HAWAII'S ONLY WEEKLY FILIPINO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
AUGUST 4, 2018
EDITORIALS
 

EDITORIALS

Planning for Retirement Should Be Among Your Top Priorities

Retirement just isn’t what it used to be – a guaranteed pension with Social Security and Medicare to supplement a handsome life-savings.

For many of today’s retirees, only two of four safety nets are available – Social Security and Medicare – and they have no pension or adequate savings.

Retirement used to be something to look forward to, a reward for putting 35-50 hard years of employment. It was a silent contract of sorts between workers and employers that said: “You’ve earned it, here’s an easy pass for the next generation or so. Enjoy your retirement.”

While retirement can still be enjoyed; it isn’t exactly easy for the Baby Boomer Generation (the age group now retired or soon-to-be).

Remember the Baby Boomer generation represents the age group that have enjoyed in their prime years the greatest era of low inflation, home ownership, steady full-time jobs with a decent wage. If a majority of Baby Boomers are struggling in their silver years, how much more of a struggle will it be for the next generations – Generation X and the Millennials?

A survey from the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) found: only 24 percent of Baby Boomers are confident they will have enough savings to last throughout retirement; only 55 percent of Baby Boomers have any money saved for retirement; 59 percent of Baby Boomers cite Social Security as a major source of their retirement income; and only 27 percent of them believe they will have enough money for healthcare expenses.

Other startling statistics: 32 percent of Americans 50 or older are saddled with non-mortgage debt such as credit cards (an average of $4,786 in credit cards and $12,490 in total non-mortgage debt, according to the Health and Retirement Study from the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center; and those 55 or older made up 20 percent of people filing for bankruptcy (62 percent were due to medical expenses) a Harvard University study found. These stats indicate that many Americans are nowhere near financial shape to even begin preparing for retirement.

It’s estimated that a 65-year-old couple retiring today will spend on average a total of $275,000 out of pocket on healthcare, according to Fidelity Investments.

GOBankingRates came up with an estimate annual income of $56,404 to live comfortably in retirement in Hawaii. That is about $4,700 a month. To live comfortably in Hawaii for 20 years of retirement, it would take about $1.13 million.

CNN Money warns, “If retirement expenses exceed Social Security and pension income by $20,000 a year, you’ll need a nest egg of $300,000 to $400,000.”

Considering that the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit is about $1375 a month or $16,500 per year, this should be a dire warning to anyone, including millennials in their 20s in their first real jobs, that saving for retirement ought to be given greater consideration. Experts recommend that workers in their 20s begin saving 10 to 15 percent of income for their retirement.

Socking away money can seem impossible especially in Hawaii where many residents are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Whatever extra income available after paying for a house, cars, and college expenses is usually dedicated to urgent needs. It’s time that retirement, perhaps, be viewed among those urgent needs.

Basic Tips for Retirement Preparation

First, do your own research and/or consult with a professional financial planner.

Second, if you are not making enough money to open a retirement portfolio with Roth IRA or other retirement options, the very least you can do is open a separate personal retirement account.

Unless you work for the government, most companies no longer offer pensions or employer-operated retirement savings plans. This means that the responsibility is on you to put aside a small amount of money each paycheck to go to retirement. Many Baby Boomers in their working years had employers that offered pensions but they are still struggling with retirement. It’s expected that younger generations working in this no-pension era will have it even worse than Boomers in retirement.

Third, live within your means. While it’s fun to take vacations every year; maybe skip a year or two. The money that would have been used for vacation could be reallocated to retirement savings. Reassess all luxury type expenses, make a new budget, and eliminate expenses you can do without.

Lastly, Social Security and Medicare are two of the last safety nets that Americans rely on just to scape by. As smart voters, demand that the politicians you entrust your future with are committed to defend Social Security and Medicare as top priorities.

Retirement preparedness takes discipline, common sense, and responsibility. Saving for retirement is something most people put off until it’s too late. If you value retirement as an option, now is the time to start planning for it.

