The Tax Benefits of Your Retirement Savings Plan. By John Jastremski

Taxes can take a big bite out of your total investment returns, so it’s encouraging to know that your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan may offer a variety of tax benefits. Depending on the type of plan your employer offers, you may be able to benefit from current tax savings; tax deferral on any investment returns you earn on the road to retirement; and possibly even tax-free income in retirement.

Lower your taxes now

When you contribute to a traditional retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), your plan contributions are deducted from your pay before income taxes are assessed. These “pretax contributions” reduce your current taxable income, which in turn reduces the amount of income tax you pay to Uncle Sam each year that you participate. Consider the following example, which compares two different employees.

Example: Let’s assume Employee 1 gets paid every two weeks, with gross pay of $2,000 and a 25% federal tax rate. In this case, Employee 1 would pay about $500 in taxes each pay period. Now let’s assume Employee 2, who earns the same gross pay and has the same tax rate, contributes 6% of his salary each year to a retirement savings plan. In this instance, his gross pay would be reduced by $120 each pay period, resulting in a taxable income of $1,880. In this case, taxes would be $470–or $30 less than the previous scenario. So Employee 2 would have invested $120 in a retirement savings plan and saved $30 in current income taxes.

  Employee 1 Employee 2
Biweekly Pay $2,000 $2,000
Plan Contribution $0 $120
Taxable Pay $2,000 $1,800
Taxes Paid $500 $470

 

Amount invested: $120

Immediate Tax Savings: $30

Keep in mind that this example is hypothetical and has been simplified for illustrative purposes only. Your actual situation will differ. Withdrawals would be taxed at then-current rates. Early withdrawals prior to age 59½ will be subject to a 10% penalty tax, unless an exception applies.

Tax-deferred growth potential

Tax deferral is the process of delaying (but not necessarily eliminating) the payment of income taxes on returns you earn. Whereas in taxable investment accounts, you would have to pay taxes on your earnings–even if you reinvest them–in a tax-deferred account, you can delay paying taxes on your returns until you withdraw money. For example, the money you put into your employer-sponsored retirement account isn’t taxed until you withdraw it, which might be 30 or 40 years down the road!

Tax deferral can be beneficial because:

• The money you would have spent on taxes remains invested

• You may be in a lower tax bracket when you make withdrawals from your accounts (for example, when you’re retired), and

• You can potentially accumulate more dollars in your accounts due to compounding

Compounding means that your earnings become part of your investment dollars, and they in turn can potentially earn returns. In the early years of an investment, the benefit of compounding may not be that significant. But as the years go by, the long-term boost to your total return can be dramatic. Keep in mind that returns cannot be guaranteed. Your investments will fluctuate through the years. Also, withdrawals prior to age 59½ will be subject to a 10% penalty tax in addition to regular income taxes unless an exception applies.

Tax-free income in retirement

Tax deferred is not the same as tax free. “Tax free” means that no income taxes are due at all. Some employer-sponsored savings plans, like Roth 401(k)s, Roth 403(b)s, and Roth 457s, can generate tax-free income during retirement. When you contribute to a Roth account, you don’t receive a current tax benefit like you would with a traditional pretax savings account, but your earnings can still grow without having to pay taxes on them each year. Then, qualified withdrawals are tax free. (Nonqualified withdrawals are subject to regular income and penalty taxes.) In general, a withdrawal from a Roth account is qualified if it satisfies both of the following requirements:

• It’s made after the end of a five-year waiting period

• The payment is made after you turn 59½, become disabled, or die

Taxes make a big difference

Let’s assume two people have $5,000 to invest every year for a period of 30 years. One person invests in a tax-free account like a Roth 401(k) that earns 6% per year, and the other person invests in a taxable account (an investment account outside his or her retirement plan) that also earns 6% each year. Assuming a tax rate of 28%, in 30 years the tax-free account will be worth $395,291, while the taxable account will be worth $295,896. That’s a difference of $99,395.

This hypothetical example is for illustrative purposes only, and its results are not representative of any specific investment or mix of investments. Actual results will vary. The taxable account balance assumes that earnings are taxed as ordinary income and does not reflect possible lower maximum tax rates on capital gains and dividends, as well as the tax treatment of investment losses, which would make the taxable investment return more favorable, thereby reducing the difference in performance between the accounts shown. Investment fees and expenses have not been deducted. If they had been, the results would have been lower. You should consider your personal investment horizon and income tax brackets, both current and anticipated, when making an investment decision as these may further impact the results of the comparison. This illustration assumes a fixed annual rate of return; the rate of return on your actual investment portfolio will be different, and will vary over time, according to actual market performance. This is particularly true for long-term investments. It is important to note that investments offering the potential for higher rates of return also involve a higher degree of risk to principal.

How much can I contribute?

Individuals can contribute up to $18,000 (in 2015 and 2016) to a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan. The limit increases to $24,000 (in 2015 and 2016) for those age 50 or older.

If your plan offers a Roth option, you can split your contributions between the traditional and Roth plans, but the total amount cannot exceed these limits. Be sure to check your plan’s documents as some plans may impose lower limits.

Even if you cannot contribute the maximum amount, be sure to contribute what you can. Through the power of compounding, even small amounts have the potential to add up over time. Then, try to increase your contribution whenever possible–for example, as you receive raises or pay off debts.

A word about employer contributions

Your employer may also contribute to your plan account through matching or profit-sharing contributions. These contributions also benefit from tax deferral. In other words, you do not have to pay taxes on employer contributions or their earnings until you withdraw them. If your employer offers a matching contribution, try to contribute enough to receive the full amount. Employer matches are free money so try to take full advantage of them!

Bottom line

Though tax considerations shouldn’t be your only concern when investing for retirement, it’s a plus to know that participating in your employer-sponsored plan can help you keep more money in your own pocket and put less in Uncle Sam’s.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Balancing Your Investment Choices with Asset Allocation -by John Jastremski

A chocolate cake. Pasta. A pancake. They’re all very different, but they generally involve flour, eggs, and perhaps a liquid. Depending on how much of each ingredient you use, you can get very different outcomes. The same is true of your investments. Balancing a portfolio means combining various types of investments using a recipe that’s appropriate for you.

