Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts: Income for Later in Life

You may hope to live to an old age, but a longer life means that you’ll have even more years of retirement to fund. You may even run the risk of outliving your savings and other income sources. Even though you may have set aside funds for retirement, you may not have set aside enough to cover your needs into very old age. How can you address the risk of outliving your savings? One option worth considering is a longevity income annuity.

What is a longevity annuity?

A longevity annuity, also referred to as a longevity income annuity or a deferred income annuity, is a contract between you and an insurance company. As the insured, you deposit a sum of money (the premium) with the company in exchange for a stream of payments to begin at a designated future date (typically at an advanced age) that will last for the rest of your life. The amount of the future payments will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of your premium, your age, your life expectancy, and the time when payments are set to begin.

That’s the basic concept, although some longevity annuities may offer other options (possibly for an additional cost) including:

  • The opportunity to make additional premium contributions up to the date annuity payments are to begin
  • Cost-of-living adjustments that can increase annuity payouts
  • Death benefit or return of premium to your annuity beneficiary if you don’t live long enough to receive payments equal to the amount of your total contributions to the longevity annuity
  • The option to “cash out” the longevity annuity prior to the time payments are to begin, although this usually involves surrender fees that likely will reduce the amount returned to you

Caution: Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the annuity issuer.

Longevity annuity in a tax-qualified plan: QLAC

Some or all of your retirement savings may be held in tax-qualified retirement plans such as 401(k), IRA, 457(b), or 403(b) plans. If you are a plan participant or IRA owner, you may be able to purchase a longevity annuity within your retirement plan (excluding Roth IRAs and inherited IRAs). Annuities that comply with regulations issued by the IRS are referred to as qualified longevity annuity contracts, or QLACs. The IRS regulations may be viewed at irs.gov.

There are special rules and limitations that specifically apply to QLACs that are not necessarily applicable to non-qualified longevity annuity contracts (NQLACs). Here are some of the limitations and requirements applicable to QLACs.

Premiums

No more than $125,000 (this limit is indexed for inflation in $10,000 increments) of your combined tax-qualified retirement plan balances may be allocated to QLACs. Additionally, no more than 25% of any particular retirement plan balance may be applied to a QLAC. For IRAs, the 25% is based on the combined balances of all your IRAs. These premium limitations apply separately to the retirement accounts of each spouse, so each spouse could have up to $125,000 of his or her retirement account allocated to QLACs. If an annuity contract fails to be a QLAC solely because premiums for the contract exceed the premium limits, then the contract will not fail to be a QLAC if the excess premium is returned to the non-QLAC portion of your account by the end of the calendar year following the calendar year in which the excess premium was paid.

Required minimum distributions

Generally, required minimum distributions (RMDs) are amounts that you must withdraw each year from your traditional IRA, employer-sponsored retirement plan, or tax-sheltered annuity. You must begin to take the annual distributions by April 1 of the year following the year in which you reach age 70½, although some exceptions may apply. An important provision of the IRS regulations relative to QLACs allows you to bypass required minimum distribution rules.

According to the regulations, a QLAC purchased on or after July 2, 2014, may be exempted from RMD rules. In other words, the amount of the QLAC is not included in calculating your required minimum distributions. This is an important provision because you effectively do not have to begin taking distributions from your QLAC until much later in life (e.g., age 85), thus potentially reducing the amount of your RMDs in earlier years.

Annuity type

To qualify as a QLAC, the annuity contract must state that it is a QLAC. The annuity contract is a fixed annuity, and can not be a variable or indexed contract. And it must be a deferred annuity, meaning that payments to you will begin at some future date.

Annuity payments

Annuity payments from a QLAC must follow certain guidelines (some of which are not applicable to NQLACs), including:

  • Payments can begin anytime after reaching age 70½, but no later than the first day of the month immediately following your 85th birthday
  • Payments must be made over your lifetime, or over the lifetimes of you and a named beneficiary (joint annuity)
  • Payments must be made at least annually
  • Payment amounts may not increase over the term of the annuity for you or your beneficiary
  • QLACs can’t allow “cash out” provisions such as commutation benefits (e.g., no lump sum payment), cash surrender amounts, minimum guaranteed payment periods, or withdrawals during the deferral period, except to correct an excess premium or purchase payment

Death benefits

QLAC may provide for death benefits both before and after annuity payments to you have begun. However, the rules governing the amount of death benefit payments may differ depending on whether the beneficiary is your surviving spouse, and whether payments to you have begun prior to your death.

A QLAC may offer a return of premium (ROP) feature (for an additional cost) that is payable before and after the annuity starting date. Accordingly, a QLAC may provide for a single-sum death benefit paid to a beneficiary in an amount equal to the excess of the premium payments made over the annuity payments made to you under the QLAC. However, if the ROP is not available or if you don’t elect it, no payments will be made if you die before the QLAC payment start date.

