Your Diversified Portfolio vs. the S&P 500

How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.  

“Why is my portfolio underperforming the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter.

The short answer is that even when Wall Street rallies, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds may underperform and exert a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.

A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes. This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.  

Because the stock market has advanced so much over the past decade, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned, and that may leave them exposed to an uncomfortable degree of market risk. A portfolio held evenly in equities and fixed income ten years ago may now have a clear majority of its assets in equities, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return to a greater degree.

Yes, stock markets – not just here, but abroad. U.S. investors have more global exposure than they once did. International holdings represented about 5% of the typical investor’s portfolio back in the 1990s. Today, they account for around 15%. If overseas markets struggle, the impact on portfolio performance may be noticeable.

In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact. At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly affected when tech shares slide, as investors witnessed in late 2018. 

The state of the fixed-income market can also potentially impact portfolio performance. Bond prices commonly fall when interest rates rise, which presents a short-term concern for an investor. If a bond is held to maturity, though, the investor will receive the promised principal and interest (assuming no default on the part of the issuer). Moreover, a rising interest rate environment may help the fixed-income segment of the portfolio’s long-term performance. New bonds issued in a rising interest rate environment have the potential to generate more yield than the older bonds of similar duration that they replace.

This year, U.S. stocks have done well. A portfolio 100% invested in the U.S. stock market in 2019 would have a year-to-date return approximating that of the S&P 500. But who invests entirely in stocks, let alone without any exposure to international and emerging markets?

Just as an illustration, assume that there actually is a hypothetical investor this year who is 100% invested in equities, as follows: 50% domestic, 35% developed foreign markets, and 15% emerging markets.

In this illustration, the S&P 500 will serve as the model for the U.S. market, MSCI’s EAFE index will stand in for developed foreign markets, and MSCI’s Emerging Markets index will represent the emerging markets. Through the end of July, the S&P was +18.89% year-to-date, the EAFE +10.31% YTD, and the Emerging Markets just +7.38% YTD. As foreign and domestic stocks have equal weight in this hypothetical portfolio, it is easy to see that its overall YTD gain would have been less than 18.9% as of the July 31 closing bell.

Your portfolio is not the market – and vice versa. Your investments may return less than the S&P 500 (or another benchmark) in a particular year due to various factors, including the behavior of the investment markets. Those markets are ever-changing. In some years, you may get a double-digit return. In other years, your return may be much smaller.

When your portfolio is diversified across asset classes, the highs may not be so high – but the lows may not be so low, either. If things turn volatile, diversification may help insulate you from some of the ups and downs that come with investing.

 

Citations.
1 – money.com/money/5481891/this-is-how-much-money-you-should-have-in-stocks-at-every-age/ [12/18/18]
2 – forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2018/08/05/how-most-investors-get-their-international-stock-exposure-wrong/ [8/5/18]
3 – cnbc.com/2018/04/20/tech-dominates-the-sp-500-but-thats-not-always-a-bad-omen.html [4/20/18]
4 – fidelity.com/viewpoints/investing-ideas/fed-rate-hike-worries [4/23/19]
5 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/12/beating-the-market.asp [6/25/19]
6 – us.spindices.com/indices/equity/sp-500  [7/31/19]
7 – msci.com/end-of-day-data-search [7/31/19]

Will You Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes?

Too many wealthy households commit these common blunders.

Many people plan their estates diligently, with input from legal, tax, and financial professionals. Others plan earnestly but make mistakes that can potentially affect both the transfer and destiny of family wealth. Here are some common and not-so-common errors to avoid.

Doing it all yourself. While you could write your own will or create a will, it can be risky to do so. Sometimes simplicity has a price. Look at the example of Aretha Franklin. The “Queen of Soul’s” estate, valued at $80 million, may be divided under a handwritten or “holographic” will. Her wills were discovered among her personal effects. Provided that the will can be authenticated, it will be probated under Michigan law, but such unwitnessed documents are not necessarily legally binding.

Failing to update your will or trust after a life event. Relatively few estate plans are reviewed over time. Any major life event should prompt you to review your will, trust, or other estate planning documents. So should a major life event that affects one of your beneficiaries.

