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Bob Williams

Articles by Bob Williams

2020 Social Security Cost of Living Numbers Released

4 days ago

This is the time of year when leaves fall and the Social Security Administration announces the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for people receiving Social Security.
For 2020 the increase will be 1.6 percent, or about $24 per month, raising the average monthly individual payout to $1503. It will boost the maximum retirement benefit by $150 to $3011 per month. The average and maximum Social Security benefits figures don’t include delayed retirement credits, which reward Social Security recipients who wait to take Social Security beyond their full retirement age (FRA).
At the same time, the amount of income a worker will have to pay Social Security taxes on also goes up. For 2020, the wage base will increase from $132,900 to $137,700.
Social Security benefits increase automatically if

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The Alarming Growth of Elder Bankruptcy

7 days ago

Being elderly in America has more than its share of issues—affording proper healthcare, being forced to work much longer because of the need for health insurance or not having saved enough for retirement. Now, throw one more financial demon into the mix. More and more elders are being forced into bankruptcy.
In 1991, elder bankruptcies made up 2% of total filings. According to a report from Indiana Legal Studies, it is now up to 12% and growing. The study found that 78% of elders who file for debt relief made less than total median income.
Changes in the workplace are one reason behind what’s going on. Trade unions are not as strong as they used to be and therefore, have less power in contract negotiations. Real wages are stagnant. And the tradition of worker pensions has all but

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Roth IRA Conversion Traps to Avoid

11 days ago

Since the Roth IRA was created by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, it’ been an appealing addition to retirement planning. While contributions to a Roth are not tax-deductible, the trade-off is tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals after you cross the age of 59 ½. The withdrawal benefit is one reason many people consider converting their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. Also, there is no Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) on a Roth IRA as there is on a traditional IRA.
As with any plan, there are conversion strategies. For example, converting during your working years when tax rates may be lower than in retirement. Or spreading conversions over time to avoid being pushed into a higher tax bracket. Roth conversions can be a useful planning tool, but they can also be complex, and not knowing

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Medicare: Don’t Set It And Forget It

19 days ago

It may be one of the biggest misconceptions people have about Medicare—thinking that when they’re eligible they can enroll and then they’re set for life—set it and forget it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Never changing your Medicare plan can be a costly mistake.
Every year, insurance companies make changes to the Medicare plans they offer. Those changes can affect your out-of-pocket costs, deductibles, drug costs, which doctors you can see and what pharmacies you can use.
The good news is, you do have options. Medicare choices made when you’re first eligible are not written in stone. Once a year you get to shop around and see if there’s a better Medicare arrangement than the one you have. If you find one, you can switch.
Changes are allowed during the Open Enrollment period

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The Last Piece of the Estate Planning Puzzle

27 days ago

You’ve worked hard to get your estate plan in place. The appropriate documents have been created and signed. You’ve named the person who’ll carry out your final wishes. But have you completed the final piece of the estate planning puzzle? If this last piece is in place, it will make it substantially easier for your executor or trustee.
The last step in the estate planning process is collecting all your financial information and important documents into a single location. At the end of your life, you may have multiple pieces of property, IRAs in various locations, there may be 401k accounts at several previous employers, multiple insurance policies, and the list goes on. If your executor has to become Sherlock Holmes and search for all your assets, it can be a daunting task that creates

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It’s Open Season on Taxpayers and You are the Target

September 9, 2019

Hunting season is open again and you’re the target. According to the Internal Revenue Service, there is a new IRS impersonation email scam trying to con you out of your personal information with the end game of stealing your identity.
There are variations of what appears in the email subject line, but you may see phrases such as, “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax return Reminder.”
The emails have links that look like official websites. They pretend to be about your refund, electronic return or tax account. The emails contain a “temporary password” or “one-time password” so you can submit a refund. But using those passwords takes you to a malicious site that infects your computer with malware, allowing the scammer to track every keystroke you make, eventually giving

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Do You Have Your End Of Life Documents?

