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IRA

Everything But The Retirement Plan!

Conventional wisdom says that when you leave a job, whether you’ve been “downsized” or you’ve just decided to take the leap, you should always move your retirement plan to a self-directed IRA. (Note: when referring to retirement plans in this article, this could be a 401(k) plan, a 403(b), a 457, or any other qualified savings deferral-type plan). But there are a few instances when it makes sense to leave the money in the former employer’s plan.  You have several options of what to do with the money in your former employer’s plan, such as leaving it, rolling it over into a new employer’s plan, rolling it over to an IRA, or just taking the cash. The last option is usually the worst. If you’re under age 55 you’ll automatically lose 10% via penalty from the IRS (unless you meet one of the exceptions, including first home purchase, healthcare costs, […]

401(k) Mistakes (also applies to other Retirement Plans!)

These days you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to planning for your retirement. Granted, many state and local governments have a pension plan, but beyond that, precious few employers provide a pension these days. Typically retirement benefits only include a 401(k) or other deferred retirement plan, which means it’s up to you! For the purpose of brevity, I’ll refer to 401(k) plans throughout this article; please understand that most of the information applies to 403(b) plans, 401(a) plans, and 457 plans as well as Keogh, SIMPLE, and SEP IRA plans. For most of us, the 401(k) is the default account that must take on the role that the pension plan did for previous generations. Paying attention to and avoiding the following mistakes can help you to ensure that you have a financially-secure future. #1 – Choosing Not to Participate It’s amazing how many folks, young or old, don’t participate in their […]

IRAs: Roth or Traditional?

The question comes up pretty often: when contributing to an IRA, should you choose the Roth or Traditional? I often approach this question in general with my recommended “Order of Contributions”: Contribute enough to your employer-provided retirement plan to get the company matching funds. So if your employer matches, for example, 50% of your first 5% of contributions to the plan, you should at least contribute 5% of your income to the plan in order to receive the matching funds. Maximize your contribution to a Roth IRA. For 2015 that is $5,500, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. Continue increasing your contribution to your employer-provided plan up to the annual maximum. So if you have more capacity to save after you’ve put 5% into your employer plan to get the matching dollars, and you’ve also contributed $5,500 (or $6,500) to your Roth IRA, you should increase the amount going into […]

The SEP IRA

One of the more unique types of retirement accounts is the Simplified Employee Pension IRA, or SEP IRA for short.  This plan is designed for self-employed folks, as well as for small businesses of any tax organization, whether a corporation (S corp or C corp), sole proprietorship, LLC, LLP, or partnership. The primary benefit of this plan is that it’s simplified (as the name implies) and very little expense or paperwork is involved in the setup and administration of the plan.  The SEP becomes less beneficial when more employees are added. There are additional options available in other plans (such as a 401(k)) that may be more desirable to the business owner with more employees. SEP IRAs have a completely different set of contribution limits from the other kinds of IRAs and retirement plans.  For example, in 2015, you can contribute up to $53,000 to a SEP IRA. That amount […]

Mandatory Retirement Plans

A few weeks ago I finished a paper arguing for mandatory retirement contributions from both employers and employees. Though arguably the paper will not come close to changing public policy on retirement plans, it did raise some arguments in favor of the United States adopting a mandatory savings plan. In the paper I explained that research has shown that individuals risk not having enough saved for retirement. This could be due to employees not having a retirement plan through work or because employees face an abundance of mutual fund options in the plan that they don’t know where to begin. Some of these employees choose the default option or simply go with what a colleague recommends. Another problem the paper addresses is the declination of defined benefit pensions. Such pensions are employer sponsored and funded, thus removing funding an investment risk from the employee. At retirement the employee receives a […]

Should You Invest Dollars or Percentages?

In many employer sponsored plans such as a 401k, 403b, 457, or SIMPLE employees are generally given the option of deferring a fixed dollar amount or fixed percentage of their income. The question becomes which category to choose when initially enrolling in the plan and whether or not to change the original decision. Generally, the wiser decision is to choose (or switch to) the fixed percentage. The reason is that by choosing a percentage, you really never have to worry about increasing your contributions. For example, an individual starts a job earning $50,000 annually and decides to contribute 10% annually to his retirement plan which is $5,000 per year.

What Plans Can I Rollover My Retirement Plan To?

When you have a retirement plan, or many different types of retirement plan, you may be faced with decision-points when it would be helpful to rollover one plan into another plan. But do you know which type of plan I can rollover my retirement plan into? What follows is a description of the types of accounts that you can rollover each particular source account into, along with the restrictions for some of those accounts. The IRS also has a handy rollover chart which describes these rollovers in a matrix.  

Illinois’ Automatic Roth IRAs for Employees

Recently Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Plan. This plan provides an automatic Roth IRA via payroll-deduction for some employees who do not have an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. Essentially this law will require employers with 25 or more employees to establish a payroll deduction program permitting the workers to defer earnings into a Roth IRA, beginning in June 2017.  Employees will be automatically enrolled (hence an automatic Roth IRA), but the workers will have the opportunity to opt out of the program. The automatic enrollment includes a 3% salary deferral, but the employee can increase the deferral amount, up to the legal limitations (in 2015 it’s $5,500, $6,500 for folks over age 50). There is no company matching with this program.  