Getting an appropriate mix

The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. The mix of various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio’s returns.

There’s another reason to think about the mix of investments in your portfolio. Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may be chosen for their growth potential. Others may provide regular income. Still others may offer safety or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments even try to fill more than one role. Because you probably have multiple needs and desires, you need some combination of investment types.

Balancing how much of each you should include is one of your most important tasks as an investor. That balance between growth, income, and safety is called your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and type of risks you face.

Balancing risk and return

Ideally, you should strive for an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing more conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher return but that also involve more risk. For example, let’s say you want to get a 7.5% return on your money. Your financial professional tells you that in the past, stock market returns have averaged about 10% annually, and bonds roughly 5%. One way to try to achieve your 7.5% return would be by choosing a 50-50 mix of stocks and bonds. It might not work out that way, of course. This is only a hypothetical illustration, not a real portfolio, and there’s no guarantee that either stocks or bonds will perform as they have in the past. But asset allocation gives you a place to start.

Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that’s 30 years away. Many publications feature model investment portfolios that recommend generic asset allocations based on an investor’s age. These can help jump-start your thinking about how to divide up your investments. However, because they’re based on averages and hypothetical situations, they shouldn’t be seen as definitive. Your asset allocation is–or should be—as unique as you are. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals. You should make sure your asset allocation is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Many ways to diversify

When financial professionals refer to asset allocation, they’re usually talking about overall classes: stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives. However, there are others that also can be used to complement the major asset classes once you’ve got those basics covered. They include real estate and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, metals, or collectibles. Because their returns don’t necessarily correlate closely with returns from major asset classes, they can provide additional diversification and balance in a portfolio.

Even within an asset class, consider how your assets are allocated. For example, if you’re investing in stocks, you could allocate a certain amount to large-cap stocks and a different percentage to stocks of smaller companies. Or you might allocate based on geography, putting some money in U.S. stocks and some in foreign companies. Bond investments might be allocated by various maturities, with some money in bonds that mature quickly and some in longer-term bonds. Or you might favor tax-free bonds over taxable ones, depending on your tax status and the type of account in which the bonds are held.

Asset allocation strategies

There are various approaches to calculating an asset allocation that makes sense for you.

The most popular approach is to look at what you’re investing for and how long you have to reach each goal. Those goals get balanced against your need for money to live on. The more secure your immediate income and the longer you have to pursue your investing goals, the more aggressively you might be able to invest for them. Your asset allocation might have a greater percentage of stocks than either bonds or cash, for example. Or you might be in the opposite situation. If you’re stretched financially and would have to tap your investments in an emergency, you’ll need to balance that fact against your longer-term goals. In addition to establishing an emergency fund, you may need to invest more conservatively than you might otherwise want to.

Some investors believe in shifting their assets among asset classes based on which types of investments they expect will do well or poorly in the near term. However, this approach, called “market timing,” is extremely difficult even for experienced investors. If you’re determined to try this, you should probably get some expert advice–and recognize that no one really knows where markets are headed.

Some people try to match market returns with an overall “core” strategy for most of their portfolio. They then put a smaller portion in very targeted investments that may behave very differently from those in the core and provide greater overall diversification. These often are asset classes that an investor thinks could benefit from more active management.

Just as you allocate your assets in an overall portfolio, you can also allocate assets for a specific goal. For example, you might have one asset allocation for retirement savings and another for college tuition bills. A retired professional with a conservative overall portfolio might still be comfortable investing more aggressively with money intended to be a grandchild’s inheritance. Someone who has taken the risk of starting a business might decide to be more conservative with his or her personal portfolio.

Things to think about

• Don’t forget about the impact of inflation on your savings. As time goes by, your money will probably buy less and less unless your portfolio at least keeps pace with the inflation rate. Even if you think of yourself as a conservative investor, your asset allocation should take long-term inflation into account.

• Your asset allocation should balance your financial goals with your emotional needs. If the way your money is invested keeps you awake worrying at night, you may need to rethink your investing goals and whether the strategy you’re pursuing is worth the lost sleep.

• Your tax status might affect your asset allocation, though your decisions shouldn’t be based solely on tax concerns.

Even if your asset allocation was right for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Changing Jobs? Take Your 401(k) and Roll It. By John Jastremski

If you’ve lost your job, or are changing jobs, you may be wondering what to do with your 401(k) plan account. It’s important to understand your options.

What will I be entitled to?

If you leave your job (voluntarily or involuntarily), you’ll be entitled to a distribution of your vested balance. Your vested balance always includes your own contributions (pretax, after-tax, and Roth) and typically any investment earnings on those amounts. It also includes employer contributions (and earnings) that have satisfied your plan’s vesting schedule.

In general, you must be 100% vested in your employer’s contributions after 3 years of service (“cliff vesting”), or you must vest gradually, 20% per year until you’re fully vested after 6 years (“graded vesting”). Plans can have faster vesting schedules, and some even have 100% immediate vesting. You’ll also be 100% vested once you’ve reached your plan’s normal retirement age.

It’s important for you to understand how your particular plan’s vesting schedule works, because you’ll forfeit any employer contributions that haven’t vested by the time you leave your job. Your summary plan description (SPD) will spell out how the vesting schedule for your particular plan works. If you don’t have one, ask your plan administrator for it. If you’re on the cusp of vesting, it may make sense to wait a bit before leaving, if you have that luxury.

Don’t spend it, roll it!

While this pool of dollars may look attractive, don’t spend it unless you absolutely need to. If you take a distribution you’ll be taxed, at ordinary income tax rates, on the entire value of your account except for any after-tax or Roth 401(k) contributions you’ve made. And, if you’re not yet age 55, an additional 10% penalty may apply to the taxable portion of your payout. (Special rules may apply if you receive a lump-sum distribution and you were born before 1936, or if the lump-sum includes employer stock.)