August 28, 2019

No matter your belief structure, or whether you’re reluctant to admit your own mortality, it’s a fact that none of us will live forever. And since no one knows if their demise will happen quickly or be proceeded by a lengthy illness, it’s good to be as prepared as possible for your care and for the disposition of your estate.
To make sure you are taken care of at the end of your life the way you want to be taken care of, your wishes need to be formally stated and there are several documents that will help:

Healthcare Power of Attorney also known as the Healthcare Proxy. If you can’t make medical decisions for yourself you want a person who will follow your wishes. The Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to designate that person. It avoids confusion about who you want to be in

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The Most Forgotten Tax Deductions Business Owners Should Take

August 28, 2019

How many times have we heard, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”? Ok, but if you carry that line of thinking a little farther, don’t give Caesar, or the IRS, MORE than they’re supposed to get.
If something is in the IRS code, and it applies to you, then use it. There are some underused write-offs and tax deduction strategies in the code that business people and entrepreneurs should consider.
Mark J. Kohler is an attorney and a CPA. The following is an excerpt from his book, The Tax and Legal Playbook:
When I review a client’s tax return, I always try to grab the low-hanging fruit first- — simple, easy deductions that can quickly have a big impact on my clients’ bottom lines. Here’s my power list of the most underused write-offs and tax deduction strategies business owners should

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Are Your Finances Making You Sick?

August 21, 2019

If you’re like a majority of Americans, dealing with your finances is stressing you out and wreaking havoc on your health. That’s the conclusion of a new report that asked people’s opinions about their money and their financial outlook.
Of the 1000 people surveyed, about 60 percent said managing their money affected their mental health and 56 percent said it had taken a toll on their physical health. The survey also found that women were more likely to be impacted physically and mentally because of their finances than men. More than 40 percent of recipients said they would give up all forms of social media if they didn’t have to manage their finances.
Aron Levine, the head of Bank of America’s consumer banking and investments division, says he’s concerned about the level of stress people

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Healthy People Need to Save More for Retirement

August 20, 2019

It sounds crazy, but if you’re healthy you probably need to save more for retirement than people with a battery of health issues. Why? Statistically, people who are healthy will live longer. That means more years paying for healthcare in a system where costs continue to increase exponentially. So, the longer you live the more money you have to have.
HealthView Services provides healthcare cost data to the financial services industry based on information from 530 million healthcare cases plus actuarial, government and economic data. HealthView’s latest report projects healthcare costs, the impact of health conditions, and strategies to manage and potentially reduce healthcare costs during retirement. The report highlights specific reasons why healthcare needs to be incorporated into

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The Lump Sum Distribution Monster

August 19, 2019

It’s the end of an era, at least for Baby Boomers. Some have already retired; many more can see the finish line of their working years. For Boomers with highly appreciated company stock in their 401(k) a major decision is whether to do an IRA rollover, leave the money in the employer plan, or use the lump-sum distribution tax break for net unrealized appreciation (NUA) on employer stock.
A lump sum distribution (LSD) is a one-time payment for an entire amount, rather than payments broken into smaller installments. Lump Sum Distributions are serious business with big tax benefits at stake, and a mistake can be expensive and irreversible. Ed Slott, a CPA and IRA expert, has provided the information below—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to help you decide if a lump sum distribution is right

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SPECIAL REPORT: The Definitive Guide to Medicare

August 16, 2019

There’s a common misconception that Medicare is a simple, automatic process when you turn 65. Nothing could be further from the truth. The responsibility to enroll is on your shoulders, and if you miss deadlines or don’t enroll in just the right way, you can incur penalties that will consume chunks of your retirement income for the rest of your life.
Medicare is made up of Part A (Hospital Insurance), and Part B (Medical Insurance). There is generally no cost for Part A, but there is a monthly premium for Part B. If you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re eligible and then enroll later, you’re penalized 10% for every 12-month period you could have had Part B and did not.
Then there’s Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage). That’s not automatic either. If you don’t sign up for Part D when

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Terminal Diagnosis Affects Social Security Timing

August 13, 2019

Knowing the various Social Security benefits available to you and the best time to claim those benefits can be a challenge. It requires research on your part, because many people are getting incorrect information from Social Security representatives, as noted in an audit by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.
But how does the claiming of benefits change when a spouse is diagnosed as terminal? Social Security expert Mary Beth Franklin responded to the questions of a couple who had received a terminal diagnosis about the husband.
I received a heartbreaking email from a reader the other day asking for advice on when he should claim his Social Security benefit given his recent diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. He is 61 and no longer working. His

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It’s Time to Tell the Truth – Advisor or Broker

August 12, 2019

I’ve been telling you for a while that some people who bill themselves as financial advisors are really financial salespeople, which begs the question, “Are they really acting in your best interest?” Apparently, the federal government now agrees with me.
It’s become popular for brokers to market themselves as financial advisors. They tell you they can help you with financial transactions as well as give you financial advice. The problem is, less than half of registered representatives are also registered investment advisors, who have to operate by a higher standard and a much stricter set of regulations.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved the Regulation Best Interest, an advice reform package, which says if a broker is not a registered investment advisor, then that person

