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News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of Ob...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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