If your vested balance is more than $5,000, you can leave your money in your employer’s plan until you reach normal retirement age. But your employer must also allow you to make a direct rollover to an IRA or to another employer’s 401(k) plan. As the name suggests, in a direct rollover the money passes directly from your 401(k) plan account to the IRA or other plan. This is preferable to a “60-day rollover,” where you get the check and then roll the money over yourself, because your employer has to withhold 20% of the taxable portion of a 60-day rollover. You can still roll over the entire amount of your distribution, but you’ll need to come up with the 20% that’s been withheld until you recapture that amount when you file your income tax return.

Should I roll over to my new employer’s 401(k) plan or to an IRA?

Assuming both options are available to you, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. There are strong arguments to be made on both sides. You need to weigh all of the factors, and make a decision based on your own needs and priorities. It’s best to have a professional assist you with this, since the decision you make may have significant consequences–both now and in the future.

Reasons to roll over to an IRA:

• You generally have more investment choices with an IRA than with an employer’s 401(k) plan. You typically may freely move your money around to the various investments offered by your IRA trustee, and you may divide up your balance among as many of those investments as you want. By contrast, employer-sponsored plans typically give you a limited menu of investments (usually mutual funds) from which to choose.

• You can freely allocate your IRA dollars among different IRA trustees/custodians. There’s no limit on how many direct, trustee-to-trustee IRA transfers you can do in a year. This gives you flexibility to change trustees often if you are dissatisfied with investment performance or customer service. It can also allow you to have IRA accounts with more than one institution for added diversification. With an employer’s plan, you can’t move the funds to a different trustee unless you leave your job and roll over the funds.

• An IRA may give you more flexibility with distributions. Your distribution options in a 401(k) plan depend on the terms of that particular plan, and your options may be limited. However, with an IRA, the timing and amount of distributions is generally at your discretion (until you reach age 70½ and must start taking required minimum distributions in the case of a traditional IRA).

• You can roll over (essentially “convert”) your 401(k) plan distribution to a Roth IRA. You’ll generally have to pay taxes on the amount you roll over (minus any after-tax contributions you’ve made), but any qualified distributions from the Roth IRA in the future will be tax free.

Reasons to roll over to your new employer’s 401(k) plan:

• Many employer-sponsored plans have loan provisions. If you roll over your retirement funds to a new employer’s plan that permits loans, you may be able to borrow up to 50% of the amount you roll over if you need the money. You can’t borrow from an IRA–you can only access the money in an IRA by taking a distribution, which may be subject to income tax and penalties. (You can, however, give yourself a short-term loan from an IRA by taking a distribution, and then rolling the dollars back to an IRA within 60 days.)

• A rollover to your new employer’s 401(k) plan may provide greater creditor protection than a rollover to an IRA. Most 401(k) plans receive unlimited protection from your creditors under federal law. Your creditors (with certain exceptions) cannot attach your plan funds to satisfy any of your debts and obligations, regardless of whether you’ve declared bankruptcy. In contrast, any amounts you roll over to a traditional or Roth IRA are generally protected under federal law only if you declare bankruptcy. Any creditor protection your IRA may receive in cases outside of bankruptcy will generally depend on the laws of your particular state. If you are concerned about asset protection, be sure to seek the assistance of a qualified professional.

• You may be able to postpone required minimum distributions. For traditional IRAs, these distributions must begin by April 1 following the year you reach age 70½. However, if you work past that age and are still participating in your employer’s 401(k) plan, you can delay your first distribution from that plan until April 1 following the year of your retirement. (You also must own no more than 5% of the company.)

• If your distribution includes Roth 401(k) contributions and earnings, you can roll those amounts over to either a Roth IRA or your new employer’s Roth 401(k) plan (if it accepts rollovers). If you roll the funds over to a Roth IRA, the Roth IRA holding period will determine when you can begin receiving tax-free qualified distributions from the IRA. So if you’re establishing a Roth IRA for the first time, your Roth 401(k) dollars will be subject to a brand new 5-year holding period. On the other hand, if you roll the dollars over to your new employer’s Roth 401 (k) plan, your existing 5-year holding period will carry over to the new plan. This may enable you to receive tax-free qualified distributions sooner.

When evaluating whether to initiate a rollover always be sure to (1) ask about possible surrender charges that may be imposed by your employer plan, or new surrender charges that your IRA may impose, (2) compare investment fees and expenses charged by your IRA (and investment funds) with those charged by your employer plan (if any), and (3) understand any accumulated rights or guarantees that you may be giving up by transferring funds out of your employer plan.

What about outstanding plan loans?

In general, if you have an outstanding plan loan, you’ll need to pay it back, or the outstanding balance will be taxed as if it had been distributed to you in cash. If you can’t pay the loan back before you leave, you’ll still have 60 days to roll over the amount that’s been treated as a distribution to your IRA. Of course, you’ll need to come up with the dollars from other sources.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Converting Savings to Retirement Income. By John Jastremski

During your working years, you’ve probably set aside funds in retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, or other workplace savings plans, as well as in taxable accounts. Your challenge during retirement is to convert those savings into an ongoing income stream that will provide adequate income throughout your retirement years.

Setting a withdrawal rate

The retirement lifestyle you can afford will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio. The annual percentage that you take out of your portfolio, whether from returns or both returns and principal, is known as your withdrawal rate. Figuring out an appropriate initial withdrawal rate is a key issue in retirement planning and presents many challenges. Why? Take out too much too soon, and you might run out of money in your later years. Take out too little, and you might not enjoy your retirement years as much as you could. Your withdrawal rate is especially important in the early years of your retirement, as it will have a lasting impact on how long your savings last.

One widely used rule of thumb on withdrawal rates for tax-deferred retirement accounts states that withdrawing slightly more than 4% annually from a balanced portfolio of large-cap equities and bonds would provide inflation-adjusted income for at least 30 years. However, some experts contend that a higher withdrawal rate (closer to 5%) may be possible in the early, active retirement years if later withdrawals grow more slowly than inflation. Others contend that portfolios can last longer by adding asset classes and freezing the withdrawal amount during years of poor performance. By doing so, they argue, “safe” initial withdrawal rates above 5% might be possible. (Sources: William P. Bengen, “Determining Withdrawal Rates Using Historical Data,” Journal of Financial Planning, October 1994; Jonathan Guyton, “Decision Rules and Portfolio Management for Retirees: Is the ‘Safe’ Initial Withdrawal Rate Too Safe?,” Journal of Financial Planning, October 2004.) Don’t forget that these hypotheses were based on historical data about various types of investments, and past results don’t guarantee future performance. There is no standard rule of thumb that works for everyone–your particular withdrawal rate needs to take into account many factors, including, but not limited to, your asset allocation and projected rate of return, annual income targets (accounting for inflation as desired), and investment horizon.

