4 Reasons Why We’re Excited that Retire Secure! is Interactive on the Web!

If you haven’t made your way to www.langeretirementbook.com yet, now is the time!

Here at the Lange Financial Group, LLC, we are very excited to bring you an interactive version of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting the Most Out of What You’ve Got.

Reason #1 – The entire book is on this website. Yes, all 420 pages of the book, including the front and back covers, all about the best strategies for retirement and estate planning.


Reason #2 – The book is divided into chapters for ease of reading. Meaning, you don’t have to flip through 400-some pages to get to Chapter 11 – The Best Ways to Transfer Wealth and Cut Taxes for the Next Generation.


Reason #3 – We honestly haven’t seen anything like this before. Granted, I’ve read magazines on viewers where you can flip the pages as you read. But not a website for a book that includes a viewer, as well as a forum where readers can engage with each other.

The comments are moderated by the Lange Financial Group, LLC staff and myself. One of us will reply to your comment as soon as we can. To leave a comment, all you need to do is connect with your Amazon, Facebook, or LinkedIn account. This measure is for your protection, as well as ours. We don’t want spammers posting comments or incorrect information about such an important topic.


Reason #4 – We are hoping this interactive website encourages you to purchase the book! Retire Secure! is available from Amazon and JamesLange.com. Once you’ve read the book, feel free to return to LangeRetirementBook.com to ask questions, as well as Amazon and Goodreads to review the book for the benefit of others.


The Third Edition of Retire Secure has Finally Arrived!

The new edition of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting The Most out Of What You’ve Got is the distilled and concentrated version of the recommendations we have developed over 30 years. It is particularly useful for IRA and retirement plan owners.

We will soon be sending our clients a copy with a personalized note directing you to what we think will be the most relevant sections for you to read. This personalization has been a huge project, but it’s something that I think will be enormously helpful to you.

Retire Secure! will be available for purchase in bookstores and on Amazon in October. However, if you absolutely cannot wait, the book is available for Kindle and Amazon pre-order here.

Amazon Kindle Pre-Order Retire Secure! James Lange

The core concepts of the current edition are similar to the two previous editions (Wiley, 2006 and 2009). Recent legislative changes, however, have led to important strategy adjustments that are incorporated in the latest edition.

  • In Part 1, The Accumulation Years, we include some new strategies that were not available in 2009.
  • In Part 2, The Distribution Years, we cover how to spend down retirement funds in the right order to manage your assets wisely, but that area is more complicated than ever because of some of the new tax laws. We have also updated recommendations for Roth conversions, and the impact of a potential new law for IRA and retirement plan owners and their families — the death of the stretch IRA. It could be devastating for your children. Though there is no perfect answer, I do address some of the best strategies I know to reduce the pain of the likely changes in the IRA law.
  • In Part 3, we’ve updated the Eddie and Emily Estate Planning case study. Essentially, it incorporates the updated Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan, which many of you already have in your wills and trusts.

If you’ve read previous versions of Retire Secure!, I hope you’ll find the updates and changes enlightening. To make the new material easier to find, I have included a section that highlights the changes. And if you’re new to the book, I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to really educate yourself on these principles and sound practices. There’s mathematical proof that optimizing the strategies you use to approach saving, investing, estate planning, and distributing assets could mean a dierence of millions of dollars over your lifetime and for your heirs.

It’s my fervent wish that Retire Secure! will help you live a happier, healthier, and more secure life!


Beware of the Pro Rata Rule for Roth Conversions

What is the Pro Rata rule for Roth conversions?

The Pro Rata rule for Roth conversions states that if you have any other deductible IRAs (i.e. a previous 401k that you’ve rolled over), the conversion of any contributions becomes a taxable event that you’ll need to pay taxes on upfront.

The Pro Rata rule for Roth conversions determines whether or not your conversion will be taxable! For taxation purposes, the IRS will look at your entire IRA holdings (even if they are in different accounts), not just the traditional IRA you are converting to a Roth IRA, and will determine what your tax bill will be based upon a ratio of IRA assets that have already been taxed to those IRA assets in total.

