Category

Retirement

Clearing Up Confusion About RMDs

By | Retirement, Tax Planning

Last month, we posted information about how the SECURE Act has increased the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70-1/2 to 72 starting this year, 2020.

If you turned age 70-1/2 in 2019, your RMDs were required for the 2019 tax year, and WILL BE required for 2020, 2021 and every year from now on.

For everyone turning 70-1/2 in 2020, your RMDs will not be required until the year you turn 72, even if you have received notification from your custodian to the contrary.

Because the law was passed and became effective within two weeks of passage, automated computer notifications and settings have not been changed yet. Call us if you have any questions!

 

LET’S MEET ABOUT YOUR ESTATE PLAN

Remember that inherited “stretch IRAs” have been shortened to 10 years in many circumstances due to the passage of the SECURE Act.

Let’s get together and discuss how this may affect your current estate plan, what burdens your heirs may face, and what we need to do now in conjunction with your estate attorney.

 

SECURE ACT CHANGES FOR EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS

  1. PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY

Unless there is a collectively-bargained plan in place (such as a union agreement), you may be eligible for your employer’s 401(k) or similar retirement benefit plan even if you work part time. If you have worked for your employer for one year consecutively for at least 1,000 hours, or for three consecutive years for at least 500 hours (roughly 25 work-weeks of 20 hours per week), you will be eligible.

  1. ANNUITY OPTIONS IN 401(k) PLANS

Even though employers were already allowed to offer annuities in their 401(k) plans, only about 9% of them did. The SECURE Act shifts the burden of legal liability away from employers who offer annuities in their plans; you will need to be diligent about examining them before choosing. (We can help you with this.) The DOL will require standardized monthly retirement income projections to help you compare; they are expected to issue guideline regulations about this in the coming months.

  1. ANNUITY PORTABILITY

Within a retirement plan, an annuity portability requirement has been added by the SECURE Act. If an annuity offering is removed from a 401(k) plan menu, you will be able to roll that annuity investment over into your own IRA with no penalty.

  1. FOR EMPLOYERS

The SECURE Act raised the tax credit for employers to $15,000 to set up, administer and educate employees about retirement plan changes over a three-year period. (NOTE: Employer contributions to 401(k) plans have been and still are tax deductible.) There is a new tax credit of $500 per year for automatic enrollment of employees into a company’s 401(k) plan—and the cap for auto enrollment has been raised from 10% to 15% of wages.

 

If you have any questions about this information, please don’t hesitate to call our office! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395.

 

Sources:
https://www.plansponsor.com/in-depth/getting-secure-acts-lifetime-income-provisions-right/
https://humaninterest.com/blog/part-time-employees-secure-act/
https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-secure-act-how-affect-retirement-4692743
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/03/if-annuities-come-to-your-401k-savings-plan-heres-what-to-know.html
The SECURE Act is a complex new law still being analyzed and assessed by industry experts. IRS clarifications may follow. The information in this article is provided for general information and educational purposes only. It is not designed nor intended to be applicable to any person’s individual circumstances. It should not be considered investment advice, nor does it constitute a recommendation that anyone engage in or refrain from a particular course of action.
Do not rely on this information for tax advice. Check with your CPA, attorney or qualified tax advisor for precise information about your specific situation.

5 Things You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

By | News, Retirement, Tax Planning

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE) became effective Jan. 1, 2020, and many people have questions about it. Here are the top five things consumers should know.

 

  1. 72 is the new 70½

The SECURE Act raises the age at which retirees must begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from the awkward age of 70-1/2 to an even age 72, allowing for a couple more years of growth before RMDs kick in. NOTE: Anyone who reached age 70-1/2 in 2019 or before is subject to the old rules.

 

  1. You can keep making contributions to traditional IRAs

The act repeals the age limitation for making contributions to traditional IRAs, as long as you have earned income. Previously, the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions was set at 70-1/2 (this was the only type of retirement account which had an age limitation). Now, those working into their 70s and beyond can continue contributing to their traditional IRAs, even if they’re simultaneously required to begin drawing them down.

 

  1. The stretch IRA is dead

While existing “stretch IRAs” are grandfathered in and still follow the old tax rules, stretch IRAs are unlikely to be used by financial and estate planners in the future because their tax advantages have been drastically reduced.

Prior to the new law, stretch IRAs were primarily used for estate planning because they allowed a family to extend distributions over future generations—while the IRA itself continued to grow tax free. The person inheriting an IRA was required to take RMDs based on their life expectancy, which meant that a very young beneficiary could stretch out their distributions potentially over their lifetime.

Now beneficiaries must draw down the entire account within 10 years of inheriting it, possibly throwing them into a higher tax bracket. (They can take the money out in any year or years they like, as long as the account is empty by 10 years of the date of death of the original account owner.)

The new 10-year rule also applies to inherited Roth IRAs.

You may want to review your plan if you have stretch IRAs set up for your family, because any IRA inherited as of January 1, 2020 is subject to the new rules. Trusts you may have put in place to take advantage of stretch IRA rules probably won’t ameliorate taxes anymore either.

Keep in mind that the act does provide for a whole class of exceptions who aren’t subject to this 10-year rule; for them, the old distribution rules still apply. These beneficiaries (referred to as “Eligible Designated Beneficiaries”) are:

  • Spouses
  • Disabled beneficiaries
  • Chronically ill beneficiaries
  • Individuals who are not more than 10 years younger than the decedent
  • Certain minor children (of the original retirement account owner), but only until they reach the age of majority. NOTE: At this time, minor children would appear to be ineligible for similar treatment if a retirement account is inherited from a non-parent, such as a grandparent.

