Planning for Required Minimum Distributions

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Tax deferral is a powerful wealth-building tool, enabling individuals to delay paying taxes on their investment earnings and allowing more of these earnings to compound over time. But unlike diamonds or that cast-iron skillet that you inherited from your grandmother, tax deferral doesn’t last forever. Planning for required minimum distributions (RMDs) is an important part of a sound retirement income plan. Continue reading

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Employee Benefits: An Open Enrollment Checklist

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The final months of the year are a great time to reflect on your accomplishments and plan for the upcoming year. Many employers use this time to evaluate the cost and effectiveness of their employee benefit programs, with the goal of ensuring that they offer the right mix of incentives to attract and retain key talent. Employees, in turn, may be asked to make important elections or decisions that relate to their benefits. Following are some tips to help employees get the most out of their workplace benefits.

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Using Deferred Income Annuities For Retirement Income

Those approaching retirement are looking for ways to provide lifetime income; a recent ruling from the United States Department of the Treasury has placed renewed attention on the use of deferred income annuities, also known as longevity insurance, in a retirement income plan.

First, A Little Background

Deferred income annuities are generally paid for with a single-premium and income payments commence after a minimum of one year. The recent Treasury ruling allows participants  in a 401K or Traditional IRA retirement account to use the lesser of twenty five percent of their account balance or $125,000 for the purchase of a qualifying deferred income annuity. Income from the contract may be postponed up to age eighty five and will be excluded from Required Minimum Distribution calculations.

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Last Minute Tax Tip: How Entrepreneurs can get BIG Tax Breaks through Retirement Savings

With Tax Day in 2 weeks, you might be wondering whether there are any last minute things you can do to save on taxes from latax-dayst year’s income.  Good news: if you’re an entrepreneur, there is!

Did you know that if you’re self-employed or a small business owner there is a special type of pension plan available for you (and your employees)?  Available for businesses of any size, a simplified employee pension plan (SEP-IRA)is a written arrangement that allows a self-employed individual or a business owner to contribute to a pension plan with significantly higher limits than a traditional IRA.

A self-employed individual can contribute (pre-tax!) between 0-25% of their compensation (maximum contributions up to $51,000 for 2013, $52,000 for 2014); here’s the small catch: each eligible employee has to get the same percentage.

There are distinct advantages to setting up a plan like this:

  1.      You can contribute more (up to $51,000) to a plan like this than the traditional IRA maximum annual contribution of $5,500
  2.      The contribution is tax deductible
  3.      The account grows tax deferred until you withdraw the money
  4.      There are no annual reporting requirements for SEPs as long as each participant or individual who is in the plan receives a copy of the plan agreement and disclosure form (this is unlike a traditional 401K, defined contribution plan, or defined benefit plan, which have an annual 5500 form filing requirement)

In order to deduct the contribution, you must establish the plan by April 15th and contribute to the plan by April 15th (or the due date of your return including extensions – check with your accountant).

There are very few drawbacks to setting one of these plans up.

How to set up a SEP-IRA:

SEP-IRAss can be set up through a financial advisor, through a brokerage house, or through a bank.

Participants are eligible to sign up for a wide variety of investment opportunities including mutual funds, stocks, bonds, ETFs, and many more.

There should be no establishment fees to launch the plan and annual fees are minimal.

This great way anyone who is self-employed who has a profit to shelter some of that income from taxation.   We recommend using this worksheet to figure out your savings or, as always, contact us.

5 Risks to your Retirement Planning

dice money retirement riskOne of the biggest retirement issues that people face is that they have not spent enough time planning for retirement and therefore don’t have a plan in place to retire confidently.   No matter your age, you should have a plan that is specifically designed to meet your personal goals and needs while taking into account your time horizon and level of risk tolerance.

