Should I Use The Roth 401k?

Should I Use the Roth 401(k)?

Our next question is from Mike. He asks, “My employer recently announced they’re offering a Roth 401k option. Should I be using the Roth 401k? Also, I’ve been putting money in the Lifecycle 2035 fund. Is that a good idea?”

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Should I use the Roth 401(k) or not?

Traditional 401k deferrals are done on a pre-tax basis. This means you get a current tax benefit, a tax deduction. Your money grows tax-deferred. When you get to retirement and you take it out, you pay taxes on your distributions.

Roth deferrals offer no current tax benefits. It’s an after tax contribution. The money in your account grows tax free. When you take it out, you will pay no taxes on the growth or the contributions.

The Roth option has a lot of benefits. There are some questions that you need to ask yourself to make this decision.

Will Your Taxes be higher today or in retirement?

If your tax rate is going to be the same or higher in retirement then doing the Roth makes a lot of sense. If you’re a higher income earner today, that tax benefit may be far more valuable than when you do retire.

Are you addicted to your tax deduction?

I make pre-tax deferrals in my 401k to reduce my tax bill. It’s very difficult for me to start sending the government more money. I’m addicted to my tax deduction.

Next year, I’ll be able to do the over 50 catch-up contributions. I plan to use the Roth 401k for these because I’m not used to that tax deduction.

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How long until you retire?

The longer you have, the better the Roth 401k is. If you can let this compound for 20, 30, or 40 years, then the Roth makes a whole lot more sense than the pr- tax deferrals.

How much have you saved in pre-tax accounts?

If you have a large balance in a traditional IRA or 401k funded with pre-tax contributions, you may want to use the Roth option. This can help with tax planning for your retirement income. Distributions from traditional IRA’s get taxed as ordinary income. Having assets in other types of accounts allow for tax planning in retirement.

In general terms, I like the Roth options. The longer you have, the better. If you’re under 40, you should absolutely be doing the Roth if you can. Taxes do matter, and it needs to be a factor in your decision. But the longer-term benefits are huge.

If you’re 50 or older, you may not benefit as much from the Roth. It does allow you that flexibility to plan going forward.

Target Date Funds

Lifecycle and Target Date funds are designed to be a one-size-fits-most option. The date in the fund is to help you identify which year is closest to the year you want to retire. The asset allocation of those funds depends on the length of time from now until the year in the name of the fund.

Here’s an example. Vanguard has lifecycle funds. Their longest one right now is 2060 or 40 years away. The 2060 Fund has 88% of its assets in stocks. Vanguard’s 2035 Fund looks at a retirement 15 years from now. It only has 72% of its assets in stocks. The 2025 fund has 58% of its assets in stocks. Each year the fund family will adjust that allocation as you get closer to that target date.

Does it make sense to use one of these? As long as you’re doing it, right, yes. Remember, just pick one and keep it simple. We see mistakes with this. Some people will put some in the 2060 fund, some in the 2035 fund, and some in the 2025 fund. That’s not how they’re designed to work.

If you want to control your allocation, use a combination of the other funds that are available. Otherwise, use one target-date fund.  

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Can I Max My Roth and My 401k?

Can I Max My Roth IRA and My 401k?

Sandy wants to know if she can max her Roth IRA and her 401k contributions.  Let’s dig into the rules.

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Transcript: Can I Max My Roth IRA and My 401k?

This question is from Sandy. She asks, “Can you contribute the maximum amount to a Roth IRA and the Roth account in the government’s Thrift Savings Plan?”

The answer is yes—if you qualify to make a Roth IRA contribution.

Here are the contribution limits for 2020. For retirement plans whether it’s the Thrift Savings Plan, a 403b plan at the hospital or a school, or a 401k plan, you can contribute $19,500. If you’re over 50, there’s a catch-up contribution. That amount is $6,500. You can contribute $6,000 to a Roth IRA. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

If you wanted to maximize both, and you’re under age 50, that’s $25,500. If you’re 50 or older, that’s $33,000 total per person. If you’re married, you can do both, and your spouse can do both. If you have that much extra income, that’s phenomenal!

There are income limits for Roth IRA contributions. You can make the maximium Roth IRA contribution if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is below these limits. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $196,000. If you’re single, that limit is $124,000. If you’re married and you file separate returns, the income limit is $10,000.

If your MAGI is over those limits, your eligibility to make those Roth IRA contributions changes. You may be able to do a partial contribution or none at all.

The Married Filing Separately Tax Trap

The married filing separately thing is an interesting little trap. A lot of people will file separate returns to try to save on state income taxes. But it has a hidden impact on things like your IRA contributions. It impacts deductions for traditional IRAs, Roth IRA contributions and Roth conversions.

