plan with assets of $750,000 or more, the potential lifetime income tax savings can be significant.

The amount of savings is dependent on six factors: (a) amount of QLAC investment (b) age at which QLAC investment is made, (c) deferral period from date of QLAC purchase until income start date, (d) rate of return, (e) income tax bracket, and (f) longevity.


I have prepared the attached exhibit to illustrate potential income tax savings achievable by investing $125,000 at three different ages in a QLAC by comparing it to a non-QLAC investment that’s subject to the RMD rules. Assumptions used in the preparation of the exhibit are as follows:

  1. $125,000 is invested in a non-QLAC vehicle at one of three different ages: 55, 60, or 65.
  2. Rate of return is 5%.
  3. RMD’s are taken from age 71 through 85, the range of ages between which RMD’s and QLAC distributions, respectively, are required to begin.
  4. Income tax brackets are 2015 federal income tax brackets plus 5% for assumed state income tax.

In addition to assumed rates of return and income tax brackets, a key assumption is the age at which the QLAC investment is made. All else being equal, purchases at earlier ages avoid greater amounts of RMDs and associated income tax liability. Per the exhibit, the amount of projected income tax savings over 15 years ranges from approximately $20,000 to $97,000 depending upon assumed QLAC investment date and income tax bracket.


Reduction of RMDs and associated income tax liability is an important goal, however, it may not be the best strategy for achieving the overriding goal of retirement income planning, i.e., making sure that you have sufficient income to meet your projected expenses for the duration of your retirement.

There are several questions you need to answer to determine the amount, if any, that you should invest in a QLAC:

  • What are your projected federal and state income tax brackets between age 71 and 85?
  • What are the projected rates of return on your retirement funds between 71 and 85 taking into consideration the likelihood of at least one bear market during this time?
  • What is your, and your spouse, if married, projected life expectancy?
  • Which years between age 71 and 85 can you afford to forego receipt of projected net RMD income, i.e., RMD less associated income tax liability?
  • Will you need to take retirement plan distributions in excess of your RMDs, and, if so, in which years and in what amounts?
  • What other sources of income do you have to replace the projected RMD income you won’t be receiving?
  • What is the projected income tax liability you will incur from withdrawing funds from other sources of income?
  • What is the amount of annual lifetime income that you will receive from a QLAC beginning at various ages between 71 and 85 assuming various investment amounts, with and without a death benefit with various payout options?
  • Does it make more sense to invest in a non-QLAC longevity annuity such as a fixed index annuity with an income rider?
  • Should you do a Roth IRA conversion instead?

Given the fact that opportunities to reduce RMDs and associated income tax liability are limited, QLACs are an attractive alternative. Projected income tax savings are just one factor to consider and can vary significantly from situation to situation, depending upon assumptions used. There are a number of other considerations that need to be analyzed before purchasing a QLAC to determine the best strategies for optimizing your retirement income.

Retirement Income Planning

Don’t Fall Into the Short Longevity Trap

Whenever I’m doing retirement income planning for a client, one of the most, if not the most, important decisions that needs to be made is the duration of the plan, or plan timeframe. The starting point, i.e., today, can be easily defined; however, the termination date is unknown in all cases.

This topic typically begins with a discussion of my client’s parents’ and grandparents’ longevity. I’m always surprised how people attempt to correlate their life expectancy directly to that of their parents or grandparents, particularly when one or more of their ancestors may not have lived a long life. They do this without acknowledging the fact that (a) the average life expectancy has increased significantly for someone born today compared to when their parents or grandparents were born and (b) our health is not necessarily controlled by genetics.

Increased Life Expectancy

Let’s take a look at the change in United States life expectancies for females who have traditionally enjoyed a longer life expectancy than males. Assuming your grandmother was born in 1900, her life expectancy was 48.3 years. The life expectancy for women born in 1950 increased dramatically to 71.1 years. Girls born in 2010 have an average life expectancy of 81.0 years.

When males turned 65 in 1950, they were expected to live another 12.8 years on the average, or until age 77.8. This has increased five years, with males turning 65 in 2010 expected to live another 17.7 years on the average, or until age 82.7. A male who reached age 75 in 2010 has an average life expectancy of 11.0 years, or until age 86.

Our Health Goes Beyond Genetics

Although it has been demonstrated that longevity has a genetic component, genetics, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily control the health issues you will experience during your lifetime or how long you will live. While family health history is important, it is only one factor in determining your longevity.

