All about IRAs

An individual retirement arrangement (IRA) is a personal retirement savings plan that offers specific tax benefits. In fact, IRAs are one of the most powerful retirement savings tools available to you. Even if you’re contributing to a 401(k) or other plan at work, you should also consider investing in an IRA.

What types of IRAs are available?

There are two major types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Both allow you to make annual contributions of up to $5,500 in 2017 (unchanged from 2016). Generally, you must have at least as much taxable compensation as the amount of your IRA contribution. But if you are married filing jointly, your spouse can also contribute to an IRA, even if he or she does not have taxable compensation. The law also allows taxpayers age 50 and older to make additional “catch-up” contributions. These folks can put up to $6,500 in their IRAs in 2017 (unchanged from 2016).

Both traditional and Roth IRAs feature tax-sheltered growth of earnings. And both give you a wide range of investment choices. However, there are important differences between these two types of IRAs. You must understand these differences before you can choose the type of IRA that’s best for you.

Traditional IRAs

Practically anyone can open and contribute to a traditional IRA. The only requirements are that you must have taxable compensation and be under age 70½. You can contribute the maximum allowed each year as long as your taxable compensation for the year is at least that amount. If your taxable compensation for the year is below the maximum contribution allowed, you can contribute only up to the amount you earned.

Your contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible on your federal income tax return. This is important because tax-deductible (pretax) contributions lower your taxable income for the year, saving you money in taxes. If neither you nor your spouse is covered by a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, you can generally deduct the full amount of your annual contribution. If one of you is covered by such a plan, your ability to deduct your contributions depends on your annual income (modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI) and your income tax filing status. You may qualify for a full deduction, a partial deduction, or no deduction at all.

What happens when you start taking money from your traditional IRA? Any portion of a distribution that represents deductible contributions is subject to income tax because those contributions were not taxed when you made them. Any portion that represents investment earnings is also subject to income tax because those earnings were not previously taxed either. Only the portion that represents nondeductible, after-tax contributions (if any) is not subject to income tax. In addition to income tax, you may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59½, unless you meet one of the exceptions.

Individuals Covered by an Employer Plan
Filing status Deduction is limited if MAGI between: No deduction if MAGI over:
Single/Head of household $62,000 – $72,000 $72,000
Married joint* $99,000 – $119,000 $119,000
Married separate $0 – $10,000 $10,000
* If you’re not covered by an employer plan, but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $186,000 to $196,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $196,000.

If you wish to defer taxes, you can leave your funds in the traditional IRA, but only until April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70½. That’s when you have to take your first required minimum distribution from the IRA. After that, you must take a distribution by the end of every calendar year until your funds are exhausted or you die. The annual distribution amounts are based on a standard life expectancy table. You can always withdraw more than you’re required to in any year. However, if you withdraw less, you’ll be hit with a 50% penalty on the difference between the required minimum and the amount you actually withdrew.

Roth IRAs

Not everyone can set up a Roth IRA. Even if you can, you may not qualify to take full advantage of it. The first requirement is that you must have taxable compensation. If your taxable compensation is at least $5,500 in 2017 (unchanged from 2016), you may be able to contribute the full amount. But it gets more complicated. Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in any year depends on your MAGI and your income tax filing status. Your allowable contribution may be less than the maximum possible, or nothing at all.

Filing status Contribution is limited if MAGI between: No contribution if MAGI over:
Single/Head of household $118,000 – $133,000 $133,000
Married joint $186,000 – $196,000 $196,000
Married separate $0 – $10,000 $10,000

Your contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. You can invest only after-tax dollars in a Roth IRA. The good news is that, if you meet certain conditions, your withdrawals from a Roth IRA will be completely free from federal income tax, including both contributions and investment earnings. To be eligible for these qualifying distributions, you must meet a five-year holding period requirement. In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • You have reached age 59½ by the time of the withdrawal
  • The withdrawal is made because of disability
  • The withdrawal is made to pay first-time homebuyer expenses ($10,000 lifetime limit from all IRAs)
  • The withdrawal is made by your beneficiary or estate after your death

Qualified distributions will also avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. This ability to withdraw your funds with no taxes or penalty is a key strength of the Roth IRA. And remember, even nonqualified distributions will be taxed (and possibly penalized) only on the investment earnings portion of the distribution, and then only to the extent that your distribution exceeds the total amount of all contributions that you have made.

Another advantage of the Roth IRA is that there are no required distributions after age 70½ or at any time during your life. You can put off taking distributions until you really need the income. Or, you can leave the entire balance to your beneficiary without ever taking a single distribution. Also, as long as you have taxable compensation and qualify, you can keep contributing to a Roth IRA after age 70½.

Choose the right IRA for you

Assuming you qualify to use both, which type of IRA is best for you? Sometimes the choice is easy. The Roth IRA will probably be a more effective tool if you don’t qualify for tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. However, if you can deduct your traditional IRA contributions, the choice is more difficult. Most professionals believe that a Roth IRA will still give you more bang for your dollars in the long run, but it depends on your personal goals and circumstances. The Roth IRA may very well make more sense if you want to minimize taxes during retirement and preserve assets for your beneficiaries. But a traditional deductible IRA may be a better tool if you want to lower your yearly tax bill while you’re still working (and probably in a higher tax bracket than you’ll be in after you retire). A financial professional or tax advisor can help you pick the right type of IRA for you.

