Retirement Planning – Social Security, Estate Management, College Savings Plans

Readers of our Dividend Café know that we are an investment practice – a committed and proud one, at that – but as a diverse wealth management group, we are much more than an investment practice as well.  Not only do we seek to guide our clients through all the phases of their financial needs, investments and all, but we do that in a context that is comprehensive and holistic.  From tax efficiency to retirement planning to estate and legacy strategies to charitable impulses to asset protection – we really don’t see a way to be comprehensive and elite wealth advisors without incorporating all elements of the accumulation, preservation, and transfer phases of wealth into our process.  We devote as many resources to being consultative planners as we do to being quality investment managers.

Elevating Your Financial Resources

But some time back we took this thinking and this philosophy and sought to elevate it.  We realized that our clients needed that “quarterback” role, and were thankfully using us in exactly that way, but that often their needs delved into a wide array of professional services.  From any number of aspects of legal counsel to various lifestyle services to real estate and property management and mortgage lending and bookkeeping, clients were consistently seeking direction from us, and we were finding our own network of professional alliances increasingly growing.  In short, clients had a need, and we had a solution.

Why We Formed Our Financial Concierge Services

To that end, we formed our Financial Concierge Services platform to represent a value-added service to clients – generating absolutely no revenue for us – wherein we formalized our due diligence, our analysis, and our understanding of needs, and created a formal platform for service providers we could recommend to clients when needs arose.  In fact, the ongoing maintenance of these relationships and expansion of desired services continues to this day.

Thought Leadership, Expanded

This has become so important to us in our dealings with our clients, that we have decided to create The Financierge.  Like Dividend Café, this will represent consistent thought leadership driven by a desire to inform and educate our clients, and like Dividend Café it will be available as an email distribution, as well as via our website and various social media assets.  Unlike Dividend Café, though, it will be bi-monthly, not weekly, and it will feature great writing from all sorts of different subject matter contributors, covering a wide array of “financial concierge” topics.  We heartily encourage you to share with any you would like, and we hope you find both this inaugural issue and our ongoing efforts, to be highly additive to your financial experience.

We are committed to adding value to your financial life, and hope you will find this endeavor to be just that – a value for you and yours!



The Financierge – Issue #1


  1. Starting Social Security Benefits – Ready, Set, Hold!?

  2. Nine Considerations to Maximize Social Security Benefits

  3. Five Annual Estate Planning Tasks

  4. Five Ideas about 529 College Savings Plans

Appendix – The Financierge Topical Index (by Publish Date)



When is the right time to start Social Security benefits? Is it better to get a smaller benefit earlier for a longer period or a larger benefit later for a shorter period? This timing issue is a complex question for clients, and several factors need to be considered such as your retirement income needs, tax situation, benefit options, and anticipated longevity. In general, Social Security benefits start at age 62 and increase as they are deferred until the maximum at age 70. Below is a simple illustration of total benefits for a male, age 59, starting benefits at three different times – age 62, age 66 and eight months (Full Retirement Age), and age 70. The following break-even analysis shows that if he lives past 78, it is better to delay the benefit until 66 and eight months. If he lives past age 82, it is better to delay the benefit until age 70.

For more resources and information, you can visit

As of the beginning of 2017, the Social Security Administration announced that paper statements would only be sent to individuals age 60 or older who have not established an online account. If you want to get your Social Security Statement, you can create an online account by going to  Statements show several items such as your monthly retirement Income, disability benefits, family and survivor benefits, along with your Medicare qualification credits and earnings record.


Maximizing Social Security benefits can be complicated and may require analysis of different options based on your circumstances. Here are nine considerations for individuals to keep in mind when filing for benefits:

