Tag: IRA

Required Minimum Distributions

In 2017, the oldest baby boomers, who turned age 70 in 2016, reached the required beginning date (RBD) for taking withdrawals from traditional IRAs and employer retirement savings plans: April 1, 2017. The RBD, the latest possible date allowed to take a mandatory required minimum distribution (RMD) from traditional IRAs and tax-deferred plans, is April 1 of the year following the year that an individual reaches age 70½ and baby boomers are there now. At this time, retirees are required to spend down these accounts, whether they need the money or not, and withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income.

A 2017 article in the AAII Journal noted that the RMD schedule does not fit retirees’ spending patterns. The first RMD at age 70½ is 3.65 percent of the account balance and the RMD at age 90 is 8.77 percent of the account balance, which looks like a “waterfall” when plotted on a graph. About $10 trillion is sitting in baby boomers’ tax-deferred accounts. If they do not calculate the amount of their RMD correctly, the penalty is 50 percent of the amount that they failed to withdraw.

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Should I roll over my 401(k) from my previous employer?

Question from young investor to Investopedia:

I am currently 21 years old and a senior in college. I started working at a job back in December of 2016 and opened up a 401(k) with the company. I did this so I could begin saving for future expenses. This job was only meant to be temporary. Within the next month, I will be starting my new career at a different company. Should I roll over my 401(k)? Are there any other options other than this?

My answer:

There are three things you can do with an orphan 401(k).

  1. Leave it where it is.
  2. Transfer it to you new employer’s 401(k)
  3. Roll it into a Rollover IRA.

I prefer option #3 because it gives you several orders of magnitude more investment options.

The problem with #1 is that you may simply forget about it.  In addition, you may find that the account is small enough that your old employer may terminate your account and send you a check, triggering several kinds of taxes and penalties.

Option #2 is better than #1 but it still locks you into the investment options offered by your employer, many of which are poor.

You mentioned that you started your 401(k) to “save for future expenses.”  That’s not the purpose of a 401(k).  Its role, like an IRA, is to save for retirement.  I realize that a 21-year-old starting his first real job is not focused on retirement, but that’s a mistake.  The biggest advantage that you have is time.  If you give time the ability to work for you, you can overcome lots of investment mistakes and end up much richer than someone who starts later in life, even if they save more money.

Putting RMDs to Work

When you’re over 70 ½ and have a retirement plan you have to start taking money out of the plan (with rare exceptions).  But even if you remember to take annual RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) you could use help preparing for and managing the process. This includes reinvesting RMDs you don’t need immediately for living expenses.
It isn’t as simple as “Here’s your RMD, now go take it.”  Baby Boomers often retire with IRA and 401(k) balances instead of the defined benefit plans their predecessors often had.  And the rules are often complicated.  Take the retiree who has an IRA and a 401(k) that he left behind with a previous employer.

Many are surprised to learn that they have to take separate RMDs on their 401(k) and their traditional IRA.  RMDs must be calculated separately and distributed separately from each employer-sponsored account. But RMDs for IRAs can be aggregated, and the total can be withdrawn from one or multiple IRAs.  That’s one of the reasons that advisors suggest rolling your 401(k) into an IRA when leaving an employer for a new job or when retiring.

Steep penalties apply.  The failure to take a required minimum distribution results in a penalty of 50% of the RMD amount.

According to a 2016 study from Vanguard, IRAs subject to RMDs had a median withdrawal rate of 4% and a median spending rate of 1%. For employer plans subject to RMDs, the median withdrawal rate was 4% and the median spending rate was 0%.  A mandatory withdrawal doesn’t mean a mandatory spend.  Most retirees don’t need the income they are required to take from their plans.  As a result the money usually goes right back into an investment account.

If you have an investment account that is designed for your risk tolerance and goals, the money coming out of your retirement account should be invested so as to maintain your balanced portfolio.

For questions on this subject, please contact us.

Questioner asks: "Should I roll my SEP IRA into a regular IRA or a Roth IRA?"

There are two issues to consider in answering this question.