 

This new law is clearly designed to raise taxes. According to the Congressional Research Service, the lid put on the Stretch IRA strategy by the new law has the potential to generate about $15.7 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years!

 

  1. The Roth got more attractive

Because contributions to Roth IRAs are made on an after-tax basis, a Roth account owner is not subject to Required Minimum Distributions at any age. An owner can leave their Roth to grow until their death, leave it to their spouse, who can then allow it to grow until they die. The second spouse can leave it to their children, who can then allow it to continue to accumulate tax-free for another 10 years, although they will now have to empty the account by the 10-year mark.

In terms of estate planning, Roth IRAs typically do not cause a taxable event when distributions are taken by a beneficiary.

Low individual tax rates by historical standards and a pending reversion in 2026 to the higher income tax brackets/rates that preceded the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 can make this an opportune time for Roth conversions for those over age 59-1/2. These can benefit you, your spouse and heirs by strategically moving taxable retirement funds into tax-free Roth retirement accounts. The most common strategy for Roth conversions is ‘bracket-topping,’ where you convert enough to go to the edge of your tax bracket.

Keep in mind that these conversions need to be planned and done carefully, as they can no longer be reversed.

Remember, any account can be set up as a Roth – including CDs, government bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, annuities—almost any type of investment available.

 

  1. Other non-retirement related provision highlights:
  • You can use $5,000 of qualified money for childbirth or adoptions
  • 529 plan-approved “Qualified Higher Education Expenses” now include expenses for Apprenticeship Programs—including fees, books, supplies and required equipment—provided the program is registered with the Department of Labor
  • 529 plans can also be used for “Qualified Education Loan Repayments” to pay the principal and/or interest of qualified education loans limited to a lifetime amount of $10,000, retroactive to the beginning of 2019
  • The Kiddie Tax rules changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 have been reversed, (and can be reversed for the 2018 tax year as well)
  • The AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) “hurdle rate” to deduct qualified medical expenses remains lower at 7.5% of AGI for 2019 and 2020.
  • The following tax benefits for individuals are reinstated retroactively to 2018, and made effective onlythrough 2020 at this time:
    • The exclusion from gross income for the discharge of certain qualified principal residence indebtedness
    • Mortgage insurance premium deduction
    • Deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses

 

There are even more provisions of the SECURE Act designed to make it easier for small business owners to offer retirement plans to employees, as well as add annuities to their plans.

 

Call us if you would like to discuss how the new changes will affect your financial plan. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395.

 

The SECURE Act is a complex new law still being analyzed and assessed by industry experts. IRS clarifications may follow. The information in this article is provided for general information and educational purposes only. It is not designed nor intended to be applicable to any person’s individual circumstances. It should not be considered investment advice, nor does it constitute a recommendation that anyone engage in or refrain from a particular course of action.
Do not rely on this information for tax advice. Check with your CPA, attorney or qualified tax advisor for precise information about your specific situation.
Sources:
https://www.wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/what-advisors-need-know-about-secure-act
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/economists-like-annuities-consumers-dont-heres-the-disconnect-2019-12-23
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/04/031704.asp
https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T064-C032-S014-pros-cons-and-possible-disasters-after-secure-act.html
https://www.forbes.com/sites/leonlabrecque/2019/12/23/the-new-secure-act-will-make-roth-strategies-much-more-appealing-here-are-five-ways-to-use-a-roth/#3c239df6381d
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/secure-act-includes-one-critical-tax-change-that-will-send-estate-planners-reeling-2019-12-30
https://www.kitces.com/blog/secure-act-2019-stretch-ira-rmd-effective-date-mep-auto-enrollment/

The Rules Are Changing For 401(k)s In 2020

By | Financial Literacy, Retirement

The Rules Are Changing For Your 401(k) In 2020

If you’re still working and contributing to a 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan, there is some good news for the upcoming year.

If you’re under age 50, the amount you can contribute to your 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is now $19,500 for 2020—a $500 increase over 2019. Additionally, for those who are age 50 or over by December 31, 2020, the catch-up amount is now $6,500, up by $500 (and the first increase since 2015).

Keep in mind that you can still put away an additional $6,000 in an IRA—$7,000 for those age 50 or older. As always, these contributions can be made up until tax day, April 15, for the previous year’s taxes. That plus the new limits mean that an employee who is 50+ can sock away a total of $33,000 in tax-advantaged retirement accounts for 2020.

For Business Owners

For self-employed small business owners, the amount that can be saved in a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) goes up from $56,000 to $57,000 in 2020, if all requirements are met. The limit on SIMPLE retirement accounts goes up from $13,000 to $13,500 in 2020 (plus $3,000 if you’re 50+). For defined benefit plans—similar to pensions of the past, but now used by high-earning self-employed individuals—the limit on the annual benefit goes up from $225,000 in 2019 to $230,000 in 2020.

Hardship Withdrawal Rule Changes

Even though making hardship withdrawals from 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans will be easier for plan participants in 2020, for most employees, withdrawals should be a last-ditch option if you’re facing financial hardship. This is true especially if you’re under age 59-1/2, when you have to pay taxes plus a 10% tax penalty on the amount withdrawn.