If you’re married filing a separate return and your income is over $10,000, a lot of those things disappear. You want to be very careful with that. You don’t want to get a surprise later on.

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How Do I Use My Savings To Create Income?

How Do I Use My Savings To Create Income?

Tim asks,”How do I use my savings to create income in retirement?”

In this episode, we’ll talk about:

  • Immediate Annuities
  • Bonds
  • Dividend Paying Stocks
  • Systematic Withdrawals

Listen now: How Do I Use My Savings to Create Income?

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Transcript: How Do I Use My Savings To Create Income?

1. Immediate Annuity

This is an insurance contract that creates an income stream for the rest of your life. You can add survivor benefits to this so it will be the rest of you and your spouse’s life. It’s guaranteed by the insurance company and their ability to pay.

Advantages

Eliminates market value risk

This eliminates any market value risk. There are no worries about the stock market going up or down.

Better payouts

You usually will get a higher payout than using the 4% rule. Immediate annuities typically pay out a greater percentage.

Income you can’t outlive

It will pay as long as you or you and your spouse are alive.

Disadvantages

Lose control of your principal

You lose all control of your principal. So if you need more income or a lump sum in the future, you likely won’t have access to the principal for those needs.

Fixed Income

The payout is typically a fixed amount. There are a few contracts out there that will provide some inflation adjustments. But those contracts will reduce the initial income benefit to account for the annual increase.

No Legacy

When you and your spouse have passed, there is no money to leave to your heirs. If you buy the contract, and two months later something tragic happens, that money is gone. There are a few policies that have refund provisions. But, that provision could reduce your monthly income.

Low Interest Rates

Low interest rates mean smaller payments. When interest rates increase, this will be a more attractive option.

This may be a reasonable choice for part of your savings. I wouldn’t recommend anyone put all their savings in one of these contracts.

What we often find is most people don’t like giving up control of their principal. And we believe there are better ways.

2. Income Producing Investments

You can also use income-producing investments. This means bonds and dividend paying stocks.

Bonds

Bonds pay an interest payment. Unfortunately, bonds are not a great choice right now. You might be able to find good interest payments on some bonds, but you have to pay a high premium for them. This means when the bond matures, you’ll get less than what you paid to buy the bond. Newer bonds won’t have good interest rate payments. This limits your income stream. Bonds also offer little or no appreciation potential.

Dividend Paying Stocks

Dividend paying stocks make sense. Over time, dividends tend to increase. There is also potential to see your principal grow

Constructing a portfolio that can generate a 3% yield or higher can be a challenge. You want to buy good dividend payers. This means companies that reliably pay their dividend and increase their dividends.

You can do it, but you introduce other variables. There’s risk for concentrating too much in a particular stock. Dividend cuts can create problems. This isn’t a risk-free strategy.

The last thing to consider is most people don’t want to be 100% invested in stocks. So that can limit your income as well.

Systematic Withdrawals

The third way is to use systematic withdrawals. This is one of the better inventions by the mutual fund industry. Over time, you sell shares of your investments to create income. It’s a very simple process.

You don’t have to use mutual funds to do this either. It can be done with exchange traded funds or individual stocks. You sell shares to produce your income.

You can combine this with a dividend strategy too. If you own a company that doesn’t pay a dividend, you could sell shares to supplement the dividends you get.

Here is something to remember when you’re looking at producing income. Snow or rain, it’s all water. If the “snow” represents dividends and the rain is “capital appreciation”, it all benefits you. It doesn’t matter if your income is from dividends or from selling shares.

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3. Managing Taxes

You also want to think about your taxes. If you have many sources of retirement funds, you have that ability. Distributions from Roth IRAs, for example, are tax free. Income from a personal or joint account may be more tax friendly. Distributions from IRAs and pre tax 401k plans are taxed as ordinary income. Most of the time, 100% of those distributions are going to be taxable. When you have separate sources of savings, you can manage your tax liability to some degree.

Unfortunately, for many people, their only asset for retirement income is their 401k. This limits your ability to manage your tax bill.

It can help to talk to an advisor about your situation. They can help you with a strategy that makes sense for you.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Can Stocks Predict The Election Outcome?

Can Stocks Predict The Election Outcome?

Can stocks predict the election outcome? What about back-to-back bear markets? How big was the stock market drop in dollar terms?  We’ll cover these tidbits and more.

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A select few...

The stock market was down 34% earlier this year and it made a complete recovery. The recovery was led by a small handful of companies.

As of August 28, almost one-third of the stocks in the S&P 500 are still down at least 20% for the year.

That's a lot of money...