Which assets should you draw from first? 

You may have assets in accounts that are taxable (e.g., CDs, mutual funds), tax deferred (e.g., traditional IRAs), and tax free (e.g., Roth IRAs). Given a choice, which type of account should you withdraw from first? The answer is–it depends.

For retirees who don’t care about leaving an estate to beneficiaries, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw money from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last, and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you’ll keep more of your retirement dollars working for you.

For retirees who intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the analysis is more complicated. You need to coordinate your retirement planning with your estate plan. For example, if you have appreciated or rapidly appreciating assets, it may be more advantageous for you to withdraw from tax-deferred and tax-free accounts first. This is because these accounts will not receive a step-up in basis at your death, as many of your other assets will.

However, this may not always be the best strategy. For example, if you intend to leave your entire estate to your spouse, it may make sense to withdraw from taxable accounts first. This is because spouses are given preferential tax treatment with regard to retirement plans. A surviving spouse can roll over retirement plan funds to his or her own IRA or retirement plan, or, in some cases, may continue the deceased spouse’s plan as his or her own. The funds in the plan continue to grow tax deferred, and distributions need not begin until the spouse’s own required beginning date.

The bottom line is that this decision is also a complicated one. A financial professional can help you determine the best course based on your individual circumstances.

Certain distributions are required 

In practice, your choice of which assets to draw first may, to some extent, be directed by tax rules. You can’t keep your money in tax-deferred retirement accounts forever. The law requires you to start taking distributions–called “required minimum distributions” or RMDs–from traditional IRAs by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 70½, whether you need the money or not. For employer plans, RMDs must begin by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70½ or, if later, the year you retire. Roth IRAs aren’t subject to the lifetime RMD rules. (Beneficiaries of either type of IRA are required to take RMDs after the IRA owner’s death.)

If you have more than one IRA, a required distribution is calculated separately for each IRA. These amounts are then added together to determine your RMD for the year. You can withdraw your RMD from any one or more of your IRAs. (Your traditional IRA trustee or custodian must tell you how much you’re required to take out each year, or offer to calculate it for you.) For employer retirement plans, your plan will calculate the RMD, and distribute it to you. (If you participate in more than one employer plan, your RMD will be determined separately for each plan.)

It’s important to take RMDs into account when contemplating how you’ll withdraw money from your savings. Why? If you withdraw less than your RMD, you will pay a penalty tax equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw. The good news: you can always withdraw more than your RMD amount.

Annuity distributions 

If you’ve used an annuity for part of your retirement savings, at some point you’ll need to consider your options for converting the annuity into income. You can choose to simply withdraw earnings (or earnings and principal) from the annuity. There are several ways of doing this. You can withdraw all of the money in the annuity (both the principal and earnings) in one lump sum. You can also withdraw the money over a period of time through regular or irregular withdrawals. By choosing to make withdrawals from your annuity, you continue to have control over money you have invested in the annuity. However, if you systematically withdraw the principal and the earnings from the annuity, there is no guarantee that the funds in the annuity will last for your entire lifetime, unless you have separately purchased a rider that provides guaranteed minimum income payments for life (without annuitization).

In general, your withdrawals will be subject to income tax–on an “income-first” basis–to the extent your cash surrender value exceeds your investment in the contract. The taxable portion of your withdrawal may also be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty if you haven’t reached age 59½, unless an exception applies.

A second distribution option is called the guaranteed* income (or annuitization) option. If you select this option, your annuity will be “annuitized,” which means that the current value of your annuity is converted into a stream of payments. This allows you to receive a guaranteed* income stream from the annuity. The annuity issuer promises to pay you an amount of money on a periodic basis (e.g., monthly, yearly, etc).

If you elect to annuitize, the periodic payments you receive are called annuity payouts. You can elect to receive either a fixed amount for each payment period or a variable amount for each period. You can receive the income stream for your entire lifetime (no matter how long you live), or you can receive the income stream for a specific time period (ten years, for example). You can also elect to receive annuity payouts over your lifetime and the lifetime of another person (called a “joint and survivor annuity”). The amount you receive for each payment period will depend on the cash value of the annuity, how earnings are credited to your account (whether fixed or variable), and the age at which you begin receiving annuity payments. The length of the distribution period will also affect how much you receive. For example, if you are 65 years old and elect to receive annuity payments over your entire lifetime, the amount of each payment you’ll receive will be less than if you had elected to receive annuity payouts over five years.

Each annuity payment is part nontaxable return of your investment in the contract and part payment of taxable accumulated earnings (until the investment in the contract is exhausted).

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices? -by John Jastremski

Even the most seasoned investors are prone to their influence.

 

Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions.  They are less routinely cautioned about letting their preconceptions and biases color their financial choices.

 

In a battle between the facts & our preconceptions, our preconceptions may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance. So it may actually “pay” us to recognize our biases as we invest. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.

Valuing outcomes of investment decisions more than the quality of those decisions. An investor thinks, “I got a great return off of that decision” instead of thinking, “that was a good decision because ______.”

How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision, and to therefore believe that the decisions with the best outcomes were in fact the best decisions (not necessarily true).

Valuing facts we “know” & “see” more than “abstract” facts. Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information that relates to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the health of the economy.

On Main Street, we find a classic example in Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index. In the August edition of this monthly poll of more than 3,500 U.S. adults, 55% of respondents said the American economy is “getting worse” instead of better. In fact, more Americans have told Gallup that the economy is getting worse rather than better since March.1

This flies in the face of the declining jobless rate, the strong hiring of 2015, the comeback of the housing market, and key surveys showing years of consistent monthly growth in the manufacturing and service sectors – but in all probability, these poll respondents are not looking at economic indicators when they make such a judgment. Their neighbor was laid off, or there was a story on the nightly news about a new homeless camp growing in size. These are facts they can “see” – and therefore, in their minds the economy is getting worse.1

Valuing the latest information most. In the investment world, the latest news is almost always more valuable than old news… but when the latest news is consistently good (or consistently bad), memories of previous market climate(s) may become too distant. If we are not careful, our minds may subconsciously dismiss the eventual emergence of the next bear (or bull) market.