  1. Married Couples – Couples should consider their retirement income needs when filing for social security benefits. If possible, the spouse with the higher benefit should delay claiming up to age 70 to create the maximum retirement and survivor benefit.
  2. Individuals Born on or before January 1, 1954 – Eligible individuals can file for spousal benefits when they turn age 66 and collect half of their spouse’s (or ex-spouse if married ten years) Full Retirement Age benefit while their own retirement benefit grows at 8% per year. At 70, when the delayed retirement credits end, they can switch to their benefit if it is greater.
  3. Individuals born after January 1, 1954 – Individuals can only file for the highest amount of benefits to which they are entitled based on their age at the time of claim, whether on their earnings record or as a spouse, or ex-spouse if you were married at least ten years.
  4. Surviving Spouses – Surviving spouses can file for their own retirement benefit or file for their survivor benefit and switch to the other later to maximize their benefit. Survivor benefits maximize at the Full Retirement Age but do not earn delayed retirement credits.
  5. Single Ex-Spouses Who Were Married 10 Years or More – Divorced spouses born on or before January 1, 1954, can file for spousal benefits even if their ex-spouse has not yet claimed benefits and both former spouses are at least 62 and have been divorced at least two years. Divorced spouses born after January 1, 1954, must file for their highest benefits based on their age at the time of filing. Social Security benefits received by an ex-spouse do not affect what may be received by children or a new spouse.
  6. Remarried Ex-Spouses Who Were Married 10 Years or More – Survivor benefits end upon remarriage. However, if a surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse waits until age 62 or later to remarry, they can choose the better spousal benefit between their new spouse and any previous qualifying ex-spouse.
  7. Disability Benefits – If an individual receives Social Security disability benefits, the individual’s spouse, or ex-spouse, may file for spousal benefits up to half of the disabled individual’s benefit amount. Disability benefits convert to retirement benefits at Full Retirement Age, but the amount stays the same.
  8. Children Benefits – Children under age 18 or permanently disabled adult children may be entitled to dependent benefits of up to 50% of the parent’s retirement or disability benefits and survivor benefits after the death of the parent up to 75% of the parent’s benefit amount. Each dependent’s benefits can be reduced if the combined family benefits exceed maximum limits, usually 150% to 180% of an individual’s basic benefit amount.
  9. Earnings Limit – An individual who collects a Social Security benefit before Full Retirement Age and continues to work is subject to earnings limits. In 2017, you would forfeit $1 in benefit for every $2 earned over $16,920 if you are under Full Retirement Age for the entire year. Earnings limits do not apply to investments or pensions, and do not apply at or after your Full Retirement Age.


Estate plans are a critical component of wealth management. If you don’t have an estate plan, your state has one for you that could cost your heirs time, money, public exposure, and unintended consequences. Once your estate plan is in place, here are five annual tasks to keep your plans updated:

  1. Retirement Account Beneficiaries – Confirm annually that your company pension or deferred compensation plan has the named beneficiaries listed correctly. Also, in addition to a primary beneficiary(s), make sure you have a contingent beneficiary(s). In the absence of an appropriate beneficiary assignment, your heirs are subjected to the custodian’s default policy.
  2. IRA Beneficiary(s) – The transfer of IRAs can be complicated and inaccurate beneficiary assignments can have unintended consequences on estate planning and can create unnecessary tax consequences. Most beneficiary(s) problems are a result of major life changes where the beneficiary(s) were never changed. It is a common misconception that IRAs are covered by a will. An IRA is passed directly to the named beneficiary as it appears on the beneficiary form. The beneficiary assignment is senior to what is stated in the will.
  3. Power of Attorney – A financial and healthcare durable power of attorney should be created and updated annually. These legal documents are required to have a trusted person act in your place to make appropriate medical and financial decisions for you or your children should you lose capacity. Illness or incapacity can happen at any age, and without a power of attorney, a court of law may be needed to obtain authority to handle affairs. You should also consider that your young adult children have a power of attorney so that you can make medical and financial decisions once they turn 18.
  4. Account Titling – You should check your checking, savings, investment, life insurance, annuities, and property accounts for a consistent and proper title. If your trust is in one name, but your accounts are titled differently, it could delay and cost your heirs at the time of your death. The primary document used for identification at death is a death certificate. The death certificate holds the legal name of the deceased and a company will use it as proof of death before they pay the beneficiary.
  5. Estate Planning Attorney – You should meet with your estate planning attorney to disclose any changes in your family status that affects your estate plan. Also, check to see if there are any changes in the current laws as well.


529 plans are states and educational institutions to fund college savings plans to pay for school tuition, books, and other education-related expenses. They are named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Here are five ideas about 529 plans:

  1. Earnings are Federal Tax-Free – The investments in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free.
  2. Potential State Tax Credits – Some states allow full or partial tax deductions for contributions.
  3. Income Tax-Free Distributions – Distributions for qualified higher education expenses are federal and state income tax-free.
  4. Gift Tax-Free Contributions – For 2018, you and/or your spouse can each contribute up to $15,000 per child per year, or a lump sum of $75,000 (using a 5-year election) without incurring gift taxes. That could be $150,000 per child.
  5. Financial Planning – Using our eMoney financial planning software, we can estimate your child’s education expenses (tuition, books, room & board, etc.) using data specific to the institution you select and estimate the lump sum or the future annual savings needed to meet your goal.

* * *

As the Editor of The Financierge, our collective goal at The Bahnsen Group is simple – to provide you unbiased, relevant and valuable information that will guide and educate you through the maze that is our financial lives. I lead the Financial Concierge Services division of our practice, where the strategic partners we engage with share the same passion for assisting the broad spectrum of real-life needs and experiences faced by our clients. We are confident that because of this, The Financierge will have something for everyone. We hope you find it valuable and if so, encourage you to share this blog with your friends, family, and colleagues.

