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Getting Ahead
2nd Quarter 2015

In this issue:

How to Pick the Optimal Retirement Age

When It Really Pays To Buy Online

7 Easy Ways to Save for Your Big Summer Vacation

How to Pick the Optimal Retirement Age

The classic retirement age continues to resonate with working Americans. A recent Gallup survey found that workers expect to retire at an average age of 65, down slightly from 66 in 2014.

If you look beyond the average, slightly more Americans are interested in retiring after age 65 than before it. Over a third (37 percent) of workers are planning to retire at age 66 or older, up from 14 percent in 1995, the Gallup poll of 652 working adults and 363 retirees found. Another third (32 percent) of Americans say they are aiming to retire before age 65, down significantly from 49 percent in 1995. About a quarter (24 percent) of workers are hoping to retire at exactly age 65, a proportion that has remained consistent for the past decade.

RetirementOther surveys have seen a similar change in retirement expectations. An Employee Benefit Research Institute survey of 1,003 workers and 1,001 retirees found that the proportion of adults who expect to retire after age 65 has climbed from 11 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2015. Another 10 percent of workers say they never plan to retire.

But few retirees actually stay on the job past age 65. Retirees left their jobs at an average age of 60, according to the Gallup survey. And the majority of current retirees (67 percent) say they retired before age 65. Only 18 percent of retirees left the workforce after age 65 and 9 percent retired at age 65. The EBRI survey found that just 14 percent of retirees stayed on the job past age 65.

Here are some of the factors that play a role in when people retire:

Evaluate your finances. The size of your nest egg plays a big role in when you can financially afford to retire. Withdrawals from your savings, combined with your Social Security and pension payments, need to provide enough income to cover your expenses. Those who know they haven't saved enough to pay their bills often plan to delay retirement past age 65 because they need the income. "Concerns about affording retirement, especially because of the recession, could persuade Americans to wait to retire, or to plan to retire later," writes Rebecca Riffkin, a Gallup analyst, in the report. "The difference between the age when retirees report retiring and when nonretirees expect to retire may be a generation gap, with current workers expecting to live longer and planning to continue working later in their lives."

Medicare eligibility. Workers qualify for Medicare coverage at age 65. Enrolling in this government health insurance program gives you the freedom to walk away from a job that you stayed at largely for the employer-sponsored health insurance. Retirees who sign up for Medicare qualify for health coverage at reasonable rates, regardless of any pre-existing health conditions.

Social Security income. Signing up for Social Security can replace some of the income you earned while working. However, benefit payouts are reduced if you sign up for payments at age 65. The age workers qualify for full benefits is 66 for most baby boomers and 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. You can increase your monthly Social Security payments by delaying claiming them up until age 70.

Retirement plans. If you are doing work you enjoy, it can be attractive to stay on the job. Retirement gives you a surplus of free time, which can be wonderful if you have hobbies and volunteer work you want to pursue. But retirement without any activities and a social network that isn't tied to your job can be lonely and isolating.

You may not get to choose your retirement date. When you retire is not always within your control. The EBRI survey found that half of retirees left the workforce earlier than planned, typically due to health problems, job loss or to care for a spouse or other family member. Retirement isn't always a date you get to pick, but a situation you need to cope with.

Article courtesy of U.S. News and World Report

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When It Really Pays To Buy Online

Online shoppingYou can buy practically anything online, but that doesn't mean you'll always want to or ought to.

The convenience is undeniable, of course, but the matter of cost is still very much a question. About 71 percent of products are essentially priced the same online and in-store, according to a recent study by Anthem Marketing Solutions. When there was a difference, the online product was cheaper 72 percent of the time. Those deals are the biggest reason people choose to shop the Internet, according to a recent survey of 19,000 consumers worldwide by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But stores have advantages that the virtual world can't match: opportunities for shoppers to touch, see, and size up the goods and to walk away with a purchase. Those are the top reasons people still opt for a brick-and-mortar experience, according to the survey. That might explain the relatively slow rise of online categories like groceries and eyeglasses.

More channels and more choices can mean more opportunity as well as more potential pitfalls.

In addition to the fact that you'll find a much wider selection online, more than two-thirds of electronics are cheaper when purchased on the Internet, according to Anthem. That's true for big-ticket items like computers as well as for smaller accessories like HDMI cables and cell-phone cases, which are often 30 to 40 percent less than in stores. (Stores get away with charging more because customers don't always compare prices on items that cost under $20, says Andrea Woroch, an independent consumer savings expert.) Still prefer to buy a TV in person? Do your research online. Many walk-in retailers will price-match a Web deal.