Being overconfident. The more experienced we are at investing, the more confidence we have about our investment choices. When the market is going up and a clear majority of our investment choices work out well, this reinforces our confidence, sometimes to a point where we may start to feel we can do little wrong thanks to the state of the market, our investing acumen or both. This can be dangerous.

 

The herd mentality. You know how this goes: if everyone is doing something, they must be doing it for sound and logical reasons. If most investors are getting out of equities, or getting back into equities, it follows that you should follow them. The herd mentality is what leads many investors to buy high (and sell low). It can also promote panic selling. Above all, it encourages market timing – and when investors try to time the market, they frequently realize subpar returns.

 

Did you know that American retail investors held equity shares for an average of 6.3 years during the 1950s? That duration kept shortening until the 2000s, when it was reduced to roughly six months – which is still the average today. We have exponentially greater media coverage of Wall Street today than we had in the 1950s, and that may be the big factor in that difference – but still, you have to wonder how much better the typical investor’s return would be if he or she had the patience of the investors of the past.2

 

Extreme aversion to risk. Some investors want zero risk, or close. What price do they pay in pursuit of that goal? The opportunity cost may be sizable. In building an extremely risk-averse portfolio, they thwart their potential for significant gains when the equity markets advance.

 

Everyone loves to be certain about things. Sometimes, however, we need to ask ourselves what that certainty is based on, and what it reflects about ourselves. Examining our preconceptions may help us as we invest.  

 

Citations.

1 – gallup.com/poll/184640/economic-confidence-index-stable.aspx [8/18/15]

2 – nytimes.com/2014/01/13/your-money/stocks-and-bonds/why-we-buy-in-a-marked-up-market.html [1/13/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Stop Having Money Paralysis. Not making a move may not be the best move to make. By John Jastremski

 A decision not made may have financial consequences. There is an old belief that women are more cautious about money than men, and whether you believe that or not, both women and men may fall prey to a kind of money paralysis as they age – in which financial indecision is regarded as a form of “safety.”

Retirement seems to heighten this tendency. If you are single, retired, and female, you may be extremely fearful of drawing down your retirement savings too soon; or investing in a way that would mean any kind of risk.

This is understandable: if you are over 80, you likely have memories of the Great Depression, and baby boomers have memories of the severe economic downturn of the late 2000s.

“Paralysis by analysis,” or simple hesitation, may cost you in the long run. Your retirement may last much longer than you presume it will – perhaps 30 or 40 years – and maintaining your standard of living will undeniably take some growth investing. As much as you may want to stay out of stocks and funds, they offer you a chance to out-earn inflation – a chance you forfeit at your financial peril.

Even minor inflation can subtly reduce your purchasing power over time. Of all the risks to quality of life in retirement, this is often the least noticed. Doing nothing about it – or investing in a way that avoids all or nearly all risk – may put you at greater and greater financial disadvantage as your retirement proceeds.

Keeping a foot in the stock market – in whatever major or minor way you choose – allows your invested assets the potential to keep pace with or outpace inflation.

Retirement is the time to withdraw retirement assets. Some women (and men) are extremely reluctant to tap into their retirement nest eggs, even when the money has been set aside for years for a specific dream. Even though they have saved or dedicated, say, $20,000 for world travel, when retirement comes they may be skittish about actually using the money for that purpose. Buying a car to replace one that has been driven for 15 years, or remodeling part of the house to make it more livable after 70 or 80 may be viewed as extravagances.

We cannot control how long we will live, how much money we will need in the future, or how well the economy will perform next year or ten years on. There comes a point where you must live for today. Pinching pennies in retirement with the idea that the great bulk of your savings is for “someday” can weigh on your psyche. What does your retirement dream amount to if you don’t start living it once you retire?

If you fear outliving your money, remember that growth investing offers you the potential to generate a larger retirement fund for yourself. If you seek more retirement income, ask a financial professional about ways to arrange it – there are multiple ways to plan for it, and some that involve little risk to principal.

Don’t forget America’s built-in retirement insurance: Social Security. For every year you wait to claim Social Security benefits after your full retirement age (either 66 and 67 for most people) and age 70, your monthly payments grow by 8%. In contrast, if you start taking Social Security before your full retirement age, it will mean less SSI per month than if you had waited.1

The 4% rule may provide you with a guideline. For many years, some retirement planners have recommended that a retiree withdraw between 4-4.5% annually from savings. (This percentage is gradually adjusted north for inflation over the years.)2

The 4% rule is a worthwhile rule for many retirees, but it is hardly the only yardstick for retirement income withdrawals. At its Squared Away blog, the influential Center for Retirement Research at Boston College notes a study from one of its economists on this topic. It suggests an alternative – termed the RMD strategy – that mimics the Required Minimum Distributions the federal government requires from a traditional IRA after the original IRA owner enters his or her seventies. In this withdrawal strategy, you start withdrawing only 3.1% of your retirement assets at age 65, which climbs to 4.4% at 75 and then 6.8% by 85. (That is just withdrawal off of principal; interest and dividends can be added to that to give you more income.)2

Are you wondering just how much money to live on in retirement? Are you also wondering how your retirement savings and income may grow? Talk with a financial professional about your options – you may have many more than you initially assume. A practical outlook on investing and decisions to work longer or claim Social Security later can also potentially help you amass or receive more money for the years ahead.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/08/22/5-cures-for-womens-retirement-spending-paralysis/ [8/22/13]

2 – squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/retiree-paralysis-can-i-spend-my-money/ [7/11/13]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.  Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Qwest, Hughes, Glaxosmithkline, ExxonMobil, Verizon, Merck, Bank of America, Chevron, AT&T,  Raytheon, Pfizer, ING Retirement, Northrop Grumman, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

 

 

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How Women Are Planning Their Financial Futures. By John Jastremski

From assorted survey data, an interesting snapshot emerges.

