Category: Retirement Planning

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]

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]