Welcome to 2014. I learned a lot covering retirement planning for Bankrate.com in 2013. Here are a few things that I found so surprising and useful that they bear repeating.
Buy long-term care insurance for her. The Society of Actuaries concluded that it's more important to buy long-term care benefits for women than for men since so many more wives outlive their spouses and use the insurance.
Don't forget the Viagra benefit. Children younger than 18 (19 if they are still in high school) are eligible to claim Social Security if one of their parents reaches full retirement age -- 66 for most people claiming now. Put the money aside and create a healthy college fund.
Employee stock purchase plans are good retirement planning deals. Fidelity Investments pointed out that many companies sweetened their employee stock purchase plans in 2013, giving employees as much as a 15 percent discount or the opportunity to buy stock at the year's lowest price. Combine the discount with rising stock prices and you have a winner.
Get a QDRO. If you were awarded half your spouse's old-fashioned defined benefit pension or 401(k) in a divorce settlement, make sure your attorney demands a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO, proving it. Otherwise your ex-spouse's employer will never pay up, says Cynthia Hounsell, president of Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, or WISER. If you're in this situation, insist on getting a QDRO.
Spend savings to let your Social Security benefit grow. Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, advises people to spend their savings and delay taking Social Security so they can afford to let their benefit grow to the maximum. Social Security adds about 8 percent a year to your benefit for every year you delay taking it past full retirement age -- that's age 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954 -- up until age 70, plus inflation adjustments. That's contrary to what many experts say, but it makes sense.
Happy New Year, and here's to good retirement planning.