Chris Tobey

Chris Tobey

Thursday, 15 September 2016 19:56

Updating Your Estate Plan

When should you review it? What should you review?    

An estate plan has three objectives. The first goal is to preserve your accumulated wealth. The second goal is to express who will receive your assets after your death. The third goal is to state who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

Over time, your feelings about these objectives may change. You may want to name a new executor or health care agent. You may rethink how you want your wealth distributed.

This is why it is so vital to review your estate plan. Over ten or twenty years, your health, wealth, and outlook on life may change profoundly. The key is to recognize the life events that may call for an update.

Have you just married or divorced? If so, your estate plan will absolutely need revision. For that matter, some, or all, of your will may now be legally invalid. (Some state laws strike down existing wills when a person is married or divorced.) If your children or grandchildren marry or divorce, that also calls for an estate plan review.1

Has there been a loss or serious illness within your family? If so, your named executor or health care agent may have to be changed. If one family member has now become physically or financially dependent on you, that too may be an occasion for a second look at the plan.

Has your net worth risen or declined substantially since the plan was first implemented? If you have become much wealthier in the past five or ten years (or much less wealthy), that circumstance may have altered your vision of how you want your assets distributed at your death. Maybe you want to give more (or less) to charity or your heirs. A large inheritance can also prompt you to rethink your wealth protection and wealth transfer strategy.

Have you changed your mind about what your wealth should accomplish? Today, you may view your wealth differently than you did when you were younger. New purposes may have emerged for it – new roles that it can play. Following through on those thoughts may lead you to reconsider aspects of your estate plan.

Have your executors or trustees changed their mind about their roles? If they are no longer interested in shouldering those responsibilities, no longer alive, or no longer of sound mind or reputable character, it is revision time.

  

Have you retired, moved to another state, or bought or sold real estate? All of these events call for an estate plan check-up.

The first step in revising an estate plan is to update essential documents. Not just your will or your trust, but also your financial power of attorney and health care proxy. Review all the names: your executor; your trustee; your health care agent. Changes in your personal (and even your business) relationships may call for alterations to those choices.

The second step is to review your risk management. Does language in your will need revision? Does a trust created years ago need to be modified or replaced? Do new estate planning vehicles need to enter the picture in order to help you adequately transfer wealth, counter estate taxes, or endow charities?

What about your life insurance? Do beneficiary forms of life insurance policies need updating? Is corporate-owned life insurance coverage you once counted on now absent? Will policy payouts be sufficient enough to help your loved ones address financial issues after your death?

The third step is to make sure your assets are in sync with your plan. For example, if you have a revocable trust, have you transferred ownership of all the assets that are supposed to go into it? Have you acquired new assets that need to be “poured in?”

If you are married and it appears certain that your estate will be taxed, you may want to own some assets and have your spouse own others. Yes, the federal estate tax exemption is portable, so any unused estate tax and gift tax exemption is allowed to pass to a surviving spouse. At the state level, though, there are different rules. So if all assets are in your spouse’s name and your home state levies an estate tax, that scenario may mean higher estate taxes for your heirs than if those assets were alternately owned by either you or your spouse.2

  

Even if nothing major happens in your life, review your plan every five years or so. While your life may be uneventful over five years, tax law, the financial markets, and business climates may change significantly. Those kinds of shifts can impact your estate planning strategy.

        

  

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - 360financialliteracy.org/Topics/Retirement-Planning/Estate-Planning-Basics/How-often-do-I-need-to-review-my-estate-plan [8/4/16]

2 - time.com/money/4187332/estate-planning-checkup-items-review/ [1/20/16]

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 15:02

When Is Social Security Income Taxable?

The answer depends on your income.

Your Social Security income could be taxed. That may seem unfair, or unfathomable. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a possibility.

Seniors have had to contend with this possibility since 1984. Social Security benefits became taxable above certain yearly income thresholds in that year. Frustratingly for retirees, these income thresholds have been left at the same levels for 32 years.1

Those frozen income limits have exposed many more people to the tax over time. In 1984, just 8% of Social Security recipients had total incomes high enough to trigger the tax. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that 52% of households receiving benefits in 2015 had to claim some of those benefits as taxable income.1

Only part of your Social Security income may be taxable, not all of it. Two factors come into play here: your filing status and your combined income.