If you haven’t heard about it, I would strongly urge you to read about the emerging field of epigenetics. Bruce Lipton, PhD, one of the leaders in this field, defines epigenetics as “the study of inherited changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence.”

According to Dr. Lipton, our health is not controlled by genetics. Instead, the mind, toxins and trauma impact the fate of individual cells and our ultimate health. The mind plays a critical role, with “…your thoughts and perceptions having a direct and overwhelmingly significant effect on cells.”

Impact on Retirement Income Planning

The basic goal of retirement income planning is not to outlive our assets. Given increased life expectancies today that continue to increase, combined with the knowledge that our health and longevity goes beyond genetics, we cannot afford to simply look in the rearview mirror and use our parents’ and grandparents’ life expectancies as the basis for projecting our lifespan. To the extent we do this, we run the risk of falling into the short longevity trap in many cases, underestimating our life expectancy, and potentially making decisions that result in the premature depletion of our assets.

Retirement Income Planning

It’s All About Timing

No matter how many times we see magic shows, inevitably, in response to a professionally-performed magic trick, we blurt out, “How did he do that?” Even though we know that the magician’s goal is to elicit this reaction, we’re nonetheless amazed by it.

What’s more astounding is that we’re amazed despite the fact that we all know the secret to each and every trick – timing. The use of precise timing in the performance of a planned sequence of events is responsible for creating the illusion that’s played out before our eyes time and time again by a professional magician.

It’s no different when it comes to successful retirement income planning. It’s all about timing. Anyone can stop working permanently and say they’re retired. Successful financial retirement, however, requires the performance of a planned sequence of events before and throughout retirement.

As you may have noticed, unlike my description of the magic process, I omitted the word “precise” before “planned sequence of events.” This was intentional since, unlike magic where the magician has control over the outcome of his tricks provided his timing is precise, this is irrelevant when it comes to retirement income planning. There are too many variables beyond our control, e.g., longevity, inflation, etc., that affect the outcome of a retirement income plan, making the use of precise timing meaningless.

Nonetheless, the performance of a planned sequence of events in a timely manner is essential to increasing the likelihood of a successful financial retirement. It’s a complicated ongoing process that requires planning, managing, and protecting retirement income. Given the potential duration of retirement of up to 25+ years, the sooner the process is begun, the more likelihood of a successful result.

As a retirement income planner, my ability to perform “magic” for a client is dependent upon my ability to understand my client’s financial needs and my client’s willingness to allow me to implement and maintain a plan that includes the performance of a planned sequence of events that will increase the likeliness of my client meeting his/her financial needs throughout retirement. Timing is everything.

Annuities Fixed Index Annuities

With a Fixed Index Annuity, You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Beginning with the August 1, 2011 post, Do You Want to Limit Your Potential Gains? through the November 5, 2012 post, Invest in DIA to Fund LTCI Premiums When Retired – Part 4 of 4, there were a total of 58 posts about fixed index annuities (“FIA’s”). Not to state the obvious, however, that’s a lot of information about one subject!

The impetus for the volume of material on FIA’s was, and continues to be, the fact that a FIA with an income rider is a unique and underutilized strategy that can provide a meaningful lifetime income floor for many retirement income plans while protecting against downside risk. As evidence of this fact, fixed index annuity sales have been increasing at a rapid pace the last two years while sales of variable annuities have been on the decline. Furthermore, their use as a retirement income planning tool is affirmed by the fact that the majority of sales have included an optional income rider.

What’s so special about a FIA? In one word – flexibility. A FIA is the only fixed annuity where you can receive a stream of income and also enjoy an investment value — that comes with downside protection. The other two types of fixed annuities, i.e., single premium immediate annuities (“SPIA’s”) and deferred income annuities (“DIA’s”) fulfill the income role (immediate in the case of SPIA’s and deferred with DIA’s), however, neither one of these two vehicles has an investment value. In addition, the lifetime income stream from a DIA often isn’t as competitive as lifetime payments from a FIA income rider with the same deferral period.

Another example of the flexibility associated with FIA’s is the income start date. Unlike a DIA where there’s a contractual fixed start date, the commencement of lifetime income from a FIA is totally flexible. It can typically be turned on at any time beginning one year after the contract date. Furthermore, while the lifetime income amount generally increases the longer you defer the start date, there’s no requirement to ever begin taking income withdrawals.

