In times of crisis and uncertainty, the potential need to access our savings seems to rise to the forefront. However, many of the accounts that we utilize for our savings are tied to certain restrictions. For example, the age 59.5 restriction for retirement account withdrawals without facing a 10% penalty, or HSAs and 529 accounts which must be used for medical expenses and education expenses respectively. These unique accounts are great tools to efficiently invest our savings given the tax deferred or tax-free growth. The issue though is what happens when we need funds to cover items that don’t meet the parameters and restrictions set forth by these accounts.
COVID-19 has me pondering my own finances and how well equipped they are to be flexible in times of need. These circumstances we’re in have produced many implications to our finances and society with a big one being the impact of education from pre-school age all the way through college.
We’ve seen a shift to more online educational resources in recent years and this has only escalated with the impacts of COVID-19. College students have spent the better part of their spring 2020 semester living at home and completing their coursework online. While certainly not the college experience these students anticipated, they’re still able to receive a quality education without the cost of living in a dorm room on campus or 3+ meals per day at the campus dining hall. We’ve even seen some refunds returned to students which if were withdrawn from a 529 account originally, then that money needs to go back into the 529 account to avoid taxes/penalties.
So what does this mean for our college savings strategy? For my two 2.5-year-old boys I’ve been saving monthly in a 529 account since they were born with intention to provide a portion of their college education from the 529 account. However, I’ve reconsidered this strategy this week and am shifting to utilizing a couple other accounts for their future savings. At Financial Symmetry we had many discussions with clients about not over-funding college savings accounts given the high taxes and penalty if not used for education along with discussions about savings for the parents own retirement and financial independence.
A great savings tool as the contributions can we withdrawn at any time tax-free, and the earnings grow tax free and can be withdrawn after age 59.5. This is the primary account I’ll now be using for future education needs for my twin boys as I’ll be able to withdraw the contributions for the education if needed. If for whatever reason they don’t need those funds for college then no worries as I can retain the Roth IRA for my own future financial needs. With a 529 plan though, I wouldn’t be able to do that as those funds would be restricted to education expenses.
I ran the numbers on the actual advantage 529 accounts do provide. Say my monthly contributions add up to $15k and earn $5k over the years to equate a $20k balance. Those earnings would be tax free in a 529 account for education expenses. If those funds were instead in a taxable brokerage account and assuming a 22% federal tax bracket this would be $1,100 of tax due on those earnings. You must weigh the flexibility of a non 529 account vs. the tax savings it can provide. Also consider that with proper tax planning in a brokerage account could mean even less taxes due given accessibility of tax efficient funds, tax loss harvesting, donating earnings to charity as ways to lower that tax bill.
Certainly nothing wrong with using a 529 account as you’re still saving for your children’s future needs, but just consider there are other vehicles that may be more appropriate given your financial situation. Also, depending on your financial situation there are other factors to consider such as financial aid.
Why is the stock market doing so well when the economy is not?
Short Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/QubNZjHHN04
With headlines about skyrocketing unemployment and an impending recession, how has the stock market rebounded so quickly? Despite the historic drops in March, the S&P 500 is only hovering in a range 10-15% from its overall highs. While the stock market and the economy are influenced by each other, there are key differences that emerge during market extremes.
We have all heard the negative news surrounding the economy. It seems to be one of the only topics that news channels talk about. GDP declined 5% in the first quarter and is expected to decline by 20-30% in the second quarter. Unemployment has shot up at a historic pace from 5% to 15% in just a few short months. However, the Federal Reserve and the CARES Act have helped keep people and companies on their feet.
The stock market went through record-setting drops back in March but since then it has bounced in the 35-40% range off the lows. We are still nowhere near the all-time highs that preceded those March declines, but the S&P 500 continues to rise and has been trading in a range 10-15% below it's all time highs reach in February. This creates confusion for most in the face of terrible economic headlines. One reason is that companies and investors are constantly looking at what is to come. They aren’t making decisions based just on the next 6 months, instead, they are projecting the growth over the next 5-10 years. It’s also important to remember that for every distressed seller there is a buyer. Investors are considering their bets for the future and if they anticipate we've seen the worst, then better than expected potential outcomes can drive stocks higher.
Historically, the stock market tends to make a recovery before the economy. For example in 2009 the stock market hit its bottom in March, but the country continued in its recession until the second half of that year. World War II is another example. The stock market was up every year during that period, despite all the turmoil going on in the world and the restrictions that were put in place by the war.
Well, unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball. But there are plenty of opinions you can find from watching the headlines or talking to your neighbors. This type of information can be detrimental not only to your mental state but also to your pocketbook. Allowing your emotions to take the investing wheel, can leave you second-guessing your investment strategy. In fact, the next time you want to look at your investment statements, we'd suggest opening your financial plan instead. You’re better off focusing on what you can control, like your risk tolerance, your rate of saving and spending, and your tax situation. Evaluating how your personal economy has changed, can leave you better positioned for the long-term. This allows you to have the appropriate investment allocations, so your worry can be abated, no matter how wild the stock market or economy gets in the short-run.
Today we're taking a deep dive to explore the retirement changes within this landmark piece of legislation. On this episode, you’ll learn what CRD’s are, who are qualified individuals, and how to note CARES Act withdrawals on your tax return. Join us to hear about financial opportunities that you may not have considered.
Short Youtube video recap: https://youtu.be/2QjSpi3op_U
The CARES Act was recently passed to help Americans get through this difficult time that has been filled with job losses, furloughs, lay-offs, and the mandatory closing of workplaces. The goal of the new law was to make it easier for citizens to access their money during these stresses. The CARES Act makes retirement account withdraws easier and more accessible without the standard early withdrawal penalties.