Social Security defines your combined income as the sum of your adjusted gross income, any non-taxable interest earned, and 50% of your Social Security benefit income. (Your combined income is actually a form of modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI.)2

Single filers with a combined income from $25,000-$34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes from $32,000-$44,000 may have up to 50% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

Single filers whose combined income tops $34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes above $44,000 may see up to 85% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

What if you are married and file separately? No income threshold applies. Your benefits will likely be taxed no matter how much you earn or how much Social Security you receive.2

You may be able to estimate these taxes in advance. You can use an online calculator (a Google search will lead you to a few such tools), or the worksheet in IRS Publication 915.2

You can even have these taxes withheld from your Social Security income. You can choose either 7%, 10%, 15%, or 25% withholding per payment. Another alternative is to make estimated tax payments per quarter, like a business owner does.2

Did you know that 13 states also tax Social Security payments?North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Vermont use the exact same formula as the federal government to calculate the degree to which your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Nine other states use more lenient formulas: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Utah.2

What can you do if it appears your benefits will be taxed? You could explore a few options to try and lessen or avoid the tax hit, but keep in mind that if your combined income is far greater than the $34,000 single filer and $44,000 joint filer thresholds, your chances of averting tax on Social Security income are slim.If your combined income is reasonably near the respective upper threshold, though, some moves might help.

If you have a number of income-generating investments, you could opt to try and revise your portfolio, so that less income and tax-exempt interest are produced annually.

A charitable IRA gift may be a good idea. You can make one if you are 70½ or older in the year of the donation. You can endow a qualified charity with as much as $100,000 in a single year this way. The amount of the gift may be used to fully or partly satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), and the amount will not be counted in your adjusted gross income.3

You could withdraw more retirement income from Roth accounts. Distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plan accounts are tax-exempt as long as you are age 59½ or older and have held the account for at least five tax years.4

Will the income limits linked to taxation of Social Security benefits ever be raised? Retirees can only hope so, but with more baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security, the IRS and the Treasury stand to receive greater tax revenue with the current limits in place.

  

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

  

Citations.

1 - ssa.gov/policy/docs/issuepapers/ip2015-02.html [12/15]

2 - fool.com/retirement/general/2016/04/30/is-social-security-taxable.aspx [4/30/16]

3 - kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C001-S003-how-to-limit-taxes-on-social-security-benefits.html [7/16]

4 - irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-on-designated-roth-accounts [1/26/16]

Thursday, 04 August 2016 17:09

How Can You Make Your Retirement Money Last?

These spending and investing precepts may encourage its longevity.

All retirees want their money to last a lifetime. There is no guarantee it will, but, in pursuit of that goal, households may want to adopt a couple of spending and investing precepts.

One precept: observing the 4% rule. This classic retirement planning principle works as follows: a retiree household withdraws 4% of its amassed retirement savings in year one of retirement, and withdraws 4% plus a little more every year thereafter – that is, the annual withdrawals are gradually adjusted upward from the base 4% amount in response to inflation.

The 4% rule was first formulated back in the 1990s by an influential financial planner named William Bengen. He was trying to figure out the “safest” withdrawal rate for a retiree; one that could theoretically allow his or her savings to hold up for 30 years given certain conditions (more about those conditions in a moment). Bengen ran various 30-year scenarios using different withdrawal rates in relation to historical market returns, and concluded that a 4% withdrawal rate (adjusted incrementally for inflation) made the most sense.1

For the 4% rule to “work,” two fundamental conditions must be met. One, the retiree has to invest in a way that will allow his or her retirement savings to grow along with inflation. Two, there must not be a sideways or bear market occurring.1

As sideways and bear markets have not been the historical norm, following the 4% rule could be wise indeed in a favorable market climate. Michael Kitces, another influential financial planner, has noted that, historically, a retiree strictly observing the 4% rule would have doubled his or her starting principal at the end of 30 years more than two-thirds of the time.1

In today’s low-yield environment, the 4% rule has its critics. They argue that a 3% withdrawal rate gives a retiree a better prospect for sustaining invested assets over 30 years. In addition, retiree households are not always able to strictly follow a 3% or 4% withdrawal rate. Dividends and Required Minimum Distributions may effectively increase the yearly withdrawal. Retirees should review their income sources and income prospects with the help of a financial professional to determine what withdrawal percentage is appropriate given their particular income needs and their need for long-term financial stability.

