Is Now the Right Time to Go Roth?

Posted by on Sep 9, 2018 in 401k, 403b, Boomers. Millenials, Consumer Tools, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, social security, tax returns | 0 comments

  Some say yes, pointing to the recent federal tax reforms.   Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   Will federal income tax rates ever be lower than they are right now? Given the outlook for Social Security and Medicare, it is hard to imagine them falling much further. Higher federal income taxes could very well be on the horizon, as the tax cuts set by the 2017 reforms are scheduled to sunset when 2025 ends.   Not only that, the federal government is now using a different yardstick, the chained Consumer Price Index, to measure cost-of-living adjustments in the federal tax code. As an effect of this, you could gradually find yourself in a higher tax bracket over time even if tax rates remain where they are, and today’s tax breaks could eventually be worth less.1     So, this may be an ideal time to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. A Roth IRA conversion is a taxable event, and so if you have a traditional IRA, you may be thinking twice about it. If the IRA is large, the taxable income linked to the conversion will be sizable, and you could end up in a higher tax bracket in the year the conversion occurs. That literally may be a small price to pay.2   What would you rather have – years of tax-free IRA withdrawals, or years of IRA withdrawals that might be taxed more than they would be today? If you decide against going Roth, you leave a door open to that second possibility. If you go Roth, you open the door to the first.   The jump in your taxable income for the year of the conversion may be a headache – but like many headaches, it promises to be short-lived. Consider the many perks that could come from transforming a traditional IRA balance into a Roth IRA balance (and remember that any taxpayer can make a Roth conversion, even a taxpayer whose high income rules out the chance of creating a Roth IRA).3   Generally, you can take tax-free withdrawals from a Roth IRA once the Roth IRA has been in existence for five years and you are age 59½ or older. If you end up retiring well before 65 (and that could happen), tax-free and penalty-free Roth IRA income could be very nice.3   You can also contribute to a Roth IRA all your life, provided you earn income and your income level is not so high as to bar these inflows. In contrast, a traditional IRA does not permit contributions after age 70½ and requires annual withdrawals once you reach that age.2   Lastly, a Roth IRA is convenient in terms...

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5 Retirement Concerns Too Often Overlooked

Posted by on Sep 3, 2018 in 401k, 403b, Boomers. Millenials, college planning, Consumer Tools, credit card statements, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Recovery, Medicare Planning, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, social security, tax returns, taxes, TSA | 0 comments

Baby boomers entering their “second acts” should think about these matters.   Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   Retirement is undeniably a major life and financial transition. Even so, baby boomers can run the risk of growing nonchalant about some of the financial challenges that retirement poses, for not all are immediately obvious. In looking forward to their “second acts,” boomers may overlook a few matters that a thorough retirement strategy needs to address. RMDs. The Internal Revenue Service directs seniors to withdraw money from qualified retirement accounts after age 70½. This class of accounts includes traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans. These drawdowns are officially termed Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).1 Taxes. Speaking of RMDs, the income from an RMD is fully taxable and cannot be rolled over into a Roth IRA. The income is certainly a plus, but it may also send a retiree into a higher income tax bracket for the year.1  Retirement does not necessarily imply reduced taxes. While people may earn less in retirement than they once did, many forms of income are taxable: RMDs; investment income and dividends; most pensions; even a portion of Social Security income depending on a taxpayer’s total income and filing status. Of course, once a mortgage is paid off, a retiree loses the chance to take the significant mortgage interest deduction.2 Health care costs. Those who retire in reasonably good health may not be inclined to think about health care crises, but they could occur sooner rather than later – and they could be costly. As Forbes notes, five esteemed economists recently published a white paper called The Lifetime Medical Spending of Retirees; their analysis found that between age 70 and death, the average American senior pays $122,000 for medical care, much of it from personal savings. Five percent of this demographic contends with out-of-pocket medical bills exceeding $300,000. Medicines? The “donut hole” in Medicare still exists, and annually, there are retirees who pay thousands of dollars of their own money for needed drugs.3,4 Eldercare needs. Those who live longer or face health complications will probably need some long-term care. According to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American who turned 65 in 2015 could end up paying $138,000 in total long-term care costs. Long-term care insurance is expensive, though, and can be difficult to obtain.5 One other end-of-life expense many retirees overlook: funeral and burial costs. Pre-planning to address this expense may help surviving spouses and children. Rising consumer prices. Since 1968, consumer inflation has averaged around 4% a year. Does that sound bearable? At a glance, maybe it does. Over time, however, 4% inflation can really do some damage to purchasing...