If a QLAC provides a life annuity to your surviving spouse, it may also provide a similar ROP benefit after the death of both you and your spouse. An ROP payment must be paid no later than the end of the calendar year following the calendar year in which you die, or in which your surviving spouse dies, whichever is applicable.

If the sole beneficiary is your surviving spouse, the only benefit permitted to be paid after your death (other than an ROP) is a life annuity payable to your surviving spouse that does not exceed 100% of the annuity payment otherwise payable to you. However, annuity payments must also comply with rules for qualified preretirement survivor annuities and qualified joint and survivor annuities.

Is a QLAC right for you?

As with most investment options, you should carefully consider whether a QLAC is right for you. With a QLAC, you can’t access account funds if you need money–no withdrawals are allowed. So it’s important that you have other funds available during the deferral period (i.e., before QLAC payments begin).

Keep in mind that the investment returns of the QLAC during deferral could be lower than what you could have earned if you invested on your own. In addition, the longer your QLAC is in deferral, the more it’ll be worth (and the greater your annuity payments will be), so the longer you live, the more you’ll receive when QLAC payments start–presuming you live long enough to receive payments.

A QLAC may not be available as an investment option in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, if the plan sponsor does not offer a QLAC as an investment option.

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, Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Bank of America, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon 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.

Planning Lessons for Educators: Addressing Your Financial Issues

Being an educator requires expertise and that you stay current on developments in your field. However, that level of ongoing attention can make it difficult to find the time to stay on top of issues that affect your finances, or to put together a comprehensive financial plan. Whether you work directly with students or focus on research, whether you are just starting your career or have achieved distinction in your field, you may benefit from working with a financial professional who understands an educator’s special concerns. Here are some issues that may not have been at the top of your to-do list, but that can affect your long-term comfort and happiness.

Addressing tax issues

Many educators, particularly contingency or adjunct faculty members, have multiple sources of income. For example, you may teach at several institutions, and/or earn consulting fees or royalties on your work. Welcome as that income doubtless is, it also may complicate tax planning and preparation. Other tax issues you may need help with include the deductibility of student loan payments, tax issues that arise from pursuing an advanced degree, and the taxation of employer-provided benefits such as faculty housing.

Getting tenure is cause for celebration, but it also is likely to affect your tax situation. Moving into a higher tax bracket could mean it’s time to make or rethink decisions about how much you need to save for retirement, the immediate and long-term benefits of various retirement savings accounts–both taxable and tax-advantaged–and how your retirement savings are invested.

Planning for retirement and beyond

One key to any potentially successful retirement plan is starting early. The sooner you can put a well-thought-out plan in place, the better your chances of financial security. Saving for retirement is like building up an endowment; it gives you the freedom to expand your horizons. Because academic salaries tend to remain relatively predictable (at least compared with corporate salaries) once you’ve gotten tenure, you may have an advantage when it comes to retirement planning. Why? Because you may be able to make more accurate forecasts of your lifetime earning capacity than people in other professions, which can in turn help you make more informed decisions about how you should manage your money now. Statistical analysis tools can estimate the likelihood that a given financial strategy may be adequate to meet your long-term needs.

Take full advantage of the tax benefits of your employer’s 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plan, especially if there’s an employer match (it’s essentially free money). You can defer up to $18,000 in 2015 ($24,000 if you’re 50 or older), or 100% of your pay if less. Also, any deferrals you make to a 457(b) plan don’t reduce the amount you can contribute to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. So, for example, if you’re eligible for both a 403(b) and 457(b) plan, you can contribute the maximum to both, for a total contribution of up to $36,000 ($48,000 if you’re 50 or older) in 2015. Beyond employer-sponsored plans, you may also be able to use other tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles, such as a traditional or Roth IRA. In 2015, the annual contribution limit for traditional and Roth IRAs is $5,500 (plus an additional $1,000 if you’re 50 or older).

Investing responsibly

An understanding of investing fundamentals is essential to making informed decisions with your money. A financial professional can help you understand not only the mechanics of investing, but demonstrate why a given strategy might be appropriate for you. Most common investing strategies are derived from a wealth of research on the historical performance of various types of  investments. Though past performance is no guarantee of future results, it can help to understand the various asset classes, the way each class tendsto behave, and the function each fulfills in a balanced portfolio. Asset allocation is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. You might find assistance especially useful if you are the recipient of a lump sum, such as a cash award, prize or grant for your work.

Do you have ethical concerns about investing? Socially conscious investing has entered the mainstream, and there are many investment options that could help you address your financial needs and still support your convictions.

