Category: IRAs

This Simple Tip Could Make a Big Difference in Your Retirement Account

You can make a 2016 contribution to your IRA or Roth IRA as early as January 1, 2016 and as late as April 15, 2017.  It would seem obvious that the sooner you contribute to your retirement account and invest the money, the more money you’ll have by the time you retire.
However, according to research from Vanguard, people are more than twice as likely to fund their IRAs at the last minute as opposed to the first opportunity!  When Vanguard looked back at the IRA contributions of its clients from 2007 to 2012, only 10% of the contributions were made at the optimum point in January, and over 20% were made at the very last month possible.
IRA Contribution Month
To demonstrate the type of real, monetary impact this can have on someone’s retirement savings, take the following hypothetical example.  On January 1 each year, “Early Bird” contributes $5,500, while “Last Minute” makes their $5,500 contribution on April 1 of the following year.  Assume that each investor does this for 30 years and earns 4% annually, after inflation.  Early Bird ends up with $15,500 more than Last Minute.  Put another way, Last Minute has incurred a $15,500 “procrastination penalty” by waiting to make his contribution until the last possible month.
Procrastination Penalty
At the beginning of every year, make fully funding your IRA contributions a habit. (And if you’re the type of person who works better when things are automated, look into setting up an automatic savings & investment plan from your paycheck or bank account to your IRA to save on a monthly or per-paycheck basis.)

The Advantages of Waiting to Retire at 70

There are a number of reasons why people should think about delaying retirement past the traditional age of 65. The retirement age of 65 was set in 1935 when Congress enacted Social Security and lifespans were much shorter.

Several things have happened in the decades following 1935 that now makes it reasonable for people to delay retiring until age 70. First, the structure of work has changed. Instead of working on a farm or doing heavy lifting in factories, the typical American worker is physically capable of working longer than 65. For the vast majority of workers, there’s more sitting or standing than manual labor. The second factor is the longer lives that U.S. citizens now enjoy. While not universally true, many people do enjoy their jobs do and prefer to go to work instead of sitting around the house or playing endless rounds of golf.

From the financial perspective, it makes even more sense to work past age 65. Monthly Social Security checks increase by 76% just by waiting until age 70 to retire instead of collecting at age 62 (the first year of eligibility) –76%!

As people get older and advance in their careers, their salary often increases with their tenure, meaning that if they leave at age 65, they could be leaving during their peak earning years. By continuing to work they can continue to add to their retirement savings. This is important for people with pensions whose retirement benefits continue to grow the longer they work. And it becomes even more important for people whose retirement is self-funded by their 401(k) plan, IRA or other investment portfolios.

Finally, from a purely actuarial perspective, the longer we work and bring in income, the less time we will spend fully retired and withdrawing from our retirement savings. The greatest fear that people have is running out of money during retirement. Delaying retirement until age 70 or beyond reduces that possibility.

Avoid These Common Retirement Account Rollover Mistakes

If you are one of the people who are uncertain of the basic financial steps to take when you retire, you are not alone. Author and public speaker Ed Slott recently recounted how little most people really know about what to do with their 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement assets when it comes time to leave work.

Most people do not know what to do with their retirement plans (commonly referred to with obscure names like 401(k), 403(b), 457, and TSP) once they retire. Many people simply leave the plan with their former employer because they don’t know what else to do. But that could end up being a mistake. Others know they can roll their plan into a Rollover IRA, but are not aware that if they don’t do it exactly right, they could be faced with a big tax bill.

Handling IRAs is often fraught with danger. There is a big difference between a rollover and a direct transfer. Rollovers are distributions from a retirement plan. Sometimes they are paid directly to you via check. You then have 60 days to move the assets into a new IRA or you will be taxed. If the rollover is paid directly to you, it is customary to have 20% automatically withheld for taxes. Counter-intuitively, you have to replace the 20% withholding when you fund the new IRA or that amount will be considered a taxable distribution and you will owe tax on the amount withheld. You can only make one rollover per 12 month period. If you make more than one rollover per year, you will be taxed.