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Underappreciated Options for Building Retirement Savings

Posted by on Aug 26, 2018 in 401k, 403b, atuos, bank statements, Boomers. Millenials, cars, college planning, Consumer Tools, credit card statements, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Recovery, Medicare Planning, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, sales, social security, tax returns, taxes, TSA | 0 comments

More people ought to know about them.   Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   There are a number of well-known retirement savings vehicles, used by millions. Are there other, relatively obscure retirement savings accounts worthy of attention? Are there prospective benefits for retirement savers that remain under the radar?   The answer to both questions is yes. Consider these potential routes toward greater retirement savings.     Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). People enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) commonly open HSAs for their stated purpose: to create a pool of money that can be applied to health care expenses. One big perk: HSA contributions are tax deductible. Another, underappreciated perk deserves more publicity: the federal government permits the funds within HSAs to grow tax free. Just ahead, you will see why that is important to remember.1,2   While 96% of HSA owners hold their HSA funds in cash, others are investing a percentage of their HSA money. Tax-free growth is nothing to sneeze at: an HSA owner who directs 100% of the maximum $3,450 yearly account contribution into investments returning just 4% annually could have an HSA holding more than $200,000 in 30 years. Prior to age 65, withdrawals from HSAs are tax free if they are used for qualified medical expenses. After that, withdrawals from HSAs may be used for any purpose (i.e., for retirement income), although they do become fully taxable.1,2   In 2018, an individual can direct $3,450 into an HSA; a family, $6,900. Additional catch-up contributions are allowed for HSA owners aged 55 and older.1,2   “Backdoor” Roth IRAs. Some people make too much money to open a Roth IRA. That does not mean they are barred from having one. Anyone can convert all or part of a traditional IRA to a Roth, and pre-retirees with high incomes and low retirement savings occasionally do. Why? A Roth IRA offers the potential for future tax-free withdrawals. Roth IRA owners also never have to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). A Roth conversion is typically a taxable event, and it cannot be undone. The IRA owner may enter a higher tax bracket in the year of the conversion, so anyone considering this should speak with a tax professional beforehand.3       Cash value life insurance. Permanent life insurance policies often have the capability to build cash value over time, and high-income households sometimes purchase them with the goal of achieving more tax efficiency and using that cash value to supplement their retirement incomes. Cash value accounts within these policies are designed to earn interest and grow, tax deferred. Withdrawals lower the cash value of the policy, but are untaxed up to the total amount of premiums you have paid....

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Tax Moves to Consider in Summer

Posted by on Aug 19, 2018 in 401k, 403b, atuos, bank statements, Boomers. Millenials, cars, college planning, Consumer Tools, credit card statements, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Recovery, Medicare Planning, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, sales, social security, tax returns, taxes, TSA | 0 comments

Now is a good time to think about a few financial matters.  Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   Making changes earlier rather than later. If you own a business, earn a good deal of investment income, are recently married or divorced, or have a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you may want to think about making some tax moves now rather than in December or April. Do you now need to pay estimated income tax? If you are newly self-employed or are really starting to see significant passive income, you may need to quickly acquaint yourself with Form 1040-ES and the quarterly deadlines. Every year, estimated tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service are due on or before the following dates: January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15. (These deadlines are adjusted if a due date falls on a weekend or holiday.) It might seem simple just to make four consistent payments per year, but your business income may be inconsistent. If it is, and you fail to adjust your estimated tax payment per quarter, you may be setting yourself up for a tax penalty. So, confer with your tax professional about this.1  Has your household size changed? That calls for a look at your pre-tax withholding. No doubt you would like to take home more money now rather than wait to receive it in the form of a tax refund later. This past April, the I.R.S. said that the average federal tax refund was $2,864 – the rough equivalent of a month’s salary for many people. Adjusting the withholding on your W-4 may bring you more take-home pay. Ideally, you would adjust it so that you end up owing no tax and receiving no refund.2 Think about how you could use your FSA dollars before the end of the year. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act changed the rules for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The I.R.S. now permits an employer to let an employee carry up to $500 in FSA funds forward into the next calendar year. Alternately, the employer can allow the FSA accountholder extra time to use FSA funds from the prior calendar year (up to 2.5 months). Companies do not have to allow either choice, however. If no grace period or carry-forward is permitted at your workplace, you will want to spend 100% of your FSA funds in 2018, for you will lose those FSA dollars when 2019 begins.3 You could help your tax situation by contributing to certain retirement accounts. IRAs and non-Roth workplace retirement plans are funded with pre-tax dollars. By directing money into these retirement savings vehicles, you position yourself for federal tax savings in the year of the contribution. If...