Coronavirus related distributions or CRD’s allow for qualified individuals to take up to $100,000 from their retirement accounts during the period of January 2020 to January 2021. This withdrawal for qualified individuals is taxable but you can pay the taxes on these withdrawals over a period of 3 years. It’s easy to remember what the CRD’s offer by thinking of the 3 R’s.
The CRD’s are only available to qualified individuals, but who exactly can qualify for these withdrawals? You can qualify if you or your spouse has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you have experienced a loss of income during this time. You may have experienced a job loss, a reduction of hours, or an inability to work due to lack of child care. If you do qualify for a CRD you’ll want to examine all of your options before you make this choice. Make sure to work with a professional to see if this is the best choice for you.
The government doesn’t want to force you to sell your stocks at lower prices, so for 2020 RMD’s will not be required for anyone. If you have already taken your RMD for the year you can even pay it back. Listen in to learn how. Instead of taking your RMD, you may want to consider doing a Roth conversion.
Today we explore some of the most common questions that people ask during a market decline. We discuss what a financial advisor does and doesn't do for their clients in bear markets, whether you should refinance, and the benefits of tax-loss harvesting. Listen in to hear what you could be doing to stay proactive during this market decline.
Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/QUCpQcf2vu8
Financial advisors can be a great resource during a stock market decline. The fear you feel in these situations can be paralyzing. If you don’t have a financial advisor to help you act in your best interests, you may end up not taking any action at all. So what are some things a financial advisor can do for their clients during these challenging times?
One way to give yourself a bit of control during times when life is feeling out of control is to consider refinancing your home. Since mortgage rates have declined in recent months now may be the right time for you to refinance. You’ll want to analyze what your break-even point is to see if it is worth it. There are many different ways you can go about refinancing. You could use a mortgage broker, you could go through your own bank, or you could use an online mortgage lender. Listen in to hear the differences between those 3 options.
We all feel the urge to do something right now. But instead of doing something that could be detrimental to your wealth, tax-loss harvesting can give you the opportunity to do increase your wealth over time. The biggest question we hear surrounding tax-loss harvesting is why would I want to lock in losses? The answer is don’t think of it as a loss, but an exchange. You are taking that loss to reinvest in something similar. Look at tax-loss harvesting as a one way to help you rebalance. Find out if tax-loss harvesting is right for you by listening to Allison Berger’s excellent analysis.
The CARES Act was just recently passed and the new law will impact just about every American. But do you know how it will affect you?
View Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/BTaeWH0aEB0
On this episode of Financial Symmetry, Grayson Blazek joins me to give you some actionable information that you can use to help you consider how best to take control of this challenging financial situation. During this stressful time, it will be helpful to learn as much as you can to give you a feeling of empowerment.
The most discussed part of the CARES Act is the recovery rebate. The full rebate is eligible for taxpayers that make $150,000 or less when filing jointly with their spouse or $75,000 for single filers. If you make more than that you can use a calculator discover how much you will receive. The full rebate is a one-time payment of $1200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child. The recovery rebate will be directly deposited into the bank account listed on your most recent tax return. Listen to this episode to hear if you should file your taxes right away or if it would be best for you to wait a bit longer.
If you have been impacted directly from the Coronavirus directly or if you have experienced lost wages then you will be able to pull funds out of your retirement accounts in the year 2020 without the usual 10% early withdrawal penalty. These funds will still be taxed, but you can spread the tax burden over a period of 3 years if needed. The CARES Act also changes the maximum 401K loan limit from $50,000 to $100,000. You’ll want to carefully consider before taking the full loan amount.
There were several other changes that should be noted as well.
This landmark legislation didn’t only affect people’s finances, it made some changes to health care as well. The CARES Act has ensured that health insurance will have to pay for any COVID testing or potential vaccines that are developed. It also expanded qualified medical expenses for HSA’s. What will be the biggest change brought to you by the CARES Act?
We’re all surprised at the speed of changes the coronavirus has brought in our lives. Working from home, school closures, and social distancing have become our new norms. Stock markets have fallen in to a bear market in less than a month. Uncertainty related to COVID-19 grows daily, as we all know the amount of new cases are destined to rise.
It can be hard to find positives through the barrage of more disappointing news each day. But there are steps you can take to prepare your portfolio during this bear market. In today’s episode, we share 7 tips to help ease your worries during this challenging time.
We all feel nervous about stock market drops. Despite bear markets happening an average of every 6-7 years, it never gets easier to handle emotionally. During these times, investment behavior determines your returns more than the investments themselves.
Having an investment plan beforehand adds discipline to your decisions amidst the turmoil. If you’re questioning what you should do, then referring back to your plan will remind you of your highest priorities.
When you think about it, you only really have 3 options to choose from.
With the first one, being much more damaging long-term than the others. To cope with this, we’ve put together seven things you can do to help ease your worry so you are better prepared to make more sound financial decisions.
Cornoavirus concerns continue to impact the financial markets, as have all the numberless crises that have gone before it.
While the potential human and economic effects are very unsettling, what actions should a prudent investor take given this new development?
Short Video Recap Here: https://youtu.be/Wsy6OTuY-yI
It remains impossible to predict when and how this problem will be resolved. Likewise, it is impossible to know when and how the markets will anticipate (or react to) such a resolution.
In this episode of the Financial Symmetry show, hosts Chad Smith and Mike Eklund, evaluate all the available information to determine how you should approach your investment strategy.
Market declines are a regular occurrence and happen frequently. Selloffs provide an opportunity for investors to absorb new information, squeeze out excesses and reset values to more attractive levels.
For existing retirees, we set-up portfolios to include 5-7 years’ worth of high-quality bonds/cash to absorb market declines. For savers, market declines are great news as it allows you to buy stocks at lower prices through regular contributions.
We understand the desire to try to head off market declines by moving into safety. However, our view is that the only way to capture the full permanent returns of equities is to ride out their temporary declines.
The danger of trying to time the market is that you will sabotage your personal investment strategy by getting out at the wrong time and then compounding that by getting back in at the wrong time.