Note:You can have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but your total annual contribution to all of the IRAs that you own cannot be more than $5,500 in 2017 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older).

 

 

Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC . Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement
Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose
of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her
individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

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Use Your Annuity to Pay for Long-Term Care Insurance

The cost of long-term care can quickly deplete your savings and affect the quality of life for you and your family. Long-term care insurance allows you to share that cost with an insurance company. But premiums for long-term care insurance can be expensive, and cash or income to cover those premiums may not be readily available. One option is to exchange your annuity contract for a long-term care insurance policy.

Section 1035 exchange

Generally, withdrawals from a nonqualified deferred annuity (premiums paid with after-tax dollars) are considered to come first from earnings, then from your investment (premiums paid) in the contract. The earnings portion of the withdrawal is treated as income to the annuity owner, subject to ordinary income taxes. IRC Section 1035 allows you to exchange one annuity for another without any immediate tax consequences, as long as certain requirements are met. However, prior to 2010, an annuity couldn’t be exchanged for a long-term care insurance policy on a tax-free basis. But the Pension Protection Act (PPA) changed that and, as of January 1, 2010, both life insurance and annuities may be exchanged, tax free, for qualified long-term care insurance.

Conditions for tax-free exchange

In order for the transfer of the annuity to the long-term care insurance policy to be treated as a tax-free exchange, certain conditions must be met:

  • The annuity must be nonqualified, meaning it cannot be part of an employer-sponsored retirement plan. For example, a tax-sheltered annuity or an annuity used to fund an IRA would not qualify for tax-free exchange treatment.
  • The long-term care insurance policy must meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and IRS criteria. Generally, the long-term care insurance policy must provide coverage only for qualified long-term care services; it must be guaranteed renewable; it cannot have a cash surrender value; refunds or dividends can only be used to reduce future premiums; and policy benefits cannot pay for expenses covered by Medicare (except where Medicare is a secondary payee).
  • The exchange must be made directly from the annuity issuer to the long-term care insurance company. You will not receive tax-free treatment if you withdraw funds from the annuity directly, then use them to pay the long-term care insurance premium.

Presuming these criteria are met, exchanging an annuity for a long-term care policy can be done in one of two ways: a full transfer of the entire cash surrender value of the annuity in exchange for the long-term care insurance policy; or partial exchanges of the annuity’s cash value for the long-term care policy. Not all insurance companies allow long-term care policies to be funded with a single, lump-sum payment, so the more common approach may be to pay long-term care insurance premiums through several partial exchanges from the annuity.

Potential tax advantages

Exchanging your nonqualified deferred annuity for a long-term care insurance policy may have several tax-related advantages. You can use annuity earnings to pay for long-term care insurance without paying income tax on those earnings. This allows you to use otherwise taxable annuity earnings in a more tax-efficient manner.

According to the IRS, Section 1035 exchanges from a nonqualified annuity to pay for tax-qualified long-term care insurance are pro-rated based on the comparative percentages of principal and earnings in the annuity. For example, say you have a nonqualified annuity worth $100,000, which includes your premium of $50,000, plus earnings worth $50,000, and you haven’t taken any previous withdrawals. You direct the annuity issuer to send $2,500 to the long-term care insurance carrier as a partial exchange to pay for insurance premiums. Your annuity cash value is reduced by $2,500, but half of that amount ($1,250) comes from earnings. As a result, not only have you withdrawn annuity earnings ($1,250) without paying taxes on them, but you have further reduced the taxable portion of your annuity by $1,250. By withdrawing earnings from your annuity to pay for long-term care insurance, you could reduce the taxable portion of your annuity, which can be important if you surrender the annuity later.

Another advantage relates to the long-term care insurance policy. Generally, a qualified long-term care insurance policy is treated as an accident and health insurance contract, and the benefits are typically treated as tax free, subject to certain limits. In this way, you may be able to use tax-free annuity earnings to pay for tax-free long-term care benefits.

Other possible benefits

Aside from the favorable tax treatment, there may be other benefits as well.

  • Using an annuity to pay for long-term care insurance may lessen the need to tap other savings or income to pay for premiums.
  • You may still use any remaining cash surrender value of the annuity for other income needs or expenses.
  • Exchanging the annuity for long-term care insurance may better meet your current needs, financial situation, and preferences.

Some potential disadvantages

There are also some potential disadvantages to exchanging an annuity for long-term care insurance.

  • Annuity surrender charges might be incurred on the exchange of the annuity, thus reducing the annuity’s value.
  • Reducing the annuity’s value to pay for long-term care insurance premiums may reduce your ability to use the annuity to provide income needed in the future.
  • Some nonqualified deferred annuities might not be eligible for a partial Section 1035 exchange because the annuity contracts may not allow annuity payments to be made to other than the annuity owner (e.g., annuity payments cannot be assigned to another payee).
  • If you exchange the annuity for a long-term care insurance policy, your survivors won’t have the annuity’s cash value for income or savings that otherwise would have been available at your death.
  • Generally, premiums for qualified long-term care insurance are deductible as qualified medical expenses subject to certain restrictions. The tax savings of using a tax-free Section 1035 exchange needs to be compared to available federal or state income tax deductions for long-term care insurance premiums. Depending on your situation, it might be more beneficial to deduct premiums and include annuity earnings as taxable income.