Women are taking action to approach retirement with greater confidence. Some recent, intriguing survey data indicates that women are planning their financial futures with some degree of pragmatism, but also with considerable motivation.

One of the key motivations, it seems, is receiving financial advice.

Results from a new TIAA-CREF survey (and other studies) bear this out. The retirement services giant polled a random, national sample of 1,000 men and women age 18 and older for its 2014 Advice Matters Survey, and it found that 81% of women who had obtained financial advice were more likely to feel informed about retirement planning and retirement saving than women who hadn’t. Additionally, 63% of women who had received financial advice felt confident that they were saving sufficiently for retirement.1

What kind of difference does financial advice make? A significant difference, it seems. In the big picture, 87% of the women surveyed by TIAA-CREF this summer said they had taken “positive steps” in their financial lives as a consequence. In particular, 64% altered spending habits and 53% took an organized approach to managing debt.1,2

In addition, 51% of the women had created an emergency fund and 57% had increased monthly saving rates since getting advice – and that leads us toward another interesting statistic.2

One study suggests women are more dedicated to retirement saving than men. Looking back at 2013, Vanguard discovered that 79% of women earning between $50,000-75,000 were participating in its employer-sponsored retirement plans; only 60% of men in that income group were.2

Another notable difference appeared, this one across all income levels. Examining data from all of its retirement plans, Vanguard found that women saved for retirement at rates ranging from 6-12% greater than men. The message that women need more money for (a potentially longer) retirement than men is being heard loud and clear, it seems.2

Where are women getting their financial advice from? TIAA-CREF’s survey asked this question, but it only counted online sources. Back in 2012, 20% of women in TIAA-CREF’s 2012 survey said they went to financial websites for advice; this year, that rose to 41%.2

Most telling is that 49% of the women TIAA-CREF polled felt that it would be helpful to turn to a real person online with their basic personal financial questions. In fact, 61% of women respondents in the survey reported relying on financial services providers (and presumably, the financial professionals who work for them) for advice.1

Still, 66% of the women answering TIAA-CREF’s questions indicated that it was hard for them to determine what sources of financial advice to trust. (That was across all women surveyed, including those who had not sought advice.)2

Women may put more importance on long term care planning than men. Or so suggests Genworth’s 2014 Online Consumer Survey. The insurer collected responses from 1,200+ U.S. adults age 18 and older during October, and 64% of women respondents said they were motivated to plan for long term care needs. Only 40% of men responding said they were concerned about that. Even so, Genworth discovered that less than 30% of respondents had talked with their loved ones about planning for eldercare or aging issues.3

Long term care insurance is getting costlier as the baby boom generation matures, and it may get more expensive for women in the near future than for men: as Morningstar columnist Mark Miller recently noted, gender-based pricing is quickly emerging and may become standard practice.4

Single women need to plan & save aggressively for the years ahead. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies recently surveyed American workers 50 and older and found that the median retirement savings for single women was only $35,000. (For single men, the median was $70,000; for married women, it was $153,000.) Women living alone anticipated a financial struggle: 48% of those surveyed believed they would retire to a lower standard of living, and 52% assumed their main income resource would be Social Security. Perhaps most troubling, 56% of these single women expected to work into their seventies or never retire.4

The takeaways here for a single woman: save early, save consistently, exploit Social Security claiming strategies for any potential advantage, and find a social support network that can help you look after yourself as you age.

Advice promotes action. As you amass financial knowledge, you gain perspective. When you run the numbers and estimate the level of retirement savings and income you will need, you are able to set goals and timelines for your financial future. Planning the financial future starts with a commitment – and following through on that commitment is critical.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – tiaa-cref.org/public/about/press/about_us/releases/articles/pressrelease534.html [10/29/14]

2 – mainstreet.com/article/more-women-want-financial-advice-but-two-thirds-dont-know-whom-to-trust [11/4/14]

3 – tinyurl.com/m49oo52 [11/13/14]

4 – news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=670479 [10/31/14]

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Getting Help from a Financial Professional by John Jastremski

Getting Help from a Financial Professional

 

Are you suddenly on your own or forced to assume greater responsibility for your financial future? Unsure about whether you’re on the right track with your savings and investments? Finding yourself with new responsibilities, such as the care of a child or an aging parent? Facing other life events, such as marriage, divorce, the sale of a family business, or a career change? Too busy to become a financial expert but needing to make sure your assets are being managed appropriately? Or maybe you simply feel your assets could be invested or protected better than they are now.

 

These are only some of the many circumstances that prompt people to contact someone who can help them address their financial questions and issues. This may be especially true for women, who live longer than men on average and therefore may face an even greater challenge in making their assets last over that longer life span. In fact, one study found that women often value advice from a professional in their financial decision-making even more than men do.*

 

Why work with a financial professional?

 

• A financial professional can apply his or her skills to your specific needs. Just as important, you have someone who can answer questions about things that you may find confusing or anxiety-provoking. When the financial markets go through one of their periodic downturns, having someone you can turn to may help you make sense of it all.

 

• If you don’t feel confident about your knowledge of investing or specific financial products and services, having someone who monitors the financial markets every day can be helpful. After all, if you hire people to do things like cut your hair, work on your car, and tend to medical issues, it might just make sense to get some help when dealing with important financial issues.

 

• Even if you have the knowledge and ability to manage your own finances, the financial world grows more intricate every day as new products and services are introduced. Also, legislative changes can have a substantial impact on your investment and tax planning strategy. A professional can monitor such developments on an ongoing basis and assess how they might affect your portfolio.

 

• A financial professional may be able to help you see the big picture and make sure the various aspects of your financial life are integrated in a way that makes sense for you. That can be especially important if you own your own business or have complex tax issues.

 

• If you already have a financial plan, a financial professional can act as a sounding board, giving you a reality check to make sure your assumptions and expectations are realistic. For example, if you’ve been investing far more conservatively than is appropriate for your goals and circumstances, either out of fear of making a mistake or from not being aware of how risks can be managed, a financial professional can help you assess whether and how your portfolio might need adjusting to improve your chances of reaching those goals.

 

When should you consult a professional?