A direct transfer is one where your IRA assets are moved from one custodian to another without passing through your hands. Under current law you can make as many direct transfers per year without triggering a tax penalty and there is no withholding.

When you are retired and reach the age of 70 ½, you will encounter Required Minimum Distributions. If these are not handled correctly, they can trigger huge tax consequences. If an individual fails to take out the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from a retirement plan, there is a 50 percent penalty tax on the shortfall.

Even many people in the investment industry do not understand the rules well. Slott notes that many financial companies do not provide advice on these topics because they are so focused on accumulating assets that they do not train their advisors on “decumulation.” Decumulation is a term that applies to retirees once they begin to take money from their retirement plans to supplement their other income sources.

“Every time the IRA or 401(k) money is touched, it’s like an eggshell; you break it and it’s over…. You mess up with a rollover and you can lose an IRA.”

Retirement is a time when people want to relax and pursue their leisure activities. Unfortunately, the rules actually get even more complicated. Make sure that you take time to learn the rules, or find a professional that does, before you move money from a retirement account.

Why roll your 401(k) over when you retire?

According to an article in 401(k) Specialist Magazine, 401(k) providers favor proprietary products. What does this mean to the typical worker? Here’s the bottom line:

“Mutual fund companies that are trustees of 401(k) plans must serve plan participants’ needs, but they also have an incentive to promote their own funds.
The analysis suggests that these trustees tend to favor their own funds, especially the poor-quality funds.”

The article goes on to say that these fund companies often make decisions that appear to have an adverse affect on employees’ retirement security.

The investment industry is, unfortunately, rife with conflicts of interest and bad apples. That is why a prudent investor should work with a trusted investment professional who is a fiduciary. A fiduciary has an obligation to place the client’s interests ahead of his own. As a rule of thumb, a fee-only, independent, Registered Investment Advisor, who does not work for one of the large investment firms that have to answer to public shareholders, and who has access to virtually all investment vehicles, has fewer conflicts.

As we mentioned in a recent article:

A fee-only RIA works for you. Stockbrokers, insurance agents, even mutual fund managers, work for the companies that pay them. They are legally required to work in the best interest of their employers, not their clients. Some of them do try to work in their clients’ best interests, but there can be large financial incentives to do otherwise. A fee-only RIA works only for you. We act in your best interest and use our expertise to allow you to take advantage of opportunities in good markets and weather the bad ones.

This gets back to the original question. Rolling your 401(k) into an IRA with someone who isn’t trying to get you to invest in “poor quality funds,” does not have a conflict of interest, and is legally obligated to put your interests ahead of his own is a good reason to roll your 401(k) into an IRA.

Are You an "Affluent Worker?"

Forbes magazine recently had an article about some of our favorite clients. They call them the “High Net Worker.” These are people who are successful mid-level executives in major businesses. They range in age from 40 to the early 60s. They earn from $200,000 per year and often more than $500,000. They work long hours and are good at their jobs.

According to the Forbes article, many have no plans to retire. Our experience is different; retirement is definitely an objective. But many have valuable skills and plan to begin a second career or consult after retiring from their current company.

At this time in their lives they have accumulated a fair amount of wealth, own a nice home in a good neighborhood, and may be getting stock options or deferred bonuses. That means that at this critical time in their lives, when they are focused on career and have little time for anything else, they have not done much in the way of financial planning.

When it comes to investing, most view themselves as conservative. But because of their compensation their investments are actually much riskier than they think. It is not unusual for executives of large corporations to have well over 50% of their net worth tied to their company’s stock. Few people realize the risks they are taking until something bad happens. For example, the industrial giant General Electric’s stock lost over 90% of its value over a nine year period ending in 2009. The stock of financial giant UBS dropped nearly 90% between May 2007 and February 2009. These companies survived. There are many household names, like General Motors and K-Mart whose shareholders lost everything.

The affluent worker’s family usually includes one or more children who are expected to go to college. Many of these families have a 529 college savings plan for their children. Most have IRAs and contribute to their company’s 401k plan, but because many don’t have a financial planner they do not have a well thought out strategy for this part of their portfolio.

At a time when many less affluent families are downsizing, many families in this category are either looking to upgrade their homes, buy a bigger home, or buy a second – vacation – home. They may even help their adult children with down-payments.