However, it will be easier to start to saving again following a hardship withdrawal. Prior to 2020, employees who took a hardship withdrawal were barred from making new contributions to their plans for six months. Starting January 1st, this is no longer the case.

Also in 2020, employees can withdraw earnings, profit-sharing and stock bonuses rather than just their contribution amounts for 401(k) hardship withdrawals. (NOTE: 403(b) plan participants are still limited to just their contributions.)

Starting in 2020, your employer gets to decide whether you have to take a plan loan first—requiring payback with interest—before taking a hardship withdrawal; it’s no longer mandated by the government, it’s optional. Remember, taking a loan rather than a hardship withdrawal is almost always your best choice to keep your retirement on track.

Hardship Verification and Disaster Relief Rules

Hardship verification standards have been eased; an employer or retirement plan administrator is not required to determine if a hardship withdrawal is necessary by checking cash or assets available—the burden is on the employee to certify that it is.

To take a hardship withdrawal, employees must have an immediate and heavy financial burden or need that includes one or more of the following:

  1. Purchase of a primary residence.
  2. Expenses to repair damage or to make improvements to a primary residence.
  3. Preventing eviction or foreclosure from a primary residence.
  4. Post-secondary education expenses for the upcoming 12 months for participants, spouses and children.
  5. Funeral expenses.
  6. Medical expenses not covered by insurance.

In 2020, a seventh category has been added for expenses resulting from a federally declared disaster in an area designated by FEMA; the agency will no longer need to issue special disaster-relief announcements to permit hardship withdrawals to those affected.

 

If you have any questions about the new rules for 401(k)s and similar retirement savings plans, please call us! Our mission is to help you achieve your personal financial and retirement goals.

Call Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.

 

 

Sources:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2019/11/06/irs-announces-higher-2020-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/#662aa23733bb
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/exreq/pages/details.aspx?erid=1312
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-final-rule-eases-401k-hardship-withdrawals.aspx

Does Your Retirement Plan Include Inflation Risk?

By | Inflation Risk, Retirement

Inflation may not always be top of mind when you think about planning for retirement. Of course, you will likely consider your current expenses, but you need to account for what the costs of those expenses could be over time.

None of us can predict the future, but we can plan. Inflation diminishes purchasing power over the years and increases the costs of services that retirees and pre-retirees need. Given that more Americans are living longer, it can pay dividends to include inflation risk in your overall planning.

The other issue we have to contend with when it comes to inflation is that we may be lulled into a false sense of security since government measures of inflation have been very low in recent years. In addition, safer investments like money market funds, CDs and government bonds generally yield less than the cost of goods and services that many of us need. This makes it difficult for our safe money investments to keep pace with our expenses.

Lower government inflation measures also have an impact on Social Security benefits. Among the features of Social Security is that benefits are generally adjusted each year for inflation in what is known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. In October, the Social Security Administration announced a 1.6% COLA that takes effect in December for some beneficiaries and by January for most.

The average benefit increase for retired workers with the recently announced COLA is estimated to be $24 to $1,503 per month. Married couples both receiving benefits will see a $40 increase, on average, to a monthly payment of $2,531. The cost-of-living adjustment for 2020 is lower than that of 2019, which was 2.8%, and 2018, which was 2.0%.

Getting the most out of your Social Security benefit is extremely important for your retirement and it’s nice to have a feature that steps up with inflation. However, adjustments tracking official government statistics likely won’t cover the higher expenses you will face throughout retirement, so planning is important.

Health Care and Medical Cost Inflation

Then there is health care, among the biggest costs you may encounter in retirement and even now if you are still working and saving for retirement. Medical cost inflation is real and it can negatively impact your savings if you don’t have a way to offset it.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated earlier this year that health expenditures are projected to increase 4.8% overall in 2019, up from 4.4% growth in 2018.

For those still working and covered by an employer’s plan, costs are outpacing wages and inflation. Since 2009, the Kaiser Family Foundation says average family premiums have increased 54% and workers’ contributions have increased 71%, several times more quickly than wages (26%) and inflation (20%).

If you are already enrolled in Medicare and have been incurring out-of-pocket expenses then you know the impact of what higher drug costs or services that Medicare doesn’t cover can do to your monthly budget. We often cite figures from Fidelity Investments, estimating that a 65-year old couple retiring in 2019 can expect to spend $285,000 in today’s dollars for health care and medical expenses throughout retirement. The figure doesn’t include long-term care.

Once you have an idea of what your expenses are, we can get started now on developing or updating your plan to account for inflation. The other thing to keep in mind is that while inflation has been low in the past decade, it is best to plan using higher long-term averages.

There are several ways we can address inflation risk, depending on your situation. Strategies and options could include how your investments are positioned over time and guaranteed income solutions that adjust periodically to keep pace with inflation. You will want to meet with us, too, for a plan to cover long-term care as these costs can be a significant financial risk. Now is also a good time to contact us to discuss Medicare because the current open enrollment period runs through December 7 if you want to make changes or switch plans.

Let us know how we can help!

Contact Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.