Frequently asked questions

If I am the sole owner of the annuity, can I exchange it for a long-term care insurance policy jointly owned by my spouse and me?

Generally, no, because the owners of both the annuity and the long-term care insurance policy must be the same. However, you may be able to change the ownership of your annuity to include your spouse. While changing ownership of an annuity is generally treated as a taxable event to the extent of gain (earnings) in the annuity, ownership changes between spouses are typically tax free, but be sure to consult your tax or financial professional before making ownership changes to your annuity.

I’m receiving payments from a nonqualified immediate annuity. Can I exchange these payments for long-term care insurance?

You may be able to assign the payments directly to the long-term care insurance company as a 1035 exchange, but the annuity payee must be the long-term care insurance company–if you’re listed as the payee, payments will not receive tax-free treatment. Also, be aware that if long-term care insurance premiums increase, the annuity payments may not be sufficient to cover the cost of the long-term care insurance premiums. Also, if the annuity payment exceeds the insurance premium, you may be able to split the annuity payment, where an amount equal to the insurance premium is sent to the long-term care insurance company and the balance of the annuity payment is sent to you, but this would be at the discretion of the annuity issuer.

Can I use more than one annuity to pay for long-term care insurance?

Generally, yes, because funds from one or more nonqualified annuities can be exchanged for a long-term care insurance policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, 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, Hughes, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Merck, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline, 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.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

A Business Plan Can Be Your Guide to Growth

Whether you’re a current business owner or a budding entrepreneur burning with the next great idea, one of the most important steps you can take on your road to success is creating a business plan. Why? A well-thought-out and well-written business plan captures your vision, illustrates it for others (including potential lenders and investors), and creates the roadmap you and your management team need to guide you through the growth of your business. Consider the following points:

  • If you’re a current business owner, you probably feel like you’re always working to close the next big deal, juggling financials, or responding to the latest crisis. Remember, however, that it’s important to periodically climb out of the trees and take a good, hard look at the forest. A business plan can help you do just that: take stock of where you’ve been and lay the groundwork for where you’re headed.
  • If you’re a budding entrepreneur, a business plan can help you raise money. It will help prove to potential investors and lenders that your idea is worth funding.
  • For both current and potential business owners, the process of creating a business plan can prove beneficial by revealing potential risks and uncovering opportunities that may not otherwise be apparent.

A business plan should be comprehensive, yet as concise as possible. Although there are no limits to the length, a business plan should respect the time of your readers while providing the information they need to make important decisions. Before you begin writing, consider contacting an attorney or business consultant with expertise in business plan writing. Following are some of the main components of a business plan.

Cover page and table of contents

The cover page is simply a title page for your business plan document. It should include the name of the company, address, phone number, owners’ names, and contact information. It should also include the date on which the document was finalized and published. The table of contents helps readers navigate through the document and identifies page numbers for each of the sections.

Executive summary

The executive summary is essentially your elevator pitch–an abridged version of the business plan that describes to readers why your business is worthy of their attention and possibly their money. It should be no longer than one page, but should contain all pertinent details. For this reason, it is often easier to write this section last.

An executive summary should answer readers’ primary questions–i.e., are you looking for funding, is the document a strategic guidebook for management, or both? As you draft your executive summary, keep in mind that many readers will decide whether the subsequent pages are worth reviewing based on this important section.

Business description

The business description is the first major section of your business plan and should provide more details on the nature of your business. One paragraph should outline the key elements of your business, and then subsequent paragraphs might expand on each. These elements should include:

Product or service description

Describe in detail the product sold or service provided. If you are producing a product, explain how the product is manufactured. What materials are used? Who are your suppliers? What are the costs of production? If you provide a service, describe what it is and why it is different. How will it be provided? In this section, you might also address potential pitfalls and how they will be addressed. For example, if demand for your product or service is higher than expected, how will you manage the volume?

Legal structure

Business entities come in a wide variety of legal structures, ranging from sole proprietorships and partnerships to corporations. Each has its own pros and cons. In this section of the business plan, you’ll need to describe the entity you selected and the reasons for your decision. Include supporting documentation (e.g., a partnership agreement).

Business and industry description

Who are your key advisors and managers, and how does their experience benefit your organization? Where are you located and why did you choose this location? You might also want to use this section to describe the genesis of your business–i.e., how and why you decided to launch the venture. Provide details on the industry you are in and why your business has a competitive edge. Include relevant data and illustrations, if applicable. (For example, a retail establishment might include a map highlighting strong pedestrian traffic patterns in the area.)

Market analysis and marketing strategy

Perhaps the most influential section of your business plan, the market analysis and marketing strategy sections are where you convince readers that your business will be successful.

