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July 22, 2016

Penelope WangUnless you’ve been living in a news-free zone, you’ve probably noticed that the presidential convention season is half over. As the Republicans wrap up a crazy week, Donald Trump’s team has yet to deliver much detail about his policy positions. That’s especially true for the programs with the biggest impact on retirees—Social Security and Medicare. When the Democrats convene next week, Hillary Clinton may unveil a few more specifics about her policies—which include expanding Social Security benefits despite the system’s precarious finances, as contributor Phil Moeller explains. But if history is any guide, the real details will surface only after the next president takes office and begins a first-100-days policy blitz. So let’s hope that sensible reforms are on the agenda, since these programs are crucial not only for anyone in retirement or with plans to retire, but also for children, people with disabilities, and their families. In other words, all of us.

Best wishes,

Penny

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THIS WEEK’S RETIREMENT NEWS, INSIGHTS AND ADVICE

5 Ways to Make Yourself a Better Retirement Saver

When it comes to putting away money for retirement, we all have good intentions. But how many of us actually make that savings happen? If you find yourself falling short, try these smart suggestions from contributor Walter Updegrave. Turns out, by setting up the right system, you can keep yourself on track. MONEY

How to Retire Early

No one said it would be easy, but retiring early is still possible. Writer Andrea Coombes spoke to successful early retirees—those who quit work in their 30s, 40s, and 50s—to find out their strategies. Here are the steps you need to take. MARKETWATCH

Check These 7 Retirement Planning Blind Spots

It’s relatively easy to keep tabs on some parts of your retirement plan. You can easily go online and check your 401(k) balance or your estimated Social Security benefit. But there are other key factors you may not have thought to look for. Morningstar’s Christine Benz gives you a heads up. For instance, how much of your savings is in pre-tax accounts from which withdrawals will be taxable? MORNINGSTAR

7 Reasons Retirees Are Sticking with Stocks

Conventional wisdom suggests that retirees would do best to lighten up on stocks in order to reduce risk. But Vanguard data show many have a surprisingly big stake in equities—much higher than typically recommended. Vanguard asked these investors why they chose their allocations and nearly 200 responded. Editor Karen Damato highlights some of the most common reasons. Perhaps one or two ring true for you. MONEY

No Bump Likely in Social Security Checks Next Year

You probably saw this coming, but Social Security beneficiaries are unlikely to get a cost-of-living increase in their checks next year. So take steps now to ensure that you will have sufficient cash flow, perhaps by setting up a plan to tap home equity if necessary. Also check to see if you’re going to be hit by a Medicare Part B premium hike. Bad news is always worse if it’s a surprise. CNBC

Retirement Savings Tax Breaks for High Earners

No question, there aren’t many downsides to earning a high income. That said, when your salary reaches certain levels, you can no longer qualify for many tax breaks. Still, there are a few tax benefits that do extend to high earners. If you’re in an upper tax bracket, here’s how to make sure you’re not missing out. US NEWS

Deciding Where to Live in Retirement? Better Plan Ahead

If you’re planning to move to your favorite locale in retirement, or perhaps build your dream house, do a reality check first. Will you be able to stay there as you age? Chances are, that two-story Tudor will be tough to manage, and a picturesque village may not offer the services you’ll need. WASHINGTON POST

What Can You Expect in Retirement? Here’s What Actual Retirees Found Out

When you near retirement, you start to have specific expectations about how you’ll spend your time, as well as how much money you’ll be spending. But until you’re retired, and you actually start working with your budget, it’s hard to know if your estimates are on target, as editor Suzanne Woolley points out. Now a new survey finds a wide gap between pre-retiree expectations and the reality of retirement. You might need to design a Plan B retirement budget, just in case. BLOOMBERG

Here’s How Much Grandkids Really Cost

One of the rewards of growing older is the arrival of grandchildren—and having an opportunity to spoil them. Which is fine, as long as that generosity doesn’t jeopardize your retirement security. According to recent AARP research, many older Americans spend big on the little ones. That’s probably not good for either group. MONEY

YOUR RETIREMENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED

How to Invest the Money You’ve Already Tapped from Your Nest Egg

Q: My wife and I started taking required distributions of $1,600 a month from our retirement accounts. We’ll need the money in five years to redo our house, at a cost of $30,000, and want to put it in a fund we wouldn’t have to check daily. Any thoughts? — Andy in Florida

A: Remember that timing is everything. You have a short-term goal of remodeling your home. At the same time, you’re looking for a do-it-all investment vehicle that will keep your retirement funds at work. READ MORE

WORDS OF WISDOM

“If investing is entertaining, if you’re having fun, you’re probably not making any money. Good investing is boring.”

--Investor George Soros

ABOUT PENNY: Penelope Wang is editor at large at MONEY with a focus on retirement planning. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University School of International Affairs, she was recently ranked among the "top social influencers in personal finance and wealth." You can email her at retirewithmoney@moneymail.com and follow her on Twitter @PennyWriter.

 
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