 

Sources:
“Social Security Announces 1.6 Percent Benefit Increase for 2020,” October 10, 2019. Social Security Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2019/#10-2019-1
“National Health Expenditure Projections 2018-2027,” February 2019. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Retrieved from: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/Downloads/ForecastSummary.pdf
“Benchmark Employer Survey Finds Average Family Premiums Now Top $20,000,” September 25, 2019. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.kff.org/health-costs/press-release/benchmark-employer-survey-finds-average-family-premiums-now-top-20000/
“How to plan for rising health care costs,” April 1, 2019. Fidelity Investments. Retrieved from: https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs

The IRA Had a Birthday Last Month

By | Retirement

The IRA can provide many gifts as part of a comprehensive retirement plan.

The Individual Retirement Account (IRA) turned 45 on Labor Day. On September 2, 1974, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, was enacted into law, introducing broad safeguards to protect employee savings in both defined benefit plans like pensions, and defined contribution plans.

The intent of Congress in initially establishing IRAs was to provide a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan for those workers at businesses that weren’t able to offer pensions. The IRA also made it possible to preserve the tax-deferred status of qualified plan assets when an employee changed jobs or retired, paving the way for rollovers.

It was still several years before the 401(k) plan would arrive, not through legislation, but rather a private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, the 1974 act would benefit 401(k)s through the flexibility of rollovers.

Today, the IRA plays a vital role for Americans saving for retirement. IRA assets totaled $9.4 trillion at the end of March 2019, representing nearly one-third of the $29.1 trillion U.S. retirement market. Assets held in IRAs have been growing at an annual average pace of 10% over the past 25 years, from $993 billion in 1993, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI).

Millions of Americans use IRAs to save for retirement. An estimated 42.6 million U.S. households, or 33.4%, owned IRAs as of mid-2018. An estimated 33.2 million households owned traditional IRAs, making it the most common type of IRA. A total of 22.5 million households owned Roth IRAs, and 7.5 million U.S. households owned employer-sponsored IRAs such as Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs, according to the ICI.

The types of IRAs have expanded since 1974. SEP IRAs were created in 1978 to offset concerns that complex regulations were preventing smaller businesses from offering retirement plans. SIMPLE IRAs were created in 1996 specifically for employers with 100 or fewer employees.

The popular Roth IRA came into being as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, enabling retirement savers with the option of contributing on an after-tax basis, and the ability to take tax-free withdrawals, so long as they qualify with IRS rules. However, Roth IRA contribution limits and eligibility are based on your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI. For 2019, that means only single Americans with a MAGI of $135,000 or less may invest in a Roth IRA; while the MAGI limit for married Americans is $199,000.

The Roth IRA can be a beneficial tax-planning tool. While the traditional IRA offers tax-deferred savings benefits, it can have a downside. Once you reach age 70½, IRS rules require you to begin withdrawing from these accounts through Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). But Roth IRAs – which have accumulated more than $800 billion in assets since first becoming available in 1998 – allow you to potentially garner their tax advantages through conversions.

In a conversion, taxes are paid on any pre-tax assets in a traditional IRA or 401(k)-like plan (if you qualify) that are moved into a Roth. In 2010, income limits were lifted on conversions so, these days, you can convert your IRA assets to a Roth regardless of your income or marital status. However, it’s important to do these conversions carefully, because as of 2018, they are no longer reversible (called a recharacterization.)

Now is the time to give us a call, if you have tax-deferred retirement accounts and are concerned that RMDs could bump you into a higher tax bracket in the future. It’s a good idea to begin tax planning several years before retirement and keep your tax bill low with periodic checkups on your interest income, potential capital gains and losses, and other tax planning needs. This way, we can help you minimize a portion of the taxes you may have to pay.

Lack of knowledge is the biggest obstacle preventing Americans from investing in an IRA. According to a LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute (LIMRA SRI) study published in early 2019, only 34% of Americans believe they are knowledgeable about IRAs. Men are far more likely to say they are knowledgeable about IRAs than women. Forty-two percent of men consider themselves knowledgeable about IRAs, compared with just 27% of women. Of those who don’t own an IRA, nearly half (46%) felt they did not understand enough about IRAs to contribute to them.

When it comes to retirement planning, everyone can use a helping hand. It doesn’t hurt from time to time to get an external check on how you’re progressing toward your financial goals. Whether it’s what investment options might make sense for your traditional IRA, tax planning, Roth IRA conversions, guidance on saving for retirement or an income plan you can’t outlive, we’re here whenever you need us!

Call Bulwark Capital Management headquartered in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395

 

 

Sources:
“Happy Birthday, IRA! Congratulations on 45 Years,” September 12, 2019. Sarah Holden and Elena Barone Chism. Investment Company Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.ici.org/viewpoints/19_view_irabirthday
“Frequently Asked Questions About Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs),” June 2019. Investment Company Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.ici.org/pubs/faqs/faqs_iras
“This is your last chance ever to reverse a Roth IRA conversion,” March 2018. MarketWatch. Retrieved from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-your-last-chance-ever-to-reverse-a-roth-ira-conversion-2018-02-10
“LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute: Only 34 Percent of Americans Are Confident in their IRA Knowledge,” February 27, 2019. LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2019/limra-secure-retirement-institute-only-34-percent-of-americans-are-confident-in-their-ira-knowledge/

Congress Looks to Provide More Options for Retirement Savers

By | Retirement, Tax Planning

While changes to traditional IRAs, RMDs offer some benefits, there are tradeoffs.

 

Broad proposals are in the works in the retirement savings arena to ease rules on tax-deferred savings vehicles, make it easier for employers to offer 401(k)-type savings plans and also convert balances into annuities for lifetime income.