The market analysis section should provide a specific and detailed analysis of your target market, including what you have done to maximize your opportunity within it. Who are your current and potential customers, and why? Summarize any market research you have conducted to prove the viability of your business. How big is your potential market? Who are the major competitors?

If your business plan is intended for potential investors or lenders, this section will help convince them that you truly understand your market and are an expert in your industry. If your plan is primarily designed to educate key employees, it will provide the basic information they need to strategize and carry out your vision for growth.

Once you have conducted thorough market research, the next step is to brainstorm how you will market your product or service within your industry. This marketing strategy section of the business plan should provide details about how you will promote your products and services. How will you differentiate yourself from the competition within your target market? What is your business’s value proposition (i.e., the unique value your company offers the marketplace), and how will you communicate it to your stakeholders? Describe any marketing tactics, such as advertising and public relations, as well as sales models and sales compensation structures.

While the market analysis and marketing strategy sections may be the most time-consuming to put together, they will be well worth the effort. Conducting thorough market research can uncover previously unknown challenges and opportunities. Addressing these findings with a creative strategy can give your business a competitive edge. It can also help your business’s leadership team understand the reasons for certain strategic decisions you make that they may not necessarily agree with.

Financials

Of particular importance to potential investors and lenders, the financials portion of the business plan is designed to help your readers understand where you are now financially, and where you hope to be. If you are seeking money, this section should outline exactly how much you need and why. You should include all current and projected (or “pro forma”) financial statements, including:

  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Income (or profit and loss) statement
  • Break-even analysis

This section will likely be scrutinized the most, so be sure it is completed carefully. Some readers will require more information than others. What is most important is that the information provided is accurate and well-supported with documentation. The main purpose of this section is to educate readers about the use of resources–including any debt and equity financing you hope to get–proving to them that you and your leadership team can and will manage money effectively.

Worth the effort

Most business owners would much rather focus on their daily objectives and challenges than take valuable time away from their business to write a business plan. But in the end, it will be worth the effort. A business plan is not only important, but it can also become a critical resource on your journey toward success. For more information, visit the Small Business Administration, www.sba.gov.

 

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not
specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC . Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp.     To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose
of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her
individual circumstances.These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

How Grandparents Can Help With College Costs

As the cost of a college education continues to climb, many grandparents are stepping in to help. This trend is expected to accelerate as baby boomers, many of whom went to college, become grandparents and start gifting what’s predicted to be trillions of dollars over the coming decades.

Helping to pay for a grandchild’s college education can bring great personal satisfaction and is a smart way for grandparents to pass on wealth without having to pay gift and estate taxes. So what are some ways to accomplish this goal?

Outright cash gifts

A common way for grandparents to help grandchildren with college costs is to make an outright gift of cash or securities. But this method has a couple of drawbacks. A gift of more than the annual federal gift tax exclusion amount–$14,000 for individual gifts and $28,000 for gifts made by a married couple–might have gift tax and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax consequences (GST tax is an additional gift tax imposed on gifts made to someone who is more than one generation below you). Another drawback is that a cash gift to a student will be considered untaxed income by the federal government’s aid application, the FAFSA, and student income is assessed at a rate of 50%, which can impact financial aid eligibility.

One workaround is for the grandparent to give the cash gift to the parent instead of the grandchild, because gifts to parents do not need to be reported as income on the FAFSA. Another solution is to wait until your grandchild graduates college and then give a cash gift that can be used to pay off school loans. Yet another option is to pay the college directly.

Pay tuition directly to the college

Under federal law, tuition payments made directly to a college aren’t considered taxable gifts, no matter how large the payment. So grandparents don’t have to worry about the $14,000 annual federal gift tax exclusion. But payments can only be made for tuition–room and board, books, fees, equipment, and other similar expenses don’t qualify. Aside from the obvious tax advantage, paying tuition directly to the college ensures that your money will be used for the education purpose you intended, plus it removes the money from your estate. And you are still free to give your grandchild a separate tax-free gift each year up to the $14,000 limit ($28,000 for joint gifts).

However, colleges will often reduce a student’s institutional financial aid by the amount of the grandparent’s payment. So before sending a check, ask the college how it will affect your grandchild’s eligibility for college-based aid. If your contribution will adversely affect your grandchild’s aid package, particularly the scholarship or grant portion, consider gifting the money to your grandchild after graduation to help him or her pay off student loans.

529 plans

A 529 plan can be an excellent way for grandparents to contribute to a grandchild’s college education, while simultaneously paring down their own estate. Contributions to a 529 plan grow tax deferred, and withdrawals used for the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses are completely tax free at the federal level (and generally at the state level too).

There are two types of 529 plans: college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. College savings plans are individual investment-type accounts offered by nearly all states and managed by financial institutions. Funds can be used at any accredited college in the United States or abroad. Prepaid tuition plans allow prepayment of tuition at today’s prices for the limited group of colleges–typically in-state public colleges–that participate in the plan.

Grandparents can open a 529 account and name a grandchild as beneficiary (only one person can be listed as account owner, though) or they can contribute to an already existing 529 account. Grandparents can contribute a lump sum to a grandchild’s 529 account, or they can contribute smaller, regular amounts.