Small appliances
You'll find the best selection of blenders, toasters, and the like online, although you're still better off trying out heavy or hard-to-maneuver items, like vacuums, in a store first.

Pet supplies
By signing up for regularly scheduled pet-food delivery from, you can save 15 percent on every qualifying order and guarantee that Fido never runs out of kibble. You can also net big discounts by buying pet meds online, if you're not in a rush, rather than going to the vet, where markups over wholesale prices can be 100 percent and up.

Theme park tickets
You'll pass by the ticket booth anyway, but buying online helps you "avoid lines at the park and find some of the best ticket-price deals that a park has to offer," says Robb Alvey, founder of If you're a member of AAA or have a credit card with rewards points, you may also be able to snag discounted tickets.

Baby supplies
It's cheaper and more convenient to order diapers, baby food, and ancillary items (like diaper-pail refills) online, especially if you opt for a delivery program like Amazon's Subscribe and Save, which discounts your entire order by 15 percent if you select five or more items.

Bath fixtures
Online, you have the benefit of a massive selection that no single showroom could contain, particularly if you're seeking special features or unusual hardware. If you're buying toilets or faucets, make sure you have the exact measurements. Get it wrong and you could wind up having to return it and pay a hefty restocking fee, or having to drill extra holes in your sink or countertop or even worse having to hide extra holes or unsightly metal plates.

Auto parts
Buying car components online could save you as much as 50 percent. Before you order, talk with your mechanic to make sure you'll come out ahead in the end. You could pay a premium to have your local guy or gal install an item that you didn't buy from him or her directly. There can also be quality concerns about a discount or aftermarket part. It could fail sooner than the original; it might even void your car's warranty.

Article courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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7 Easy Ways to Save for Your Big Summer Vacation

ResolutionsSummer is among us and sometimes it can be tricky to put together a travel budget that is actually effective. But setting up a savings strategy now can help you cover the costs of that upcoming getaway with less stress.

1. Set up a separate savings account. Find out if your credit union can set up a separate savings account under your main account so you can organize your funds with ease. Setting up a separate savings account specifically for your summer vacation will help you keep better track of your money and focus on making that account grow. Review the account regularly to keep yourself motivated and on track with your savings plan.

2. Make weekly, not monthly, contributions. Even if you prefer a monthly budget to organize your income and expenses, consider setting up a separate running category where you can make weekly contributions for your summer vacation fund. Making a habit of depositing money into your summer vacation fund every week, instead of every month, can help you make saving money for a specific goal a higher priority in your life. Whether this happens in the form of writing yourself a check and going to the credit union to make the deposit, or simply transferring funds between accounts on a weekly basis, add it to your calendar so you don't miss out on the opportunity to build up that savings account.

3. Scale back leisure expenses. Commit to cutting back on extras for at least 90 days so you can free up more money for that vacation. Take a closer look at your spending habits, and consider how much you are spending on eating out, entertainment or even last-minute trips. Put yourself in a mindset of limiting extra expenses so you can maximize your budget.

4. Prepare your own food. Dining out regularly can put a dent in your budget, but you can pare down those food costs by making most of your meals at home. According to a 2012 Harris Interactive poll, seven in 10 Americans say they save money by cooking meals at home instead of heading to their favorite restaurant. Scaling back on dining out, even for just a few months, could help you save a significant amount of money that you can put toward those summer travel funds.

5. Plan a week's worth of spending. How many last-minute purchases do you make only to find out later that you could have saved money if you had planned ahead? Whether it's buying things without comparing prices online or shopping on a whim, now is a great time to change your shopping habits so you can keep costs down over the next couple months. Get into a habit of making lists of purchases you anticipate needing for the upcoming week so you know how much you will spend by week's end. This can help you prioritize purchases and make it easier to stay within your budget.

6. Sell something specifically for your travel funds. Do some spring cleaning to liquidate a few items, and use that cash to make bigger deposits toward your savings fund. Sell items on eBay, Craigslist or use Facebook Marketplace to sell items to friends. Just make sure to use all proceeds from that sale for your travel savings account.

7. Make use of savings and budget apps. If you have a hard time tracking daily expenditures or just can't seem to keep track of your savings goals, use apps such as SmartyPig,'s budget app and similar mobile apps to manage your budget and cash flow with ease. Entering your expenditures and savings contributions in real time can make it much easier to set and achieve your financial goals, and it might even increase awareness of your spending habits.

Article courtesy of U.S. News and World Report

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