In late May, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE). Key provisions within the SECURE Act offer more flexibility for when distributions would have to be taken out of tax-deferred accounts. On the flip side, the Act takes direct aim at estate planning strategies that enable heirs of traditional IRAs to stretch out those payments throughout their lifetimes.

In addition to the SECURE Act, there are other legislative proposals winding their way in the Senate, known as the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2019 (RESA), and the Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019 (RSSA).

The SECURE Act would repeal the age cap for contributing to a traditional individual retirement account (IRA). Currently, if you have a traditional IRA you aren’t able to contribute to it after age 70½. That is different from Roth IRAs, which don’t have age caps, though the amount you can contribute begins to be phased out above $122,000 for single filers and $193,000 for married, joint filers.

The act would increase the starting age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) to 72, up from 70½. This provides an additional 18 months of tax-deferred growth for tax-qualified plans. It also could mean a higher RMD if you were to leave that money in the account until age 72 – because of the potential for the account’s growth and shorter life expectancy (that is, if the life expectancy tables used to calculate RMDs aren’t updated).

The “Stretch” IRA would be eliminated for non-spouse heirs. This essentially means that heirs who aren’t spouses would no longer be able to stretch out required minimum distributions from inherited tax-qualified accounts like IRAs and defined contribution plans over their lifetimes. Some beneficiaries would be exempt, including the disabled or chronically ill, minors, and individuals less than 10 years younger than the account owner. Those not meeting that criteria would have to withdraw the money over a 10-year timeframe under the SECURE Act. That time frame compresses to within five years under the RESA bill in the Senate if the account value exceeds $400,000.

For the various changes to take effect in the various bills, lawmakers from the House and Senate would have to reconcile any differences before a full House and Senate vote. That means it is still early days, as they say, with regards to the changes. However, we think it is important for you to consider looking into other strategies and options if what is, in essence, the “death” of the Stretch IRA is incorporated into law and the tax code.

Let’s talk about your retirement plan, your tax-deferred qualified accounts, ways to minimize taxation during retirement, and ways you can transfer wealth to your heirs in a tax-advantaged manner. Call Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395

 

Sources:
 “Secure Act Calls for Changes to IRAs, RMDs,” June 14, 2019. Rachel L. Sheedy. Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. Retrieved from: https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T032-C000-S004-secure-act-calls-for-changes-to-iras-rmds.html
“Washington Threatens to Change Retirement Planning Forever,” June 9, 2019. Dan Caplinger. Motley Fool. Retrieved from: https://www.fool.com/retirement/2019/06/09/washington-threatens-to-change-retirement-planning.aspx

What’s the difference between an IRA and a Roth IRA?

By | Financial Literacy, Retirement

Common financial wisdom tells us that as a paid member of the American workforce, you should contribute the maximum to your 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or similar retirement plan, especially if your organization matches a percentage of your contributions.

But not every company has one of these plans. As an individual taxpayer with earned income, you have other options available to you in order to save for retirement, including the IRA or “Individual Retirement Account.”

An IRA is a type of account which acts as a shell or holder. Within the IRA, you can invest in many different types of assets—you have far more choices than your company 401(k)’s short list of fund options. You can choose between CDs, government bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, annuities—almost any type of investment available. You can open an IRA account at a bank, brokerage, mutual fund company, insurance company, or some may be opened directly online.

The question is, should you open your IRA as a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA? Your decision should be based on your income as well as your current and future tax situation, because both Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs are retirement savings and investment vehicles subject to different IRS rules.

Here’s a basic overview of how a Roth compares to a traditional IRA:

 

+ The biggest difference between Roth versus traditional IRA retirement accounts is that Roth IRA contributions are made with post-tax dollars, while traditional IRA contributions are typically made with pre-tax dollars. This gets accounted for on your tax return in the year you choose to make the contribution. You have until the April 15 tax deadline to open or contribute to either type of IRA.

+ When you begin taking money out of these two types of accounts for retirement, traditional IRA distributions are treated as ordinary income and taxed accordingly, while Roth IRA distributions are usually taken out tax-free, because you already paid income taxes on the money before you invested it.

Essentially, with a Roth IRA, your interest, dividends and capital gains which accumulate inside it are tax-free as long as you follow all Roth IRA withdrawal rules.

+ Roth IRAs have income restrictions that may disqualify higher-income people from participating; traditional IRAs do not.

For instance, in order to contribute to a Roth IRA for 2019, single tax filers must have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGA) of less than $137,000 (contributions are phased out starting at $122,000), while the MAGA limit for married filers is $203,000 (with contribution phase outs starting at $193,000).

+ The annual maximum contribution limits for both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are the same. For 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000, plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if you reach age 50 by the end of the tax year.

If married, you can contribute up to that amount for yourself in your own IRA, plus up to that amount in a separate IRA for your non-working or low-earning spouse subject to certain restrictions.

If you are eligible to contribute to both types of IRAs, you may divide your contributions between a Roth and traditional IRA. However, your total contribution to both IRAs must not exceed the total limit for that tax year (including the catch-up contribution if you’re age 50 or over).

+ With Roth IRAs, there is no age limit on contributions. With traditional IRA accounts, you can no longer contribute starting the year you reach age 70-1/2.

+ Roth IRA contributions have never been deductible on your taxes, but contributions to a traditional IRA may be deductible on federal and state tax returns, lowering your taxable income for the year, depending on your tax status and whether or not you or your spouse contributes to a plan through work such as a 401(k).