Appointing a co-trustee. Trust administration is not for everyone. Some people lack the interest, the time, or the understanding it requires, and others balk at the responsibility and potential liability involved. A co-trustee also introduces the potential for conflict.

Being too vague with your heirs about your estate plan. While you may not want to explicitly reveal who will get what prior to your passing, your heirs should understand the purpose and intentions at the heart of your estate planning. If you want to distribute more of your wealth to one child than another, write a letter to be presented after your death that explains your reasoning. Make a list of which heirs will receive collectibles or heirlooms. If your family has some issues, this may go a long way toward reducing squabbles as well as the possibility of legal costs eating up some of this-or-that heir’s inheritance.

Leaving a trust unfunded (or underfunded). Through a simple, one-sentence title change, a married couple can fund a revocable trust with their primary residence. As an example, if a couple retitles their home from “Heather and Michael Smith, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” to “Heather and Michael Smith, Trustees of the Smith Revocable Trust dated (month)(day), (year).” They are free to retitle myriad other assets in the trust’s name.

Ignoring a caregiver with ulterior motives. Very few people consider this possibility when creating a will or trust, but it does happen. A caregiver harboring a hidden agenda may exploit a loved one to the point where they revise estate planning documents for the caregiver’s financial benefit.

The best estate plans are clear in their language, clear in their intentions, and updated as life events demand. They are overseen through the years with care and scrutiny, reflecting the magnitude of the transfer of significant wealth.

 

Citations.
1 – detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2019/05/20/lawyer-says-3-handwritten-wills-found-aretha-franklin-home/3747674002/ [5/20/19]

 

 

 

 

 

Mutual Funds vs. ETFs

Similarities and differences.

The growth of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) has been explosive. In 1998, there were only 29; at the end of 2018, there were over 1,900 investing in a wide range of stocks, bonds, and other securities and instruments.

At first glance, ETFs have a lot in common with mutual funds. Both offer shares in a pool of investments designed to pursue a specific investment goal. And both manage costs and may offer some degree of diversification, depending on their investment objective. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.

Structural Differences. Mutual funds accumulate a pool of money that is then invested to pursue the objectives stated in the fund’s prospectus. The resulting collection of stocks, bonds, and other securities is professionally managed by an investment company.

ETFs work in reverse. An investment company creates a new company, into which it moves a block of shares to pursue a specific investment objective. For example, an investment company may move a block of shares to track performance of the Standard & Poor’s 500. The investment company then sells shares in this new company.

ETFs trade like stocks and are listed on stock exchanges and sold by broker-dealers.

Mutual funds, on the other hand, are not listed on stock exchanges and can be bought and sold through a variety of other channels — including financial advisors, brokerage firms, and directly from fund companies.

The price of an ETF is determined continuously throughout the day. It fluctuates based on investor interest in the security, and may trade at a “premium” or a “discount” to the underlying assets that comprise the ETF. Most mutual funds are priced at the end of the trading day. So, no matter when you buy a share during the trading day, its price will be determined when most U.S. stock exchanges typically close.

Tax Differences. There are tax differences as well. Since most mutual funds are allowed to trade securities, the fund may incur a capital gain or loss and generate dividend or interest income for its shareholders. With an ETF, you may only owe taxes on any capital gains when you sell the security. (An ETF also may distribute a capital gain if the makeup of the underlying assets is adjusted.)

Determining whether an ETF or a mutual fund is appropriate for your portfolio may require an in-depth knowledge of how both investments operate. In fact, you may benefit from including both investment tools in your portfolio.

Amounts in mutual funds and ETFs are subject to fluctuation in value and market risk. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

At a glance. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds have similarities — and many differences. The lists below give a quick rundown.

Mutual funds:

* Bought and sold through many channels

* Not listed on stock exchanges.

* Priced to the end of the trading day.

* Capital gains within the funds distributed to shareholders.

* Dividends may be automatically reinvested.

Exchange-traded funds:

* Bought and sold through broker-dealers.

* Listed on stock exchanges.

* Price continuously determined during the trading day.

