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retirement plan

The Retirement Answer

Although I will admit that the title of this post is a bit glamorous, I wanted to share the simplicity of the message. Typically, every morning we will sit down to eat breakfast. Meals at our house are generally jovial, with discussions ranging from which animal would win in a fight to how my kids will spend their day. A few mornings ago, however, my oldest asked me a rather interesting question. Knowing what I do for a living she asked, “Daddy, what do you have to do to retire?” My immediate response was, “That’s a great question!” At age 7, my heart swelled that she was already thinking about retirement. Before I could give an answer she quickly quipped, “Wait. I know. You have to save enough money so that one day you can retire.” I was speechless. Pretty profound for a 7-year-old. Finally, I replied, “That’s exactly what […]

April 1 is the deadline for first RMD

If you’ve reached age 70½ in 2016, you must take a required distribution from your IRA by April 1, 2017.

Missed Rollover Automatic Waivers

When you rollover funds from one retirement plan to another, a missed rollover occurs if you can’t complete the rollover within 60 days. A missed rollover results in a taxable distribution. However, there have always been certain specific situations that provide for exceptions to this rule, but any reasons outside that limited list required the taxpayer to request a Private Letter Ruling (PLR) from the IRS. The PLR request process could result in some significant costs for lawyers and fees. Rev Proc 2016-47: Missed Rollover Waivers Recently the IRS published a new procedure for handling an expanded list of exceptions for a missed rollover. This procedure, Rev. Proc. 2016-47, outlines eleven possible exceptions to the missed rollover rule. The eleven exceptions are: an error was committed by the financial institution receiving the contribution or making the distribution to which the contribution relates; the distribution, having been made in the form of a check, was […]

Net Unrealized Appreciation

This widely misunderstood section of the IRS code can be quite a benefit – if it happens to fit your situation. Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) refers to the increase in value of your company’s stock held within your 401(k), either due to a company match or your own investment in the company stock within the 401(k). Other company-sponsored deferred accounts can apply here as well, but the primary type of account is the 401(k), so we’ll refer to all company-sponsored tax-deferred accounts as 401(k)’s for the purpose of this discussion. In order to take advantage of the Net Unrealized Appreciation provision, first of all you must hold your company’s stock in your 401(k), and you must be in a position to roll over the account. That is, either you must have separated from service by leaving employment (voluntarily or involuntarily), or the 401(k) plan is being terminated. As you consider […]

5 Secrets About Your 401k Plan

Many folks have a 401k plan – it’s the most common sort of retirement savings vehicle that employers offer these days. But there are things about your 401k plan that you probably don’t know – and these secrets can be important to know! The 401k plan is, for many, the only retirement savings you’ll have when you reach your golden years. Used properly, with steady contributions over time, a 401k plan can generate a much-needed addition to your Social Security benefits. But you have to make contributions to the 401k plan for it to work, and invest those contributions wisely. So how much do you know about your 401k plan? Below are 5 secrets that you probably don’t know about your 401k plan. Check with your 401k plan administrator to see if these provisions are available – some plans are more restrictive than others. Secrets You Don’t Know About Your […]

Taxes and the 401k Withdrawal

If you take a 401k withdrawal and the money in the 401k was deducted from your taxable income, you’ll be taxed on the funds you withdraw. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be subject to a penalty. There’s a lot of confusion about how the taxation works – and the taxation and penalties can be different depending upon the circumstances. Taxation of the 401k Withdrawal When you take a distribution of pre-tax money from a 401k plan, the amount of the 401k withdrawal that is pre-tax will be included in your income and will be taxed at your marginal income tax rate in that year. Unless you meet one of the exceptions noted in the article 16 Ways to Withdraw Money From Your 401k Without Penalty, your 401k withdrawal will also be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty. For example – if you have a 401k plan at […]