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All Americans Should Be Concerned About Trump’s Mass Denaturalization of U.S. Citizens

When President Donald Trump backed a proposal in Congress to reduce legal immigration by half with the elimination of family reunification and implementation of a new merits-based system, many Americans knew at that moment that the Trump administration is really anti-immigration, and not just anti “illegal” immigration.

Clearly, the president can’t just outright say he’s against immigration. But his actions speak louder than words and suggest that his disdain for illegals is much broader.

Trump’s latest controversial move to go after select naturalized U.S. citizens is yet another revelation of his true position on immigration.

Yes, you’ve read it right – he is now targeting naturalized U.S. citizens. Many of whom have already gone through the lengthy process and emotional roller coaster ride to becoming a U.S. citizen; have lived as U.S. citizens in this country for years, paid taxes, contributed to society, but could now face denaturalization and possibly deportation. Why? Because if you’re a naturalized U.S. citizen and lied in some form in the naturalization process, you could be at risk of denaturalization.

Denaturalization Task Force Formed

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S.C.I.S) had formed a new task force in order to identity people who lied on their citizenship applications and to denaturalize them.

This latest move isn’t a change in the law or a new law.

But denaturalization has been exceedingly rare.

Historically, it has only been sought in very serious cases like in the case of war criminals or reserved for foreigners who commit egregious crimes or pose a threat to national security. But that was before Trump became president.

In the same way Trump used discretion in existing law to separate families at the border with his zero-tolerance policy, he is once again using discretion to expand this rare practice of denaturalization to possibly deport thousands of naturalized U.S. citizens.

Homeland Security investigators are digitizing fingerprints collected in the 1990s and comparing them with more recent prints provided by foreigners who apply for legal residency and U.S. citizenship. If decades-old fingerprints gathered during a deportation match those of someone who did not disclose that deportation on their naturalization application or used a different name, that individual could be targeted by a new Los Angeles-based investigative division.

People who lied about previous deportation or criminal background are being targeted, for now.

But this could just be the beginning.

What about gray areas? Could that be pursued next? For example, people who lied about being gay. In the past, gay foreigners were not allowed to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Today, this is no longer a consideration in the process. But what happens to this population of naturalized U.S. citizens who entered lying about their sexual preference? Is that really justification for denaturalization and possibly deportation?

Even in assessing criminal background, it’s not that simple. What if someone littered or jaywalked or committed other petty misdemeanors in other countries but did not report them during the application process that asks applicants if they’ve committed any crime. There are crimes in other countries (not considered crimes in the U.S.) such as possessing foreign currency or spending the night anywhere you were not registered to live (in the former Soviet Union) that people do not report to immigration officials. Are these justifiable offenses for denaturalization?

Going down this road of widespread denaturalization is simply saying in yet another way, in Trump’s world, that “immigrants are not welcomed in the U.S.” This is really the underlying motivation.

More importantly, the potential for abuse (investigators aggressively looking for any lies to justify validity of their job) or risk for error are high. And perhaps too high when considering the real-life devastation, life-altering changes where naturalized U.S. citizens could find themselves -- after years of being outstanding, law-abiding citizens in this country -- back in the country they’ve left behind.

Second-class citizens?

Since January 2017, the Department of Homeland Security has investigated possible cases of immigration fraud of naturalized U.S. citizens. DHS has sent 95 cases to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution and denaturalization.

Just this June 2018, DHS opened a new office in Los Angeles to prosecute about 1,600 possible cases that fall in this category.

To get an idea how big an expansion this is – from the 1990s up to 2016, the government only filed around 300 denaturalization cases.

This push to get “citizenship cheaters” after they’ve already become naturalized U.S. citizens is establishing a new second-class of citizens. The premise of being “naturalized” ultimately means that there is nothing that distinguishes those “naturalized” from U.S.-born citizens after the naturalized process has been completed. Now, this is not the case.

Naturalized citizens can no longer “assume” permanence should Trump and his DHS pursue this expansion of denaturalization. All immigrants should find this troubling.

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