The IRS determines the tax on this conversion based on the value of all of your IRA assets. For example Jane, a high income earner, already has $94,500 in an IRA account, all of which has never been taxed.  She decides on January 2nd to put $5,500 into a new traditional IRA. The next day she converts the new traditional non-deductible IRA to a Roth IRA.  Jane’s income is too high for her to make a direct contribution into a Roth IRA, but there’s no income limit on conversions.  Unlike Bill she has $94,500 in other IRAs (previously non-taxed), so her total IRA assets are now $100,000. When she converts $5,500 to a Roth IRA, the IRS pro-rates her tax basis on the previous taxation of her total IRA assets, therefore making this conversion 94.5% taxable ($94,500/100,000 = 94.5%).

So if you plan on using this backdoor IRA strategy, you want to be clear as to whether or not you have any other IRAs. As you can see, this can be a confusing area and this is where we can help.  If you are a high income earner we would be happy to review your situation to determine if this strategy is in your best interest.

Also, please remember that your spouse’s IRA is separate from yours.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, Benefits of a Roth IRA!

Want to learn more? Give us a call at 412-521-2732.

– James Lange

Example of a Backdoor Roth IRA

As promised from our last blog post, here is an example of a Backdoor Roth IRA

Bill, a high income earner decides on January 2nd to put $5,500 into a traditional IRA for himself and another $5,500 into a traditional IRA for his wife Mary.  Bill’s income is too high to be able to deduct these contributions from his taxes.

So the next day, he converts the traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs completely tax-free.  His income is too high for him to make a direct contribution into a Roth IRA, but there’s no income limit on conversions!

Since Bill and Mary couldn’t deduct the contribution anyway, they might as well get the advantage of never paying taxes on that money again available through the Roth IRA.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, Beware of the Pro Rata Rule for Roth Conversions!

Want to learn more? Give us a call at 412-521-2732.

– James Lange


Social Security Analyzed – Part 2 of 2

Running the Numbers for a Single Social Security Recipient

To accurately compare the financial benefits of waiting until age 70 to take benefits vs. starting to at age 62, we are going to assume that you will not spend any of your benefits from the time you start collecting until the time you reach age 70. In fact, we are going to assume that you will reinvest all the benefits you’ve received, until age 70. If we don’t make that assumption, it is extremely difficult to make an “apples to apples” comparison.

For our example, we have two single people with identical earnings records. One starts collecting at age 62 and invests all the benefits at 4%. The other one waits until age 70 to begin collecting.

The gold line on the chart on page 3 represents the accumulation over time for the 62-year-old, and the green line represents the accumulation over time for the one who waited until age 70 to begin taking benefits.

If you take benefits at 62, you receive 75% of what you would have received if you waited until age 66, and if you wait until age 70 you will receive 132% of what you would have received had you taken benefits at age 66. By waiting until age 70 you will see a 76% increase in your monthly benefit from what you would have received at age 62.

The math here may not be immediately obvious so, consider an example. If your PIA at 66 is $100, and you decide to begin benefits at age 62 you will get $75. If you wait until 70, you will get $132. The additional amount you would get for waiting is $57 ($132-$75 = $57). The percentage by which you will have increased your benefit is 76% ($57/$75).

The person who waits until age 70 to take Social Security and lives past age 81 will ultimately receive a lot more in benefits than the person who takes the benefit at age 62 (age 81 is roughly the break-even point). That assumes a 4% (after tax) rate of return. If you assume a lower rate of return, the break-even age would be even younger. Now, you might think that age 81 is a long time to wait to break-even, but let’s think about the issues of long-term financial goals and concerns in more detail.

If you don’t absolutely need your Social Security benefits to maintain a reasonable lifestyle, and you anticipate living past age 81 (or even if you only think you only have a reasonable chance of surviving until age 81), here is why you should consider waiting. You may think the conservative thing to do is to take it early because if you don’t survive to age 81 you will “win.” That is the way I used to think about it until I was enlightened.

