Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k: A Deep Dive

Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k: A Deep Dive

Pre-tax 401k or Roth 401k, which is better? This is a question we received from a listener. We dig into what goes behind your decision and nerd out the math. 

Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k: A Deep Dive

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The Question: Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k: Which is Better?

We received a question from Alicia. She writes, “I’m a 30-year-old single filer starting a new job. I will be making approximately $140,000 per year, including a $20,000 per year variable bonus. This puts me in the 24% marginal tax bracket. I need to complete 401k options. Which account type do you think will be most beneficial for me in the long run?”

What Goes Into Your Decision?

Here are the big factors that impact your decision:

Retirement Income

Most people use their 401k to create retirement income. Distributions from pre-tax contributions are 100% taxable. This means any of the growth and the contributions that you made, are taxed as ordinary income. Roth contributions are not taxed, and the growth on those Roth contributions is not taxed.

Required Minimum Distributions

At age 72, you must take a minimum amount from your pre-tax 401k contributions each year. (This also includes your employer match.) Even if you do not need the income, you still must take them or face severe penalties.

The Roth 401k does not have required minimum distributions. Nothing forces you to take a certain amount each year. You simply take the amount you need for living expenses.

Hidden Tax Costs

Social Security

If you are using a pre-tax 401k, it will impact the taxation of your Social Security benefits. Once you reach a certain income level, 85% of your Social Security benefits get taxed. When you use the Roth 401k, those distributions do not count towards those income limits. The income from your Roth 401(k) will not increase the taxes on your Social Security benefits.

Medicare

Medicare Part B premiums are subject to Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAA). Distributions from your pre-tax 401k can make your out-of-pocket Part B premiums higher. Income from a Roth account will not raise the cost of your Medicare Part B premiums.

Estate Planning

Alicia’s heirs will have to withdraw funds from her pre-tax 401k over 10 years. They will pay income taxes on the full amount they inherit. If she leaves behind a Roth 401k, they will also have to withdraw funds from the account over 10 years. But, they will not have to pay taxes on those distributions.

Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k: Math

Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k

Current Tax Benefits

Here are the income tax effects of the pre-tax and Roth 401k contributions.

Pre-Tax 401k or Roth 401k

She will save $208,974 in income taxes by using the pre-tax 401k over 35 years of working. This is a significant savings.

Projecting The Accumulation Amount

Over a 35-year working career, a 10% salary deferral projects to total contributions of $696,000. The growth of those deferrals over the same timeframe is significant. Using a 7% average annual return, we estimate her account will grow to $2.4 million.

If she uses the Roth 401k, every penny is tax free. If she uses the pre-tax option, it is all taxable.

Generating Income

What happens when she starts taking income from retirement? We assume she will take $100,000 gross income with an effective tax rate of 20%. In the initial stages of her retirement, she has $80,000 of net income. If she uses a pre-tax 401k, she pays $20,000 per year in total taxes.

At age 72 required minimum distributions begin. She must withdraw money from the account whether she needs it for living expenses or not. The percentage you take out increases each year, too.

If she lives to be age 90, she will pay over $760,000 of total income tax. This is a lot more than what she would have saved over the course of her working years.

Here is how the Roth 401k changes things. She takes $80,000 per year for the first few years. This is the net same net income. We projected the same net distributions from the Roth account. There are zero taxes paid over that timeframe.

Impact on Accumulation Values

This also can impact the accumulation value. To get the same net income, you must withdraw less from the Roth 401k. The balance has a better ability to grow. The difference at age 90 between the Roth 401k and Pre-Tax 401k in our example is $1.5 million.

Changing the Math—Investing the Tax Savings

What is Alicia going to do with the tax savings? Will she be disciplined and save it in something like a backdoor Roth IRA? Or will she spend it on her living expenses. Investing her tax savings can change the math.

If Alicia was to invest her tax savings, she’s going to have nearly $600,000 more for retirement. Using the “backdoor Roth” means the future income will be tax free. Because she is using the pre-tax 401k, she will have to pay taxes on the income from this portion of her assets.