Where to Start With Retirement Savings

Today, we have so many choices for our retirement savings that it can be difficult to choose which sort of account to contribute to. If you are fortunate enough (as many are) to have more than one type of retirement plan available to you, in what order should you contribute to the accounts? Right now, at the beginning of a new year, is an excellent time to start with retirement savings. Qualified Retirement Plans First of all, many folks who are employed by a company have some sort of tax-deferred, qualified, retirement savings account available. These accounts go by many names – 401(k), 403(b), 457, and deferred compensation. These accounts are collectively referred to as qualified retirement plans, or QRPs. QRPs do not include IRAs – this is another type if retirement savings account with some different rules. A QRP account is a good place to start when contributing to […]

2015 IRA MAGI Limits – Married Filing Separately

Note: for the purposes of IRA MAGI qualification, a person filing as Married Filing Separately, who did not live with his or her spouse during the tax year, is considered Single and will use the information on that page to determine eligibility. For a Traditional IRA (Filing Status Married Filing Separately): If you are not covered by a retirement plan at your job and your spouse is not covered by a retirement plan, there is no MAGI limitation on your deductible contributions. If you are covered by a retirement plan at your job and your MAGI is less than $10,000, you are entitled to a partial deduction, reduced by 55% for every dollar (or 65% if over age 50), and rounded up to the nearest $10.  If the amount works out to less than $200, you are allowed to contribute at least $200. If you are covered by a retirement […]

2015 MAGI Limits for IRAs – Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er)

Note: for the purposes of IRA MAGI qualification, a person filing as Married Filing Separately, who did not live with his or her spouse during the tax year, is considered Single and will use the information on that page to determine eligibility. For a Traditional IRA (Filing Status Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er)): If you are not covered by a retirement plan at your job and your spouse is not covered by a retirement plan, there is no MAGI limitation on your deductible contributions. If you are covered by a retirement plan at work, and your MAGI is $98,000 or less, there is also no limitation on your deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. If you are covered by a retirement plan at your job and your MAGI is more than $98,000 but less than $118,000, you are entitled to a partial deduction, reduced by 27.5% for every dollar […]

2015 MAGI Limits – Single or Head of Household

Note: for the purposes of IRA MAGI qualification, a person filing as Married Filing Separately who did not live with his or her spouse during the tax year, is considered Single and will use the information on this page to determine eligibility. For a Traditional IRA (Filing Status Single or Head of Household): If you are not covered by a retirement plan at your job, there is no MAGI limitation on your deductible contributions. If you are covered by a retirement plan at work, if your MAGI is $61,000 or less, there is also no limitation on your deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. If you are covered by a retirement plan at your job and your MAGI is more than $61,000 but less than $71,000, you are entitled to a partial deduction, reduced by 55% for every dollar over the lower limit (or 65% if over age 50), and […]

Important Tax Numbers for 2015

For 2015 the IRS has given the new limits regarding retirement contributions as well as estate and gift tax exemptions. Regarding retirement contributions employees may now defer $18,000 annually to their employer sponsored plan including a 401k, 403b, and 457 plans. This is an increase from last year’s $17,500 amount. Additionally, employees age 50 or older can now make an age based catch-up contribution of $6,000 which is a $500 increase from last year’s $5,500 amount.

Qualified Charitable Distributions Extended for 2014

With the passage of the Taxpayer Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, the qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA is available through the end of the year under normal rules.  This means that you can, if you’re age 70½ or older, make direct distributions from your IRA to a qualified charity or charities, not counting the distribution as income and not itemizing the charitable contribution.

Retirement vs College Saving in a Nutshell

Those of us who are parents know this conflict very well – should we put aside money for retirement, or for college saving? It may come as a surprise, but a general rule of thumb with regard to this conflict is to put money aside for retirement first, and college second. The reason behind this is that there are many ways to pay for college, such as grants, scholarships, work-study programs, student loans, parent loans, etc.. With this plethora of choices, it becomes clear that your student’s college funding needs can be met from quite a few angles, none of which should have a dramatic impact on your overall net worth (or your student’s). On the other hand, no one will give you a scholarship to retire. It is solely up to you and your savings (coupled with Social Security and any available pensions).

Five Things You Need to Know About Retirement Plans

Listen to this post: Most of you have one or more types of defined contribution retirement plans, such as a 401(k), 403(b), 457, IRA, SEP-IRA, or any of a number of other plans. Each type of plan has certain characteristics that are a little different from other plans, but most of them have the common characteristic of deductibility from current income and deferred taxation on growth. 1. Each dollar you defer is worth more than a dollar. It’s true. As you defer money into your retirement account, each dollar that you defer could be worth as much as $1.66. How, you might ask? Since you are not taxed on the dollar that has been deferred into the retirement account, your “take home” pay only reduces by the amount that is left over after taxation. For example, if you’re in the 25% bracket, generally your income will only reduce by 75¢ […]

An IRA Owner’s Manual 2nd Edition Published

Introduction of the 2nd Edition of An IRA Owner’s Manual, published November, 2014. Resources: Blog – www.FinancialDucksInARow.com Book – www.IRAOwnersManual.com Buy the book – paperback or Kindle

Wants and Needs

Sometimes when we need more money for a specific goal in the future such as retirement, college, a down payment on a home or an emergency fund we may feel that before these things can happen we need to make more money. We may feel that once our incomes are up to a certain level that we’ll be able to afford to save for those goals. It may not be necessary to earn more in order to achieve the above goals. For many folks the solution is simply to prioritize between wants and needs. In other words, learning to distinguish between the wants and the needs in your life and then reallocating your money to fund retirement or college goals without having to ask for a raise or get a second job.