* Capital gains within the ETF reinvested, and the ETF may distribute a capital gain if the make-up of the underlying assets is adjusted.

* Dividends generally distributed to brokerage account.

 

Citations.
1 – ici.org/pdf/2018_factbook.pdf [2018]

 

Why Having a Financial Professional Matters

A good professional provides important guidance and insight through the years.

What kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor? The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long-lasting.

There are certain investors who turn to a financial professional with one goal in mind: the “alpha” objective of beating the market, quarter after quarter. Even Wall Street money managers fail at that task – and they fail routinely.

At some point, these investors realize that their financial professional has no control over what happens in the market. They come to understand the real value of the relationship, which is about strategy, coaching, and understanding.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncoached investor may make self-defeating decisions. Today’s steady stream of instant information can prompt emotional behavior and blunders.

No investor is infallible. Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. Overconfidence can set in, and the reality that the market has occasional bad years can be forgotten.

This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden Wall Street shock may lead an investor to sell low today, buy high tomorrow, and attempt to time the market.

Market timing may be a factor in the following divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, U.S. stocks gained 10% a year on average from 1988-2018, yet the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.1% annually in that period.          

A good financial professional helps an investor commit to staying on track. Through subtle or overt coaching, the investor learns to take short-term ups and downs in stride and focus on the long term. A strategy is put in place, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount.

As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward.

Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life.

The investor gains a new level of understanding, a context for all the investing and saving. The effort to build wealth and retire well is not merely focused on “success,” but also on significance.

This is the value a financial professional brings to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time.

  

Citations.
1 – cnbc.com/2019/07/31/youre-making-big-financial-mistakes-and-its-your-brains-fault.html [7/31/2019]

Fixed Index Annuities

What are they? How do they work?

What is a fixed index annuity? Don’t let the investment jargon put you off, Fixed Index Annuities are simpler than they sound. A Fixed Index Annuity is a tax-favored accumulation product issued by an insurance company. However, unlike fixed deferred interest rate annuities, a Fixed Index Annuity’s annual growth is tied to a market index like the Standard & Poor’s 500 rather than an interest rate.

How do they work? A Fixed Index Annuity can be funded with either a large, one-time sum or regular payments over time. It may be attractive to those looking for an alternate retirement vehicle. That’s because certain index annuities are subject to rate floors and caps. In other words, an index annuity can’t exceed or fall below a predefined return level, even if the underlying market index performs outside of set parameters.

How is this possible? The insurance company that issues the annuity bears the risk of a potential stock market decline. That’s right! With a fixed index annuity, your original deposit can be structured, so it will not decline if the index performs negatively.

Another potential benefit is how fixed index annuities grow over time. Their growth is tax deferred, meaning you don’t pay income taxes until you withdraw money from the annuity. But keep in mind, if you make withdrawals before you reach the age of 59 ½, you may be required to pay a 10% federal income tax penalty.

Fees & Expenses. Sometimes, even the savviest investor could use a little guidance. After all, annuities can have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits.

Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contract.

So, if Fixed Index Annuities sound like something that may interest you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a financial professional soon. Who knows? This may just be the retirement vehicle you’ve been looking for.

Disclosures

  1. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Index performance is not indicative of the past performance of a particular investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index. Fixed Index Annuities also can be based on the performance of other stock market indexes.
  2. Fixed Index Annuities also can be based on a participation rate, which is how much of an index increase you actually receive.

3.Withdrawals and income payments are taxes as ordinary income. The federal income tax penalty may not apply under limited circumstances. State income taxes also may apply.

 

 

 

Everyone should have a will.

If you die without a valid will in place, state law will determine how your assets are distributed to your heirs.

The question is, when do you need more than just a will?

You see the ads all the time: “Should you have a living trust?” There is no pat answer. The more complex your estate becomes, the greater the need for an estate strategy. A living trust could play a role in that strategy.

While not everyone needs a living trust, some estates create them with an eye toward streamlining the transfer of specific assets.*

*Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

Why a living trust?

Think of a living trust as a step up from a basic will. It is designed to carry out the basic functions of a last will and testament, and in addition, it also offers you (the trustee) four important potential benefits.

