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 We’ve even seen some refunds returned to students which if were withdrawn from a 529 account originally, then that money needs to go back into the 529 account to avoid taxes/penalties.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A great savings tool as the contributions can we withdrawn at any time tax-free, and the earnings grow tax free and can be withdrawn after age 59.5.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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