The Financial Symmetry Podcast is an original podcast from Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about the show or the past 105 episodes, visit https://www.financialsymmetry.com/retirement-podcast/.
The hosts and guests in this video do not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice or a guarantee that you will achieve a desired result. You should consult with appropriate tax and financial advisors for advice specific to your situation.
Will your retirement regrets list be full of "I wish I would have...?" What if you could use regrets of other retirees to change or improve your current course?
Short Youtube Recap here: https://youtu.be/CiGxXeem2yI
Listening to the wisdom of those that have gone before you, can help you avoid their big mistakes and take advantage of financial opportunities you may have missed.
In our role as financial advisors, we have the unique opportunity of hearing a long list of retirement regrets. In listening to their perspectives, we gain an understanding of the path they took and the things they wish they could have done to prepare for retirement.
In this episode of the Financial Symmetry podcast with Chad Smith and Allison Berger, we break down the top retirement regrets that investors typically experience. Listen in so you can learn from others and ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes they did.
The Financial Symmetry Podcast is an original podcast from Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about the show or the past 104 episodes, visit https://www.financialsymmetry.com/retirement-podcast/.
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How closely did you look at your Medicare premium notice letter this past December? If it mentioned an IRMAA adjustment, and you experienced a life-changing event, you may want to look again. There's a few steps you can take that can save you thousands of dollars in Medicare premiums. In this episode, we are breaking down the the tax cliff known as IRMAA and how proper planning can help you avoid overpaying for your Part B and Part D Medicare premiums.
YouTube recap: https://youtu.be/BQ7K_DeJiHs
This often misunderstood or overlooked area of the tax code is how Medicare determines the premiums that are automatically taken from your Social Security check. IRMAA stands for Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount. Understanding the IRMAA threshold is key to understanding your Medicare premium.
Generally, when you think about Medicare you think about age 65 and above. It’s actually important to begin thinking about Medicare when you are 63. Your Medicare premium at age 65 is actually based on the income that you made 2 years prior. So if you were in one of the higher income brackets before you retired, your Medicare premium will reflect that. There are 5 tiers of IRMAA and if you go even $1 over you will be knocked into the next bracket. If you end up in the highest tier you could be paying over $4000 in extra Medicare Part B premiums.
Now that you know about IRMAA you can begin to plan ahead. If your AGI is $87,000 or less for singles or $174,000 or less for a married couple then you will qualify for the Medicare Part B baseline premium which is $144.66 per person per month. It’s important to understand your income sources and whether they are taxable or not. Knowing where you fit in the IRMAA tiers will save you money. Listen in to hear more about IRMAA and how it can affect your retirement plans.
If you didn’t plan ahead and are stuck with high premiums you may be able to appeal. You can appeal based on marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, work stoppage, work reduction, or loss of income. If you qualify for an appeal then you’ll need to fill out an SSA44. There are 5 steps to follow to appeal process. Listen in to discover what you can do if IRMAA has got you down.
How do you best invest at all-time market highs? In this episode, we are walking through the strategies and disciplines you'll need to be a successful long-term investor.
Short Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/fEXnQ8GaCuk
Visit full article notes here: https://wp.me/p6NrVS-3i0
We often get the question of whether people should continue to invest given the all-time market highs. Well, let’s take a look back to just a year ago. At the end of 2018, the U.S. stock market declined by 20% and everyone was worried about a potential bear market. But it turned out that 2019 was a fantastic year despite all the worries.
We can’t tell you when will be a good time to invest in the short-term. No one can. No one has a crystal ball that can predict those outcomes. It is important to formulate a decision-making process that is not outcome-based. Financial decisions should always be processed based instead.
Think about where you were in December 2009. You probably weren’t too optimistic about the economic future. But it turned out the S&P 500 was the best place to invest over the past 10 years. But in the 10 years preceding it was the worst place to invest.
There is never an easy time to be an investor. Investing always involves risk and many see that risk as a reason not to invest. There is always a risk and plenty of reasons not to invest. But when you look back, you’ll realize recessions, while painful, happen quickly but the market rises over the long run.
After the S&P’s strong run the past 10 years many people wonder why bother to invest internationally or why they should hold any bonds in their portfolio. Even though the S&P 500 performed quite well over the past 10 years, it was the worst place to invest during the previous 10 years. To protect yourself, you’ll need to be diversified. Bonds can not only provide diversification but they can provide income and capital preservation as well. They may not be the most exciting, but bonds will ensure you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket.
Once again we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty. There’s the threat of war, a presidential election, and who knows what else could happen next. Given this time of uncertainty, what changes should we be making to our portfolios? The only sure answer is that you should only be taking as much risk as you can handle. Don’t let recent market performance lull you into taking too much risk.
Listen in to hear the outlook for 2020 and beyond.
The SECURE Act is the biggest piece of retirement legislation to pass since 2006.
On this episode, we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it will affect you and your retirement plans. The acronym SECURE stands for "Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement."
Watch corresponding Youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0K8KBlCYhs&t=2s
In our breakdown of the new bill, you’ll learn about the highlights including new IRA rules, changes to 401K’s, non-retirement changes, and extenders.
One of the most impactful changes in the legislation deals with the Stretch IRA provision for non-spouse beneficiaries. Under the old law, upon a person’s death, the non-spouse beneficiaries of their 401K’s and IRA’s could withdraw savings over the span of their entire lifetime.
Now, as of January 1, 2020, the Secure Act compresses that time period to only 10 years after the year of death, thus speeding up the timeframe for taxes to be paid on these pre-tax savings. This complicates some old strategies being used, but creates new planning techniques for others.
There are a few eligible designated beneficiaries that will avoid the 10 year payout. These include:
Tune in to see how you may need to tweak your retirement withdrawal strategies to best work for you and your heirs.