First, assets in a properly written and funded living trust are positioned to potentially avoid probate. Wills are commonly probated, especially if an estate is large or complex. In some states, the probate process can drag on for months, even years.

Second, a living trust is a private document. A will filed in probate court enters the public record, and may be examined by anyone. There may be financial circumstances and beneficiary decisions that you wish to keep private, especially with regard to your legacy or your reputation.

Third, a living trust strategy can incorporate a financial or health care power of attorney. These documents can instruct your loved ones on what to do if you become severely disabled, gravely ill, or incapacitated. They give a trusted party the power to act legally on your behalf. Additionally, with a living trust, your spouse (or other alternate trustee) can be instructed to manage your affairs as soon as you are unable to, without courts interfering.

(It must be noted that not all financial institutions will recognize a durable power of attorney by itself, especially if it was created some time ago. There are also occasions when they may not recognize a valid living trust.)

Fourth, a living trust lets you transfer assets to your heirs with conditions attached, if you so desire. You can control the way assets are distributed, even after you die.

Typically, a living trust is revocable. That means that you can make changes to its terms while you are alive. Upon your death, it becomes irrevocable, meaning its terms cannot be changed unless all the named beneficiaries of the trust approve the changes.

Why not a living trust?

Okay, so with all these potential advantages … why doesn’t everyone have a living trust? The fact is, some people have relatively simple estates, and not everyone needs a living trust – at least not right away.

A well-written will and durable power of attorney may suffice until you hit your sixties. If you are married and pass away before then, the assets you and your spouse hold in joint tenancy or as community property may transfer to your spouse without being probated.

Should you create a living trust in your forties or fifties, you may end up revising the trust again and again over the decades to come. Certain life events – such as a divorce or a marriage – may demand that the trust be updated. There is also another risk worth noting – the risk that you might forget to revise a trust created “eons ago.”

Some people do get lax with their living trusts in another way – they have one drawn up, but they never transfer any assets into it. They treat it like an “option” they can use in the future. If they die without placing their investment accounts, real estate, etc. into the trust, those assets could be exposed to probate. If so, the trust will be meaningless.

Why not a will and a trust?

You may want (or need) to have both. Chances are, you will not put 100% of your assets into a living trust; your will can direct where assets left outside the trust should go when you die.

Alternately, a pour-over will may be used to transfer designated assets held outside the trust into the trust, to help your estate distribute those assets according to the trust terms. So, wills and trusts can work hand-in-hand.

What’s right for you?

You may be wondering whether a living trust is appropriate. Or you may have one, but believe it needs revisiting. You may sense that you need to adopt an estate strategy, or expand one. Trusts are complex, and a professional can help. I can be your resource for ideas and answers. Contact me, so that we may begin our search for those answers together. I am happy to speak with you.

Citations.
1 – smartasset.com/retirement/what-is-a-revocable-living-trust [7/18/19]
2 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/101915/when-are-beneficiaries-will-notified.asp [7/19/19]
3 – investopedia.com/articles/pf/06/revocablelivingtrust.asp [3/7/19]
4 – retirementwatch.com/power-attorney-vs-living-trust-pros-cons [7/29/19]
5 – info.legalzoom.com/power-attorney-vs-trustee-20627.html [8/13/19]
6 – investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/joint-tenancy.asp [5/28/19]
7 – thebalance.com/pour-over-will-3505584 [3/12/19]

Association Retirement Plans

A small business retirement strategy.

The U.S. Department of Labor has introduced the Association Retirement Plan, a new retirement savings opportunity for the employees of small businesses. The new rule will widen the field of retirement strategy choices for industries and regions where such plans may not have previously been affordable.

The Association Retirement Plan (ARP) is available to small businesses in the same city, county, state, multi-state metropolitan area, or simply in the same industry, who are connected through a professional organization. Think of, for instance, a chamber of commerce or a trade organization. The small business also qualifies if they are part of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).

By allowing these larger groupings, small businesses are able to organize and offer their employees benefit packages normally associated with larger companies.