SOSEPP – Fixed Amortization Method

When calculating your Series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SOSEPP), provided for under §72(t)(2)(A)(iv) of the Internal Revenue Code, one of your choices is the Fixed Amortization method. Calculating your annual payment under this method requires you to have the balance of your IRA account. With this balance you then create an amortization schedule over a specified number of years equal to your life expectancy factor from either the Single Life Expectancy table or the Joint Life and Last Survivor Expectancy table, using the age(s) you have reached (or will reach) for that calendar year. The amortization table must use a rate of interest of your choice, but the chosen rate cannot be more than 120% of the federal mid-term rate published by regularly the IRS in an Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB). Which table you use is based upon your circumstances. If you are single, or married and your spouse is less than […]

SOSEPP – Fixed Annuitization method

When calculating your Series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SOSEPP), provided for under §72(t)(2)(A)(iv) of the Internal Revenue Code, one of your choices is the Fixed Annuitization method. Calculating your annual payment under this method requires you to have the balance of your IRA or 401(k) account and an annuity factor, which is found in Appendix B of Rev. Ruling 2002-62 using the age you have reached (or will reach) for that calendar year. You will then specify a rate of interest of your choice that is not more than 120% of the federal mid-term rate published by regularly the IRS in an Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB). Once you’ve calculated your annual payment under the Fixed Annuitization method, your future payments will be exactly the same until the SOSEPP is no longer in effect. There is a one-time opportunity to change to the Required Minimum Distribution method. For more details on […]

Early Withdrawal of an IRA or 401(k) – SOSEPP

This particular section of the Internal Revenue Code – specifically §72(t)(2)(A)(iv) – is the most famous of the 72(t) provisions. This is mostly due to the fact that it seems to be the ultimate answer to the age-old question “How can I take money out of my IRA or 401(k) without penalty?” While it’s true that this particular code section provides a method for getting at your retirement funds without penalty (and without special circumstances like first-time home purchase or medical issues), this code section is very complicated. With this complication comes a huge potential for costly mistakes – and the IRS does NOT forgive and forget! A Series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments, or SOSEPP is just what it sounds like. You withdraw a specified amount from your IRA or 401(k) every year. The specified amount is not always the same (hence “substantially” equal) but the method for determining the […]

Book Review – Choose Your Retirement

The latest book by Emily Guy Birken – Choose Your Retirement – is unlike any other book I’ve read on the subject. Birken takes the time to walk the reader through all of the decision-points that likely will confront you. She spends time acknowledging all of the factors that often face future retirees, including all of the emotional factors that plague us. Author Birken, who you may recognize from her many writing gigs with well-known personal finance outlets including Wisebread, PT Money, Money Crashers and Yahoo! Finance, has really done well with this book, in my opinion. The book provides practical step-by-step guidance and counsel for navigating the internal mental scripts that different personality types face when saving – Money Avoidance, Money Worship, Money Status, and Money Vigilance. Most everyone fits into one of these categories – and each category has it’s own pitfalls and benefits. This book takes you […]

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, […]

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 Delay Retirement?

The question of delaying retirement may arise as you get closer to your “goal year” of when you want to retire. For some individuals’ fortunate enough to be covered under a company or state pension, it can be tempting to retire as soon as possible and collect the pension benefit. The same may be true for folks wanting to start taking Social Security at age 62. Before making the decision to retire or retire early an individual should consider the effects on delaying retirement and continuing to work. This is assuming that they can accrue extra pension benefits for the extra years of service. For Social Security, this would be delaying past an individual’s normal retirement age as long as to age 70. For example, let’s say an individual has the opportunity to be eligible to retire at age 55 and receive a pension of $5,500 per month. However, if […]

Book Review – Pension Finance

M. Barton Waring does an excellent job in his book Pension Finance. The book essentially covers what’s wrong with the way conventional accountants and actuaries think using conventional math and accounting practices to justify the payments (or lack thereof) funding corporate and municipal pensions. A concept talked about at length in the book is the idea of long-term average returns and how many pension actuaries rely on them to determine funding. Mr. Waring would argue that there is too much reliance on the long term average returns thus allowing pension actuaries to fund their pensions with less money due to assuming higher rates of return. Instead, one of the areas that may help the crippling pension system in the US is to get realistic about long term returns and use a combination of a smaller returns, and bigger contributions (among others). The book is heavy on the analytic side (great […]

Are Target Date Funds Off Target?