While SPIA’s and lifetime DIA’s (there are also period certain, or fixed term, DIA’s), are both designed to protect against the risk of longevity, the fact of the matter is that premature death can reduce their value, in some cases significantly. Some DIA’s can be purchased with a death benefit to protect against the possibility of death prior to their deferred annuitization date, however, the added insurance protection often increases the required investment amount, all else being equal.

When FIA’s are purchased with an optional income rider, it’s usually done in conjunction with some type of retirement income planning. As such, the emphasis is on deferred lifetime income, with the investment, or accumulation, value playing a secondary role. The fact of the matter is that the investment value is the anchor that provides the following four important benefits in addition to the sustainable lifetime income from the income rider:

  • Principal protection
  • Minimum guarantees
  • Upside interest potential
  • Death benefit

Assuming that no withdrawals are taken from the accumulation value in addition to income rider distributions, the accumulation value will only decrease by the income rider charge prior to turning on the income stream. Given this fact, unlike SPIA’s and lifetime DIA’s, FIA’s will have a death benefit available from day 1 that continues for much of the life of the FIA.

Once income begins, the accumulation value, i.e., death benefit, will decrease by the amount of income withdrawals in addition to the income rider charge. An optional death benefit rider can be added to the contract at the time of purchase to provide a guaranteed death benefit that will be paid even if there’s no accumulation value.

A fixed index annuity with an income rider is truly a unique retirement income planning tool. Unlike other types of fixed annuities where income begins immediately, i.e., SPIA’s, or at a contractually fixed date in the future, i.e., DIA’s, a FIA income start date is totally flexible. In addition, unlike SPIA’s and DIA’s which are only about lifetime income, FIA’s include an investment value. Furthermore, the investment value has built-in downside protection. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Long-Term Care Longevity Insurance

The Retirement Income Planning Sweet Spot

If you know me professionally, you know that I’m big on distinguishing between retirement income, vs. retirement asset, planning. This isn’t about semantics. It’s about being practical. Unless your lifestyle allows you to survive solely on Social Security or a comparable monthly benefit if you don’t qualify for Social Security, you need to create your own pension. This is, after all, the theme of this blog: Innovative strategies for creating and optimizing retirement income.

In order to create your own pension, you need assets. The question is, when should you transition from a retirement asset planning to a retirement income planning approach? Tied into this question is a related question: Is your current financial advisor trained, experienced, and equipped to offer solutions to assist you with making this change? If not, it may be time to look for a new adviser who specializes in retirement income planning.

See What Tools Does Your Financial Advisor Have in His or Her Toolbox

So when should you begin creating your own pension? This is a daunting task since the primary goal is to ensure that you won’t outlive your income while surrounded by many unknowns, including, how long you will live, potential health issues and timing and cost of same, as well as changing inflation and tax rates, to name a few. Given this situation, there ideally needs to be a significant amount of lead time to do the necessary planning.

As with all financial planning goals, you need to work backwards from your target date. By definition, the applicable date for retirement income planning would be the age at which you would like to retire. Given the complexity of the process together with the many unknowns, a 20-year lead time is generally advised. Assuming that you would like to retire at age 70, you should have an initial retirement income plan prepared at age 50.

This doesn’t mean that you need to transfer all of your nonretirement and retirement investment assets into income-producing assets on your 50th birthday. This is simply when the transition from a retirement asset planning to a retirement income planning process should begin. Strategies will generally be implemented gradually over the course of the years leading up to, as well as after, retirement as your situation changes and different opportunities present themselves. Your retirement income plan needs to be vibrant, proactive, and responsive to change since you will experience many of them at an increasing rate as you approach, and move into, your retirement years.

In addition to retirement income planning strategies, your plan should include income protection strategies for yourself and for your spouse if married. An unprotected, or under protected, life event such as disability, long-term care, or death can severely reduce the longevity of, and potentially prematurely deplete, your, or your survivor’s, investment assets. Income protection strategies should be included and implemented as part of an initial retirement income plan due to the fact that they become increasingly expensive and potentially cost prohibitive with age, not to mention the risk of being uninsurable as you get older.

So what if you’re within 20 years of retirement and you haven’t begun retirement income planning? No need to panic. While your strategies and potential opportunities may be more limited depending upon how close to retirement you are, it’s never too late to start a retirement income plan. As previously stated, retirement income planning strategies are generally implemented both before and during retirement as your situation changes and different opportunities present themselves.