If you are an Affluent Worker, give us a call and see what we can do for you. If you already have a financial advisor, it may be time to get a second opinion.

Do you have a Dusty Trust?

What’s a dusty trust, you may ask, or a dusty will? They are trusts and wills that are so old that you have to blow the dust off. It’s a term made up by David Richmond of Eaton Vance.

Many actually THINK they are speaking the truth. For them, the definition of estate planning is the will and trusts they set up at age 35 when their youngest kid was still in diapers. Doesn’t matter that they are now in their late 60s and have accumulated millions since those early hopeful days, including all sorts of treasures, especially the most precious ones … grandchildren

But it also applies to trusts and wills that are not very old. The estate tax laws have been changing almost every year for the last decade. That means that terms like “estate tax exemption” now have very different meanings than they did 10 years ago. It’s possible that you could accidentally disinherit your spouse unless you update your estate planning documents.

Beneficiary designations should also be reviewed regularly. I spoke with someone recently whose wife passed away earlier this year. He was forgetful, and his investment account still had his wife’s name on it. She was the beneficiary of his IRA as well as his life insurance policy. Her name was still on the deed to their home.

The role of a good Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) like Korving & Company is to review your estate plans and beneficiary designations, advising you about changes that you need to be aware of. Whether its changes in the tax laws or changes in your personal life, keeping you updated will keep your heirs from inheriting a tangled mess.

For more information, get a copy of our estate planning guide: Before I Go.

Don’t make these common mistakes when planning your retirement.

Planning to retire? Have all your ducks in a row? Know where your retirement income’s going to come from? Great! But don’t make some basic mistakes or you may find yourself working longer or living on a reduced income.

Retirement income is like a three legged stool. Take one of the legs away and you fall over.

The first leg of the stool is Social Security. Depending on your income goals, do it right and you can cover part of your retirement income from this source. Do it wrong and you can leave lots of money on the table.

The second leg is a pension. Many people have guaranteed pensions provided by their employer.  But these are gradually disappearing, replaced by 401(k) and similar plans known as “defined contribution” plans. If you don’t have a pension but want a second guaranteed lifetime income you can look into annuities that pay you a fixed income for life.

The third leg of the stool is your investment portfolio. This is where most people make mistakes and it can have a big impact in your retirement.

Mistake number one is leaving “orphan” 401(k) plans behind as you change jobs. These plans often represent a large part of a typical retiree’s investment assets. Our advice for people who move from one company to another is to roll their 401 (k) assets into an IRA. This gives you much more flexibility and many more investment choices, often at a lower cost than the ones you have in the typical 401(k).

Mistake number two is trying to time the market. Many people are tempted to jump in and out of the market based on nothing but TV talking heads, rumors, or their guess about what the market is going to do in the near future. Timing the market is almost always counter-productive. Instead, create a well balanced portfolio that can weather market volatility and stick with it.

Mistake number three is “set it and forget it.” The biggest factor influencing portfolio returns is asset allocation. And the one thing you can be sure of is that over time your asset allocation will change. You need to rebalance your portfolio to insure that your portfolio does not becoming more aggressive than you realize. If it does, you could find yourself facing a major loss just as you’re ready to retire. Rebalancing lets you “buy low and sell high,” something that everyone wants to do.

Mistake number four is to assume that the planning process ends with your retirement. The typical retiree will live another 25 year after reaching retirement age. To maintain you purchasing power your money continues to have to work hard for you. Otherwise inflation and medical expenses are going to deplete your portfolio and reduce your standard of living. Retirement plans should assume that you will live to at least 90, perhaps to 100.

Retirement planning is complicated and is best done with the help of an expert. Check out our website and feel free to give us a call. We wrote the book on retirement and estate planning.

401k Distribution after Death

People who leave an employer frequently leave their 401(k) behind.  Usually, the wise thing to do is to roll that 401(k) into a rollover IRA.  But with so many other things to do when changing jobs, deciding what to do with the old 401(k) is often low on the list of priorities.

But there is another way of leaving an employer other than changing jobs.  Some people die while still employed.  And here is where the issue can get tricky.

