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News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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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

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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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? 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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