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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Are there benefits to taking Social Security early? Part 2

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

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how Social Security (SS) works and how a breakeven analysis might be used to determine at what age to start taking benefits. Doug Lemons, a retired Social Security Administration deputy assistant regional commissioner, recently performed a fairly detailed break-even analysis with various return on investment (ROI), inflation rate and tax rate assumptions. He reached a very interesting conclusion: the ROI on the invested income must generally exceed the rate of inflation by 5 percentage points or more to justify taking benefits at age 62 rather than at Full Retirement Age (FRA), and by 3 percentage points or more to begin at FRA rather than waiting until age 70.

In today’s low inflation environment, getting a consistent real return (return in excess of inflation) of 4 or 5 percent or more is extremely challenging. What’s more, Lemons found that when inflation rates and/or marginal tax rates are high, the rate of return needs to be as high as 7 or 8 percentage points above inflation to justify collecting early benefits. Both those findings were for men. For women, whose life expectancies are longer, the rate of return needs to be even higher. In other words, in most situations you would be hard-pressed to start early SS and get a real rate of return on your investments high enough to come out ahead. Therefore, based on a break-even analysis, it’s probably better to delay starting benefits as long as possible under almost any circumstances.

But the breakeven analysis is not the only way to think about Social Security. Consider that SS is the only annuity you can get that is guaranteed by the federal government and adjusts for inflation. As a complement to a well-diversified retirement portfolio, it can significantly improve your chances of having enough money to last the rest of your life, however long that turns out to be. With that in mind, it would make more sense to follow a strategy that maximizes your monthly payments on the assumption that you might have a very long life. In short, it’s again better to delay starting SS until age 70, taking this perspective. Skeptics might argue that the government is poised to start taking away some of these features. That’s certainly a possibility. But unless you currently have some diagnosis of terminal illness, do you really want to bet that you’re going to die sooner rather than later? What will happen if you turn out to have been wrong? 

So far we’ve been considering Social Security for a single individual. The decision gets more complex for a married couple. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse may start receiving the deceased spouse’s SS payments if they’re higher than his or her own. This is especially valuable for couples where only one spouse worked. If you’re the primary breadwinner in your family, and had chosen to start your benefits early, your reduced payments would carry over to your spouse if he or she outlives you. Do you really want to limit your spouse’s SS income after you’re gone? Especially if he or she ends up living for many years after you’ve passed away?

As I’ve written previously, if you are married, widowed or divorced there are many strategies you can follow to further maximize your social security benefits (visit losaltosonline.com, Parts 1 and 2, June 29 and July 27, 2011, Artie Green’s articles on how to maximize Social Security benefits). But as to what age to start collecting benefits, I believe it’s almost always better to delay as long as possible, unless you have a terminal illness or you absolutely need the money sooner.

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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