The Stretch IRA wasn’t the only thing that changed with IRA’s. The required minimum distribution (RMD) age was raised from age 70 ½ to 72. This means, for those yet to reach 70.5 by 1/1/2020, that you won’t have to take funds out of your IRA until age 72. You’ll have a year and a half longer to convert those funds to a Roth IRA, depending on tax brackets.
Despite the RMD age moving back, you still have the option to make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) at age 70. If you'd like a refresher for some of these financial acronyms we're mentioning, check out episode 63, our Financial Acronymology guide.
Additionally, those over 70 and still working can now contribute to a traditional IRA if they have earned income. In the old law, this ability stopped at 70.5. But people are living and working longer now (without adequate retirement savings for many), so the SECURE act makes this possible.
Finally, we get to the part about setting communities up for retirement. With the changes in the Secure Act, more small business owners will be able to offer 401K’s to their employees.
The bill makes it easier to be auto-enrolled to help those people that never get around to setting up their 401K contributions. Part-time employees will also benefit from the new bill. Now part-timers who have worked 500 hours over the past 3 years will have access to 401K’s. These changes are designed to make retirement savings a bit easier.
The Secure Act is a great reminder of how quickly laws can change. Without close attention, your original intent could no longer be the most optimal strategy for your retirement plans.
One of our primary responsibilities is to help you uncover tax saving or planning opportunities when they become available. Remember, financial planning is like putting together a puzzle. Make sure you have all the pieces by learning as much as you can to improve your financial opportunities.
Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for 20 years.
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Are you in the Social Security tax bubble?
Tax rules are complicated enough, and Social Security benefits during retirement years add another layer of complexity.
Watch corresponding Youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RnQY0NxhSM&t=39s
Your Social Security income can cause your actual tax rate to be much higher than expected. Not understanding how and when Social Security benefits are taxed can lead to an unpleasant surprise when Uncle Sam comes calling.
You’ll also learn why multi-year tax planning is so important in retirement.
If you are approaching age 62 you may be considering when to take Social Security. It can be tempting to take that low hanging fruit as soon as possible. But we often recommend that you delay taking your Social Security benefit for as long as you can. If you don’t take Social Security early then you need to think about how you’ll make enough money to cover the costs of your lifestyle. Do you have IRA’s, 401K’s, or even an old-fashioned pension? When planning your retirement income you’ll also want to think ahead to age 70 ½ when you’ll have to take the required minimum distribution or RMD. Have you decided when to take your Social Security benefit?
Your Social Security benefit can be taxed like any other income source. But there is a way to determine if and how your benefit will be taxed. You can use a special calculation that is determined by the IRS. To do this, add up your taxable income and add half of your projected benefit. If it is over a certain threshold then it will be taxed. You’ll need to be careful when determining your income since tax rates increase slowly and then suddenly jump from 22% to 41%. You don’t want those taxes to torpedo your retirement planning. Listen in to find out how to plan ahead.
Sure, you want to pay the lowest amount in taxes each year, but retirement tax planning is a bit more complicated. You’ll want to consider your lifetime tax bill. You don’t want to pay 0% in taxes this year only to be stuck with a 24% tax bill next year. You’ll want to have a comprehensive retirement plan which considers when to take out more money for those big-ticket items that will inevitably come up. With a little bit of planning, you can spread your tax burden out over multiple years. You also need to consider that your 60’s provide you with a unique opportunity to name the income that you won’t have in your 70’s. Discover why your 60’s may be the most important tax planning decade by listening to Will Holt’s tax expertise.
There are plenty of risks involved with retirement tax planning but there are also lots of opportunities to save on taxes as well. One tax opportunity you shouldn’t miss is topping out your tax bracket with Roth conversions to help minimize your RMD once you turn 70 ½.
If you are planning to retire early the Affordable Care Act could throw you another curveball. It is important to understand the income levels needed to qualify for the subsidies available. There is a lot to consider when in retirement tax planning.
Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients by providing financial planning to the Triangle residents of North Carolina for 20 years.
What does it take to get to 100 podcast episodes?
In his book, Shoe Dog, Phil Knight describes his emotions upon starting the company that became Nike, as a crazy idea. When describing how he felt, he realized that many of the world’s greatest achievements started as crazy ideas.
Watch corresponding Youtube video here.
What seemed like a crazy idea for us 4 years ago, has turned into more than we could have ever imagined. We recently shared about what motivated us to start the show in our review of FINCON.
In this episode, we’re pulling back the curtain, as we reflect on our 4 year journey to episode 100. We discuss lessons learned, surprises we encountered along the way, and mistakes we made. We also reveal some of our favorite episodes and you’ll also hear what’s next for the Financial Symmetry show. But this exciting milestone wouldn’t have been possible without you!
We were fortunate to start our passion project at a good time. The strong tailwind of meteoric growth for all podcasts propelled our show to a 600% growth rate in downloads since our first year. Most of our listeners find us on Apple Podcasts currently, but we included an article below discussing the growing popularity of Spotify as a podcast deliverer. Podcasts also allow for listeners that would otherwise never hear about us. To that point, 20% of our listeners are in California. The magic of a technical tool that will continue to expand and grow.
We’ve enjoyed using this medium to share our views about unique financial planning opportunities and uncover risks that our listeners may not be aware of. We’ve also learned how much fun creating a podcast can be. After overcoming the difficulties of getting started, we were reminded that consistency is key.
Mistakes are inevitable part of any journey. The key is to use them to propel you to be something better. Our podcast was a treasure trove of bumps in the road when getting started. Just dial up our a few of our first episodes, especially if you enjoy hearing someone reading directly from a blog post. Thankfully we learned fairly quickly to ad-lib and play off of each other.