Another precept: adopting a “bucketing” approach. In this strategy, a retiree household assigns one-third of its savings to equities, one-third of its savings to fixed-income investments, and another third of its savings to cash. Each of these “buckets” has a different function.

The cash bucket is simply an emergency fund stocked with money that represents the equivalent of 2-3 years of income the household does not receive as a result of pensions or similarly scheduled payouts. In other words, if a couple gets $35,000 a year from Social Security and needs $55,000 a year to live comfortably, the cash bucket should hold $40,000-60,000.

The household replenishes the cash bucket over time with investment returns from the equities and fixed-income buckets. Overall, the household should invest with the priority of growing its money; though the investment approach could tilt conservative if the individual or couple has little tolerance for risk.

Since growth investing is an objective of the bucket approach, equity investments are bought and held. Examining history, that is not a bad idea: the S&P 500 has never returned negative over a 15-year period. In fact, it would have returned 6.5% for a hypothetical buy-and-hold investor across its worst 15-year stretch in recent memory – the 15 years ending in March 2009, when it bottomed out in the last bear market.2

Assets in the fixed-income bucket may be invested as conservatively as the household wishes. Some fixed-income investments are more conservative than others – which is to say, some are less affected by fluctuations in interest rates and Wall Street turbulence than others. While the most conservative, fixed-income investments are currently yielding very little, they may yield more in the future as interest rates presumably continue to rise.

There has been great concern over what rising interest rates will do to this investment class, but, if history is any guide, short-term pain may be alleviated by ultimately greater yields. Last December, Vanguard Group projected that, if the Federal Reserve gradually raised the benchmark interest rate to 2.0% across the three-and-a-half years ending in July 2019, a typical investment fund containing intermediate-term fixed-income securities would suffer a -0.15% total return for 2016, but return positively in the following years.3

Avoid overspending and invest with growth in mind. That is the basic message from all this, and, while following that simple instruction is not guaranteed to make your retirement savings last a lifetime, it may help you to sustain those savings for the long run.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - money.cnn.com/2016/04/20/retirement/retirement-4-rule/ [4/20/16]
2 - time.com/money/4161045/retirement-income/ [5/22/16]
3 - tinyurl.com/hjfggnp [12/2/15]

Thursday, 02 June 2016 13:36

Tell Your Beneficiaries About Your Accounts and Policies

Let them know how they will receive retirement assets and insurance benefits.

  

Will your heirs receive a fair share of your wealth? Will your invested assets go where you want them to when you die?

 

If you have a proper will or estate plan in place, you will likely answer “yes” to both of those questions. The beneficiary forms you filled out years ago for your IRA, your workplace retirement plan, and your life insurance policy may give you even more confidence about the eventual transfer of your wealth.

One concern still remains, though. You have to tell your heirs that these documents exist.

That does not mean sharing all the details. If you have decided that some of your heirs will one day get more of your wealth than others, you can keep quiet about that decision as long as you live. You do want to tell your heirs the essential details; they should know that you have a will and/or an estate plan, and they should understand that you have named beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, your investment accounts, and your insurance policies.

Over time, you must review your beneficiary decisions. In fact, you may want to revisit them. As an example, say you opened an IRA in 1997. Your life has probably changed quite a bit since 1997. Were you single then, and are you married now? Were you married then, and are you single now? Have you become a parent since then? If you can answer “yes” to any of those three questions, then you need to look at that IRA beneficiary form now. Your choices may need to change.

