Death of the Stretch IRA: Should You Convert to a Roth IRA?

Death of the Stretch IRA: Should You Convert Your IRA to a Roth IRA?

The SECURE Act killed the Stretch IRA. This could mean a nice tax bill for someone you care about. The big question that has come from this: “Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA?”

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Death of the Stretch IRA

In December, the federal government passed the SECURE Act. And one of the biggest provisions of that bill was the elimination of the Stretch IRA. This impacts non-spouse beneficiaries of your IRA, 401k or other retirement plan accounts. That means your kids, grandkids, etc. It doesn’t affect spouses.

Under the old rules, your kids could spread out the distributions from an inherited IRA over a long period of time. Now, your kids will have to liquidate those accounts within 10 years.

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Converting Your IRA to a Roth IRA

One strategy you can use to address this is to convert your IRA to Roth IRAs. This means you pay taxes on the amounts you convert now, and the money then grows tax-free. And when certain conditions are met, your kids won’t pay any taxes on their distributions.

Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA? The answer is very complicated and will be different for everyone. Here are the key considerations

1. Who Pays Higher Taxes?

Who has the higher tax rate? Converting your IRA to a Roth IRA means you pay the taxes. You have to understand who has the higher tax rate. If your tax bracket is the same as your kids, the conversion may not be worth it. But, if your kids pay taxes at a higher rate, the math changes.

State taxes also matter in this.  If your kids live in Florida where there is no state income tax, that needs to be considered.  Likewise if they live in a high-tax state—like New York—it changes the math.

2. Watch the Hidden Taxes

Pay attention to the hidden taxes? Converting your IRA could impact the taxes on your Social Security benefits. It could also trigger taxes on your Medicare premiums due to the income related adjustments. You’ll want to look at those elements too.

3. Can't Convert Your Required Minimum Distributions

If you are older than 72, you have to be careful. The rules won’t allow you to convert your required minimum distributions. You have to satisfy those before you convert.  This may make it more expensive than you think.

4. Know the Total Costs

Look at the total cost of your strategy. There are some complex strategies you can use to preserve some of the “stretch provisions.” They use some advanced trust planning. You have to weigh the cost of the trust, plus the tax costs of setting them up.

Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA? It’s a good question to ask and consider in your plans. But there are a lot of complexities. You should talk to a tax expert and a financial planner to help you look at all aspects.

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 We’ll do our best to answer it in a future episode.  To submit your question, fill out the form.  If you prefer, you can send us an email directly.  That email address is neal@flemingwatson.com

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Financial Planning

About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors  He typically works with people who are planning for retirement.  Fleming Watson is a Registered Investment Advisory firm located in Marietta Ohio.  Our firm primarily serves Marietta, Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys, Belpre, Vienna and the surrounding communities in Washington and Noble Counties in Ohio and Wood and Pleasants county in West Virginia.

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4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Retirement

4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Retirement

Today, we share 4 things you can do right now to improve your retirement.  Click below to listen.

Watch: 4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Retirement.

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Start Now! Steps to Improve Your Retirement.

There is plenty written about the retirement crisis in America. But you can make a positive impact on your own situation. Here are 4 things you can do right now to improve your retirement.

4 Things To Improve Your Retirement

Start Saving

Time is your greatest resource when saving for retirement. The earlier in life you start, the longer you enjoy the benefits of compounded returns.

There is a saying, “The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The next best time to plant one is right now.”

You can’t make up for the lost time, but you make saving a priority now. Look at your budget. See what changes you can make. Figure out how you can start putting money in a 401K or IRA. Don’t waste any more time.

Improve Your Retirement 4 Things

Save More

How much you save for retirement is critical. Many people suggest you should save 10% of your pay for retirement. Think about increasing that to 15%.

It means you’ll have 50% more in your nest egg. In dollar terms, if saving 10% of your pay results in a retirement savings of $500,000, saving 15% would result in $750,000. That’s a big difference.

4 Things Retirement

Plan To Work Longer

Retiring early can mean big discounts to Social Security benefits. It also gives you fewer years to save and benefit from compounded returns.

Waiting to retire means the discounts to Social Security get smaller. And if you delay long enough, your Social Security benefits will actually increase.

Improve Retirement 4 Things

Pursue Growth

We all know the stock market can be a wild place. There are plenty of up years, and occasionally, a big down year. But over time, stocks have helped many people improve their retirement picture.

Don’t be afraid of the stock market. It can help improve your returns over time. And that means a better retirement.

You can make your retirement better. Start with these 4 things. If you need some help, talk to a financial planner.

What's On Your Mind?

Do you have a question about what’s happening in the world of finance or investing?  Is there a topic that has you curious?  We’d love to hear from  you.

 We’ll do our best to answer it in a future episode.  To submit your question, fill out the form.  If you prefer, you can send us an email directly.  That email address is neal@flemingwatson.com

Enter Your Question Here

Financial Planning

About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors  He typically works with people who are planning for retirement.  Fleming Watson is a Registered Investment Advisory firm located in Marietta Ohio.  Our firm primarily serves Marietta, Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys, Belpre, Vienna and the surrounding communities in Washington and Noble Counties in Ohio and Wood and Pleasants county in West Virginia.

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Is the Coronavirus a Long-Term Threat to Your Retirement Savings?

Is The Coronavirus a Long-Term Threat to Your Retirement Savings?

Is the Coronavirus a long-term threat to your retirement savings?  This question weighs on the minds of many as the news dominates the headlines.  We try to add some perspective in this week’s episode of Monday Morning Money.

Watch: Is the Corona Virus a Long-Term Threat to Your Retirement Savings?

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The Coronavirus is a Big Deal

According to the World Health Organization, the Coronavirus outbreak has reached pandemic levels. Over 20,000 have contracted it.

