Getting Real About Fund Fees

So it’s time to get real about mutual fund fees. Sure, they’re lower than ever for many funds, especially those that track an index. In fact, the average fund fee is now 1.25 percent, according to Chicago-based Morningstar. Still, even this amount is too high and needlessly gives away most of your expected future gains. To understand this, consider the following: You have to frame your gains in real, after-inflation returns. In other words, your portfolio must match inflation just to keep your spending power intact. You …

President Proposes Rule to Protect Worker Savings

President Barack Obama called on the Department of Labor today to draw up a rule to protect people who save in IRAs, 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans from hidden fees and expenses that may drain billions from their accounts. The president wants brokers and other professionals to be required to act in an investor’s best interest — instead of their own — when dispensing advice on retirement accounts. “Right now there are no uniform rules of the road that require retirement advisers to …

Are Longevity Annuities in Your Future?

I’ve been pretty critical of many annuities in the past, but there is one out there that might be worth a serious look. It’s called a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (QLAC) — yes, that’s a mouthful. Recent technical changes to this annuity OK’d by the U.S. Treasury offer a partial solution to the not-outliving-your-money challenge. Unlike many other annuities, this one is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. It also has some tax advantages. In fact, in five years, says Stan Haithcock, aka …

Surprise! Reverse Mortgages Are Very Confusing

A three-year examination of reverse mortgage complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that borrowers often didn’t understand the terms of those loans, including how quickly their loan balances would go up and their home equity would fall, the bureau said in a new report. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners age 62 and older to tap into the equity in their homes. They’re different from home equity credit lines or home equity loans because a reverse mortgage generally is paid back only when the homeowner …

Brooke Astor’s Grandson Tells Senate Panel of Financial Abuse

The Senate Special Committee on Aging held one of its periodic hearings on financial abuse of older people the other day, this time inviting a relative involved in one of the more spectacular headline-making cases in recent years to testify. The grandson of socialite Brooke Astor, who blew the whistle on his father for plundering millions from his grandmother’s estate, told the Senate panel Wednesday that his grandmother’s greatest legacy may be the national attention focused on elder financial abuse. “While my grandmother …

Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

One of the most frequent questions I get from clients is whether to buy long-term care insurance. With the average cost of a private room in care facilities topping $94,000 a year, according to a 2013 study by insurer John Hancock, it’s a reasonable concern. Many of us will need some form of long-term care (LTC), so the question of whether to buy insurance to help with the associated costs is a real one. I think the decision is a very close call. At …