If you do participate in a plan at work like a 401(k), and if your income is less than $74,000 for an individual or $123,000 for joint filers, your traditional IRA may still be fully tax deductible for 2019.

NOTE: Even if you have a high income, a non-tax-deductible traditional IRA still may be opened for you or your spouse.

+ Both traditional IRA and Roth IRA contributions may make you eligible for a “saver’s tax credit” if your income is low enough. The 2019 AGI (adjusted gross income) limits for the saver’s credit are $32,000 for single filers and $64,000 for married couples filing jointly.

+ Roth IRA accounts are not subject to annual RMDs, or Required Minimum Distributions, which are required for traditional IRA accounts starting at age 70-1/2. The amounts withdrawn are subject to ordinary income tax based on your tax bracket for the year.

+ Roth IRA withdrawals:

When it comes to withdrawing money, you can withdraw your Roth IRA contributions at any time, at any age with no penalty as long as the account has been in place for five years, so your Roth IRA can double as your emergency fund.

However, if you withdraw Roth IRA earnings prior to reaching age 59-1/2, you may have to pay income taxes on them, with some exceptions, such as first-time homebuyer expenses up to $10,000. Qualified education and hardship withdrawals may also be available before the age limit and without the five-year waiting period, but you may have to pay tax on any amount that was attributed to earnings.

Remember, with a Roth IRA, there are no RMDs. If you don’t need the money, you’re not required to withdraw any money from your Roth IRA at all, and it can pass to your heirs with tax advantages, although beneficiaries will be subject to RMDs.

+ Traditional IRA withdrawals:

Traditional IRA withdrawals come with a 10% tax penalty before age 59-1/2, plus ordinary income taxes will be due on the amount withdrawn.

Certain exceptions to the tax penalty on early withdrawals may apply, you may withdraw up to $10,000 to pay for some hardships, health care, disability or higher education expenses, or to make a down payment on your first home. NOTE: Although there may not be a penalty, you will still have to pay income taxes on the withdrawal.

With traditional IRAs, RMDs start at age 70-1/2 whether you need the money or not, and you have to pay ordinary income tax on the amounts withdrawn each tax year. There is no grace period to April 15; you must withdraw the money each year by midnight on December 31 or pay a 50% penalty plus taxes owed.

Additionally, beneficiaries must pay taxes on inherited traditional IRA accounts.

+ You can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, but strict rules apply. And be careful, because you have to pay income taxes on the money converted, and recent tax law changes mean you can’t undo this later.

+ If you are a business owner or have self-employment income, you may be eligible to set up a Simplified Employee Pension or (SEP) IRA, or a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees), depending on your company’s structure. You can usually contribute a lot more money to these plans than you can to traditional IRA or Roth IRA accounts.

+ One final note. It is very important for you to understand that the beneficiaries you name on your 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), traditional IRA, Roth IRA and insurance policies take precedence over your estate documents. That’s why it’s critical to make sure that your beneficiaries are always kept up-to-date.

 

If you have any questions about this information, or want to review or update your current financial or retirement planning documents, we can help. Contact Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395. Our headquarters are located in Silverdale, Washington.

 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any individual with tax or financial advice. We encourage you to consult with your tax professional, financial advisor or attorney to discuss your personal situation. It’s also important to keep in mind that Congress can change the rules regarding these accounts at any time. The regulations may be very different when you retire.

Sources:
“What Is an IRA and How Many Types Are There?” Thebalance.com. https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-an-ira-and-how-many-types-of-iras-are-there-2388700 (accessed May 8, 2019).
“Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA,” RothIRA.com. https://www.rothira.com/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira (accessed May 8, 2019).
“Roth IRA vs. Traditional IRA: What’s the Difference?” Investopedia.com. https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/roth-vs-traditional-ira-which-is-right-for-you/ (accessed May 8, 2019).
“Saver’s Tax Credit Qualifications for 2018 & 2019,” 20somethingfinance.com.  https://20somethingfinance.com/savers-tax-credit/  (accessed May 9, 2019).

 

 

Social Security Taxation

Are your Social Security benefits taxable?

By | Retirement, Social Security, Tax Planning

The answer is: Yes, sometimes.

If you don’t have significant income in retirement besides Social Security benefits, then you probably won’t owe taxes on your benefits. But if you have large amounts saved up in tax-deferred vehicles like 401(k)s, you could be in for a surprise later.

AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) versus Combined Income.

You are probably familiar with what AGI, or adjusted gross income, means. To find it, you take your gross income from wages, self-employed earnings, interest, dividends, required minimum distributions from qualified retirement accounts and other taxable income, like unearned income, that must be reported on tax returns.

(Unearned, taxable income can include canceled debts, alimony payments, child support, government benefits such as unemployment benefits and disability payments, strike benefits, lottery payments, and earnings generated from appreciated assets that have been sold or capitalized during the year.)

From your gross income amount, you make adjustments, subtracting amounts such as qualified student loan interest paid, charitable contributions, or any other allowable deduction. That leaves you with your adjusted gross income, which is used to determine limitations on a number of tax issues, including Social Security.

Combined Income is a formula used after you file for your Social Security benefits.

Whether or not your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your combined income each year, which is defined as your adjusted gross income (AGI) plus your tax-exempt interest income (like municipal bonds) plus one-half of your Social Security benefits.