 

You don’t have to wait until an event occurs before consulting a financial professional. Having someone help you develop an overall strategy for approaching your financial goals can be useful at any time. However, in some cases, a specific life event or perceived need can serve as a catalyst for seeking advice. Such events might include:

 

• Marriage, divorce, or the death of a spouse

• Having a baby or adopting a child

• Planning for a child’s or grandchild’s college

education

• Buying or selling a family business

• Changing jobs or careers

• Planning your retirement

• Developing an estate plan

• Receiving an inheritance or financial windfall

 

Making the most of a professional’s expertise

 

• You’ll need to understand how a financial professional is compensated for his or her services. Some receive a fee based on an hourly rate (usually for specific advice or a financial plan), or on a percentage of your portfolio’s assets and/or income. Some receive a commission from a third party for any products you may purchase. Still others may receive some combination of fees and commissions, while still others may simply receive a salary from their financial services employer. Don’t be reluctant to ask about fees; any reputable financial professional shouldn’t hesitate to explain how he or she is compensated.

 

• Even if you’re a relative novice when it comes to finances, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what’s being presented to you. You’re not being rude; you’re simply trying to prevent misunderstandings that could backfire later.

 

• Don’t let yourself be pressured into making a financial decision you’re not comfortable with or don’t understand. This is your money, and you have the right to take whatever time you need. However, give yourself a deadline for your decision so you don’t get caught in “analysis paralysis.”

 

• If you think your financial life simply needs a checkup rather than a complete overhaul, you’ll need to clarify the areas in which you’re looking for assistance. That can help you decide what type of advice you’re looking for from your financial professional, though you should also pay attention to any additional suggestions raised during your discussions. Your plans should take into consideration your financial goals, your time horizon for achieving each one, your current financial and emotional ability to tolerate risk, and any recent changes in your circumstances.

 

• Don’t assume you have to be wealthy to make use of a financial professional. While some do focus on clients with assets above a certain level, others do not.

 

• Think about the scope of the services you’ll need. Do you want comprehensive help in a variety of areas, or would you be better off assembling a team of specialists? Do you need an ongoing relationship, or can your needs be taken care of on a one-time basis? If you’re a relative novice or having to deal with decisions you’ve never had to make before, someone with broad-based expertise might be a good place to start.

 

• Even if you feel you need detailed advice from several different specialists–for example, if you own your own business–consider whether you might benefit from having someone who can coordinate among them. A financial professional can sometimes be a gateway to other professionals who can help with specific aspects of your finances, such as accounting, tax and/or estate planning, insurance, and investments.

 

• If you want comprehensive management, you may be able to give a financial professional the independent authority to make trading decisions for your portfolio without checking with you first. In that case, you’ll likely be asked to help develop and sign an investment policy statement that spells out the specifics of the firm’s decision-making authority and the guidelines to be followed when making those decisions. If you feel that consulting an expert might be helpful, don’t postpone making that call. The sooner you get your questions answered, the sooner you’ll be able to pay more attention to the things–family, friends, career, hobbies–that an organized financial life could help you enjoy.

 

*June 2014 study of affluent individuals conducted by Spectrem Group, a research/consulting firm focused on the affluent and retirement markets.

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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A Primer for Estate Planning. By John Jastremski

A Primer for Estate Planning

Things to check and double-check before you leave this world.                                                                                                                                          

Estate planning is a task that people tend to put off, as any discussion of “the end” tends to be off-putting. However, those who leave this world without their financial affairs in good order risk leaving their heirs some significant problems along with their legacies.

 

No matter what your age, here are some things you may want to accomplish this year with regard to estate planning.

 

Create a will if you don’t have one. Many people never get around to creating a will, even to the point of buying a will-in-a-box at a stationery store or setting one up online.

 

A solid will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney may cost you more than a will-in-a-box, and it may prove to be some of the best money you ever spend. A valid will may save your heirs from some expensive headaches linked to probate and ambiguity.

 

Complement your will with related documents. Depending on your estate planning needs, this could include some kind of trust (or multiple trusts), durable financial and medical powers of attorney, a living will and other items.

 

You should know that a living will is not the same thing as a durable medical power of attorney. A living will makes your wishes known when it comes to life-prolonging medical treatments, and it takes the form of a directive. A durable medical power of attorney authorizes another party to make medical decisions for you (including end-of-life decisions) if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions.

 

Review your beneficiary designations. Who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k)? How about your annuity or life insurance policy? If your answer is along the lines of “Mm … you know … I’m pretty sure it’s…” or “It’s been a while since …”, then be sure to check the documents and verify who the designated beneficiary is.

 

When it comes to retirement accounts and life insurance, many people don’t know that beneficiary designations take priority over bequests made in wills and living trusts. If you long ago named a child now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she will receive the death benefit when you die – regardless of what your will states.1

 

Time has a way of altering our beneficiary decisions. This is why some estate planners recommend that you review your beneficiaries every two years.

 

In some states, you can authorize transfer-on-death designations. This is a tactic against probate: TOD designations may permit the ownership transfer of securities (and in a few states, forms of real property, vehicles and other assets) immediately at your death to the person designated. TOD designations are sometimes referred to as “will substitutes” but they usually pertain only to securities.2

 

Create asset and debt lists. Does this sound like a lot of work? It may not be. You should provide your heirs with an asset and debt “map” they can follow should you pass away, so that they will be aware of the little details of your wealth.

 

* One list should detail your real property and personal property assets. It should list any real estate you own, and its worth; it should also list personal property items in your home, garage, backyard, warehouse, storage unit or small business that have notable monetary worth.

* Another list should detail your bank and brokerage accounts, your retirement accounts, and any other forms of investment plus any insurance policies.

* A third list should detail your credit card debts, your mortgage and/or HELOC, and any other outstanding consumer loans.

 

Think about consolidating your “stray” IRAs and bank accounts. This could make one of your lists a little shorter. Consolidation means fewer account statements, less paperwork for your heirs and fewer administrative fees to bear.

 

Let your heirs know the causes and charities that mean the most to you. Have you ever seen the phrase, “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to …” Well, perhaps you would like to suggest donations to this or that charity when you pass. Write down the associations you belong to and the organizations you support. Some non-profits do offer accidental life insurance benefits to heirs of members.