Listening to yourself, also provides a great opportunity to critique your communication style. Inviting other experts in the firm, added a nice potpourri of voices as well. I’m sure our listeners appreciate the fact that we have learned to use an audio editor to improve the quality of our material. A key truth that translates to many areas of life. Bring your expertise to your specialties and find experts in other fields to do the rest.
Inevitably, some episodes are better than others. Regardless, our aim is to always provide you with content that plants a seed that might motivate you to dig a little deeper on a specific planning topic. But we also try to present the content in an entertaining and engaging way. A few of our favorite episodes include episode 20 where we drew comparisons of common financial planning conversations to one of our favorite movies, The Usual Suspects. Another favorite was episode 27, where we broke down Mike’s top 10 investment lessons he’d learned just after turning 40. We share a few more along with the top 4 most listened episodes since we started.
We’re continually learning how to improve our content and provide you with material that you can learn from and implement. We are excited to make better use of an editorial calendar to plan future episodes. Is there a topic that interests you that you think we should cover on the show? Let us know what you would like to hear by sending us an email with your suggestions.
Who you gonna call? Retirement Mythbusters!
Short Youtube recap here: https://bit.ly/2R0QJcA
Visit Full Article Here: https://wp.me/p6NrVS-3g5
Not as catchy as Ghostbusters, we know, but these retirement myths can be much more hazardous to your long-term financial health. Many of us have certain beliefs, internet rumors or family hearsay that are passed down about retirement rules of thumb. But believing in these stories could be detrimental to the long-term success of your retirement. On this episode, we do our best Mythbusters imitation (of Discovery Channel fame) to bust these common retirement myths. Listen in to hear why you may want to challenge conventional thinking, and discover what it could cost you to continue to buy in to the hype.
Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for 20 years.
How do you know if long term care insurance is worth it?
Short Youtube video here: https://bit.ly/3akBTVZ
This is a topic we discuss with our clients regularly. With an aging population comes increased options for retirement living, assisted living and nursing care options. Along with increased options come increased costs as well which can be exorbitant in some cases. If long-term care insurance has been on your mind, you’ll want to have a listen to our objective viewpoints as we consider if long-term care insurance is really worth it.
There are 3 different ways that people may fund their long-term care needs. They may self-insure, or use their savings. They buy long-term care insurance, or they may rely on government funding. Many of our listeners are in the sandwich generation, where they are both helping their kids and helping their parents at the same time. As they watch their parents age they begin to see the emotional and financial stress that can arise and it affects the way they think about aging. 70% of people will need some sort of long-term care. Usually, a stay in long-term care is only a couple of years but 1 in 10 men will require a stay of more than 5 years and 2 out of 10 women will stay more than 5 years in long-term care.
As you probably know, long-term care insurance only gets more expensive as you age. But you probably don’t want to buy into it too early, what if the insurance company goes out of business? We think the best time to buy long-term care insurance is in your mid-50s. Costs tend to jump about 6-8% each year that you wait. But even if you do buy early the premiums could increase. Often times the actuaries don’t fully understand the risk and end up raising premiums for current policyholders.
Generally speaking, people go into long-term care when they can no longer perform the activities of daily living or ADL. This includes going to the bathroom alone, eating, moving about the home, or they experience a decline in mental state. Often the long-term care insurance covers a maximum period of 6 years or less. There is a daily benefit amount that you can choose from. Often that benefit is between $100-$200 per day. Many long-term care insurance packages come with an inflation rider. Your premiums will be related to the variables that you choose.
Long-term care is not cheap. A private room with skilled nursing can cost $100K per year. Going down the scale, assisted living averages about $75K per year. And home health can be about $50K per year, but you do have to factor in household expenses as well.
A 65-year-old couple can buy a long-term care insurance policy for $4800 per year with basic benefits totaling $180K. If that same couple waits until 75 to purchase a policy that amount will increase to $8700. You also need to consider the fact that not everyone gets approved. The longer you wait to buy a policy the harder it is to get approved.
It’s important to have as much information as possible before making costly decisions. You need to understand all of the factors before you commit. We’re here to help you make informed choices. Listen in to hear all of the factors that you should examine when considering whether to buy long-term care insurance.
Does your place of employment offer an equity compensation plan? Are you one of the 76% of people who have not exercised their stock options or sold shares of their company stocks? Mike Eklund is back after a hiatus and he is jumping in with both feet. He dives deep into the nitty-gritty of equity compensation plans. Since this can be a complicated subject you may want to consult a financial professional before making any big decisions about what to do with your company stock options.
Watch corresponding Youtube video here.
Many companies offer equity compensation plans as a part of an overall hiring package. The main reason is to align the company and employees. If the stock price goes up then you make more money. These compensation plans can be a big draw when you are trying to decide where to work. There are 4 main types of plans offered by companies.
It is important to know how these types of plans differ and what their advantages are. What kind of equity compensation plan does your company offer?
The biggest question of owning stocks is when to sell. Don’t let the taxes wag the dog means don’t let taxes impact your investment decisions. So many people choose not to sell a position simply because they don’t want to pay taxes on it. It helps if you understand how the taxes work in each situation.
If you own stocks outright for over a year and sell then that is a long term gain and you will be subject to capital gains tax at the rate of 20% at most. If you own for less than a year then it is considered a short term stock and is subject to a higher tax rate of 37%. In this case, you’ll want to own for over a year for the best result.
If you own ESPP stocks then it is important to know whether you hold a qualifying or disqualifying disposition. A qualifying disposition is better. It is tied to how long you own the stock. You’ll want to own for at least a year before you sell.
Restricted stock is taxable when it is vested. Although restricted stocks are pretty straight forward your financial advisor can really help you with saving money in taxes.
ISOs can provide significant tax savings but they have many requirements. They are more tax advantageous than nonqualified stock options. You have more control over when the tax event occurs.
If you own a lot in company stocks you’ll want to lower your risk and make sure that you are protecting yourself from a potential downturn. You can use these tools to think about how to create a framework for making better investing decisions.
