More People Delay Claiming Social Security
The average age for claiming Social Security retirement benefits has been steadily rising. Older Americans are working longer, in part because full retirement age is increasing incrementally from 66 to 67. A worker may begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but monthly benefits will be permanently reduced by as much as 30% if claimed before full retirement age — a strong incentive to wait.
Average claiming age
Source: Social Security Administration, 2020
Real Estate for Income and Diversification
An estimated 145 million Americans own real estate investment trusts (REITs) in their retirement accounts and other investment funds.1 The primary appeal of REITs is the potential for a consistent income stream and greater portfolio diversification. Of course, like all investments, REITs also have risks and downsides.
Pooled Property Investments
An equity REIT — the most common type of REIT — is a company that uses the combined capital of a large number of investors to buy and manage residential, commercial, and industrial income properties. A REIT may focus on a specific type of property, but REIT properties in general might range from shopping malls, apartment buildings, and medical facilities to self-storage facilities, hotels, cell towers, and timberlands. Equity REITs derive most of their income from rents.
Under the federal tax code, a qualified REIT must pay at least 90% of its taxable income each year in the form of shareholder dividends. Unlike many companies, REITs generally do not retain earnings, so they may provide higher yields than some other investments, which might be especially appealing in the current low-interest environment. In January 2021, equity REITs paid an average dividend of 3.55%, more than double the 1.55% average dividend paid by stocks in the S&P 500 index.2-3
You can buy shares in individual REITs, just as you might buy shares in any publicly traded company, or you can invest through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Income vs. Volatility
Equity REITs are effective income-generating assets, but share prices can be sensitive to interest rates, partly because companies often depend on debt to acquire rent-producing properties, and interest rates can affect real estate values. Also, as rates rise, REIT dividends may appear less appealing to investors relative to the stability of bonds offering similar yields.
For buy-and-hold investors, the income from REIT dividends may be more important than short-term share-price volatility. Moreover, REIT share prices do not always follow the stock or bond markets, making them a helpful diversification tool (see chart).
While REITs are traded on the stock market, they are in some respects a unique asset class with characteristics of both stocks and bonds. So holding REITs not only may diversify your stock holdings but might also broaden your approach to asset allocation. Diversification and asset allocation are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.
A Class of Their Own
Over the last decade, equity REITs have performed very differently than stocks and bonds. REITs were slower than stocks to recover from the early 2020 bear market, which could make their lower valuations and higher yields appealing for long-term investors.
You Want to Leave a Legacy
The tax-free death benefit of a life insurance policy may be a cost-effective way to leave an inheritance to your loved ones. Permanent life insurance can be available no matter when you die, as long as you’ve kept up with the premium payments.
You May Owe Estate Taxes
Federal estate taxes are owed on estate assets that exceed the federal estate tax exclusion ($11.7 million in 2021). In addition, several states have their own separate estate taxes and exemptions. Those you leave behind can use the death benefit of your life insurance to pay some or all of any applicable estate taxes after your death.
The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Withdrawals of the accumulated cash value, up to the amount of the premiums paid, are not subject to income tax. Loans are also free of income tax as long as they are repaid. Loans and withdrawals from a permanent life insurance policy will reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, and could increase the chance that the policy will lapse, and might result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured. Additional out-of-pocket payments may be needed if actual dividends or investment returns decrease, if you withdraw policy cash values, or if current charges increase. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company
Five Tips to Follow When Applying for a Mortgage
The housing market during the coronavirus pandemic has certainly been notable. Historically low interest rates resulted in record home buying, even as housing prices escalated.1
Fortunately, the mortgage industry has been able to keep up with the pace of the real estate market by utilizing already existing technology. Homebuyers can search for lenders, compare interest rates, and apply for mortgages online. In addition, mortgage lenders are able to do alternative appraisals, perform safe home inspections, and conduct closings electronically.
Even though applying for a mortgage is much easier these days, navigating the world of mortgages — especially for first-time homebuyers — can be complicated. As a result, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind.
Check and maintain your credit. A high credit score not only may make it easier to obtain a mortgage loan but could potentially result in a lower interest rate. Be sure to review your credit report for inaccuracies. You may have to take steps to improve your credit history, such as paying your monthly bills on time and limiting credit inquiries on your credit report (which are made every time you apply for new credit).
Shop around. Be sure to shop around among various lenders and compare the types of loans offered, along with the costs and rates associated with those loans. Consider each lender’s customer service reputation as well.
Get pre-approved for a loan. In today’s hot housing market, it’s essential to have a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand before making an offer. Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval letter lets you know how large a loan you can get. However, this isn’t necessarily how much you can afford. Be sure to examine your budget and lifestyle to make sure that your mortgage payment — principal and interest as well as property taxes and homeowners insurance — is within your means.
1) MarketWatch, September 5, 2020
Review your down-payment options. Though lenders prefer a down payment of 20% or more, some types of home loans allow down payments as low as 3%. A larger down payment can help you obtain a lower interest rate, potentially avoid paying for private mortgage insurance, and have smaller monthly payments.
Read the fine print. Before you sign any paperwork, make sure that you fully understand the terms of your mortgage loan and the costs associated with it. For example, if you are applying for an adjustable-rate mortgage, it’s important to be aware of how and when the interest rate for the loan will adjust.
Round Rock Advisors LLC is a registered investment advisor. Information in this message is for the intended recipients] only. Please visit our website www.RoundRockAdvisors.com for important disclosures.
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