Following the disastrous problems with state-insured savings and loan institutions in Ohio and Massachusetts, depositors have become much more aware of, and concerned about, the protection provided for their money.
Most people are familiar with the FDIC -- the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- which insures deposits at banks for up to $100,000. The corresponding agency for savings and loan associations is the FSLIC -- the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp.
The word "deposits" includes checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money-market accounts. The $100,000 ceiling doesn't apply to each account, but rather to each depositor for the total of all accounts held in the same name.
Different ownership means separate insurance; so a married couple actually can accumulate as much as $300,000 in federal insurance coverage by depositing $100,000 in the wife's name, another $100,000 in the husband's name and a third chunk under both names.
Not so well known is the fact that similar federal insurance is available for most credit unions -- including state-chartered institutions as well as federally chartered credit unions.
The insuring agency in this case is the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. The NCUSIF is managed by the National Credit Union Administration, the regulatory agency for federally chartered credit unions.
According to the Credit Union National Association, the principal trade association of credit unions, NCUSIF had a higher ratio of insurance funds to insured deposits at the end of 1985 than either the FDIC or the FSLIC. At that time, the fund had reached a level of $1.30 for each $100 of insured savings.
At the end of last year, the NCUSIF provided insurance for savings at 10,181 federally chartered credit unions and 4,933 state-chartered credit unions.
Taken together, these credit unions had $106.7 billion in savings -- perhaps small potatoes compared with total deposits at banks and S&Ls, but a pretty respectable bundle in its own right.
Q: I own my own business as a sole proprietor; my wife and I have operated the business together for the past 30 years. I will be 65 years old in 1987. Is it possible for me to sell the business to my wife, draw Social Security and work part-time in the business on a limited-hour basis as allowed by Social Security?
A: I have intentionally omitted the type of business you operate, because I make every effort to avoid the possibility of identification of my correspondents.
However, it is a business that requires a considerable amount of personal skill and knowledge. Now let me answer your question by paraphrasing the applicable portion of the Social Security handbook.
If a beneficiary continues to perform about the same services in a trade or business formerly owned by the beneficiary but transferred to a relative, and if he or she receives income, directly or indirectly, that actually represents earnings from self-employment, that income must be included in applying the earnings test.
Certainly your wife qualifies as a relative. If the income she takes from the business is used to maintain your home, providing your food and shelter, then you are indirectly receiving the income yourself.
And because of the nature of the skilled craft work involved, I suspect the Social Security Administration could easily find that you are continuing to perform services essentially similar to those you performed before "retiring."
Your statement about the "limited-hour basis as allowed by Social Security" shows a very common misunderstanding. The application of the "hours" test applies only to the year of retirement, when eligibility for benefits is determined on a month-by-month basis. In later years, only the income test applies.
I have no way of knowing what decision would be made under the circumstances you describe.
I believe, however, that the Social Security Administration would find that at least half of the net income of the business should be counted as your earnings in determining your eligibility for benefits.
Abramson is a family financial counselor and tax adviser. Questions of general interest on tax matters, insurance, investments, estate planning and other aspects of family finances will be answered in this column. Advice cannot be given on an individual basis. Address all questions to E. M. Abramson, The Washington Post, Business News, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.