One additional benefit of the new system is a new opportunity – allowing employers additional negotiating power by uniting through their PEO, trade organization, or local chamber. Before, as much as smaller businesses wanted to offer these types of retirement strategy choices, they were likely expensive.

The Department of Labor has stated that as many as 38 million Americans have no available workplace retirement plan, such as the 401(k).

Employers who set up an ARP with their associated businesses offer their workers an opportunity to replace as much as 79% of their income once they retire, while those who don’t can only replace as little as 45%.

Retirement strategies for more employers and employees are a great opportunity. Exploring an ARP with your employer, or if you are running a small business, with your peers and employees, could be a valuable addition to that strategy.

 

Citations.
1 – dol.gov/general/topic/association-retirement-plans [7/29/2019]
2 – investmentnews.com/article/20190729/FREE/190729937/dol-rule-enables-small-businesses-to-offer-retirement-plans-through [7/29/2019]

 

A Retirement Fact Sheet

Some specifics about the “second act.”

Does your vision of retirement align with the facts? Here are some noteworthy financial and lifestyle facts about life after 50 that might surprise you.

Up to 85% of a retiree’s Social Security income can be taxed. Some retirees are taken aback when they discover this. In addition to the Internal Revenue Service, 13 states levy taxes on some or all Social Security retirement benefits: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. (It is worth mentioning that the I.R.S. offers free tax advice to people 60 and older through its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.)

Retirees get a slightly larger standard deduction on their federal taxes. Actually, this is true for all taxpayers aged 65 and older, whether they are retired or not. Right now, the standard deduction for an individual taxpayer in this age bracket is $13,500, compared to $12,200 for those 64 or younger.

Retirees can still use IRAs to save for retirement. There is no age limit for contributing to a Roth IRA, just an inflation-adjusted income limit. So, a retiree can keep directing money into a Roth IRA for life, provided they are not earning too much. In fact, a senior can potentially contribute to a traditional IRA until the year they turn 70½.

A significant percentage of retirees are carrying education and mortgage debt. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau says that throughout the U.S., the population of borrowers aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans grew by at least 20% in every state between 2012 and 2017. In more than half of the 50 states, the increase was 45% or greater. Generations ago, seniors who lived in a home often owned it, free and clear; in this decade, that has not always been so. The Federal Reserve’s recent Survey of Consumer Finance found that more than a third of those aged 65-74 have outstanding home loans; nearly a quarter of Americans who are 75 and older are in the same situation.

As retirement continues, seniors become less credit dependent. GoBankingRates says that only slightly more than a quarter of Americans over age 75 have any credit card debt, compared to 42% of those aged 65-74.  

About one in three seniors who live independently also live alone. In fact, the Institute on Aging notes that nearly half of women older than age 75 are on their own. Compared to male seniors, female seniors are nearly twice as likely to live without a spouse, partner, family member, or roommate. 

Around 64% of women say that they have no “Plan B” if forced to retire early. That is, they would have to completely readjust and reassess their vision of retirement and also redetermine their sources of retirement income. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies learned this from its latest survey of more than 6,300 U.S. workers.    

Few older Americans budget for travel expenses. While retirees certainly love to travel, Merrill Lynch found that roughly two-thirds of people aged 50 and older admitted that they had never earmarked funds for their trips, and only 10% said that they had planned their vacations extensively.

What financial facts should you consider as you retire? What monetary realities might you need to acknowledge as your retirement progresses from one phase to the next? The reality of retirement may surprise you. If you have not met with a financial professional about your retirement savings and income needs, you may wish to do so. When it comes to retirement, the more information you have, the better. 

 

Citations.
1 – gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/weird-things-about-retiring/ [8/6/18]
2 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/11/15/irs-announces-2019-tax-rates-standard-deduction-amounts-and-more [11/15/18]
3 – thestreet.com/retirement/18-facts-about-womens-retirement-14558073 [4/17/18]

A Bucket Plan to Go with Your Bucket List

A way to help you prepare.

The baby boomers redefined everything they touched, from music to marriage to parenting and even what “old” means – 60 is the new 50! Longer, healthier living, however, can put greater stress on the sustainability of retirement assets.