Larry Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University, and a guest on The Lange Money Hour, taught me a better way to think about it. “Don’t think like an actuary,” declares Larry, “think like an economist.” You have to think about what you should be afraid of and what you should not be afraid of for financial purposes. For financial purposes, you should not fear an early death. You will be dead, and therefore you will have no more financial problems. What you should be afraid of, though, is living a long time and not having enough income to meet your needs. The big problem you could face is not having enough money to comfortably sustain you over your extended lifetime.

What you are doing when you hold off on taking Social Security is ensuring a greater income into your old age. In our example, if you live to age 95, the difference, in terms of the total amount collected, would be $3,345,019 vs. $2,587,914. That’s more than $750,000 additional dollars in your own pocket. The key concept to understand is this: the longer you live, the bigger the difference in the amount you collect and the greater your financial security if you live a long time.

Let’s face it, if you begin taking benefits at age 62 and you don’t absolutely need them, and you die shortly thereafter…well y ou are dead. No more worries. “But wait,” you say, “what about my spouse who is still alive. I want to take care of him/her too.” Exactly. Remember, in the previous example we are only talking about an individual who is not married. As will be seen, marriage introduces a completely new set of concerns that make waiting longer to collect benefits even more lucrative.

To receive the rest of the chapter, please e-mail us at admin@paytaxeslater.com or call Alice at (412) 521-2732.


Social Security Analyzed – Part 1 of 2

We have been “running the numbers” for Social Security benefit optimization to help clients choose the best strategy. We also analyzed Social Security more deeply that we ever have before in order to write our new book, Retire Secure! for Same-Sex Couples. This post is an adaption of a portion of the chapter on Social Security in the book that is applicable to everyone. If, after reading this excerpt you would like the rest of the chapter, please e-mail or call our office and we would be happy to send you the rest of the chapter. Of course we also offer custom analysis.

There are several sophisticated strategies that can be successfully used to maximize your benefits if you are married. But we find that many clients and readers need to understand some of the basic concepts and strategies before we move to the more sophisticated strategies which are usually possible if you are married.

For now, however, we will forget about the marriage issue. A point of contention regarding Social Security is when to begin receiving benefits: as soon as you are eligible, several years later, or even waiting until you are age 70. Let’s just talk about whether it makes sense, in general, to take Social Security early. For discussion’s sake, let’s assume your attitude is, “Well, gee, I’m retired, I’m 62 years old, I’ve been paying into this system for my whole life, and now it’s time for me to get some money out.” Should you start collecting Social Security benefits at 62?

Comparison of Taking Social Security at Age 62 or Age 70

First, it is important to understand that the dollar amount of your retirement benefit depends upon the age at which you begin to collect it. Let’s assume you were born between 1943 and 1954. Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is 66. This is set by law. The amount you will get if you begin to collect benefits at age 66 is called your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). If you begin to collect benefits at a different age, the amount you will receive is a function of your PIA. If you begin early, you obviously start receiving an income earlier, but allowing for interest, etc. (details to follow) you will receive less per month than if you had waited. If you start taking benefits at 62, the earliest age at which you can begin to collect benefits, you will suffer the maximum reduction in benefits. If you begin to collect benefits after full retirement age, you will receive larger benefits. You can get the largest benefit by waiting until age 70. So, the two extremes would be signing up for benefits at age 62, or waiting and taking at age 70. The earlier you collect, the lower your  benefit will be for the rest of your life.

The table on the left shows the percentage of your PIA (the amount you would get at age 66) that you will receive based on the age when you apply. For every year that you wait to collect benefits after Full Retirement Age (FRA) you will earn an extra 8% per year. Please note this table doesn’t include Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), which in all instances make the advantages of waiting even greater.

Our next post will touch on running the numbers for a single Social Security recipient as well as Social Security breakdown analysis with benefits reinvested at 4%.