When funds are left in a 401k after death, those must be distributed to the benefactor chosen by the participant. The way they are distributed depends on the choices of the company administering the 401k along with personal choices of the benefactor.
There are two rules that apply to an after-death distribution. One of the two must be used in all cases. The first allows for payments to be made within 5 years of the death of the participant. The second option allows a benefactor to received payments through his or her lifetime on a regular basis. The company administering the 401k may limit the option it will provide. Or, the benefactor may choose the preferred option. In any case, the election must be made by December 31 in the year of the death of the participant.

If the surviving spouse is not aware of this rule and decides to leave the 401(k) with the employer, it’s entirely possible that he or she will receive a check for the entire amount of the 401(k) five years after death, minus 20% federal tax withholding.  If the amount in the 401(k) is substantial the entire amount may be taxed.  It is possible to roll the proceeds into an IRA if it’s done in time, but to avoid paying an income tax on the federal tax that was withheld, the amount of the tax has to be added to the rollover.  This creates a very unpleasant surprise for the surviving spouse.

Five things you need to do with retirement accounts

The average household is juggling no fewer than eight different retirement savings accounts, according to a recent survey.  Many investors are looking to simplify their lives by consolidating at least some of those accounts.  And nearly three-quarters of them consult with a financial advisor rather than seeking information from their employer, a fund provider or another source.

So what should you do if you have two, three or more retirement accounts?  First you have to keep in mind the rules about rolling or transferring retirement accounts to avoid paying taxes.

  • First, find a financial advisor you can trust, preferably an independent RIA, who can give you unbiased advice and guide you to your goal.  He should be able to create a retirement portfolio that’s designed just for your and will result in growth with the least amount if risk.
  • Second, make sure that assets from the various retirement accounts are transferred from custodian to custodian without passing through your hands to avoid taxes or penalties.
  • Third, make sure that fees are reasonable so that you, rather than the advisor, gets most of the gains.
  • Fourth, be sure that your advisor provides you with a performance review at least once a year so that you know how you are doing.
  • Fifth, remember that once you reach 70 1/2, you have to begin taking money our of your “regular” retirement account.  If you have a Roth retirement account you can delay until you need the income.

For more information, contact Korving & Company.

“An existing relationship, lower fees and good product selection are the three top factors driving IRA rollover decisions for retirees and pre-retirees,” says the website. So, for example, advisors helping a retired client decide what to do with a lifetime’s worth of 401(k) plan assets — scattered over three or four accounts — should probably pick a fund company with which the client has already had a positive experience. Millionaire investors care even more about prior relationships than the less affluent, according to the research. But they’re less swayed by a famous name. Among survey respondents with less than $1 million to invest, 28% said they’d choose a firm with a well-known “retirement brand” when rolling assets over. Among millionaires, only 19% said brand is a priority.

Top 5 Tax Mistakes Investors Make

The tax laws are fairly complex and people make mistakes, but there are some mistakes that investors should not make.

  1. Taking short-term gains when waiting will turn the gain into a long-term gain.  Appreciated gains on assets held one year or longer are taxed at a lower rate than those held for less than a year.
  2.  Foreign stock investments held in a tax-qualified account.  Many foreign companies are required to withhold foreign taxes on dividends paid. U.S. investors can claim a tax credit on their tax returns, effectively recouping this lost dividend, but only if the foreign stocks are held in a taxable account.
  3. Failing to realize capital gains.  If you have a gain in a stock and believe that stock is now overvalued, do not allow fear of taxes to sell and lock in a gain.  That is the trap that many tech stock owners fell into in 1999, just before the tech bubble burst in 2000.
  4. Failing to take capital losses.  If you have a loss in a stock, the loss can be used to offset a realized gain in another stock, thus reducing your tax liability.  If you still like the stock you have a loss in, you can buy it back later as long as you observe the “wash sale rule.”
  5. Taking a direct distribution from a 401(k) or similar retirement plan.   Distributions from retirement plans should be done via a custodian-to-custodian transfer or you can be subject to taxes as well as potential penalties if you are under 59 1/2.

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