Listen in to hear how you can use a combination of these strategies to help you decide what to do when you own company stock.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about buying a timeshare. Some call it the worst financial decision you could make. But is that true? On this episode, we invite Allison Berger to discuss the pros and cons of buying a timeshare. If you’ve ever been roped into one of those high-pressure sales meetings you’ll want to listen to consider if you made the right decision.
Short YouTube video: https://youtu.be/RqfiAvdPS-I
In this episode of Financial Symmetry, host Chad Smith talks with Allison Berger about strategies for spotting timeshare scams and thinking through decisions about timeshares.
If you have ever been on vacation at a nice resort you may have sat in on a timeshare presentation. These high-pressure sales meetings are designed to make you a buyer and they pull out all of the stops to get you to sign on the dotted line. They claim to only need 90 minutes of your time, but those 90 minutes can be pretty intense. According to the American Resort Development Corporation, 2018 was the 9th consecutive year of growth for timeshare sales. Out of 127 million households in America, 9 million own at least 1 shared vacation product. So 7% of families are also timeshare owners. That means they must not be too bad, right? But what exactly are you buying? What is a timeshare?
If you have ever stayed at an upscale resort, you may have sat in on a timeshare presentation. These high-pressure sales meetings are designed to make you a buyer and they pull out all of the stops to get you to sign on the dotted line. They claim to only need 90 minutes of your time, but those 90 minutes can be pretty intense.
According to the American Resort Development Corporation, 2018 was the 9th consecutive year of growth for timeshare sales. Out of 127 million households in America, 9 million own at least 1 shared vacation product. That means they must not be too bad, right? But what exactly are you buying?
We all know about the incentives to get you to buy a timeshare (or even just to sit in on the sales meeting), but what other positive experiences can be had from buying a timeshare? You will guarantee yourself a vacation each year if you buy a timeshare. The accommodations are typically very nice and often include two-bedroom suites with a kitchen. This beats staying in a cramped hotel room. Typically the break-even point of buying a timeshare is between 8-14 years, so if you vacation every year for 20-30 years you’ll come out ahead.
But there are many negatives that come along with timeshares. Even though the average maintenance fees are only about $1000 a year, the average sales price is $21,000. If you change your mind and wish to resell the timeshare you may be out of luck. There isn’t much of a market for timeshare resales. Timeshares are complicated and can be challenging to book. If you don’t know the jargon of the timeshare company you could be lost and stuck vacationing somewhere you never wanted to be. Tell us about your experiences with timeshares. Shoot us an email, we’d love to hear your stories.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Every year there are approximately 140 million tax returns filed with the IRS and of those, 4 million will receive an IRS letter stating that there is a discrepancy. Your first instinct might be to panic, but don’t overreact. Grayson Blayzek is here to help us understand what you can do if you receive the dreaded CP2000. You’ll want to listen in not only if you have received a letter, but also to learn what you can do to prevent receiving one in the first place.
Short Youtube video recap here: https://bit.ly/2NBiVkm
There are 2 different approaches when dealing with an IRS letter. You can take a proactive approach or a reactive approach. The reactive approach happens after you receive the letter, but a proactive approach helps you get in front of any tax confusion and reduce the chances that you will receive a letter. Here’s what you can do to take the proactive approach.
The first step to amending your tax return is to realize where your mistake was. Did you transpose a number? Did you receive a tax document after your return? A tax professional can help you look at your return and find the problem. Sometimes a backdoor Roth strategy is the culprit in a tax return error. Funds that were converted to IRA’s might get reported on the tax return when they shouldn’t. The process of filing an amended tax return is similar to filing an original return. But instead of filing a 1040, you’ll file a 1040X.
If you do receive a letter from the IRS it will come via snail mail. They will never email you, text you, or send you any other type of message. The letter you will probably receive is a CP2000. 4 million taxpayers receive a CP2000 each year. Basically this form is stating that something in your tax return doesn’t match the IRS records. It isn’t a bill, but do realize the burden of proof is on you to correct the error. Here’s what to do if you receive the CP2000:
Taxpayers spend the first 3-4 months of the year gathering documents and working through the tax filing process so it can be frustrating to receive an IRS letter stating that there is a discrepancy. But make sure that you don’t ignore it. Read it carefully and don’t overreact. Take time to digest the information to get a clear understanding of what the IRS is proposing. Get tax advice if you need it. No one likes paying taxes but it is a function of our society. Annual tax planning can reduce your tax burden but we still have to pay the appropriate level of tax fro our level of income. Maintaining appropriate tax records is a great way to avoid a tax notice from the IRS.
Many of you are inching closer to retirement and the decisions you make now will have a big impact on your retirement lifestyle. It’s time to start thinking ahead and seriously consider your retirement strategy. Are you concentrating on the best ways to save to set up for the life you want in retirement?
This is why we have created a pre-retirement checklist with 8 key wealth builder areas for you to consider. Listen in now to discover what you need to think about now that you are rounding the final stretch in this race to retirement.
Your 50’s are often referred to as the catch-up years when it comes to retirement planning. There are lots of opportunities to think about as you approach retirement. Successful retirees look at all of these considerations as they make decisions. The decisions you make now can have a major impact on your retirement lifestyle. Use this pre-retirement checklist to help you begin to plan your retirement strategy.
Are you looking for money and/or time-saving tips now that the summer is over and the kids are back to school? Summer can always feel expensive with summer camps, vacations, and then back to school shopping. With fall approaching and the kids back in school, we put together a list of ways you can save time and money to make this year better than the rest.
What do you do to save time and money at home? Have you started any new routines this school year? What is working for you? Let us know your money and time-saving tricks. Send us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This podcast is property of Financial Symmetry Inc. The hosts and guests of the show do not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice through this podcast. This production is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, tax, investment, or legal advice. Listeners should consult with appropriate advisors for advice specific to your situation.