There is no easy answer to this challenge, but let’s begin by discussing one idea – a bucket approach to building your retirement income plan.

The Bucket Strategy can take two forms.

The Expenses Bucket Strategy: With this approach, you segment your retirement expenses into three buckets:

* Basic Living Expenses – food, rent, utilities, etc.

* Discretionary Expenses – vacations, dining out, etc.

* Legacy Expenses – assets for heirs and charities

This strategy pairs appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket. If this source of income falls short, you might consider whether a fixed annuity can help fill the gap. With this approach, you are attempting to match income sources to essential expenses.

The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contact. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, a 10% federal income tax penalty may apply (unless an exception applies).

For the Discretionary Expenses bucket, you might consider investing in top-rated bonds and large-cap stocks that offer the potential for growth and have a long-term history of paying a steady dividend. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates fall, the value of existing bonds typically drop. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity an investor will receive the interest payments due, plus their original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Dividends on common stock are not fixed and can be decreased or eliminated on short notice.

Finally, if you have assets you expect to pass on, you might position some of them in more aggressive investments, such as small-cap stocks and international equity. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss.

International investments carry additional risks, which include differences in financial reporting standards, currency exchange rates, political risk unique to a specific country, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. These factors may result in greater share price volatility.

The Timeframe Bucket Strategy: This approach creates buckets based on different timeframes and assigns investments to each. For example:

* 1 to 5 Years: This bucket funds your near-term expenses. It may be filled with cash and cash alternatives, such as money market accounts. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities but they are not backed by any government institution, so it’s possible to lose money. Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

* 6 to 10 Years: This bucket is designed to help replenish the funds in the 1-to-5-Years bucket. Investments might include a diversified, intermediate, top-rated bond portfolio. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.

* 11 to 20 Years: This bucket may be filled with investments such as large-cap stocks, which offer the potential for growth.

* 21 or More Years: This bucket might include longer-term investments, such as small-cap and international stocks.

Each bucket is set up to be replenished by the next longer-term bucket. This approach can offer flexibility to provide replenishment at more opportune times. For example, if stock prices move higher, you might consider replenishing the 6-to-10-Years bucket, even though it’s not quite time.

 

A bucket approach to pursue your income needs is not the only way to build an income strategy, but it’s one strategy to consider as you prepare for retirement.

Citations.
1 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T037-C000-S002-how-to-implement-the-bucket-system-in-retirement.html [8/30/18]

401(k) Loan Repayment

A longer repayment time can be an advantage.

The conventional wisdom about taking a loan from your 401(k) plan is often boiled down to: not unless absolutely necessary. That said, it isn’t always avoidable for everyone or in every situation. In a true emergency, if you had no alternative, the rules do allow for a loan, but they also require a fast repayment if your employment were to end. Recent changes have changed that deadline, offering some flexibility to those taking the loan. (Distributions from 401(k) plans and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.

The new rules. Time was, the requirement for repaying a loan taken from your 401(k)-retirement account after leaving a job was 60 days or else pay the piper when you file your income taxes. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed that rule – now, the penalty only applies when you file taxes in the year that you leave your job. This also factors in extensions.

So, as an example: if you were to end your employment today, the due date to repay the loan would be the tax filing deadline, which is April 15 most years or October 15 if you file an extension.

What hasn’t changed? Most of what transpires after a 401(k) loan still applies. Your repayment plan involves a deduction from your paycheck over a period of five years. The exception would be if you are using the loan to make a down payment on your primary residence, in which case you may have much longer to repay, provided that you are still with the same employer.

You aren’t just repaying the amount you borrow, but also the interest on the loan. Depending on the plan, you’re likely to see a prime interest rate, plus 1%.

If you do take the loan, a good practice may be to continue making contributions to your 401(k) account, even as you repay the loan. Why? First, to continue building your savings. Second, to continue to take advantage of any employer matching that your workplace might offer. While taking the loan may hamper your ability to build potential gains toward your retirement, you can still take advantage of the account, and that employee match is a great opportunity.

Citations.
1 – kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T001-C001-S003-ex-workers-get-more-time-to-repay-401-k-loans.html [2/13/19]