Retirement Income

If she takes the same net income as the other example, this is what happens. She uses the Roth account to generate income in the first six years. This means she has no tax liability for the income.

At age 72, required minimum distributions from the pre-tax account enter the picture. This means that she must start taking a large sum of money from the pre-tax 401k. Over the course of her retirement, we project she will pay over $788,000 in total income taxes.

This uses current tax rates. If tax rates increase, her tax bill will be much higher.

Accumulation Values

How does it impact the long-term accumulation values? We projected the Roth 401k to grow to about $4.5 Million. Using the pre-tax 401k and backdoor Roth IRA, we estimate an additional $500,000 more at age 90.

Accumulation Values

If she’s disciplined enough to save the tax savings, you can argue for using the pre-tax 401k and backdoor Roth IRA. Otherwise, the Roth 401k works better over the long run.

The effect of compounding over decades is huge. And the tax-free amount that compounds in those accounts is a significant benefit.

 

If you have questions about how this could affect you, talk to a Certified Financial Planner Pro.

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About the Author

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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Why Not Use Dividend Stocks For Retirement Income?

Why Not Use Dividend Stocks for Retirement Income?

Today we answer a viewer question about using dividend stocks to create retirement income.

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Our question from Ronald. He writes:

I am looking to retire soon and trying to determine the best way to generate retirement income with interest rates so low. Traditionally, you could have done this with treasuries or CDs. Why wouldn’t buying dividend stocks paying 4% to 5% makes sense? In addition to the dividends, you have the opportunity for appreciation.

The Challenge of Low Interest Rates

Ron makes a couple of good points. Interest rates are ridiculously low right now. Traditional methods of using bonds or CD’s to generate income are a challenge. Ten-year Treasuries are yielding about 1%. Thirty-year Treasuries yield about 1.8%. CDs, unless you lock those up for a few years, are going to be well below 1%. Using these interest-bearing investments to create retirement income is very difficult.

Using Dividend Stocks For Retirement Income

Why can’t you use a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks to create that income? You can, and there are some benefits. The dividend income is more than you would earn on a lot of fixed-income investments. You also have the opportunity for capital appreciation. Many of these companies will increase their dividends over time. And there are some tax advantages.

The Challenges

1. Volatility

But there are significant challenges to doing this. The first one is volatility. Companies who pay good dividends will decrease in value. You are going to see periods where your account drops 20%-30%. You must be able to withstand those periods, and not sell something at an inopportune time.

2. Portfolio Construction

The next challenge you have is how you build your portfolio. You want to make sure you have diversification across different industries. You want to make sure you are picking good companies.

Oil companies provide a great example of why you should diversify. When oil prices went down last year, many oil companies saw their share prices decrease. Many of them also decreased their dividend. Investing too much in one industry could impact your ability to maintain your income.

Stock selection is also important. Look for companies that have good earnings as well as a decent payout ratio. (The payout ratio is how much of the earnings are being paid out as dividends.) If a company is paying more in dividends than they earn, it could be a problem down the road.

You also want to look at their dividend history. Has the company been able to maintain their dividend over time? Have they been able to increase their dividend over time? Or have they had periods where they cut the dividend? When you depend on that income, the last thing you want to see is your income cut.

You want to be cautious of owning too few companies. When you own too many shares of one company, bad news could hurt your account.

3. What if You Need Extra Income?

You may find you need extra income. This can also be a challenge. You can sell positions that have appreciated in value. But when you sell those shares, your future dividend income is going to decrease. It can create a problem if you do need extra income. One of the ways to address that challenge is to have a bigger emergency fund on hand. When you need extra income, use your emergency fund and not disrupt your regular income flow.

Tax Advantages for Using Dividend Stocks to Create Retirement Income

This can be a tax-advantaged way to generate income in a non-IRA account. Qualified dividends receive preferential tax treatment. For most people, qualified dividends get taxed at 15%. It could be lower, depending on your total income. Other types of income are taxed at higher rates.