The IRS provides a worksheet for this. (See the worksheet here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p915.pdf#page=16)

If your combined income exceeds the limit, then up to 85% of your benefit may be taxable. But in accordance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules, you won’t pay federal income tax on any more than 85% of your Social Security benefits.

What are the combined income limits?

Social Security benefits are only taxable when your overall combined income exceeds $25,000 for single filers or $32,000 for couples filing joint tax returns.

If you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income is:

  • Between $25,000 and $34,000 – you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits.
  • More than $34,000 – up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.

If you file a “joint” return, and you and your spouse have a combined income that is:

  • Between $32,000 and $44,000 – you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits.
  • More than $44,000 – up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.

RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) can be an unwelcome surprise.

Starting at age 70-1/2, you are required to start taking money out of your tax-deferred accounts, whether you need the income or not. These accounts include:

  • Traditional IRAs
  • SEP IRAs
  • SIMPLE IRAs
  • Rollover IRAs
  • Most 401(k) and 403(b) plans
  • Most small business retirement accounts

There are precise formulas for calculating how much you have to withdraw each year based on the IRS Uniform Lifetime Table. If you miscalculate, or if you or your plan administrator fail to move the money by December 31, you could face a 50% tax penalty; there is no grace period to April 15.

NOTE: The table goes up to age 115 and beyond. You can find the IRS life expectancy table as well as an IRS worksheet for calculating RMDs here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/uniform_rmd_wksht.pdf

Simplified RMD example for illustrative purposes only:*

Let’s say you are single, age 72, and you have one qualified account—$400,000 was the value of your 401(k) plan as of December 31 last year. You divide $400,000 by your life expectancy factor of 25.6 which give you $15,625.

This is the amount that you have to take out of your 401(k), which will count as part of your AGI.

Simplified Combined Income example for illustrative purposes only:*

To continue with our simplified example, let’s say you, our 72-year-old single person above, receives $2,800 per month in Social Security ($33,600 per year) and you don’t have any other source of income besides the RMD taken from your 401(k) account as illustrated above.

Based on the combined income formula:

AGI = $15,625

+ Non-taxable interest = $0

+ Half of Social Security = $16,800

__________________________________________

Your total combined income is = $32,425   

Because you are over the combined income limit of $25,000 for an individual, but less than the $34,000 which would require 85%, you would pay taxes on 50% of your Social Security benefit.

###

At Bulwark Capital Management, we provide retirement planning and Social Security benefit optimization, and we work in conjunction with your CPA or tax professional to help you consider taxes and how to minimize them as part of your overall retirement plan. Call us at
253.509.0395.

* This material is not intended to be used, nor can it be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal, state or local taxes or penalties. The information in this article is provided for general education purposes only. Do not rely on this information for tax advice. Check with your CPA, attorney or qualified tax advisor for precise information about your specific situation.

Sources:

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/013015/how-can-i-avoid-paying-taxes-my-social-security-income.asp

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/taxableincome.asp

https://smartasset.com/retirement/how-to-calculate-rmd

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/uniform_rmd_wksht.pdf

Top 5 Things Baby Boomers Should Know

By | Retirement | No Comments
  1. The Social Security COLA (cost of living adjustment) in 2019 will be 2.8%.

This is the largest COLA increase from the Social Security Administration since 2012.1

  1. Social Security benefits are often taxed.

If you work and are at full retirement age or older, you can earn as much as you want and your benefits will not be reduced; however, you may have to pay taxes on them. If your annual combined income is from $32-$44,000 filing jointly, you may have to pay taxes on 50% of your benefits. If your income is more than $44,000 filing jointly, then you may have to pay taxes on up to 85% of your benefits.2

Social Security calculates “combined income” by adding one-half of your Social Security benefits to your other income.2

  1. RMDs can have a profound effect on taxes.

Many people forget that RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) begin at age 70½. You are required by the IRS to start withdrawing money annually from your 401(k)s, traditional IRAs and other tax-deferred accounts using a precise formula, and you must do so by December 31st of each year or owe the income tax plus a 50% penalty.

Since you’ve never paid taxes on this money, you will owe income tax on your withdrawals based on your tax bracket for the year, and the income from your withdrawals are added in to the combined income amount that Social Security calculates. Some Baby Boomers are shocked at the amount of income tax they will actually owe, and come to the realization that their nest egg is actually much less than they thought.

RMDs, tax planning and income planning are the major reasons having a retirement plan in place is so important.

  1. Medicare isn’t free.

Not only is Medicare not free, but the premiums are usually deducted from your Social Security check.

Medicare health and drug plan providers often make changes to their policies each year, including changes to costs, coverage, deductible and coinsurance amounts, and what pharmacies and providers are in their network, so it pays to do your homework every year. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15 through December 7, and this is your opportunity to make new choices and pick plans that work best for you; changes made are effective as of January 1, 2019.

During Medicare Open Enrollment you can sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plan, switch plans, drop your Part D coverage altogether, switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or select a Medicare Advantage plan from another provider.