Social Security

Insure Your Longevity Risk with Social Security

When planning for retirement, you need to plan for all of your retirement years. Sounds obvious, however, too often there’s a focus on living it up in the early years without fully considering the potential for longevity and financial risks associated with the later years. As stated in previous posts, the consequences of the financial decisions that you make before you retire can have a profound effect on your ability to meet your financial needs throughout your later retirement years.

How do you plan for all of your retirement years if you don’t know how long you’re going to live? The answer is longevity insurance, otherwise known as a lifetime income annuity. This type of investment will pay you a specified amount of income beginning at a specified date at specified intervals, e.g., monthly or quarterly, with potential annual payment increases for the duration of your life.

If you’re married, the payments can continue to be paid to your spouse upon your death at the same or a reduced amount, depending upon the contractual terms of the particular annuity. Unlike equity-based investments, the payments will be made regardless of market performance.

One of the best longevity insurance planning tools that most of us have at our disposal is Social Security. With its lifetime income payments, not to mention flexible starting date, i.e., age 62 through 70, and associated 7% – 8% increase in benefits each year that the starting date is deferred, excluding cost-of-living adjustments (“COLA’s”), we can use it to insure our, and, if married, our spouse’s, longevity risk.

The amount of retirement income that we choose to insure with Social Security is a personal decision. It’s dependent upon several factors, including, but not limited to, projected investment assets and liabilities, other projected sources of income and expenses and projected timing and duration of same, as well as income tax laws and projected income tax rates.

Delayed claiming of Social Security benefits, in addition to providing increased annual lifetime benefits, results in greater longevity insurance since there will be more guaranteed income available in the latter years of retirement when it may be needed the most. The ability to delay one’s Social Security benefit start date needs to be determined within the context of an overall retirement income planning analysis that includes an analysis of various potential retirement dates.

Retirement Asset Planning Retirement Income Planning

Retirement Income Planning – The End Game

If you’re a subscriber to Retirement Income Visions™, you may have noticed that, although there have been nine posts prior to this one, none of them has stayed true to the theme of this blog, i.e., Innovative strategies for creating and optimizing retirement income. This post will be no exception. As the saying goes, there’s a method to my madness. In order to understand and appreciate the strategies and apply them to your situation, it’s important to understand the origin of retirement income planning, including the limitations of the retirement asset planning approach.

As explained in The Retirement Planning Paradigm Shift – Part 2, retirement planning is undergoing a paradigm shift. Instead of relying on retirement asset planning as a solution for both the accumulation and withdrawal phases of retirement, people are beginning to recognize, understand, and appreciate the need for, and value of, employing retirement income planning strategies during the withdrawal phase. No doubt about it, per Retirement Asset Planning – The Foundation, retirement asset planning is the way to go in the accumulation stage to build a solid foundation for a successful retirement plan. However, as discussed in The Retirement Planning Shift – Part 2, as a result of the uncertainty of traditional retirement asset planning as a solution for providing a predictable income stream to match one’s financial needs in retirement, retirement income planning was born.

Is Your Retirement Plan At Risk? introduced six risks common to all retirement plans: inflation, investment, income tax, longevity, health, and Social Security benefits reduction.

Beginning with Retirement Asset Planning – The Foundation, the inadequacy of retirement asset planning during the “spend-down” phase was discussed. This begins with the process itself. Unlike most types of financial planning where you get to see the results of your plan after reaching a specified target date, this is not the case with retirement asset planning since the timeframe is undefined.

Withdrawal Drag – The Silent Killer contrasted the beauty of compound rates of return during the accumulation stage with the erosion of portfolio income and the associated benefit of compounding, otherwise known as “withdrawal drag,” in the withdrawal stage of retirement. There is yet another phenomenon that can wreak havoc on your portfolio if you only rely on a retirement asset planning strategy during your retirement years. The Sequence of Returns – The Roulette Wheel of Retirement exposed this investment phenomenon and provided an example of how “luck of the rate-of-return draw” can prematurely devastate a conservative, well-diversified portfolio.

As if all of these variables and financial phenomenon were not a wake-up call to your planning, we mustn’t forget about the “safe withdrawal rate.” Safe Withdrawal Rate – A Nice Rule of Thumb demonstrated how the widely-accepted 4% “safe” withdrawal rate doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you won’t outlive your investment portfolio. Furthermore, the withdrawal amount that is calculated using this methodology typically won’t match your retirement needs.