How do you make financial decisions? Are you intentional with your money?
Short Youtube recap here: https://youtu.be/9g3s36KPm9E
Most people have trouble articulating their framework for making financial decisions. It begins with finding a healthy balance between spending and saving. After these short-term decisions, examining your longer-term goals will have more meaning. So in this episode, we asked Cameron Hendricks to join us to help you understand how to create an intentional framework to make the right financial decisions for you and your family.
When planning to use your money, you need to consider what your options are and whether you are facing short-term or long-term decisions. Many people will be surprised to discover that there are only 5 ways to use your money in the short-term.
Each one of these short-term ways to use money impacts the other. Think about your spending as a pie chart. If your lifestyle expenses increase then one of the other options has to decrease. If you increase your savings then another option has to give.
Making intentional decisions means your short-term decisions should be driven by your long-term goals. It’s a good idea to start with long-term planning and work your way back to your short-term goals. There are 6 items to think of working towards from a long-term perspective.
Many people think that financial planning has to be complicated. But actually the more simple you can make your planning the better. Complexity gives a comforting impression of control while simplicity is hard to distinguish from cluelessness. You may seem like you are missing out on things when you plan simply, but it’s really about understanding the flow of money. Understand how your cash flow looks now and how it will impact the long-term financial decisions. You know there will be trouble ahead if you haven’t planned for the long-term.
Financial decisions can seem daunting but if you have an intentional decision framework to help you walk through your financial choices then your choices will be more clear. We all have the temptation to spend, especially if we get a lump-sum payment or a bonus from work. But we need to find a way to balance our short-term satisfaction with delayed gratification. When you layout your long-term financial plans you can then start planning how to spend your money in the short-term.
The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA could be the secret weapon you have yet to use in your retirement saving strategy. If you consider yourself a super saver, looking for alternative ways to save tax efficiently, this could be a great option. This strategy is of most interest to those maxing out all other tax-efficient savings accounts. Including standard employee 401k contributions, Roth IRA, 529, and HSA. In this episode, you'll see why we call this the secret weapon for super savers, as we breakdown who the Mega Backdoor Roth is for, why you might be interested in it, and how it compares to other IRAs.
In order to take advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA, you first have to have access to a 401k that allows after-tax contributions. These are contributions on top of your regular $19k allowable contributions to a 401k in 2019. Hence the "Mega" moniker. So if you are already maxing out your 401K, Roth IRA, 529, and HSA contributions then the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA could be a great extra additional savings opportunity. Many get confused as to why it's called a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA when we are talking about your 401k. Good question. The name derives from where the money will be after you complete the consolidation process.
You're now seeing more larger companies and solo 401ks allow for "in-service" distributions. Meaning, you could withdraw portions of your 401k savings, while still employed. The real benefit with this savings strategy, is when you can save the extra after-tax contributions and then roll them to a Roth IRA in the same year. Meaning, you could get a larger amount in to a tax-free savings account to grow for years to come.
If done correctly, the Mega Backdoor Roth can allow you to contribute up to 6X what you can contribute to a regular Roth IRA. With a regular Roth IRA, you can contribute only $6,000 per year in 2019. The Mega Backdoor Roth allows you to contribute up to $37,000 extra each year on top of your normal employee 401k contributions.
Many people don’t know this, but the limit for 401K contributions is $56,000 or $62,000 and for those over 50. Many people assume that the limit is only $19,000. But this $19,000 limit is for pretax contributions. You can actually contribute up to $37,000 more after taxes are withheld (depending on your employer match amount). You can ask your employer if they contribute to after-tax contributions. If you aren’t sure then you should contact your HR department. They may not even know about the Mega Backdoor Roth, but if you communicate with them you could get it started in your company.
If your income for a married couple is over $203,000 then you are ineligible to contribute to a typical Roth IRA. Instead, you can implement the Backdoor Roth IRA strategy. But this strategy has multiple steps to assure it's done correctly which we wrote about in a previous post. To be a good candidate for this strategy, you need to first move existing pretax accounts to an existing 401K, if you have one. The next step is to contribute $6000 to a regular non-deductible IRA. After completing this, you can convert the non-deductible IRA to a Roth IRA. The issue with the Backdoor Roth is that you can only contribute $6,000 per year.
The Mega Backdoor Roth allows you to contribute much more and would be a provision of your 401k account. Essentially, is the amount above your normal employee contributions ($19k in 2019; or $25k if over age 50) plus your employer match contributions. It’s important to consider all of your options to see if the Mega Backdoor Roth is right for your circumstances.
How do you pick the books you read? Do you get book recommendations from friends or are you in a book group? Do you use an Amazon Wishlist or social media to help you discover what you want to read next? In today’s episode, we have some book recommendations for you to consider. We try to bring you a variety of genres ranging from finance to self-help, to fiction. Check out our favorite books of the year and let us know which ones you have read or plan to read.
Digital Minimalism might be the book for you if you are addicted to your smartphone or tablet. If you feel the need to constantly check your notifications you might want to check this book out. The idea behind Digital Minimalism is to help reduce the time you spend attached to yan electronic device. It discusses the psychology surrounding our need to constantly check those notifications and offers tips to scale back your tech usage. If you enjoy this book you also might enjoy Cal Newport’s other book called Deep Work.
Chop Wood Carry Water is a quick, 110-page read that offers life lessons that are learned by a kid who wants to become a samurai warrior (think Karate Kid). This book is about learning to appreciate the process behind the mundane work you have to do in life. The thesis is that if you can focus on doing the boring everyday work with excellence then you can make great things happen. The book encourages you to take each challenge you face not as a test but as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Redemption is a work of fiction by David Baldacci which is a mystery-thriller. The main character is a Baldacci favorite, Amos Decker. Redemption makes for an exciting beach or vacation read. Like binge-watching a tv series, you’ll want to rush through it quickly to discover how it ends.
