Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Are there benefits to taking Social Security early?

Following is the first in a two-part series exploring the pros and cons of taking early Social Security payments.

I’ve written numerous articles over the years about strategies for maximizing Social Security benefits.

The most fundamental decision all retirees face is when to start taking payments. If you need the money, you may have no choice but to start taking payments as soon as you are eligible. But if that’s not the case, which is better: to start as early as possible and invest the proceeds or to wait and take advantage of higher payments?

It’s important to understand how Social Security payments work. Your Full Retirement Age (FRA), based on your date of birth, is the age at which you can begin collecting what the Social Security Administration calls your Primary Insurance Amount. This is the monthly amount the administration sends you for the rest of your life. The calculation of your Primary Insurance Amount is a bit complicated, but suffice it to say that it is based on your highest 35 years of earned income, adjusted for inflation.

To add to the complexity, the Social Security Administration allows some flexibility. You can choose to begin collecting your benefits at your FRA, as early as age 62 (even earlier in certain circumstances) or as late as age 70. If you choose to start early, you will receive reduced benefits for the rest of your life; if you choose to start later, you will receive expanded benefits (called delayed credits).

For every year you delay after age 62 until FRA, your initial monthly payment increases by 8 percent. The same is true for every year you delay between your FRA and age 70. For example, if you begin collecting benefits at age 62 and your FRA is age 66, your starting payment will be only 75 percent of your Primary Insurance Amount. If you wait until age 70 – the longest you can wait and still receive the 8 percent annual delayed credits – your initial payment will be 32 percent higher than your Primary Insurance Amount.

As you might surmise, the age at which you start can have a significant impact on the total income you receive over your retirement lifetime.

It’s also important to consider two other facts about Social Security benefits: If you start taking benefits before your FRA and you are currently working, your benefits will be reduced; and regardless of your starting age, your payments include cost-of-living adjustments that enable you to keep pace with inflation.

Break-even analysis

If you’re the analytical type, you might approach this question by doing a break-even analysis.

Calculate the age at which you would have accumulated the same total income regardless of whether you start collecting benefits at age 62 or at age 70. If you treat this as a simple mathematical exercise, the answer is age 82. That is, if you plan to die before age 82, it’s better to start your Social Security benefits as early as possible (i.e., at age 62), but if you plan to live longer, you should wait until age 70 to start.

However, such an analysis would be quite incomplete. Assuming that you plan to invest your Social Security income, realistically there are a couple of other factors you need to take into account:

• The return on investment of your Social Security income.

• The inflation rate, which impacts the growth over time of the Social Security payments.

• Your tax rate, which affects not only how much you may keep but also how much of your Social Security income is taxable.

Doug Lemons, retired Social Security Administration deputy assistant regional commissioner, recently completed the above analysis using various return on investment, inflation rate and tax rate assumptions. In part 2 of this series, I’ll share the very interesting conclusion he reached.

Artie Green, a Los Altos resident, is a certified financial planner and professional investment adviser. For more information, call (408) 747-1222.

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