As inflation was coming down earlier this year, the Senior Citizen’s League estimated that Social Security benefits would increase next year by 1.75% in January and then they increased their estimate to 2.4% in February. Now, after getting a higher-than-expected inflation number for March, they are projecting a 3% increase. It still baffles us that with year-over-year numbers running at 3.8% how Social Security benefits are not increasing as fast as the CPI other than the fact that the CPI is not what is used. Instead, the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is used. In 2023, the CPI-W was up 3.4%, but Social Security benefits increased by 3.2% because it is calculated at the end of September and not the end of the year. We will keep you posted as the year progresses.


When going through a divorce, there is usually a division of property. Property can include assets like the family home, cars, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement plans, and family-owned businesses. The laws differ from state to state, but property is usually divided into two categories: separate and marital property. Marital property is sometimes referred to as community property.

Separate property is what a person brings into the marriage, inherits during the marriage, or receives as a gift during the marriage. Everything else acquired during the marriage is typically considered marital property, regardless of which spouse owns the property. Some states include the increase in value of separate property as marital property.

The state where a divorcing couple lives governs how their property is divided. Most states use equitable distribution while a handful of states use community property.

Equitable distribution states divide up a divorcing couple’s marital property “equitably,” or fairly, which doesn’t necessarily mean it is split 50/50. On the other hand, community property states typically divide everything except for separate property 50/50. Both equitable distribution and community property states do not typically divide any of the separate property.

Divorcing individuals need to work with their attorney, financial advisor, and tax advisor to think beyond the short-term and focus on the long-term impact of property division and financial stability. While divorce signifies the end of a chapter, proper planning will lay the groundwork for a smoother transition into the next phase of life for both individuals involved.


The IRS recently announced that they extended the waiving of RMDs in 2024 to those beneficiaries subject to the 10-year rule.

In IRS Notice 2024-35, another year of relief was added by waiving 2024 annual RMDs for beneficiaries of IRA owners who died in 2020, 2021 or 2022 after the Required Beginning Date (RBD). It also excuses 2024 RMDs within the 10-year period for beneficiaries of owners who died in 2023 after the RBD.  Even though you may not be forced to take money this year, it still might make sense to do so depending on your other taxable income.  It might make sense to delay taking the money if you think you will be in a lower tax bracket next year.

Keep in mind that the new IRS Notice does not affect lifetime RMDs, RMDs from inherited IRAs by “eligible designated beneficiaries,” or RMDs by beneficiaries who inherited before 2020. It only applies to those beneficiaries with annual RMDs within the 10-year period.


With gold prices up over 10% this year, investors are considering adding to the precious metal in hopes of riding the wave higher. Gold has long been thought of as an effective hedge against inflation and in the currently stubborn inflationary environment, many are finding solace in its stable value. However, there’s little historical evidence to support the argument that gold is indeed a good inflation hedge – most recently evidenced in 2021 as consumer price inflation rose from 1% to 7% year-over-year and gold prices fell 4%. There’s more to the story in the recent run.

Most importantly, central banks around the world have been adding meaningfully to their gold reserves – particularly in emerging markets such as China. Also, wars in the Middle East and Ukraine have investors flocking to gold given its reputation as a “safe haven” asset. Ultimately, gold has very little practical use. Outside of its most common use in jewelry, there are very few industrial applications for the precious metal. Gold also does not generate any earnings or income, making it less appealing than stocks and bonds for investors. In a world with positive real interest rates (adjusted for inflation), investors can get paid to hold safe assets such as U.S. Treasury bonds, the opportunity cost of holding gold can be quite expensive. 

While gold can provide some diversification to an investor’s portfolio, it’s no substitute for stocks and the growth potential they provide. Over the last 50 years, gold is up an average of 5% per year while U.S. stocks (represented by the S&P 500) are up 8%. Add in the all-important dividend component of stock returns and that number grows to 11% annually. Given the recent runup in gold prices, slowing inflation, and positive real interest rates, we would not be in a rush to buy gold now.


Do you fear poverty or death more?  According to a recent Allianz Life survey, 62% fear poverty more with the Gen Xers (born from 1965 to 1980) coming in at a whopping 71%. Baby Boomers came in at 53% which isn’t too surprising that they are closer to death, although a majority are still afraid of running out of money. While inflation has driven the overall fear factor up from 57% in 2022, concern over the instability of Social Security is also a major factor. In response to this fear, all generations say they are saving more and spending less.


Remember the good old pre-COVID days? You could go to the grocery store and hardly spend $100. Now, you can hardly get out for less. In fact, it isn’t hard to run up a bill for $200 these days. If the price of goods didn’t go up much over the last five years, then you probably are experiencing shrinkflation where the price might stay close to the same as it was, but the size of the product has shrunk. So just how bad is it? Consider that prices have increased by 54% for cooking oil, 51% for beef, and 77% for fruit snacks.

Prices then vs. now:

  • Milk   $2.21 / $2.73
  • Butter $2.82 / $3.78
  • Chips $1.29 / $2.26
  • Coffee $5.27 / $7.57
  • Toilet paper $4.31 / $7.08
  • Chocolate $1.20 / $2.23

Ugh! Is it possible that anything has gone down? Probably, but we have yet to find it. No wonder people are still so concerned about inflation even though it is down year-over-year to 3.8% from a high of 9%. (Source: Wall Street Journal 4/5/24)


We hope you continue to stay safe and well.

Proudly and successfully serving our clients for over 38 years. As always, we encourage you to call or email us if you would like to discuss anything.

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