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retirement plans

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 […]

A Brief Explanation of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

I love the TSP and the fund options it offers. Participants (generally government employees and military) have access to very low cost index fund options and a handful of target date funds (L Funds) that incorporate different combinations of the individual index fund options depending on what stage you’re at in your retirement savings journey. I wish more employer sponsored plans mirrored the TSP’s simplicity, low costs and efficiency. Employees may or may not have access to a match on deferrals, depending on their employment class. The TSP has a number of different fund choices available. The G Fund invests in short-term Treasury securities that are specifically issued for the TSP. The principal and interest are guaranteed by the US Government but they are not inflation protected. That is, these funds may have returns below the inflation rate. The C Fund is the common stock fund designed to replicate the […]

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.

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 […]

Take a Small Step: Increase Your Savings by 1%

As savers, we Americans are not doing a good job.  We’re improving (according to recent data), but still way behind what we should be saving.  But it doesn’t have to be that way – you can take small steps to increase your savings right away, and it doesn’t have to hurt. The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported that we are saving at a rate of around 4.6% of disposable personal income, an increase of 0.1% over the prior month.  On a per-person basis, that works out to about $1,831 saved per month, or just short of $22,000 per year.  Since we know that very, very few people are exactly average (by definition most people are going to be something above or below the average), what concerns me is that even those who are a bit above the average are still not saving enough.  And woe to those who are […]

The Crystal Ball

Every so often we get asked by our clients or prospective clients which direction the market is going to go. This is always and entertaining question to get – and some of our “regulars” already know the answer. Having a bit of a sense of humor (albeit dry sometimes) I’ll joke with clients and tell them that the day they handed out crystal balls in my investment class, it was the one time I called in sick – and you only get one chance at the coveted crystal ball. Thus, I forever lost the opportunity to predict the future of the markets. Darn. Inevitably, clients laugh and understand the joke – and take away the underlying theme of the jocularity – that we can’t predict the future, especially in securities markets. But this doesn’t mean we can’t plan ahead. So why do we invest? Why do we save for retirement? […]

C’mon America! Add 1% More to Your Retirement Savings This Year!

My fellow financial bloggers and I have come together to encourage an increase in retirement savings this year.  Since many employees are going through annual benefit elections right about now, it’s also a very good time to consider increasing your annual contributions to your retirement savings plans.  Small steps are the easiest to take, and the least painful – so why not set aside an additional 1% in your retirement plan in the coming year? The list below includes a boatload of ideas that you can use to help you with this increase to savings.  I’ve heard from several more bloggers who are going to put their posts up soon. If you’re a blogger, see the original post for details on how to join the action: Calling All Bloggers! Listed below are the articles in our movement so far (newest are at the top): From Dana Anspach: Can You Spare […]

Maximizing Your Pension Using Term Life Insurance

There are many, many ways that life insurance can be used.  Sometimes it is to replace lost income, when a wage earner dies during his or her working years.  Other times it may be to help pay taxes on a large estate upon the passing of the second spouse in a couple, so that your heirs can receive the full fruits of your labors and won’t have to worry about a tax haircut. Another use for life insurance is to help you to maximize a pension.  I know, everyone believes that pensions have gone the way of the buggy-whip.  That may be the case for many folks, but I still find a lot of people retiring these days who have a traditional pension. For those of you who are familiar with pensions, you’ve probably seen the payout options that are typically available: lump sum, single life annuity, joint and 100% […]

The Roth 401(k) Plan

Many hard working Americans have access to a defined contribution retirement plan called a 401(k). Essentially, a 401(k) is a retirement savings vehicle provided by employers to their employees as a means for the employee to save for retirement, often with the employer providing a “match” of the employee’s contributions up to a certain percentage. As of January of 2006 (a result of EGTRRA 2001), employers can now offer employees the Roth 401(k) as part of their 401(k) plan. Before we get into the advantages of the Roth 401(k), let’s briefly look at how the regular 401(k) works. Employees that have access to a 401(k) are generally allowed to contribute up to $17,000 (2012 figures, indexed annually) per year to their 401(k). Employees aged 50 and over are allowed an additional $5,500 (again, 2012 figures, indexed annually). Employee salary deferrals are taken from the employee’s earnings on a pre-tax basis […]

Roth IRA for Youngsters

Image via Wikipedia Many times it is among the best of ideas to establish a Roth IRA for your child.  This way, your child can benefit from the long-term growth in the account and have a very good head start on retirement savings for later in life.  There are other benefits, including the fact that retirement funds are not included when financial aid is being calculated for college expenses, as well as providing funds for the child to use when the time comes to buy a house. One thing can cause a real problem though: if you undertake to make contributions to a Roth IRA for your child that aren’t based in fact.  What’s that?  How can this be?  So there’s a way you can make contributions to Roth IRA that aren’t based in fact?  What fact is that?? The rules for making contributions to Roth IRAs (actually, any IRA) […]

Withholding Tax Without Income?

We’ve discussed in the past how it’s possible to eliminate quarterly estimated tax payments by using a withdrawal from your IRA.  But did you realize that you can actually put this method in motion without actually increasing your income? Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr Wait a minute… did you just catch that?  I’m telling you that you can eliminate your withholding or quarterly estimated taxes by using a withdrawal from an IRA – and that you can do this without having to recognize income from the IRA withdrawal. It’s a little tricky, but if you’re not too faint of heart, this could actually be a cool little maneuver.  What you do is to take a withdrawal from your IRA, and on the withdrawal slip indicate that you want the entire withdrawal withheld for taxes.  Then, within 60 days, replace the funds (from another, non-IRA source) into either that same IRA […]

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