PA author advises couples on retirement planning

Jim Lange describes himself as a natural strategist — a skill he relied upon, in conjunction with his background as an attorney and an accountant, to create a guide for same-sex couples to traverse the complexities of retirement savings.

Lange’s “Retire Secure: For Same-Sex Couples” hit shelves May 10. The book follows the same vein as some of his other books — such as “Retire Secure: Pay Taxes Later” and “The Roth Revolution” — in providing step-by-step, easy-to-digest information on maximizing your financial situation, yet this latest work is geared toward same-sex couples living in a post-Windsor world.

The fallout from last summer’s seminal U.S. Supreme Court ruling, prompted by Philadelphia native Edie Windsor, changed the financial game for same-sex couples — and motivated Lange to publish his latest book.

“There were now these enormous opportunities for same-sex couples, but really only if you understood IRAs and Social Security,” he said. “So here I was, a guy who really understands IRAs and Society Security and how the rules were now changed fantastically favorably for same-sex couples who get married — and who follow certain strategies.” Lange, who lives in Pittsburgh and who launched a website with financial-planning tips for same-sex couples more than 10 years ago, wrote an article on the topic for the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s legal publication, prompting him to delve deeper into the issue for the book. Lange, whose mother was a journalism professor, said he’s always had an interest in and passion for writing, penning tax articles during the first part of his career as a certified public accountant. From that role, focused on tax returns and estate planning, he entered law school, incorporating the full gamut of wills, trusts and other financial-planning tools into his docket.

“I’m a strategist. I always played bridge, chess, backgammon, but obviously couldn’t make a living doing that but I saw that, in personal finance, having a strategy can make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

The strategies explored in his new book stem from two issues.

Last fall, following the Supreme Court ruling, the IRS issued 2013-17, which clarified that all same-sex couples who marry, regardless of the state in which they live, are eligible for the federal tax benefits of marriage. The other piece regards Social Security, which has not yet followed suit in granting benefits to all married same-sex couples, regardless of state of residence.

“There’s an enormous benefit of being married regarding Social Security,” Lange said. “[For couples who live in states without marriage equality], if you had a great earnings record and your partner has a terrible earnings record and you die, your partner won’t get any benefits other than what he or she had. But if you were married and it was recognized and you died, the spouse may get $35,000 each year for the rest of his or her life. That’s a huge benefit. And that’s not something Social Security is doing yet for all couples.” Lange’s book guides couples through both of those issues, as well as topics like income taxes, health care and estate planning, to help them determine their best financial strategy. He said the book is geared toward couples, particularly those in their 50s or older, but noted people of all ages need to be ready for retirement planning. “The difference between doing different strategies and just going with the status quo — where you may not get legally married, don’t think things out financially ahead of time — can literally be a million dollars.”

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