Even if you’re an experienced investor, you may need to adjust your strategy periodically as your circumstances change over time–for example, after you receive tenure or as you near retirement. The sooner you establish a relationship with a professional, the sooner you might benefit from the expertise of someone who deals with financial issues daily.

Creating an estate plan

A will is the cornerstone of every estate plan; without it, you have no control over how your assets will be distributed. You also should have a durable power of attorney and a health care directive.

If you’ve amassed substantial outside business interests or intellectual property assets (e.g., copyrights, patents, and royalties), an estate plan is particularly important. Managing those assets wisely while you’re alive can help make an enormous difference in your ability to maximize their benefits for your heirs.

Estate planning also can further your legacy in other ways. Charitable giving to your heirs, your educational institution, or another nonprofit organization can both further your philanthropic goals and be an effective tool to help reduce taxes. For example, by establishing a trust, you may be able to benefit from an immediate tax deduction as well as provide an ongoing income stream for you or the charitable institution of your choice. While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and often have ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

Protecting your assets

You also might want to think about whether you and your family are adequately shielded from emergencies. Types of insurance you might consider include:

  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Liability insurance (particularly if you’re involved in applied research projects or consulting engagements)

Managing debt

Being in debt can make managing all other financial issues more challenging. If you’re in the early part of your career, you may still be facing years of student loan payments; if you’re more senior, you may be trying to pay off a mortgage and eliminate all debts before retirement. Balancing debt with the day-to-day demands of raising a family, seeking support for your work, finding good housing, and saving for your children’s education and your own retirement can be a formidable task.

Handling debt wisely can have consequences over time. Having someone review your finances might uncover some new ideas for improving your situation. It also can help you understand the true long-term cost of any debt you incur. Whether you have a specific concern or just want to be better prepared for the future, a financial professional may be able to help. However, there is no guarantee that working with a financial professional will improve investment results.

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, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, 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.

Women: Planning for the Financial Impact of Children

Children are a special blessing and their arrival brings boundless love and joy into our lives that you can’t put a price on. But adding a child to the household impacts the family budget–and women especially—in very measurable ways. Whether this is your first child or your fourth, here are some financial matters to think about and plan for before and after baby arrives.

Check your health insurance

If you and your spouse are both eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, compare plans to see which spouse’s policy offers the best coverage so you’ll be prepared during the open enrollment period. Along with comparing deductibles, co-payments, and premiums, look at coverage for prenatal visits, hospital and midwife services, infertility treatments, and dependent care.

Once you’ve chosen a health plan, read the policy carefully to see what maternity coverage is provided. Also find out if the policy covers complications from a premature birth, including a stay in a neonatal unit, and whether a separate deductible applies if your baby is hospitalized beyond a certain period of time. Typically, your baby will be covered under your policy from the time of birth, though you’ll have to contact your insurer to officially add your child to the policy. If you’re adopting a child, make sure you know when your policy will begin coverage.

Budget for baby

Some expenses typically increase when you add a baby to the household, including:

  • Groceries, including diapers, formula (you may use some even if you’re nursing), and baby food
  • Clothing and baby equipment
  • Transportation costs–Will you need to buy a larger, more practical, or second car?
  • Housing costs–Will you need to move to a larger apartment or house, or will you simply need to push a bureau a few feet to make room for a crib?

If a housing move is in the cards but you aren’t able to do it before baby arrives, don’t worry. Plan as best you can ahead of time–request a free copy of your credit report and clear up any issues, compare mortgage rates, request a preapproval, look at real estate listings to get an idea of the inventory available in your price range, get estimates to remodel your existing space (if that’s a possibility), and so on.

Thinking about the ways a child can impact the family budget often leads to a larger question.

Will you go back to work?

The decision to go back to work after having a baby is a personal one, and often depends on many factors. Maybe you want to work because you enjoy your job, or maybe you have no choice but to work because it’s the only way you can survive financially. Or perhaps you want to stay home and you’ve spent the past few years shoring up your finances. Whatever you decide, know that your decision isn’t etched in stone. Women, much more so than men, tend to move in and out of the workforce to accommodate children. So whatever you do this year might not be what you’re doing two, five, or ten years from now.

If you don’t plan to return to work:

  • Find out if your employer will pay you for any unused vacation/sick time.
  • Be up-front about your plans and remain on good terms with your supervisor and colleagues in the event you change your mind about working or need a reference in the future.
  • Pay down debt where possible.
  • Try to live on one paycheck before you leave work, which can help you cut non-essential spending.
  • If you have federal student loans, a deferment or forbearance request can give you a six-month reprieve from paying them.
  • Continue to save for retirement–you can establish and contribute to your own IRA (traditional or Roth) based on your spouse’s earnings under the spousal IRA rules

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, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, 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

Disaster Preparedness for Businesses

As a successful business owner, you don’t want to think about your operations being interrupted by a natural disaster or other unexpected event. Yet the possibility is a real one.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 80 natural disasters occurred in the United States in the first half of 2015, totaling $12.6 billion in losses. But natural disasters represent just a portion of the crises that your business could face. Although you may not be located in an area prone to hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, or wildfires, you still need to consider the possibility of power outages, civil unrest, terrorism, cyber attacks, fire, data breaches, illness epidemics, and other potential hazards. Fortunately, there are many ways you can prepare your business for an emergency.