  1. If you roll a SEP IRA into a regular or rollover IRA, assuming you do it right, there are no taxes to pay and your money will continue to grow tax deferred until you begin taking withdrawals.  At that point you will pay income tax on the withdrawals.
  2. If you decide to roll it into a Roth IRA you will owe income tax on the amount rolled over.  However, the money will then grow tax free since there will be no taxes to pay when you begin taking withdrawals.

If you roll your SEP into a Roth, be sure to know ahead of time how much you will have to pay in taxes and try to avoid using some of the rollover money to pay the tax because it could trigger an early withdrawal penalty – if you are under 59 1/2 .

It’s up to you to decide which option works best for you.  If you are unsure, you may want to consult a financial planner who can model the two strategies and show you which one works better for you.

As always, check with a financial professional who specializes in retirement planning before making a move and check with your accountant or tax advisor to make sure that you know the tax consequences of your decision.

Will Retiring Force Cutbacks in Your Lifestyle?

For most people, retiring means the end of a paycheck.  When you retire, how will your lifestyle be affected?  If you don’t know the answer to that, don’t you want to find out before it’s too late?  There are so many things to take into consideration, including:

Retirement age – Modern retirees face lots of choices that their parents did not have.  There is no longer a mandatory retirement age, so the question of “when should I retire?” gets more complicated.

Social Security – The age at which you apply for Social Security benefits has a big effect on your retirement income.  Apply early and you reduce your monthly benefits by 25% – 30% depending on your age.  Wait until you’re 70 and you increase your monthly benefit by up to 32% (8% per year) depending on your age.  If you are married the decisions get even more complicated.

Pension – If you are entitled to a pension, the amount you receive usually depends on your length of service.  The formula used to calculate pension benefits can get quite complicated.  Those who work for employers with questionable or shaky financials may want to consider whether they will get the benefits they are promised.  If you are married, you will need to decide how much of your pension will go to your spouse if you die first.

Second career – An increasing number of people are going back to work after initially retiring.  Quite a few people don’t really want to stop working, but instead want to do something different or less stressful in their retirement.  Others use their skills to become consultants, or turn a hobby into a business.  A “second career” makes a big difference in your retirement lifestyle and how much income you will have in retirement.

Investment accounts – These are the funds you have saved for retirement in: IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and individual accounts.  These funds are under your control.  Most retirees use them to supplement their Social Security and pension income.  They play a very large role in determining how well people live in retirement.

To find out whether you will be forced to cut back after you retire, you need a plan that allows you to take all these factors into consideration.  A plan allows you to gauge your progress and make corrections before it’s too late.

If you have questions, or if you would like to create a retirement plan, contact us.

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.)

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.

How to Get Your 401(k) Ready for Retirement

In a recent Wall Street Journal article the writer gives those who are getting within 10 years of retirement six very useful ideas about getting their 401(k) plans prepared for the day they will actually leave work.

  1.  If you haven’t done it lately, review your 401(k) investment mix.: Typically after people enroll in employer-sponsored plans and make initial investment choices, they forget about how their money is allocated in the plan—sometimes for years.  Don’t let this happen to you.  It may mean that just as you should be getting more conservative you are actually increasing your risk.
  2. Beware of the rate sensitivity of fixed-income funds you own in your 401(k).:  Bonds traditionally were the safe-haven choice for near-retirees, but the bond market has changed and rising rates could result in losses just as retirement approaches.  Not all bond funds are created equal and caution is the watchword in today’s bond market.
  3. Look for greater variety within your 401(k).: When advisers construct portfolios for clients, they often include a mix of U.S. and international stocks, multiple types of bond exposure and, increasingly, “alternative” investments such as commodities and a variety of hedge-fund-like strategies.  So should you.
  4.  Use IRAs and other accounts to complement your 401(k).:  Too often people who change jobs leave their 401(k) behind at their previous employer.  When you leave, roll your 401(k) money into an IRA and don’t leave “orphan” accounts behind and unattended.
  5. Check whether your 401(k) plan includes a brokerage window, or self-directed account.: if your plan allows you to make your own investment decisions, you can often get greater variety and better asset allocation options than are offered in most 401(k) plans.
  6. Consider getting professional advice. : As you would expect we are 100{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} behind this recommendation.  In fact, if you want guidance with your 401(k), call us and see what we can do for you.
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