On February 19, the total value of the US stock market was $36.1 trillion. On March 23, at the bear market low, the US stock market was worth $23.4 trillion. $12.7 trillion evaporated into thin air over that timeframe. Most of that has come back, and we’re all glad for it.

can stocks predict election
Can stocks predict the election

Back-to-back bears?

We’re still dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic, and the economy isn’t back to full strength yet. There are some concerns that there will be some lingering effects. One of those concerns is a double-dip recession. The other is another significant drop in the stock market.

Over the last 75 years, the shortest time between the end of one bear market and the beginning of the next is two years and two months. The S&P 500 fell 22% during a bear market which ended on October 7, 1966. The next bear market, an 18 month long tumble of 36%, began on November 29, 1968.

It can happen quickly. Two years is the record. We may or may not see that record tested.

Can the Stock Market Predict The Election?

The S&P 500 was up 7.19% in August. It was the best August ever.

We found this interesting tidbit on the website MarketWatch. This is from Julian Emanuel of institutional investment management firm BTIG. “At first glance, August strength plays well into Donald Trump’s reelection. In the three months prior to November elections, positive S&P 500 returns have accompanied incumbent party presidential victories 85.7% of the time.”

“Going back to 1928, when stocks rose 5% or more in August, and the June to August return was in the top quartile, the market often struggled in September and October. When the S&P 500 was down from the end of August through the election, the incumbent party lost the White House on all six occasions.”

Could the stock market performance over the next couple of months predict the outcome of the election? It will be interesting to see if that comes true or not.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Can A Trust Protect Your Assets If You go to a Nursing Home?

Can a Trust Protect Your Assets if You Go to a Nursing Home?

Shirley asks, “Can my Mom use a trust to protect her assets if she has to go to a nursing home?”   This question deals with planning for Medicaid.  

Listen now: Can a Trust Protect Your Assets if You Go to a Nursing Home?

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Do you want to hear the full show?

The full episode is over 25 minutes long.  And we’ve found that not everyone wants to spend that much time listening to things.  But if you want to listen to the entire episode, it is below.

We answer:

  • What should I do with my old retirement plan? 
  • Can I use a trust to protect Mom’s assets if she goes to a nursing home?
  • Should I use my employer’s new Roth 401k option?
  • How do I use my savings to create retirement income?
  • Can I make the maximum contribution to both a Roth IRA and the Thrift savings plan?

Transcript: Can a Trust Protect Your Assets if You Go to a Nursing Home?

This question deals with planning for Medicaid. Medicaid is for people who have no financial resources. And to qualify, you have to spend what you have for your own benefit first. It’s basically welfare for healthcare.

Protecting assets

Oftentimes, people want to transfer money to a trust or give it away to protect those assets for their kids. They would rather their kids have it than a nursing home.

Here’s how this works, especially if you’re going to use a trust. The trust needs to be irrevocable, which means your mother is no longer going to own her assets. She’s no longer going to control her assets, and she can no longer benefit directly from the assets. This poses its own challenges.

The look back

The transfer also needs to be done at least five years in advance of applying for Medicaid. Most states have a 60-month look back. If you don’t wait for the 60 months, Medicaid will ask you to pay for your own care for a while.

Here’s an example. Your mother transfers $100,000 fewer than 60 months before she applies for Medicaid.  Medicaid is going to ask her to pay for that much of her own care. 

Medicaid says the monthly amount for her care is $9,000.  This is the offset amount. Medicaid is going to ask her to pay for 11 months of care ($100,000 divided by $9,000) before they pay for anything.

To make this work, you have to be thinking way ahead. Transfers need to be done at least five years before you apply for benefits.

Other considerations

In most cases, you want to look at carving off a portion of those assets. Your mother is still going to have to live and she still has needs. She will need her assets to provide some income. Restricting all her money is not a good idea.

She also has to be comfortable with the idea that she’s giving up control of the assets. That’s difficult for a lot of people.

Work with an expert

Medicaid planning is very complex, and very involved. There are attorneys who specialize in this and you’re going to want to get them involved. It’s not something you want to do on your own.

We would be happy to recommend some local experts to help you address your concerns.

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nursing home trust protect assets
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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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What Should I do With My Old Retirement Plan?

What should I do with my old retirement plan?

Today we answer a question from Adam.  He asks, “I changed jobs a couple of months ago.  What should I do with my old retirement plan?

We discuss:

  • Your options
  • The pro’s and con’s of each
  • The key factors in your decision
  • And what you should ask a financial advisor about a rollover

Listen now: What should I do with my old retirement plan?

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what should i do with my old retirement plan

Do you want to hear the full show?

The full episode is over 25 minutes long.  And we’ve found that not everyone wants to spend that much time listening to things.  But if you want to listen to the entire episode, it is below.

