Wed09172014

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

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

'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? 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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