At times, the stock markets have reacted harshly to the news. On January 31, The Dow dropped by more than 600 points. It was the biggest drop in months, and it was easy to blame the virus for the fall.

The Big Question: Is the Coronavirus a Long-Term Threat to your Retirement Savings?

This isn’t the first major viral epidemic we have seen. In 2003 it was SARS. The bird-flu hit the headlines in 2005. We saw an outbreak of the swine flu in 2009. And then we faced the Ebola scare in 2014. All had their own short-term impact on the financial markets.

This outbreak will have a short-term impact as well. But, history tells us the hype will likely be far worse than the actual impact to the world’s economy.

Always a Reason for Doom and Gloom

There is never a shortage of excuses to sell stocks. When you look back over the past 20 years or so, you can find many reasons for doom and gloom. We have seen virus outbreaks. Lehman Brothers and General Motors filed for bankruptcy. We endured government shutdowns and massive one day drops in stock prices. And for some, the election of President Trump was their reason to abandon stocks.

But the impact of any of those excuses was temporary.

The SARS virus first made headlines in February 2003. Now 17 years later, the stock market has increased by 441%. That includes the returns from dividends.

Coronavirus long-term threat to retirement savings
Click to enlarge

Short-Term Interruptions

Our experience shows things like the Coronoavirus outbreak are short-term interruptions to the long-term growth of stocks. So the impact to your savings from this outbreak will most likely be short lived.

But don’t worry, the financial media will have another reason for doom and gloom shortly.

What's On Your Mind?

Do you have a question about what’s happening in the world of finance or investing?  Is there a topic that has you curious?  We’d love to hear from  you.

 We’ll do our best to answer it in a future episode.  To submit your question, fill out the form.  If you prefer, you can send us an email directly.  That email address is neal@flemingwatson.com

Enter Your Question Here

Financial Planning

About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors  He typically works with people who are planning for retirement.  Fleming Watson is a Registered Investment Advisory firm located in Marietta Ohio.  Our firm primarily serves Marietta, Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys, Belpre, Vienna and the surrounding communities in Washington and Noble Counties in Ohio and Wood and Pleasants county in West Virginia.

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Should You Buy Stocks At the Top of the Market?

Should You Buy Stocks at the Top of the Market?

Should you buy stocks at the top of the market?  This is a question submitted by a listener.  Click below to hear our answer.

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Listen Now: Should You Buy Stocks at the Top of the Market?

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Answering a Listener Question

John asks, “With the stock market so close to all-time highs, should I buy stocks, or should I wait?” 

The stock market is very close to all-time highs. We also keep hearing how this is—arguably—the longest-running bull market in history. And at some point, there will be some sort of major drop.

So, should you buy stocks at the top of the market?

It Can Be A Long Way Down

Here is the root of John’s concern. Nobody wants to be the person with perfectly imperfect timing.  This means you buy at the market’s high right before a bear market.  It can be painful. 

The last four major declines were

  • -49%(2000-2003),
  • -57%(2007-2009),
  • -19.4% (2011), and
  • -19.8% (2018).

Seeing your investment drop significantly and quickly isn’t exactly a good time.  But the bigger question we should ask is:

What would have happened if you had bought stocks right before the last 4 bear markets?

Buy Stocks at The top
Click to Enlarge

The Dot Com Bust (2000-2003)

Buying at the top in March of 2000, and holding it until the end of last year, your average return would have been 6% per year. And remember, you would have gone through four total bear markets in those two decades, including the worst one since the great depression.

The Great Recession

The next “top” was in October 2007. If you bought then, by the end of 2019, your average annual return would have been 8.% per year.

Buy Stocks Top
Click to Enlarge
Top of the market
Click to Enlarge

Spring 2011

 Buying the top in the spring of 2011 resulted in an average of return of 12% per year over those 8 plus years.

4th Quarter 2018

The last one was in the fourth quarter of 2018. Buying the top in late September 2018 resulted in a 10% return at the end of last year.

Market Top BUy Stocks
Click to Enlarge

Those returns won’t be as good as someone who was able to avoid those bear markets. But the number of people who can correctly guess those events are few and far between.

If Not Now, When?

The next thing you need to consider: if you don’t buy now, when will you? Do you use a rule or your “gut feeling?”

Some people will set a rule. If the market drops 10 or 15% they’ll buy. But what do you do if prices don’t drop far enough? If your target is 15% lower, and the market only drops 12% before it turns around, you miss opportunities.

Or do you use the “gut feeling” method? You’ll buy when it feels right.

When stocks are declining, the prevailing mood will tell you it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Buying low might be the right thing, but it will also be the hardest thing to do.

Lessons Learned

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 24 years.  If you have the right mindset, the best time to buy stocks is when you have the money. On March 24, 2000, the closing high for the S&P 500 was 1527.  Four bears and twenty years later, the index closed at 3230.  And two of those bears two are two of the worst we’ve ever seen.

Chances are, and I believe this, we are going to see much higher highs in the future.  Trying to miss the trouble will likely mean you end up missing the returns you want.

What's On Your Mind?

This was a great question, and we are glad John sent it to us.  Do you have a question? We try to answer it on a future episode of Monday Morning Money.

To submit your question, fill out the form.  If you prefer, you can send us an email directly.  That email address is neal@flemingwatson.com

Enter Your Question Here

Financial Planning

About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors  He typically works with people who are planning for retirement.  Fleming Watson is a Registered Investment Advisory firm located in Marietta Ohio.  Our firm primarily serves Marietta, Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys, Belpre, Vienna and the surrounding communities in Washington and Noble Counties in Ohio and Wood and Pleasants county in West Virginia.

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