All of the foregoing financial risks and phenomenon contribute to the inherent uncertainty associated with the retirement asset planning process during the withdrawal phase of retirement. As pointed out in Retirement Asset Planning – The Foundation, even if you’ve done an excellent job of accumulating what appear to be sufficient assets for retirement, you generally won’t know if this is true for many years

Retirement income planning is truly the end game in financial planning. Assuming that your goal is to generate a predictable income stream to match your financial needs in retirement while minimizing your exposure to withdrawal drag, the sequence of returns, and the various risks common to all retirement plans, it generally makes sense for you to begin employing retirement income planning strategies for a portion of your assets ten years before you plan to retire. The amount of assets and the exact timing of implementation are dependent upon your particular retirement and other financial goals as well as your current and projected financial situation.

Financial Planning Retirement Asset Planning Retirement Income Planning

Is Your Retirement Plan At Risk?

Before I write about the specific risks associated with retirement asset planning and the strategies that retirement income planners use to address, and, in many cases, mitigate, these risks, let’s take a look at risks that are common to all retirement planning. While many of these are uncertain and/or uncontrollable, each of them needs to be addressed in a retirement plan.

The risks that will be discussed are as follows, with the first three common to all types of financial planning, and each one intended to be a brief introduction vs. a comprehensive discussion:

  1. Inflation
  2. Investment
  3. Income tax
  4. Longevity
  5. Health
  6. Social Security benefits reduction


Although it is unpredictable as to amount and fluctuation as it pertains to individual and overall variable expenses, a key risk that must be considered in the design and funding stages of all retirement plans is inflation. Unlike most types of financial planning where it is a factor only in the accumulation phase, inflation is equally, if not more important, during the withdrawal stage of retirement planning. The longer the time period, the more magnified are the differences between projected vs. actual inflation rates insofar as their potential influence on the ultimate success of a particular retirement plan.


Unless you are living solely off of Social Security or some other government benefit program, you are directly or indirectly exposed to investment risk. Even if you are receiving a fixed monthly benefit from a former employer, although it isn’t likely, your benefit could potentially be reduced depending upon the investment performance of your former employer’s retirement plan assets and underlying plan guarantees. Whenever possible, investment risk should be maintained at a level in your portfolio that is projected to sustain your assets over your lifetime while achieving your retirement planning goals, assuming that your goals are realistic.

Income Tax

Even if income tax rates don’t change significantly as has been the case in recent years, income tax can consume a sizeable portion of one’s income without proper planning. With the exception of seven states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) that have no personal income tax and two states (New Hampshire and Tennessee) that tax only interest and dividend income), the rest of us need to be concerned about, and plan for, state, as well as, federal income tax. In addition, if you have a sizeable income, it is likely that income tax legislation will be enacted that will adversely affect your retirement plan on at least one occasion during your retirement years.


Unlike other types of financial planning, the time period of retirement planning is uncertain. Although life expectancies are often used as a guide to project the duration of a retirement plan, no one knows how long someone will live. The risk associated with the possibility of outliving one’s assets is referred to as longevity risk. In addition, life expectancies, themselves, are changing from time to time. The August 19, 2009 edition of National Vital Statistic Reports announced a new high of nearly 78 years for Americans. Planning is further complicated for married individuals since you are planning for multiple lives.


An extremely important risk that is sometimes overlooked or not given enough consideration in the design of retirement plans is health. Under-, or uninsured, long-term care events as well as premature death in the case of a married couple, can deal a devastating blow to an otherwise well-designed retirement plan. It is not unusual for a prolonged long-term care situation, such as Alzheimer’s, if not properly planned for, to consume all of one’s retirement capital and other assets. Inadequate life insurance to cover the needs of a surviving spouse can result in dramatic lifestyle changes upon the first spouse’s death.

Social Security Benefits Reduction

Once considered to be unshakable, the security of the Social Security system, including the potential amount of one’s benefits, is questionable. In addition, it was announced in May that for the first time in more than three decades Social Security recipients will not receive a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, increase in their benefits next year. While beneficiaries have received an automatic increase every year since 1975, including an increase of 5.8% in 2009 and a 14.3% increase in 1980, this will not be the case in 2010.

Each of the foregoing six risks needs to be considered, and appropriate strategies developed, in the design and implementation of every retirement plan to improve the chances of success of the plan.