You should review drug costs because the prices of some brand-name drugs could be lower next year. As part of the recent tax plan changes, some drug manufacturers will pay more of the costs for enrollees in the drug coverage gap (also known as the “donut hole”) starting in 2019.3

  1. Everyone should have an estate plan

Estate plans are for the people you leave behind when you pass away. Here are some things you should be aware of:

  • An estate plan helps ensure your final wishes get carried out, and also let your family, trustees and health care providers know what your wishes are in terms of finances, possessions and end-of-life health desires.
  • Having a trust in place usually allows your estate to avoid probate court and keeps your finances private.
  • A will allows you to name guardians for minor children and to specify how possessions will be distributed. But if you have only a will in place, your estate will have to go through probate court, which could be a lengthy and costly process for your heirs. Probate also leaves your finances open to public scrutiny.
  • Beneficiaries you have named on individual life insurance policies, 401(k)s and other financial accounts take precedence over your estate planning documents. There have been cases where a former spouse has received financial benefits that weren’t intended, simply because the beneficiaries were never changed on individual accounts. Make sure you review and make updates to all documents on a regular basis.
  • The estate tax exemption, which was doubled by the latest tax legislation to $22.36 million per couple until 2025, means that you should investigate to see if or how you might be able to take advantage of the favorable tax laws while they exist.4

 

For more information about these issues as well as many other retirement issues, please call Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395 or email us at invest@bulwarkcapitalmgmt.com.

 

Sources:
1 “Social Security Benefit to Increase 2.8 Percent in 2019,” AARP.org. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2018/new-cola-benefit-2019.html (accessed October 16, 2018).
2 “Benefits Planner | Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit,” SSA.gov. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/taxes.html  (accessed October 16, 2018).
3 “Medicare ‘Doughnut Hole’ Will Close in 2019,” AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-2018/part-d-donut-hole-closes-fd.html (accessed October 9, 2018).
4 “How the new tax law upends estate planning,” Financial-planning.com https://www.financial-planning.com/news/how-the-new-tax-law-changes-estate-planning-trusts-income-tax-planning  (accessed October 17, 2018).

Resist Tapping Into Your 401(k), Employer-Sponsored Plan If You Can

By | Financial Planning, Retirement

‘Leakage’ can erode assets and negatively impact your retirement wealth

If you find it difficult to save or pay for big financial emergencies when they arise, tapping into a pot of money can be tempting – even if it’s your 401(k)-style employer-sponsored plan.

But if you’re able to resist, rewards do come from the power of compounding. The problem, though, is that a small percentage of Americans take early withdrawals and withdrawals after age 59½ from their 401(k)s each year or cash out of their plan when they switch jobs.

A large percentage – typically about 20% of plan participants – have loans outstanding. They’ve used loans from their 401(k) to, among other things, pay down high interest credit card debt, make home improvements, buy a home or refinance a mortgage, or pay outstanding bills. Some don’t repay the outstanding loans they’ve taken, however.

This “leakage” – as the industry refers to it – has financial consequences. For example, the remaining balance of policy loans that aren’t repaid because of a job loss or default may be treated as a lump sum distribution and subject to income taxes and the 10% penalty tax. Moreover, a lower account balance due to leakage means less money in retirement.

An analysis by Alicia H. Munnell and Anthony Webb at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research compared some scenarios. They found that the 401(k) wealth of a 60-year-old plan participant who began contributing at age 30 could be reduced by about 25% because of leakage compared to a participant who didn’t withdraw, cash out or fail to repay loans. The reduction in plan wealth was similar – 23% – for an individual who rolls over money from a 401(k) plan three times during his or her career with the initial rollover into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at age 30.  (The research, published in 2015, includes a few assumptions such as contribution rates, employer match and annual investment return rates. You can find more details here 1.)

The good news is that employers are focusing on decreasing leakage and many are turning to financial wellness programs to improve employee financial behaviors, according to Fidelity Investments. And loan usage has been trending lower in recent years, according to Fidelity’s second quarter analysis of retirement plan accounts.

That analysis found that the percentage of employees with a 401(k) loan fell to 20.5%, its lowest percentage since 2009’s second quarter when it was 19.9%. Among Gen X workers, who historically have the highest outstanding loan rate, the percentage dropped for the third straight quarter to 26.4%. The data is based on Fidelity’s analysis of 22,600 corporate defined contribution (DC) plans and 16.1 million participants as of June 30 2.

While participants may have good intentions for what those 401(k) loans are earmarked for, the loans could hold back participants from fully achieving their financial retirement goals. That’s because participants with outstanding loans might reduce their plan-saving amounts to pay off the loans, or stop saving altogether until the loan is paid off and they recommit to deferring some of their salary to their 401(k)s.

Kevin Barry, Fidelity’s president of workplace investing, noted that the stock market’s performance over the past several years has “definitely” helped retirement savers. But now would be a good time for investors to take a moment and make sure they’re doing their part to meet their retirement goals.

“Markets may go up and down, but there are a number of steps individuals can take, such as considering a Roth IRA, increasing your savings rate and avoiding 401(k) loans, which can play an important role in their long-term savings success,” Barry said, in a news release.

Now, indeed, is as good a time as any to connect with your retirement goals. Call us for a detailed financial and retirement income strategy session or overview that fits with your needs and goals.

We’re here to help you stay on track!  Call Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395 or email us at invest@bulwarkcapitalmgmt.com.

 

 

Sources:
1 “The Impact Of Leakages On 401(k)/IRA Assets,” Alicia H. Munnell and Anthony Webb. Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, February 2015. http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/IB_15-2.pdf
2 “Fidelity Q2 Retirement Analysis: Account Balances Rebound, While Auto Enrollment Continues to Drive Positive Savings Behavior,” Fidelity Investments, August 16, 2018. https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/employer-services/fidelity-q2-retirement-analysis-account-balances-rebound