Regarding lump-sum gifts, a big advantage of 529 plans is that under special rules unique to 529 plans, individuals can make a single lump-sum gift to a 529 plan of up to $70,000 ($140,000 for joint gifts by married couples) and avoid federal gift tax. To do so, a special election must be made to treat the gift as if it were made in equal installments over a five-year period, and no additional gifts can be made to the beneficiary during this time.

Example: Mr. and Mrs. Brady make a lump-sum contribution of $140,000 to their grandchild’s 529 plan in Year 1, electing to treat the gift as if it were made over 5 years. The result is they are considered to have made annual gifts of $28,000 ($14,000 each) in Years 1 through 5 ($140,000 / 5 years). Because the amount gifted by each grandparent is within the annual gift tax exclusion, the Bradys won’t owe any gift tax (assuming they don’t make any other gifts to this grandchild during the 5-year period). In Year 6, they can make another lump-sum contribution and repeat the process. In Year 11, they can do so again.

Significantly, this money is considered removed from the grandparents’ estate, even though in the case of a grandparent-owned 529 account the grandparent would still retain control over the funds. There is a caveat, however. If a grandparent were to die during the five-year period, then a prorated portion of the contribution would be “recaptured” into the estate for estate tax purposes.

Example: In the previous example, if Mr. Brady were to die in Year 2, his total Year 1 and 2 contributions ($28,000) would be excluded from his estate. But the remaining portion attributed to him in Years 3, 4, and 5 ($42,000) would be included in his estate. The contributions attributed to Mrs. Brady ($14,000 per year) would not be recaptured into the estate.

If grandparents want to open a 529 account for their grandchild, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you need to withdraw the money in the 529 account for something other than your grandchild’s college expenses–for example, for medical expenses or emergency purposes–there is a double consequence: the earnings portion of the withdrawal is subject to a 10% penalty and will be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. Also, funds in a grandparent-owned 529 account may still be factored in when determining Medicaid eligibility, unless these funds are specifically exempted by state law.

Regarding financial aid, grandparent-owned 529 accounts do not need to be listed as an asset on the federal government’s financial aid application, the FAFSA. However, distributions (withdrawals) from a grandparent-owned 529 plan are reported as untaxed income to the beneficiary (grandchild), and this income is assessed at 50% by the FAFSA. By contrast, parent-owned 529 accounts are reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA (and assessed at 5.6%) and distributions from parent-owned plans aren’t counted as student income. To avoid having the distribution from a grandparent-owned 529 account count as student income, one option is for the grandparent to delay taking a distribution from the 529 plan until any time after January 1 of the grandchild’s junior year of college (because there will be no more FAFSAs to fill out). Another option is for the grandparent to change the owner of the 529 account to the parent.

Colleges treat 529 plans differently for purposes of distributing their own financial aid. Generally, parent-owned and grandparent-owned 529 accounts are treated equally because colleges simply require a student to list all 529 plans for which he or she is the named beneficiary.

Note: Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses associated with 529 plans before investing. More information about specific 529 plans is available in each issuer’s official statement, which should be read carefully before investing. Also, before investing, consider whether your state offers a 529 plan that provides residents with favorable state tax benefits. As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a 529 savings plan. There is also the risk that the investments may lose money or not perform well enough to cover college costs as anticipated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, 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.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Retirement Plans for Small Businesses

If you’re self-employed or own a small business and you haven’t established a retirement savings plan, what are you waiting for? A retirement plan can help you and your employees save for the future.

Tax advantages

A retirement plan can have significant tax advantages:

  • Your contributions are deductible when made
  • Your contributions aren’t taxed to an employee until distributed from the plan
  • Money in the retirement program grows tax deferred (or, in the case of Roth accounts, potentially tax free)

Types of plans

Retirement plans are usually either IRA-based (like SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs) or “qualified” (like 401(k)s, profit-sharing plans, and defined benefit plans). Qualified plans are generally more complicated and expensive to maintain than IRA-based plans because they have to comply with specific Internal Revenue Code and ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) requirements in order to qualify for their tax benefits. Also, qualified plan assets must be held either in trust or by an insurance company. With IRA-based plans, your employees own (i.e., “vest” in) your contributions immediately. With qualified plans, you can generally require that your employees work a certain numbers of years before they vest.

Which plan is right for you?

With a dizzying array of retirement plans to choose from, each with unique advantages and disadvantages, you’ll need to clearly define your goals before attempting to choose a plan. For example, do you want:

  • To maximize the amount you can save for your own retirement?
  • A plan funded by employer contributions? By employee contributions? Both?
  • A plan that allows you and your employees to make pretax and/or Roth contributions?
  • The flexibility to skip employer contributions in some years?
  • A plan with lowest costs? Easiest administration?

The answers to these questions can help guide you and your retirement professional to the plan (or combination of plans) most appropriate for you.

SEPs

A SEP allows you to set up an IRA (a “SEP-IRA”) for yourself and each of your eligible employees. You contribute a uniform percentage of pay for each employee, although you don’t have to make contributions every year, offering you some flexibility when business conditions vary. For 2015, your contributions for each employee are limited to the lesser of 25% of pay or $53,000. Most employers, including those who are self-employed, can establish a SEP.