The book Principles is another self-help book written by Ray Dalio. It is essentially laying out his 5 step process for building success. He encourages readers on how to deal with setbacks and continue to move forward. These are the 5 steps that he covers in the book:
We also have several books on our wishlist or that we plan to read soon. Mike is looking forward to reading Personal Financial Planning for Executives and Entrepreneurs to help him provide the best service possible for his clients. The Happiness Advantage is another book Mike would like to read that redefines success and happiness.
Chad is looking forward to reading Messy Marketplace which is about buying companies. He thinks this will help him serve his clients who are in the process of selling businesses. The Family Board Meeting is a book that encourages people to enjoy the experiences they have with their children. The Algebra of Happiness and 30 Lessons for Living are 2 more books that he’d like to read.
Most people know little or nothing about sequence of returns risk. The subject doesn’t make for the most interesting topic for cocktail party discussions. Some refer to it as your biggest retirement risk. Reason being, sequence of returns risk can have a major impact on how long your hard-earned savings will last through retirement. This week's episode we dive in to examples of how you could be affected and steps you could use to fight against it.
Many people aren’t familiar with the difference between dollar-weighted returns and time-weighted returns. Dollar-weighted returns are the actual returns you get. The dollar-weighted return is a more accurate representation of your actual return. A time-weighted return impacts your cash flow. A time-weighted return assumes you don’t contribute or withdraw any money during a period of time. If you put a lot of money in the bottom of the stock market and pull the money out at the top of the stock market then you will have a better dollar rated return than a time-weighted return.
Let’s consider a couple that is 60 years old with a million dollars who just retired. In the first example, they earn 8% each year over the next 30 years. They withdraw at 6% which leads them to the ideal scenario and after 30 years in which they end at zero dollars. Their money ran out just as they did. The second example takes the same couple but rather than earning 8% each year they had great returns of 25% for the first 2 years, then they averaged 8% and then the last 2 years they averaged 0%. This scenario left the couple with a million dollars at the end of 30 years. The last scenario has the couple experience a bad market the first few years then 8% returns and then a great market at the end. This scenario leads the couple to run out of money. Although all of these examples had the same average return the end results were completely different. The first few years have a big impact on your long term success.
Chad and Mike work for the same amount of years, they make the same pay and save the same amount each year. One of them begins their career before the other and they retire at different times. The last years before retirement Mike experienced poor returns. Chad had poor returns when he was just starting out. This is an example of a good sequence of returns for Chad and a bad sequence of returns for Mike. The difference ended up being a $300,000 difference between Chad and Mike’s final balance. When you are younger your balance isn’t that big so how the market performs doesn’t matter as much. When you are older it is important to your balance sheet that the market rate of returns are high.
Often in social conversations, it’s not uncommon to hear us say, “That reminds me of a scene in the movie…” to emphasize a point. Movies have a powerful way of presenting memorable situations where real life decisions and money intersect. Given the financial lens we view the world through, these financial themes jump off the screen to us.
So in today’s episode, we put on our movie critic hats and have some fun discussing lessons we’ve spotted in films that we all can learn from. Some are obvious but in others, you have to dig a bit deeper. Allison Berger joins us in this fun-filled episode to discover financial influences in the best and worst that Hollywood has to offer.
Many times, the large financial outcomes in life are a result of a lot of little decisions along the way in emotionally-charged environments. The circumstances range from pressure-filled decisions amidst a tragedy to pre-conceived notions of long-held family belief systems around money. Some can seem more cliche, like always have a plan B or pay attention to the small print, but paying attention to the emotions that lead to these moments can provide the most intriguing insights. Other messages reinforce strong values that help position you for long-term success, like the benefit of hard work and having an open mind.
Here’s a summary of the movies we discussed:
Gone Girl – This is an intense 2014 thriller with loads of money themes. The movie begins during the 2008 financial crisis and the featured couple loses their jobs. A twisted and circuitous journey ensues from there.
Money themes: This couple could benefit from better financial communication. Strangely, a financial advisor wasn’t around to help (wink, wink). Separately, she keeps all her money in a money belt after she goes on the run. This is a terrible idea! It’s no wonder her money gets stolen as you should never keep all of your money in one place, even when on the run. Finally, do your best to set yourself up so you are not forced to rely on someone else financially.
Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise stars in this 2014 Sci-Fi film. He plays a public relations guy thrown into the battle who gets stuck in a time loop.
Financial lessons: You may not see a financial theme here but we can’t help but think about what we might do financially if we could do yesterday over again with the knowledge that we have today. There are so many uncertainties when dealing with investing which is why balance is so important. When you have a process to help you deal with all the options that are out there. We all have 20/20 hindsight but this movie can be a great thought exercise. What would you learn from today? Would you invest more? Spend differently? Or maybe create an automatic savings plan to make sure you’re saving?
Crazy Rich Asians– This 2018 film is rich with money themes. It is basically set in a rich fantasyland in Singapore.
Financial themes: Money alone will not make you happy, it’s the experiences money buys that can provide lasting happiness. Related, it’s dangerous to have your identity attached to money. Communicating openly with your partner about finances can prevent larger emotional disagreements along the line. Even further, the pressure of misplaced expectations around money can be problematic between spouses. This is why it’s important to choose your spouse wisely as research shows in The Next Millionaire Next Door.
Miracle – This is a family-friendly 2004 Disney movie. Miracle is the story of an Olympic hockey team before Olympians were allowed to be professionals in their fields.
Money lessons: The movie shows the value of hard work without money attached. At the end of the film, it showed what each character’s career was after their hockey career. This movie holds powerful lessons to show kids not to rely on one thing, especially a sport, to provide income for the rest of their lives.
Be sure and listen to the rest for the our takeaways from 3 other movies, including one in Allison’s favorite classic series of movies.