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US oil producers have all their DUCs in a row: Fuel for Thought

June 4, 2018

With all the talk about sanctions, conflict and nationwide implosions, stakeholders could be overlooking a potential sleeper for the US oil market: DUCs–drilled but uncompleted wells.
Many observers are wondering, with oil prices topping $70/barrel and flirting with $80/barrel, why aren’t US producers drilling more wells to capitalize on commodity revenue gains.
A good deal of that perception is based in an apparently short-sighted fixation that the rig count equals more wells, which equals more production.
But focusing on the rig count without context can be misleading.
US active land rig counts spiked by 56% in the first half of 2017, according to S&P Global Platts’ RADAR methodology, as oil prices climbed about 6% from $47/barrel to $50/barrel.
But the rig tally gained just another 14%

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Enhanced oil recovery may offer climate solution: Fuel for Thought

February 12, 2018

As counterintuitive as it may sound to those who want to transition away from fossil energy to combat climate change, the US government has long supported research into technology that could potentially slow or even halt the growth of industrial carbon emissions while expanding the recovery of oil from existing fields.
Many in the oil industry support the concept—and have been implementing commercial projects based on it for decades, in the US and abroad.
In using this technology to enhance the recovery of oil (EOR), the oil industry has developed an extensive know-how for capturing, permanently storing, and monitoring carbon dioxide (CO2).
Additionally, a US government-backed research initiative has identified scores of underground receptacles nationwide that have the collective capacity

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Is the science on climate change ‘settled?’: Fuel for Thought

November 20, 2017

First, one should be discomfited by that lightning-rod shorthand for certitude; science is never “settled.” Saying so is the antithesis of science. The scientific method by definition suggests a permanent state of open-mindedness, of questioning the common wisdom, of rigorously testing and retesting the hypothesis. Where does one draw the line between acceptance of scientific consensus and blind faith?
That said, it isn’t necessary to don sackcloth and ashes to see troubling trends in climate data. It isn’t fanaticism to dismiss the silly charge that the climate change issue is a “hoax”—any more than it is heresy to question some of the claims made by proponents of the catastrophic climate change scenarios. What’s especially concerning about the latter is that these scenarios center on the

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Contract volatility reins in US land rig day rate growth: Fuel for Thought

August 21, 2017

“Tapping the brakes” is as good a description of what’s happening in US land drilling activity today as any, and it applies to drilling costs as well.
Since the recovery in drilling activity began to really gather steam last December, the US active land rig count, as monitored by Platts RigData’s RADAR report, had added at least 40 rigs to each successive month’s average tally through May.
Correspondingly, there was a comparable run-up in rig day rates (the daily cost to hire a rig with a full crew). The turnaround in day rates began somewhat modestly, if unexpectedly, in December. Even with this monthly improvement, however, it wasn’t enough to lift the average day rate for 4Q 2016 out of negative territory, where it had languished for two years.
But Q1 of this year provided the

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Trump’s ANWR move could spawn epic oil, natural gas battle: Fuel for Thought

June 26, 2017

Oil majors thirsty for reserves likely to line up for any lease sale
President Trump has uncorked yet another controversy over energy vs the environment and it promises to be a heavyweight battle.
The White House budget proposal includes a revenue line of almost $2 billion from selling oil and gas leases in the richly oil-prospective northeastern coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.
Until the climate change debate came along, leasing and drilling in the ANWR (pronounced an-war) Coastal Plain was arguably the most ferociously contested item on the oil and gas industry’s wish list at the national level.
First, a little background: In 1960, less than one year after Alaska became a state, Congress created the Arctic National Wildlife Range.
Twenty years later,

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Ample oil supply in a demand-constrained world: Fuel for Thought

May 15, 2017

Anyone looking for clues as to the direction of global oil demand would be well advised to count the number of electric bicycles dodging traffic in China’s streets.
It was once held that if all of the hundreds of millions of Chinese bicycle riders were to buy a car, oil demand there would jump by—pick a big number—xx%. But rather than abandoning bicycles for cars, many Chinese just upgraded to electric bicycles.
By 2013, the number of electric bikes on the road there had experienced a thousand-fold increase in 15 years; roughly 200 million are now in use in China, a number expected to reach 250 million by decade’s end. Cost is a factor, as is Chinese cities’ terrible smog. But the biggest factor seems to be convenience—more easily navigating the gridlock in China’s big cities.
Shifting US

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