SEPs have low start-up and operating costs and can be established using an easy two-page form. The plan must cover any employee aged 21 or older who has worked for you for three of the last five years and who earns $600 or more.

SIMPLE IRA plan

The SIMPLE IRA plan is available if you have 100 or fewer employees. Employees can elect to make pretax contributions in 2015 of up to $12,500 ($15,500 if age 50 or older). You must either match your employees’ contributions dollar for dollar–up to 3% of each employee’s compensation–or make a fixed contribution of 2% of compensation for each eligible employee. (The 3% match can be reduced to 1% in any two of five years.) Each employee who earned $5,000 or more in any two prior years, and who is expected to earn at least $5,000 in the current year, must be allowed to participate in the plan. SIMPLE IRA plans are easy to set up. You fill out a short form to establish a plan and ensure that SIMPLE IRAs are set up for each employee. A financial institution can do much of the paperwork. Additionally, administrative costs are low.

Profit-sharing plan

Typically, only you, not your employees, contribute to a qualified profit-sharing plan. Your contributions are discretionary–there’s usually no set amount you need to contribute each year, and you have the flexibility to contribute nothing at all in a given year if you so choose (although your contributions must be nondiscriminatory, and “substantial and recurring,” for your plan to remain qualified). The plan must contain a formula for determining how your contributions are allocated among plan participants. A separate account is established for each participant that holds your contributions and any investment gains or losses. Generally, each employee with a year of service is eligible to participate (although you can require two years of service if your contributions are immediately vested). Contributions for any employee in 2015 can’t exceed the lesser of $53,000 or 100% of the employee’s compensation.

401(k) plan

The 401(k) plan (technically, a qualified profit-sharing plan with a cash or deferred feature) has become a hugely popular retirement savings vehicle for small businesses. According to the Investment Company Institute, 401(k) plans held $4.3 trillion of assets as of March 2014, and covered 52 million active participants. (Source: http://www.ici.org/401(k), accessed February 5, 2015.) With a 401(k) plan, employees can make pretax and/or Roth contributions in 2015 of up to $18,000 of pay ($24,000 if age 50 or older). These deferrals go into a separate account for each employee and aren’t taxed until distributed. Generally, each employee with a year of service must be allowed to contribute to the plan.

You can also make employer contributions to your 401(k) plan–either matching contributions or discretionary profit-sharing contributions. Combined employer and employee contributions for any employee in 2015 can’t exceed the lesser of $53,000 (plus catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 if your employee is age 50 or older) or 100% of the employee’s compensation. In general, each employee with a year of service is eligible to receive employer contributions, but you can require two years of service if your contributions are immediately vested.

401(k) plans are required to perform somewhat complicated testing each year to make sure benefits aren’t disproportionately weighted toward higher paid employees. However, you don’t have to perform discrimination testing if you adopt a “safe harbor” 401(k) plan. With a safe harbor 401(k) plan, you generally have to either match your employees’ contributions (100% of employee deferrals up to 3% of compensation, and 50% of deferrals between 3 and 5% of compensation), or make a fixed contribution of 3% of compensation for all eligible employees, regardless of whether they contribute to the plan. Your contributions must be fully vested.

Another way to avoid discrimination testing is by adopting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. These plans are similar to SIMPLE IRAs, but can also allow loans and Roth contributions. Because they’re still qualified plans (and therefore more complicated than SIMPLE IRAs), and allow less deferrals than traditional 401(k)s, SIMPLE 401(k)s haven’t become popular.

Defined benefit plan

A defined benefit plan is a qualified retirement plan that guarantees your employees a specified level of benefits at retirement (for example, an annual benefit equal to 30% of final average pay). As the name suggests, it’s the retirement benefit that’s defined, not the level of contributions to the plan. In 2015, a defined benefit plan can provide an annual benefit of up to $210,000 (or 100% of pay if less). The services of an actuary are generally needed to determine the annual contributions that you must make to the plan to fund the promised benefit. Your contributions may vary from year to year, depending on the performance of plan investments and other factors.

In general, defined benefit plans are too costly and too complex for most small businesses. However, because they can provide the largest benefit of any retirement plan, and therefore allow the largest deductible employer contribution, defined benefit plans can be attractive to businesses that have a small group of highly compensated owners who are seeking to contribute as much money as possible on a tax-deferred basis.

As an employer, you have an important role to play in helping America’s workers save. Now is the time to look into retirement plan programs for you and your employees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, 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, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, AT&T, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, 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.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Don’t Let Your Retirement Savings Goal Get You Down

As a retirement savings plan participant, you know that setting an accumulation goal is an important part of your overall strategy. In fact, each year in its annual Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reiterates that goal setting is a key factor influencing overall retirement confidence. But for many, a retirement savings goal that could reach as high as $1 million or more may seem like a daunting, even impossible mountain to climb. What if you’re contributing as much as you can to your retirement savings plan, and investing as aggressively as possible within your risk comfort zone, but still feel that you’ll never reach the summit? As with many of life’s toughest challenges, it may help to focus a little less on the end result and more on the details that help refine your plan.*

Retirement goals are based on assumptions

Whether you use a simple online calculator or run a detailed analysis, remember that your retirement savings goal is based on certain assumptions that will, in all likelihood, change over time. Assumptions may include:

Inflation: Many goal-setting calculators and worksheets use an assumed inflation rate to account for the rising cost of living both during your saving years and after you retire. Although inflation has averaged about 2.5% over the last 20 years, there have been years (e.g., 1979 and 1980) when inflation has spiked into double digits. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics) No one can say for sure where prices are headed in the future.