This resource is not one created for us to merely share our thoughts; it is also a place for our clients and friends to engage with us directly. We are always interested in your thoughts for improvement, your questions, and your suggestions for topics of interest.

Quite simply, we wish to serve you with the highest levels of competence and trust. 

Warm and best regards,

Don B. Saulic, CFP® CPA
Partner, Private Wealth Management

Appendix – The Financierge Topical Index (by Publish Date)

Business Planning

Business Entity Structures and New Tax Law Considerations (Aug 20, 2018)
Five Charitable Planning Perspectives to Know Before You Sell Your Business (Aug 20, 2018)
Two Estate Planning Tips for Your Businesses (Aug 20, 2018)
Four Strategies to Preserve Your Business’ Future (Aug 20, 2018)

College Planning
Five Ideas about 529 College Savings Plans (Nov 2, 2017)

Charitable Planning
Twelve Charitable Planning Ideas to Reduce Income Taxes in 2018 (Feb 14, 2018)
Five Charitable Planning Ideas (Nov 20, 2018)

Estate Planning
Five Annual Estate Planning Tasks (Nov 2, 2017)
Four Components of a Wealth Legacy Plan (Nov 20, 2018)


Investment Planning
Dividend Stock Investing (Feb 14, 2018)

Lifestyle Planning
Six Items to Keep in Your Vault (Nov 16, 2017)
Twelve Proactive Tips to Fight Identity Theft (Nov 16, 2017)
Twelve Ideas to Guard Your Family in a Digital World (Nov 16, 2017)
Is Your Lifestyle Balanced and in SHAPE? (Nov 20, 2018)

Real Estate Planning
Four Points to Ponder Before Buying or Leasing a Home (Jun 22, 2018)
Six Considerations About Mortgages, Refinancing and Taxes (Jun 22, 2018)
Five Elements of Reverse Mortgages (Jun 22, 2018)
Four Perspectives to Consider in Deciding to Move to a State with Lower Taxes (Jun 22, 2018)

Risk Management and Insurance Planning

Starting Social Security Benefits – Ready, Set, Hold!? (Nov 2, 2017)
Nine Considerations to Maximize Social Security Benefits (Nov 2, 2017)
Lifestyles of the Affluent and Exposed (Nov 16, 2017)
Eight Benefits of Health Savings Accounts (Mar 16, 2018)
Seven Ideas for Life Insurance (Mar 16, 2018)
Six Considerations About Long-Term Care Insurance (Mar 16, 2018)

Retirement Planning

Starting Social Security Benefits – Ready, Set, Hold!? (Nov 2, 2017)
Ten Things to Know About IRAs and Saving for Retirement (Feb 14, 2018)

Tax Planning
Twenty New Tax Reform Bill Changes (Feb 14, 2018)



The Bahnsen Group is registered with HighTower Securities, LLC, member FINRA and SIPC, and with HighTower Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor with the SEC. Securities are offered through HighTower Securities, LLC; advisory services are offered through HighTower Advisors, LLC.

This is not an offer to buy or sell securities. No investment process is free of risk, and there is no guarantee that the investment process or the investment opportunities referenced herein will be profitable. Past performance is not indicative of current or future performance and is not a guarantee. The investment opportunities referenced herein may not be suitable for all investors.

All data and information reference herein are from sources believed to be reliable. Any opinions, news, research, analyses, prices, or other information contained in this research is provided as general market commentary, it does not constitute investment advice. The team and HighTower shall not in any way be liable for claims, and make no expressed or implied representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of the data and other information, or for statements or errors contained in or omissions from the obtained data and information referenced herein. The data and information are provided as of the date referenced. Such data and information are subject to change without notice.

Third-party links and references are provided solely to share social, cultural and educational information. Any reference in this post to any person, or organization, or activities, products, or services related to such person or organization, or any linkages from this post to the web site of another party, do not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or favoring of The Bahnsen Group or Hightower Advisors, LLC, or any of its affiliates, employees or contractors acting on their behalf. Hightower Advisors, LLC, do not guarantee the accuracy or safety of any linked site.

This document was created for informational purposes only; the opinions expressed are solely those of the team and do not represent those of HighTower Advisors, LLC, or any of its affiliates.

About the Author

Don B. Saulic

Managing Director, Partner

Don is a Partner in the team’s Private Wealth Management practice specializing in helping affluent families develop comprehensive strategies for all phases of wealth accumulation, preservation, and transfer.

He also leads our Financial Concierge Services platform of professional alliances and serves as the editor of The Financierge.

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