How businesses are affected by natural disasters

As reported by preparemybusiness.org, a website created by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Agility Recovery Solutions, approximately 40% to 60% of small businesses never recover from a disaster. For this reason, it is in the best interest of every business to identify potential risks and develop a plan to address them–before a crisis hits. Many resources are available to assist business owners in developing a disaster preparedness program.

What is a disaster preparedness program? 

A disaster preparedness program is a plan, either self-directed or guided by an organization, that enables business owners to prepare themselves, their employees, and their businesses for the possibility of a natural or man-made disaster. Organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and state governments provide disaster assistance for damages to small businesses located in declared disaster areas.

Steps to implement a disaster preparedness program

Following are five steps that will help you create a disaster preparedness program, as outlined by ready.gov, a national public service campaign designed to educate Americans about preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters.

Step 1: Program Management. In many cases, there are minimum regulations that govern how certain businesses manage risk, but as a business owner you will need to determine whether the minimums are enough. As ready.gov states, “Many risks cannot be insured, so a preparedness program may be the only means of managing those risks.” Management commitment to a preparedness program, as well as a written preparedness policy and oversight committee, may be critical to ensuring your business’s longevity.

Step 2: Planning. This step should include the creation of a “risk assessment” that identifies all potential risks and hazards for your business, with ideas for mitigating their impact. It should highlight threats and hazards that are considered “probable,” as well as any that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption, or environmental impact. Another critical document is the “business impact analysis,” which details sensitive or critical processes as well as the financial and operational impacts that would occur due to disruption of those processes.

Step 3: Implementation. In this step, committee members identify and assess resources, draft written plans, develop a system to manage incidents, and train employees as needed. Several key documents contribute to successful program implementation, including crisis communications, emergency response, and business continuity plans.

Step 4: Testing & Exercises. To evaluate the program’s effectiveness, including the success of employee training, management should run tests and drills to see what works and note opportunities for improvement.

Step 5: Program Improvement. During testing or an actual incident, weaknesses in the program are likely to be revealed. They should be documented, along with lessons learned and strategies for addressing such problems in the future.

Other disaster preparedness resources

The Small Business Administration (sba.gov) offers a number of resources designed to help small businesses shore up their emergency preparedness, including links to templates and worksheets that will help you gather the data you need to put together the various written documents. The SBA’s Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Plan outlines the various ways in which the SBA can assist businesses recovering from disasters.

The SBA’s main form of support for businesses is the Disaster Loan Program. The organization has two types of disaster loans designed specifically for small business owners:

  • The SBA Business Physical Disaster Loan provides loans of up to $2 million to help businesses and nonprofit organizations within a disaster area repair and replace real property, machinery, equipment, fixtures, and leasehold improvements.
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan offers up to $2 million in loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and certain nonprofit organizations that suffer substantial economic distress because of a disaster. Loan proceeds can be used to meet financial obligations and working capital needs that could have been met if a disaster had not occurred.

As of March 2015, the SBA had approved nearly 2 million disaster loans for more than $53 billion. But the SBA is only one organization that offers resources designed to help small businesses prepare for and recover from disasters.

The American Red Cross also provides resources for small businesses that are preparing for the possibility of disasters and emergencies. American Red Cross Ready Rating™(readyrating.org) is a self-guided online program designed to help member businesses, organizations, and schools assess their level of emergency preparedness. The core of the program is a 123-point assessment that is used to gauge one’s level of preparedness. Members also have access to a variety of online tools and resources to help create and refine a disaster preparedness plan. Examples include a hazard vulnerability assessment worksheet, an emergency response notification procedures document, and a damage assessment form.

Preparemybusiness.org hosts a variety of sources on disaster preparedness for business owners, including:

  • Downloadable educational information on how to prepare your business for a disaster
  • An archive of webinars to help you plan your disaster preparedness and recovery strategy
  • A framework of testing strategies to implement in order to assess your disaster preparedness
  • Resources from the SBA on the types of disaster assistance available to businesses

Finally, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (disastersafety.org) offers a variety of resources, including research reports and an online tool that allows you to enter your Zip code and receive information about specific risks in your area.

Disasters are unpredictable, and they can put you, your employees, and your business in jeopardy. But many of their worst effects can be prevented, or at least mitigated, through a structured disaster management plan.

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, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, 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.