 

Select a reliable executor. Who have you chosen to administer your estate when the time comes? The choice may seem obvious, but consider a few factors. Is there a stark possibility that your named executor might die before you do? How well does he or she comprehend financial matters or the basic principles of estate law? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed – can you easily communicate those wishes to that person?

 

Your executor should have copies of your will, forms of power of attorney, any kind of healthcare proxy or living will, and any trusts you create. In fact, any of your loved ones referenced in these documents should also receive copies of them.

 

Talk to the professionals. Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended, especially if your estate is complex enough to trigger financial, legal and emotional issues among your heirs upon your passing.

 

Many people have the idea that they don’t need an estate plan because their net worth is less than X dollars. Keep in mind, money isn’t the only reason for an estate plan. You may not be a multimillionaire yet, but if you own a business, have a blended family, have kids with special needs, worry about dementia, or can’t stand the thought of probate delays plus probate fees whittling away at assets you have amassed … well, these are all good reasons to create and maintain an estate planning strategy.

 

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/07/retirement-accounts-not-governed-by-wills/ [5/7/12]

2 – www.investopedia.com/university/estate-planning/estate-planning5.asp#axzz1vjRm6aPe [3/20/13]

 

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.


The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

 

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Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage or Invest? by John Jastremski

Owning a home outright is a dream that many Americans share. Having a mortgage can be a huge burden, and paying it off may be the first item on your financial to-do list. But competing with the desire to own your home free and clear is your need to invest for retirement, your child’s college education, or some other goal. Putting extra cash toward one of these goals may mean sacrificing another. So how do you choose?

Evaluating the opportunity cost

Deciding between prepaying your mortgage and investing your extra cash isn’t easy, because each option has advantages and disadvantages. But you can start by weighing what you’ll gain financially by choosing one option against what you’ll give up. In economic terms, this is known as evaluating the opportunity cost.

Here’s an example. Let’s assume that you have a $300,000 balance and 20 years remaining on your 30-year mortgage, and you’re paying 6.25% interest. If you were to put an extra $400 toward your mortgage each month, you would save approximately $62,000 in interest, and pay off your loan almost 6 years early.

By making extra payments and saving all of that interest, you’ll clearly be gaining a lot of financial ground. But before you opt to prepay your mortgage, you still have to consider what you might be giving up by doing so–the opportunity to potentially profit even more from investing.

To determine if you would come out ahead if you invested your extra cash, start by looking at the after-tax rate of return you can expect from prepaying your mortgage. This is generally less than the interest rate you’re paying on your mortgage, once you take into account any tax deduction you receive for mortgage interest. Once you’ve calculated that figure, compare it to the after-tax return you could receive by investing your extra cash.

For example, the after-tax cost of a 6.25% mortgage would be approximately 4.5% if you were in the 28% tax bracket and were able to deduct mortgage interest on your federal income tax return (the after-tax cost might be even lower if you were also able to deduct mortgage interest on your state income tax return). Could you receive a higher after-tax rate of return if you invested your money instead of prepaying your mortgage?

Keep in mind that the rate of return you’ll receive is directly related to the investments you choose. Investments with the potential for higher returns may expose you to more risk, so take this into account when making your decision.

Other points to consider

While evaluating the opportunity cost is important, you’ll also need to weigh many other factors. The following list of questions may help you decide which option is best for you.

• What’s your mortgage interest rate? The lower the rate on your mortgage, the greater the potential to receive a better return through investing.

• Does your mortgage have a prepayment penalty? Most mortgages don’t, but check before making extra payments.

• How long do you plan to stay in your home? The main benefit of prepaying your mortgage is the amount of interest you save over the long term; if you plan to move soon, there’s less value in putting more money toward your mortgage.

• Will you have the discipline to invest your extra cash rather than spend it? If not, you might be better off making extra mortgage payments.

• Do you have an emergency account to cover unexpected expenses? It doesn’t make sense to make extra mortgage payments now if you’ll be forced to borrow money at a higher interest rate later. And keep in mind that if your financial circumstances change–if you lose your job or suffer a disability, for example–you may have more trouble borrowing against your home equity.

• How comfortable are you with debt? If you worry endlessly about it, give the emotional benefits of paying off your mortgage extra consideration.

• Are you saddled with high balances on credit cards or personal loans? If so, it’s often better to pay off those debts first. The interest rate on consumer debt isn’t tax deductible, and is often far higher than either your mortgage interest rate or the rate of return you’re likely to receive on your investments

• Are you currently paying mortgage insurance? If you are, putting extra toward your mortgage until you’ve gained at least 20% equity in your home may make sense.

• How will prepaying your mortgage affect your overall tax situation? For example, prepaying your mortgage (thus reducing your mortgage interest) could affect your ability to itemize deductions (this is especially true in the early years of your mortgage, when you’re likely to be paying more in interest).

• Have you saved enough for retirement? If you haven’t, consider contributing the maximum allowable each year to tax-advantaged retirement accounts before prepaying your mortgage. This is especially important if you are receiving a generous employer match. For example, if you save 6% of your income, an employer match of 50% of what you contribute (i.e., 3% of your income) could potentially add thousands of extra dollars to your retirement account each year. Prepaying your mortgage may not be the savviest financial move if it means forgoing that match or shortchanging your retirement fund.

• How much time do you have before you reach retirement or until your children go off to college? The longer your timeframe, the more time you have to potentially grow your money by investing. Alternatively, if paying off your mortgage before reaching a financial goal will make you feel much more secure, factor that into your decision.

The middle ground

If you need to invest for an important goal, but you also want the satisfaction of paying down your mortgage, there’s no reason you can’t do both. It’s as simple as allocating part of your available cash toward one goal, and putting the rest toward the other. Even small adjustments can make a difference. For example, you could potentially shave years off your mortgage by consistently making biweekly, instead of monthly, mortgage payments, or by putting any year-end bonuses or tax refunds toward your mortgage principal.

And remember, no matter what you decide now, you can always reprioritize your goals later to keep up with changes to your circumstances, market conditions, and interest rates.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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