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The Sequence of Returns

Posted by on Aug 3, 2018 in 401k, 403b, Boomers. Millenials, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Recovery, Medicare Planning, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, sales, social security, tax returns, taxes, TSA | 0 comments

A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.   Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   What exactly is the “sequence of returns”? The phrase simply describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?   The answer: no impact at all.   Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have a major effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.   During the accumulation phase, the sequence of returns is ultimately inconsequential. Yearly returns may vary greatly or minimally; in the end, the variance from the mean hardly matters. (Think of “the end” as the moment the investor retires: the time when the emphasis on accumulating assets gives way to the need to withdraw assets.)   An analysis from BlackRock bears this out. The asset manager compares three model investing scenarios: three investors start portfolios with lump sums of $1 million, and each of the three portfolios averages a 7% annual return across 25 years. In two of these scenarios, annual returns vary from -7% to +22%. In the third scenario, the return is simply 7% every year. In all three scenarios, each investor accumulates $5,434,372 after 25 years – because the average annual return is 7% in each case.1   Here is another way to look at it. The average annual return of your portfolio is dynamic; it changes, year-to-year. You have no idea what the average annual return of your portfolio will be when “it is all said and done,” just like a baseball player has no idea what his lifetime batting average will be four seasons into a 13-year playing career. As you save and invest, the sequence of annual portfolio returns influences your average yearly return, but the deviations from the mean will not impact the portfolio’s final value. It will be what it will be.1   When you shift from asset accumulation to asset distribution, the story changes. You must try to protect your invested assets against sequence of returns risk.   This is the risk of your retirement coinciding with a bear market (or something close). Even if your portfolio performs well across the duration of your retirement, a bad year or two at the beginning could heighten concerns about outliving your money.   For a classic illustration of the damage done by sequence of returns risk, consider the awful 2007-2009 bear market. Picture a couple at the start of 2008 with a $1 million portfolio, held 60% in equities and...

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For Retirement, Income Matters as Much as Savings

Posted by on Jul 29, 2018 in 401k, 403b, atuos, bank statements, Boomers. Millenials, cars, college planning, Consumer Tools, credit card statements, Deflation, Elder Care, estate planning, family finances, financial advice, financial planning, Fixed Income Investing, Inflation, insurance, Investing, IRA, IRS, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Recovery, Medicare Planning, Retire Happy Now, Retirement, retirement, retirement calculator, retirement planning, sales, social security, tax returns, taxes, TSA | 0 comments

A recent poll of pre-retirees suggests that truth risks being ignored.   Provided by Frederick Saide, Ph.D.   Steady income or a lump sum? Last year, financial services firm TIAA asked working Americans: if you could choose between a lump sum of $500,000 or a monthly income of $2,700 at retirement, which choice would you make?1   Sixty-two percent said that they would take the $2,700 per month. Figuring on a 20-year retirement for today’s 65-year-olds, $2,700 per month comes to $648,000 by age 85. So, why did nearly 40% of the survey respondents pick the lump sum over the stable monthly income?1    Maybe the instant gratification psychology common to lottery winners played a part. Maybe they ran some numbers and figured that the $500,000 lump sum would grow to exceed $648,000 in twenty years if invested – but there is certainly no guarantee of that. Perhaps they felt their retirements would last less than 20 years, as was the case with many of their parents, making the lump sum a “better deal.”   The reality is that once you retire, income is the primary concern. The state of your accumulated retirement savings matters, yes – but retirement is when you start to convert those savings to fund your everyday life.   Could you retire with income equivalent to 80% of your final salary? If you have saved and invested consistently through the years, that objective may be achievable.   Social Security replaces about 40% of income for the average wage earner. (For those at higher income levels, the percentage may be less.) So where will you get the rest of your retirement income? It could come from as many as six sources.2   Systematic withdrawals from retirement savings and investment accounts. You may start taking distributions from these accounts at an initial withdrawal rate of 4% (or less). If these accounts are quite large, the income taken could even match or exceed your Social Security benefits.3   Private income contracts. Some retirees opt for these, though the income they receive may not be immediate.   Pensions. The health of some pension funds notwithstanding, here is another prime source of income.   Your home. Selling an expensive residence and buying a cheaper one can free up equity and reduce future expenses, thereby leaving more money for you to live off in the future.   Passive income streams. Examples include business income produced without material participation in the business, rental income, dividends, and royalties.   Work. Part-time work also lessens the pressure to draw down balances in your retirement and investment accounts.   Work longer, and you may indirectly give your retirement income a boost. One recent analysis from...

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