Rates of return: Perhaps even more unpredictable is the rate of return you will earn on your investments over time. Although most calculators use estimated rates of return for pre- and post-retirement years, returns will fluctuate, and there can be no guarantee that you will consistently earn the rate that is used to calculate your savings goal.

Life expectancy: Retirement savings estimates also

usually use an assumed life expectancy, or other time frame that you designate, to determine how long you will need your money to last. Without a crystal ball or time travel machine, however, no one can make exact predictions in this arena.

Salary adjustments: Calculators and worksheets may also include assumptions for pay increases you might receive through the years, which could impact both the lifestyle you desire in retirement and the amount you save in your employer-sponsored plan. As in other areas, salary adjustments are just estimates.

Retirement expenses: Can you say for certain how much you will need each month to live comfortably in retirement? If you’re five years away, the answer to this question may be much easier than if you’re 10, 20, or 30 years away. In order to give you a targeted savings goal, retirement calculators must make assumptions for how much you will need in income during retirement.

Social Security, pension, and other benefits: To be as accurate as possible, a retirement savings goal should also account for additional benefits you may receive. However, these types of benefits typically depend on your earning history, which cannot be accurately assessed until you approach retirement.

All of these assumptions point to why it’s so important to review your retirement savings goal regularly–at least once per year and when major life events (e.g., marriage, divorce, having children) occur. This will help ensure that your goal continues to reflect your life circumstances as well as changing market and economic conditions.

Break it down

Instead of viewing your goal as ONE BIG NUMBER, try to break it down into a monthly amount–i.e., try to figure out how much income you may need on a monthly basis in retirement. That way you can view this monthly need alongside your estimated monthly Social Security benefit, anticipated income from your current level of retirement savings, and any pension or other income you expect. This can help the planning process seem less daunting, more realistic, and most important, more manageable. It can be far less overwhelming to brainstorm ways to close a gap of, say, a few hundred dollars a month than a few hundred thousand dollars over the duration of your retirement.

Make your future self a priority, whenever possible

While every stage of life brings financial challenges, each stage also brings opportunities. Whenever possible, put a little extra toward your retirement.

For example, when you pay off a credit card or school loan, receive a tax refund, get a raise or promotion, celebrate your child’s college graduation (and the end of tuition payments), or receive an unexpected windfall, consider putting some of that extra money toward retirement. Even small amounts can potentially add up over time through the power of compounding.

Another habit to try to get into is increasing your retirement savings plan contribution by 1% a year until you hit the maximum allowable contribution. Increasing your contribution by this small amount may barely be noticeable in the short run–particularly if you do it when you receive a raise–but it can go a long way toward helping you achieve your goal in the long run.

Retirement may be different than you imagine

When people dream about retirement, they often picture images of exotic travel, endless rounds of golf, and fancy restaurants. Yet a recent study found that the older people get, the more they derive happiness from ordinary, everyday experiences such as socializing with friends, reading a good book, taking a scenic drive, or playing board games with grandchildren. (Source: “Happiness from Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences,” Journal of Consumer Research, June 2014) While your dream may include days filled with extravagant leisure activities, your retirement reality may turn out much different–and that actually may be a matter of choice.

In addition, some retirees are deciding that they don’t want to give up work entirely, choosing instead to cut back their hours or pursue other work-related interests.

You may want to turn a hobby into an income-producing endeavor, or perhaps try out a new occupation–something you’ve always dreamed of doing but never had the time. Such part-time work or additional income can help you meet your retirement income needs for as long as you remain healthy enough and interested.

Plan ahead and think creatively

Chances are, there have been times in your life when you’ve had to put on your thinking cap and find ways to cut costs and adjust your budget. Those skills may come in handy during retirement. But you don’t have to wait to begin thinking about ideas. Consider ways you might trim your expenses or enhance your retirement income now, before the need arises.

Might you downsize to a smaller home or relocate to an area with lower taxes or a lower overall cost of living? Will you and your spouse actually need two vehicles, or might you simply own one and rent another on the occasional days when you need two? Could you put that extra bedroom to use by taking in a boarder, who might also help out with household chores, such as mowing the lawn or shoveling the sidewalks? Or maybe you can cancel that expensive gym membership and turn the spare bedroom into a home workout room.

Jot down any ideas that come to mind and file them away with your retirement financial information. Then when the time comes, you can refer to your list to help refine your retirement budgeting strategy.

The bottom line

As EBRI finds in its research every year, setting a goal is indeed a very important first step in putting together your strategy for retirement. However, you shouldn’t let that number scare you.