Here is a quick look at how beneficiary decisions play out for a few of the most popular retirement accounts.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans. These are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which rules that if the late accountholder was married, the surviving spouse is entitled to at least 50% of the account assets. That applies even if another person has been designated as the primary beneficiary. In such a case, the spouse and the primary beneficiary may split the assets 50/50. (The spouse can actually waive his or her right to that 50% of the invested assets through a Spousal Waiver form. A spouse usually has to be older than 35 for this to be allowed.) These rules also apply for other types of ERISA-governed retirement assets, such as pension plan accounts and corporate-owned life insurance.1,2

The Supreme Court has decided that these rules take priority over state laws (Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 2001; Hillman v. Maretta, 2013) and divorce agreements (Kennedy Estate v. Plan Administrator for the DuPont Saving and Investment Plan, 2008).3,4

If a participant in one of these retirement accounts remarries, the new husband or wife is entitled to 50% of those assets at death. While a plan participant may name a child as the beneficiary of a retirement account after a divorce, remarriage will leave only 50% of those assets with that child when the accountholder dies, rather than 100%, unless the new spouse waives his or her right to receiving 50% of the assets. The new spouse will be in line to receive that 50% of the account even if unnamed on the beneficiary form.1

   

IRAs. Unlike an employer-sponsored retirement plan, a spouse does not have automatic beneficiary rights with an IRA. That is because IRAs are governed under state laws rather than ERISA. One interesting estate planning aspect of an IRA rollover is that the owner of the new IRA has the freedom to name anyone as the primary beneficiary.1 

Life insurance policies. The death proceeds go to the named beneficiary; occasionally, a beneficiary may not know a policy exists.

Recently, 60 Minutes did an expose on the insurance industry. Major insurers had withheld more than $7.5 billion in life insurance death proceeds from beneficiaries. They had a contractual reason for doing so: the beneficiaries had never stepped forward to file claims.5

While many of the policies involved were valued at $10,000 or less, others were worth over $1 million. The deceased policyholders had either failed to tell their heirs about the policies or misplaced the copies and the paperwork. Their heirs did not know (or know how) to claim the money. As a result, the insurance proceeds lay unclaimed for years, and the insurers only now feel pressure to pay out the benefits.5

   

Update your beneficiaries; let your heirs know how vital these forms are. Make sure that your beneficiary decisions on retirement, brokerage and bank accounts, college savings plans, and life insurance policies suit your wealth transfer objectives.

  

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

      

Citations.

1 - 401khelpcenter.com/401k_education/connor_beneficiary_designations.html [4/21/16]

2 - nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/claim-payable-on-death-assets-32436.html [4/21/16]

3 - marketwatch.com/story/check-your-beneficiary-designations-now-2013-09-17/ [9/17/13]

4 - forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/06/03/supreme-court-favors-ex-wife-over-widow-in-battle-for-life-insurance-proceeds/ [6/3/13]

5 - cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-life-insurance-investigation-lesley-stahl/ [4/17/16]

Thursday, 12 May 2016 15:34

Could Social Security Really Go Away?

Just how gloomy does its future look?

 

Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? For years, Americans have been warned about that possibility. Those warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges.

Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1

Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees to working-age adults has changed. In 2010, the Census Bureau determined that there were about 21 seniors (people aged 65 or older) for every 100 workers. By 2030, the Bureau projects that there will be 35 seniors for every 100 workers.1

As payroll taxes fund Social Security, the program faces a major dilemma. Actually, it faces two.

Social Security maintains two trust funds. When you read a sentence stating that “Social Security could run out of money by 2035,” that statement refers to the projected shortfall of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust. The OASDI is the main reservoir of Social Security benefits, from which monthly payments are made to seniors. The latest Social Security Trustees report indeed concludes that the OASDI Trust could be exhausted by 2035 from years of cash outflows exceeding cash inflows.2,3

Congress just put a patch on Social Security’s other, arguably more pressing problem. Social Security's Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund risked being unable to pay out 100% of scheduled benefits to SSDI recipients this year, but the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 directed a slightly greater proportion of payroll taxes funding Social Security into the DI trust for the short term. This should give the DI Trust enough revenue to pay out 100% of benefits through 2022. Funding it adequately after 2022 remains an issue.4

If the OASDI Trust is exhausted in 2035, what would happen to retirement benefits? They would decrease. Imagine Social Security payments shrinking 21%. If Congress does not act to remedy Social Security’s cash flow situation before then, Social Security Trustees forecast that a 21% cut may be necessary in 2035 to ensure payment of benefits through 2087.3

  

No one wants to see that happen, so what might Congress do to address the crisis? Three ideas in particular have gathered support.

*Raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, employers and employees each pay a 6.2% payroll tax to fund Social Security (the self-employed pay 12.4% of their earnings into the program). The earnings cap on the tax in 2016 is $118,500, so any earned income above that level is not subject to payroll tax. Lifting (or even abolishing) that cap would bring Social Security more payroll tax revenue, specifically from higher-income Americans.3

*Adjust the full retirement age. Should it be raised to 68? How about 70? Some people see merit in this, as many baby boomers may work and live longer than their parents did. In theory, it could promote longer careers and shorter retirements, and thereby lessen demand for Social Security benefits. Healthier and wealthier baby boomers might find the idea acceptable, but poorer and less healthy boomers might not.3

*Calculate COLAs differently. Social Security uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in figuring cost-of-living adjustments. Many senior advocates argue that the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) should be used instead. The CPI-E often gives more weight to health care expenses and housing costs than the CPI-W. Not only that, the CPI-E only considers the cost of living for people 62 and older. That last feature may also be its biggest drawback. Since it only includes some of the American population in its calculations, its detractors argue that it may not measure inflation as well as the broader CPI-W.3

Social Security could still face a shortfall even if all of these ideas were adopted. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that if all of these “fixes” were put into play today, the OASDI Trust would still face a revenue shortage in 2035.3

In future decades, Social Security may not be able to offer retirees what it does now, unless dramatic moves are made on Capitol Hill. In the worst-case scenario, monthly benefits would be cut to keep the program solvent. A depressing thought, but one worth remembering as you plan for the future.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

  

Citations.

1 - money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/06/16/the-youngest-baby-boomers-turn-50 [6/16/14]

2 - fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/20/the-most-important-social-security-chart-youll-eve.aspx [3/20/16]

3 - fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/19/1-big-problem-with-the-3-most-popular-social-secur.aspx [3/19/16]

4 - marketwatch.com/story/crisis-in-social-security-disability-insurance-averted-but-not-gone-2015-11-30 [11/30/15]

Tuesday, 12 April 2016 15:42

Reducing the Risk of Outliving Your Money

What steps might help you sustain and grow your retirement savings?

“What is your greatest retirement fear?” If you ask retirees that question, “outliving my money” may likely be one of the top answers.  Retirees and pre-retirees alike share this anxiety. In a 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of more than 1,000 investors, 46% of respondents cited that very fear; 42% of the respondents to that poll were making $90,000 a year or more.1

Retirees face greater “longevity risk” today. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average retirement age in this country is 65 for men and 63 for women. Many of us will probably live into our eighties and nineties; indeed, many of our parents have already lived that long. In 2014 (the most recent year for which Census Bureau data is available), over 72,000 Americans were centenarians, representing a 44% increase since 2000.2,3  

If your retirement lasts 20, 30, or even 40 years, how well do you think your retirement savings will hold up? What financial steps could you take in your retirement to prevent those savings from eroding? As you think ahead, consider the following possibilities and realities.

Realize that Social Security benefits might shrink in the future. Today, there are three workers funding Social Security for every retiree. By federal estimates, there will be only two workers funding Social Security for every retiree in 2030. That does not bode well for the health of the program, especially since nearly one-fifth of Americans will be 65 or older in 2030.4

Social Security’s trust fund is projected to run dry by 2034, and it is quite possible Congress may intervene to rescue it before then. Still, the strain on Social Security will mount over the next 20 years as more and more baby boomers retire. With this in mind, there’s no reason not to investigate other potential retirement income sources now.3

Understand that you may need to work part-time in your sixties and seventies. The income from part-time work can be an economic lifesaver for retirees. Suppose you walk away from your career with $500,000 in retirement savings. In your first year of retirement, you decide to withdraw 4% of that for income, or $20,000. At that withdrawal rate, not even adjusting for inflation, that money will be gone in 21 years. What if you worked part-time and earned $20,000-30,000 a year? If you can do that for five or ten years, you effectively give your retirement savings five or ten more years to last and grow.3