  It seems that an easy fix for saving for retirement for many folks is to simply choose a target date fund. Generally how target date funds work is a fund company will have a set of different funds for an investor to pick from depending on a best guess estimate of when the investor wants to retire. For example, an investor who’s 30 years old and wants to retire at age 65 may choose a 2045 fund or a 2050 fund. In this example since the investor is age 30 in the year 2014, 30 more years gets him to 2044. Most target date funds are dated in 5 year increments. If the investor was age 60 and wanting to retire at age 65, then he may choose a 2020 fund to correspond to his timeline. Generally, the goal of target date funds is to follow a glide path […]

Mechanics of 401(k) Plans – Employer Contributions

This is the second post in a series of posts that explain the mechanics of a 401(k) plan.  As mentioned previously, there are many types of Qualified Retirement Plans (collectively called QRPs) that share common characteristics.  Some of these plans are called 401(k), 403(b), and 457.  In these articles we’ll simply refer to 401(k) plans to address common characteristics of all of these QRPs. Employer Contributions Many companies provide a matching contribution to the 401(k) plan – and sometimes there is a contribution made to a QRP on your behalf no matter if you have contributed your own deferred salary or not. Most of the time these matching contributions are stated as x% of the first y% of contributions to the account.  An example would be “50% of the first 6%”, meaning if you contribute 6% of your salary to the plan, the company will match that contribution with 3% […]

How the 3.8% Surtax Could Influence Roth Conversions

Note: This is a dust-off of an article written in April 2010 that dealt with the special two-year taxation of Roth Conversions that was available in that year.  An astute reader noted that the original was a bit dusty and not applicable to today’s decision-making (thanks S!). One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is a new tax – a surtax on investment income over certain amounts.  This surtax has come into play this year, for tax returns filed in 2014 on 2013 income.  The income amounts are, admittedly, rather high, but nonetheless will likely impact a lot of folks.  What you may not realize is that, due to the application of this surtax, Roth IRA conversion strategies that you may have had in play may be impacted.  Depending upon your overall income, you may have to pay the surtax on some or all of your conversion amount. […]

Avoid the Trap

Eating and dining out all the time can drain our money and potential retirement savings without us even being aware of it. We get asked from friends to go to lunch, coffee or we find ourselves skipping breakfast and getting in the line at the coffee shop for a scone and latte. Before we know it, we’re left asking, “Where did the money go?” Or worse, “I can’t afford to save for retirement.” What’s happened is we’ve fallen into the trap – a habit really, but it can be broken and we can relearn. Here’s how: The first thing you can do is to pass on that latte or scone all together. Instead, make yourself breakfast at home. Invest in a coffee maker if you don’t have one, and make your own coffee. Then make a nice meal of scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast, a cup of cottage cheese with […]

Opportunity Cost

Nearly every day in our lives we experience trade-offs and make choices affecting whether or not we’ll do something, buy something or do nothing and buy nothing. Some of us will choose to walk rather than drive, some will choose to pack a lunch rather than dine out, some of us will choose to save money while others will choose to spend it. These trade-offs are what can be referred to as opportunity costs; meaning what we’re giving up in order to take advantage of another availability opportunity. Financially, we make the choices all the time; the choice to dine out versus saving the extra money towards retirement; the choice to not save in our employer’s retirement plan so we can have more money to spend today. These opportunity costs can add up. Here’s why. When a person makes the choice to not save in order to spend for today, […]

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