As long as you have an estimate in mind, understand all the various assumptions that go into it, break down that goal into a monthly income need, review your goal once a year and as major life events occur, increase your retirement savings whenever possible, and remember to think creatively both now and in retirement–you can take heart knowing that you’re doing your best to prepare for whatever the future may bring.

*All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, 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.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Setting and Targeting Investment Goals

Go out into your yard and dig a big hole. Every month, throw $50 into it, but don’t take any money out until you’re ready to buy a house, send your child to college, or retire. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s what investing without setting clear-cut goals is like. If you’re lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure.

How do you set investment goals?

Setting investment goals means defining your dreams for the future. When you’re setting goals, it’s best to be as specific as possible. For instance, you know you want to retire, but when? You know you want to send your child to college, but to an Ivy League school or to the community college down the street? Writing down and prioritizing your investment goals is an important first step toward developing an investment plan.

What is your time horizon?

Your investment time horizon is the number of years you have to invest toward a specific goal. Each investment goal you set will have a different time horizon. For example, some of your investment goals will be long term (e.g., you have more than 15 years to plan), some will be short term (e.g., you have 5 years or less to plan), and some will be intermediate (e.g., you have between 5 and 15 years to plan). Establishing time horizons will help you determine how aggressively you will need to invest to accumulate the amount needed to meet your goals.

How much will you need to invest?

Although you can invest a lump sum of cash, many people find that regular, systematic investing is also a great way to build wealth over time. Start by determining how much you’ll need to set aside monthly or annually to meet each goal. Although you’ll want to invest as much as possible, choose a realistic amount that takes into account your other financial obligations, so that you can easily stick with your plan. But always be on the lookout for opportunities to increase the amount you’re investing, such as participating in an automatic investment program that boosts your contribution by a certain percentage each year, or by dedicating a portion of every raise, bonus, cash gift, or tax refund you receive to your investment objectives.

Which investments should you choose?

Regardless of your financial goals, you’ll need to decide how to best allocate your investment dollars. One important consideration is your tolerance for risk. All investments involve some risk, but some involve more than others. How well can you handle market ups and downs? Are you willing to accept a higher degree of risk in exchange for the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return?

Whether you’re investing for retirement, college, or another financial goal, your overall objective is to maximize returns without taking on more risk than you can bear. But no matter what level of risk you’re comfortable with, make sure to choose investments that are consistent with your goals and time horizon. A financial professional can help you construct a diversified investment portfolio that takes these factors into account.

Investing for retirement

After a hard day at the office, do you ask yourself, “Is it time to retire yet?” Retirement may seem a long way off, but it’s never too early to start planning, especially if you want retirement to be the good life you imagine.

For example, let’s say that your goal is to retire at age 65. At age 20 you begin contributing $3,000 per year to your tax-deferred 401(k) account. If your investment earns 6% per year, compounded annually, you’ll have approximately $679,000 in your investment account when you retire.

But what would happen if you left things to chance instead? Let’s say that you’re not really worried about retirement, so you wait until you’re 35 to begin investing. Assuming you contributed the same amount to your 401(k) and the rate of return on your investment dollars was the same, you would end up with approximately $254,400. And, as this chart illustrates, if you were to wait until age 45 to begin investing for retirement, you would end up with only about $120,000 by the time you retire.

Investing for college

Perhaps you faced the truth the day your child was born. Or maybe it hit you when your child started first grade: You have only so much time to save for college. In fact, for many people, saving for college is an intermediate-term goal–if you start saving when your child is in elementary school, you’ll have 10 to 15 years to build your college fund.

Of course, the earlier you start, the better. The more time you have before you need the money, the greater chance you have to build a substantial college fund due to compounding. With a longer investment time frame and a tolerance for some risk, you might also be willing to put some of your money into investments that offer the potential for growth.

Investing for a major purchase

At some point, you’ll probably want to buy a home, a car, or even that vacation home you’ve always wanted. Although they’re hardly impulse items, large purchases are usually not something for which you plan far in advance; one to five years is a common time frame. Because you don’t have much time to invest, you’ll have to budget your investment dollars wisely. Rather than choosing growth investments, you may want to put your money into less volatile, highly liquid investments that have some potential for growth, but that offer you quick and easy access to your money should you need it.

Review and revise

Over time, you may need to update your investment strategy. Get in the habit of checking your portfolio at least once a year–more frequently if the market is particularly volatile or when there have been significant changes in your life. You may need to rebalance your portfolio to bring it back in line with your investment goals and risk tolerance. If you need help, a financial professional can help.

Investing for Your Goals

Investment goal and time horizon At 4%, you’ll need to invest At 8%, you’ll need to invest At 12%, you’ll need to invest
Have $10,000 for down payment on home: 5 years $151 per month $136 per month $123 per month
Have $50,000 in college fund: 10 years $340 per month $276 per month $223 per month
Have $250,000 in retirement fund: 20 years $685 per month $437 per month $272 per month
Table assumes 3% annual inflation, and that the return is compounded annually; taxes are not considered. Also, rates of return will vary over time, particularly for long-term investments, which could affect the amounts you would need to invest. This hypothetical example is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, 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.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.