Retire with health insurance and prepare adequately for out-of-pocket costs. Financially speaking, this may be the most frustrating part of retirement. We can enroll in Medicare at age 65, but how do we handle the premiums for private health insurance if we retire before then? Striving to work until you are eligible for Medicare makes economic sense. So does building some kind of health care emergency fund for out-of-pocket costs. According to data from Health Affairs, those costs approached $16,000 a year in 2014 for Americans aged 65-84, and $35,000 a year for Americans aged 85 or older.4

Many people may retire unaware of these financial factors. With luck and a favorable investing climate, their retirement savings may last a long time. Luck is not a plan, however, and hope is not a strategy. Those who are retiring unaware of these factors may risk outliving their money.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/24/investors-fear-outliving-retirement-savings/16095591/ [9/24/14]

2 - thestreet.com/story/13468811/1/here-rsquo-s-how-to-make-your-money-last-in-retirement.html [2/23/16]

3 - marketwatch.com/story/so-whos-going-to-pay-for-you-to-live-to-be-100-2016-02-17/ [2/17/16]

4 - thinkadvisor.com/2016/02/22/6-ways-to-prevent-going-broke-in-retirement [2/22/16]

Friday, 18 March 2016 15:54

Consider an IRA Charitable Rollover

If you want a tax break and want to help a non-profit, this may be a good move.

Have you ever wanted to make a major charitable gift? Would you like a significant federal tax break in acknowledgment of that gift? If so, an IRA charitable rollover may be a good financial step to take.

If you are age 70½ or older and have one or more traditional IRAs, you may want to explore the potential of this tax provision, first introduced in 2006 and recently made permanent by Congress. In the language of federal tax law, it is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) – a direct transfer of up to $100,000 from the IRA to a qualified charity.1,2

An IRA charitable rollover may help you lower your adjusted gross income. That may be a goal in your tax strategy, especially if your AGI is large enough to position you for increased Medicare premiums, greater taxation of your Social Security benefits, or exposure to the 3.8% investment income tax and the 0.9% Medicare surtax. If your AGI passes a certain threshold, you also lose the ability to itemize deductions.2

Up to $100,000 may be excluded from your gross income in the year in which you make the gift. The gifted amount also counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).1,2

By the way, this $100,000 annual QCD limit is per individual. If you are married, you and your spouse may gift up to $200,000 in a year through IRA charitable rollovers. Imagine lowering your household’s AGI by as much as $200,000 in a tax year.2

A QCD will not afford you an opportunity for a charitable deduction. That would amount to a double benefit for the taxpayer making the gift, which is not something federal tax law allows.3

You need not be rich to do this. When many people first learn about the IRA charitable rollover, they think it is only for multi-millionaires. That is a misconception. Even if you do not think of yourself as wealthy, a QCD could prove a significant element in your tax strategy.

How does it work? Logistically speaking, an IRA charitable rollover is a trustee-to-trustee transfer: the IRA owner does not take possession of the money as the gift is arranged. Rather, the custodian or trustee overseeing the IRA writes a check for the amount of the gift payable to the charity. It is a direct transfer of funds, not a withdrawal.2

An IRA owner must be age 70½ or older to do this, and he or she must be the original owner of the IRA (an inherited IRA may not be used). The gifted assets must come from an IRA (or multiple IRAs) subject to RMD rules. SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs are ineligible if an employer contribution has been made for the particular year.4,5

Can you gift appreciated securities as well as cash? You can. Securities held within an IRA may be directly transferred from an IRA to a qualified charity in a QCD. You can claim an income tax deduction for the full fair market value of those securities.4,5

The charity or non-profit involved must pass muster with the IRS. It must be an entity that qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction of an individual taxpayer, and it cannot be a donor-advised fund, a private foundation that makes grants, or a supporting organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 509(a)(3). The charity must provide you with a letter of acknowledgement denoting that you received no goods, services, or benefits of any kind in exchange for your gift, and that you shall not receive any in the future as a consequence of your gift. If that letter is not quickly sent to you, be firm in requesting it.4,5