We answer:

  • What should I do with my old retirement plan?
  • Can I use a trust to protect Mom’s assets if she goes to a nursing home?
  • Should I use my employer’s new Roth 401k option.
  • How do I use my savings to create retirement income?
  • Can I make the maximum contribution to both a Roth IRA and the Thrift savings plan?

Transcript: What should I do with my old retirement plan?

If you have changed jobs and left a retirement plan behind, you’ll have four options.

  • You can leave it in your old employer’s plan.
  • You can potentially roll it over to your new employer’s plan.
  • You can roll it over to an IRA.
  • Or, you can take a distribution

Leave it in your former employer's plan.

Advantages

  1. Cost. Your former employer’s plan may be one of the lower cost options. If that’s the case, then it may make sense to leave it there.
  2. Familiarity. You’re also familiar and comfortable with how the plan works.

Disadvantages

  1. Adds Complexity. Leaving your money in the plan makes it harder for you to keep things organized.
  2. Limited Investment Choices. With any retirement plan, your investment choices can be limited. You don’t have as many options to invest your money. Most plans have enough options to help you achieve your goals.
  3. Lack of Help. It may be difficult to get the help you want when you need it. You’re stuck calling a call center.

There aren’t many advantages to leaving it where it is.

Roll it to your new employer's plan

If your new plan allows it, you can roll it over to your new employers plan. Some plans don’t allow this.  You’ll need to check to see if your current plan does.

Advantages

  1. Simplicity. This can help you keep things organized. And it will help you see how you’re making progress towards your goals. That’s the biggest advantage.

Disadvantages

  1. Cost: You need to look at the cost of the plan. If it’s more than what you would pay in an IRA or your former employers plan it may not make sense to roll it to your current plan.
what should i do with my old retirement plan
old retirement plan what should i do

Roll it over to an IRA

You can do this many ways. You can work with a financial advisor, a bank, or insurance company. You can also use someone like Vanguard, Charles Schwab or TD Ameritrade.

Advantages

  1. Control. You control every aspect of that IRA. You control the investment choices and the cost.
  2. Nearly Unlimited Investment Choices. There are very few restrictions for what you can own in an IRA.
  3. Access to the Money. Some retirement plans may restrict your access to the money. You’ll have complete access to your money in an IRA.

Disadvantages

We can’t think of any disadvantages to this.

Take a distribution

This is probably the worst option, unless you’re in a dire financial situation. A distribution means taxes and penalties when you withdraw the funds.

Key factors in your decision

Costs

There are costs for any of these choices. Some costs are hidden. These are the internal costs of investment choices. Some of those are very low, some of them may be a lot higher.

Every plan has mutual funds or exchange-traded products. Those have an internal expense structure. In some cases, you may incur record keeping costs.

Many employers pass record-keeping costs on to their plan participants. They have to disclose it to you and it will appear on your statement.

Some plans have management fees. These also have to be disclosed. These will also appear on your statement. An IRA may have management fees, especially if you work with a financial advisor.

There could be other costs, too. You might pay commissions. If you select an insurance contract, you will likely pay a commission. You may also run into things like surrender charges, and other expenses for things like annuity contracts.

Control

IRAs allow you to control your situation. Retirement plans are more limited in that regard. They have limited investment options and limited access to your money. IRAs give you complete access to your money and complete control over the investments.

Convenience and Simplicity

Money is complicated enough. The more complications you add, the harder it is to reach your financial goals. You want to have it someplace where you can keep an eye on things and monitor your progress.

old
what should i do with my old retirement plan

Financial advisors and rollovers

Financial advisors make their living from retirement plan rollovers— including us. There is going to be a cost to you to do this when you hire a financial advisor. It may be more or less than what you currently pay.

Conflicts of Interest

This cost creates a conflict of interest. When an advisor prompts you to complete the rollover, it doesn’t matter if they’re a fiduciary or not. Whether they charge a commission or management fee, it doesn’t matter. Any financial incentive for the advisor to help you roll over your balance creates a conflict of interest.

But, if you see the value to having someone help you and the value is worth what they charge, hire that advisor.

Ask Questions

You need to ask relevant questions. Know how your advisor is going to be paid for that rollover. Is it going to be a commission or is it going to be a management fee? Know if what you’re going to pay is a one time charge or if it is ongoing.

And you need to know what other costs you’re going to incur. What types of investments is that advisor going to use? Are there surrender charges? Are there other hidden fees?

Be prepared and understand how the relationship will work.  Make sure you are comfortable with every aspect of the person you hire. 

If you would like to talk to us, please click here to schedule a phone call.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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