Every retirement plan should:

1. Provide for predictable streams of income that are reliable and can help avoid surprises. 

2. Allow for access to your financial assets to meet your changing needs over time

3. Include some elements for growth opportunities so that your income has the potential to keep pace with inflation.

 

There are 5 big retirement risks that people face:

1.  Inflation Risk  This is your reduction in purchasing power over time.  At a bare minimum, your income should keep pace with inflation in order to maintain your standard of living.  Did you know that you that you would need $264.12 in 2010 to match the buying power of $100 in 1980.  [Beauty of Labor statistics, CDI calculator 2010]

2. Healthcare Risk The cost of healthcare has increased dramatically.  Did you know that the average price increase of prescription drugs from 1994-2005 was 8.3% per year?

3. Longevity Risk  This is the possibility of people outliving their financial assets.  Did you know that there is a 63% probability that one person from any given couple (currently age ~65) will live to age 90?  With many people living 20-30 years (or more!) in retirement, it is important to appropriately plan so that your financial assets don’t run out.

4. Excess Withdrawal Risk This is the risk of withdrawing too much money from your investment portfolio too quickly, which could result in running out of money.  Did you know that 70% of people falsely believe they can safely withdraw 10% or more a year from their retirement saving?

5. Market Risk This is the possibility that you have investment losses that may reduce the amount of money you have to live on in retirement. 

 

In order to retire with confidence, developing a sound retirement plan that addresses these specific issues is integral, instrumental, fundamental.  We will dive more deeply into these topics in the coming weeks.  For now, if you have questions or want to set up an initial assessment of your retirement strategy, contact us.

Last Minute Tax & Financial Planning Moves to Save Money for 2013

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With November around the corner, we’re beginning to think about year-end tax & financial planning.

In fact, now is a great time to focus on last minute tax and financial planning moves to save money for 2013 (and possibly longer!).

Here are a few ways to save $ before New Year’s Day:

1. Make charitable gifts of appreciated stock.  If you have appreciated stock that you’ve held for more than a year and you plan to make a significant charitable contribution before the end of the year, you’re probably best off keeping your cash and donating the stock instead.  Why?  You’ll avoid paying tax on the appreciation and you’ll be able to deduct the entire charitable gift at its full fair market value.  It’s a win for you & for the recipient of your gift.

2.  If it looks like you will owe taxes for 2013, adjust your federal income tax withholding before the end of the year.  If you missed the mark on planning ahead, there is still time to make adjustments and avoid penalties.

3.  If you have a healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA), use it, don’t lose it!  Make sure to take advantage of spending the pre-tax money in the account before the end of the year for any remaining amounts over $500.  Anything under $500 can now be “rolled over” into the new year, a newly modified ruling by the IRS.

4.  If you pay quarterly estimated taxes (which are due on January 15, 2014), you can prepay the state estimated tax payment by the end of the year to receive a tax deduction (subject to certain limitations and the alternative minimum tax).

5.  If you are a senior over the age of 70.5:

  • Make charitable donations from your IRA account, which are set to expire this year.
  • Make sure you take your required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA.  Failure to take your RMD results in a penalty of 50% of the amount not withdrawn.

6.  If you work & have a 401K:

  • Make sure to maximize your 401K contributions – don’t miss out on money you can contribute on a pre-tax basis (not to mention employer matching opportunities).

7. If you’re self-employed:

  • If you are a sole proprietor, don’t miss the opportunity to minimize taxes by employing your children under the age of 18.  Paying wages to children under 18 shifts income to your child who is in a lower tax bracket; in fact, you may be able to avoid taxes entirely because of your child’s standard deduction (assuming the wages paid are less than or equal to the 2013 standard deduction of $6100).  Additionally, since your child is earning income, he/she is eligible to contribute to an IRA account, thereby getting an early start on saving for retirement.
  • If you are looking to reduce your tax bill while saving for retirement, you may wish to consider establishing a retirement plan before the end of the year (such as a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit pension plan).  These plans need to be established before the end of the year and contributing money now to these accounts starts the tax-deferred growth on your contributions.

Now is a great time to make year-end adjustments.  If you are interested in learning more about year-end financial planning, call us.

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