In case you are wondering, you can actually contribute more than your IRA RMD amount for a particular year through an IRA charitable rollover, as long as the gifted amount does not exceed $100,000. If you pledge a donation to a qualified charity or non-profit, an IRA charitable rollover can be used to satisfy your pledge.5

This tax break has been a boon to charities and IRA owners alike. Correctly performed, a charitable IRA rollover may help to lessen tax issues while benefiting qualified non-profit organizations.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - marketwatch.com/story/ira-charitable-rollover-provision-made-permanent-2015-12-25 [12/25/15]

2 - forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2016/01/20/why-retirees-need-to-stop-writing-checks-to-charities/ [1/20/16]

3 - cof.org/content/analysis-ira-charitable-rollover-extension [12/22/15]

4 - wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/ira-qualified-charitable-contributions-reinstated-made-permanent [12/21/15]

5 - forbes.com/sites/berniekent/2015/12/20/should-you-make-a-charitable-contribution-from-your-ira/ [12/20/15]

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 16:39

White House Proposes Changes to Retirement Plans

A look at some of the ideas contained in the 2017 federal budget.

Will workplace retirement plans be altered in the near future? The White House will propose some changes to these plans in the 2017 federal budget, with the goal of making such programs more accessible. Here are some of the envisioned changes.

Pooled employer-sponsored retirement programs. This concept could save small businesses money. Current laws permit multi-employer retirement plans, but the companies involved must be similar in nature. The White House wants to lift that restriction.1,2

In theory, allowing businesses across disparate industries to join pooled retirement plans could result in significant savings. Administrative expenses could be reduced, as well as the costs of compliance.

Would governmental and non-profit workplaces also be allowed to pool their retirement plans under the proposal? There is no word about that at this point.

This pooled retirement plan concept would offer employees new degrees of portability for their savings. A worker leaving a job at a participating firm in the pool would be able to retain his or her retirement account after taking a job with another of the participating firms. Along these lines, the White House will also propose new ways to make it easier for workers to monitor and reconcile multiple workplace retirement accounts.2,3

Scant details have emerged about how these pooled plans would be created or governed, or how much implementing them would cost taxpayers. Congress will be asked for $100 million in the new budget draft to test new and more portable forms of retirement savings accounts. Presumably, many more details will surface when the proposed federal budget becomes public in February.2,3

Automatic enrollment in IRAs. In the new federal budget draft, the Obama administration will require businesses with more than 10 employees and no retirement savings program to enroll their workers in IRAs. This idea has been included in past federal budget drafts, but it has yet to survive bipartisan negotiations – and it may not this time. Recently, the myRA retirement account was created through executive action to try and promote this objective.1,3

A lower bar to retirement plan participation for part-time employees. Another proposal within the new budget would allow anyone who has worked for an employer for more than 500 hours a year for the past three years to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.2

A bigger tax break for businesses starting retirement plans. Eligible employers can receive a federal tax credit for inaugurating a retirement plan – a credit for 50% of what the IRS deems the employer’s “ordinary and necessary eligible startup costs,” up to a maximum of $500. That credit (which is part of the general business credit) may be claimed for each of the first three years that the plan is in place, and a business may even elect to begin claiming it in the tax year preceding the tax year that the plan goes into effect. The White House wants the IRS to boost this annual credit from $500 to $1,500.2,4

Also, businesses could receive an annual federal tax credit of up to $500 merely for automatically enrolling workers in their retirement plans. As per the above credit, they could claim this for three straight years.2

What are the odds of these proposals making it into the final 2017 federal budget? The odds may be long. Through the decades, federal budget drafts have often contained “blue sky” visions characteristic of this or that presidency, ideas that are eventually compromised or jettisoned. That may be the case here. If the above concepts do become law, they may change the face of retirement plan participation and administration.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.      

Citations.

1 - nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/obama-to-urge-easing-401-k-rules-for-small-businesses.html [1/26/16]

2 - tinyurl.com/je5uj3r [1/26/16]

3 - bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-01-26/obama-seeks-to-expand-401-k-use-by-letting-employers-pool-plans [1/26/16]

4 - irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-Startup-Costs-Tax-Credit [8/18/15]

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