Qualified dividends come from common stocks of US companies and some international companies. When you build a portfolio of common stocks, you are going to be in a more tax-advantaged position.

Some higher-yielding investments pay dividends that are not qualified. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s), Master Limited Partnerships, and Business Development Companies pay good dividends. But those payments are not qualified. You can hold those, but you will not see the same tax benefits.

If you can handle all the challenges, using dividend stocks to create retirement income can be a good strategy. But it may not be easy.

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About the Author

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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Save More or Pay Off Your Mortgage?

Save More or Pay Off Your Mortgage?

As you get closer to retirement, should you save more or pay off your mortgage?  This was a question we received from a listener.  Let’s look at the key factors of your decision.

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Today we have a question from Laura. She writes, “My husband and I will be 52 years old this year. Should we focus on saving more for retirement or paying off our mortgage?”

Why Pay Off Your Mortgage Before You Retire?

Your mortgage payments are typically one of your biggest expenses. Not having that expense frees up money for other things or reduces the stress on your savings. We like to see people not have a mortgage when they go into retirement.

An Example:

Laura and her husband need $2,000 per month from savings to cover their expenses—including their mortgage. Using the 4% rule as a basic guideline, they would need about $600,000 in savings.

save more or pay off mortgage

Their mortgage payment is $800 per month. If they pay off the note before retirement, they would only need about $1,200 per month from savings. Using the 4% rule, this means they only need about $360,000 in savings. It is a significant difference.

Save More Pay Off Mortgage

What Factors In Your Decision?

If you are trying to determine whether you should pay more on your mortgage or save more, ask these questions:

If you keep your mortgage payment the same, will your mortgage be paid off by the time you retire?

If the answer is yes, consider adding extra funds to your retirement savings. You may want to think about using a Roth IRA, Roth 401k, or other types of after-tax savings? If the answer is no, you may want to dig a little deeper.

Will paying more on your loan eliminate your mortgage by the time you retire?

If the answer is yes, consider paying extra on your note.

How much have you already saved and how much are you saving towards retirement?

If you have been a good saver and have a good foundation, it’s easier to favor paying extra on your loan. But if you have not been a good saver, you may want to place a higher priority on your savings.

Talk to a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional

There are a lot of moving parts to this and it is a great thing to discuss with a financial planner. They can help you build a strategy that makes sense for you and helps you achieve the best possible outcome.

 


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About the Author

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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Is Bitcoin a Good Investment?

Is Bitcoin a Good Investment?

Is Bitcoin a good investment? It is the new frontier in the investment world.  Its gains over the past six years will catch your eye.  Today we will answer a listener question about the digital currency and its characteristics.

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Is bitcoin a good investment

Our question is from Chris. He writes, “A guy at work keeps talking about Bitcoin. I don’t understand it. What is it and should I consider investing in it?”

Bitcoin, along with a few others, is a digital currency. It is not backed by a country or a central bank. An encrypted public ledger verifies the ownership of the coins. This ledger uses blockchain technology and it is very difficult to change. There are people who use computers to verify the transactions using digital cryptographic keys.

Bitcoin and Gold

In many ways, Bitcoin is similar to an investment in gold.

  • You can buy in various currencies, just like gold.
  • Its price fluctuates with changes in demand, just like gold.
  • And it is used as a store of value, just like gold.

But it is also different. Most businesses do not accept gold as a form of payment. You can use Bitcoin and other digital currencies to buy and sell goods and services. You can use it on PayPal. Some online retailers will also accept it for payment.

Growing Popularity

Bitcoin has become very popular to investors for a couple of reasons. The first is its meteoric gains over the last several years. It started trading in mid-September 2014. The price then was about $460. Last week, it closed at over $18,800. The average annual return of the Bitcoin has been about 82% per year.

The other appealing aspect of Bitcoin is that it is not a government-controlled currency.

Caution: Proceed with Care

There are many concerns when investing in Bitcoin.

Volatility

Bitcoin began trading in September 2014. Since then, we have seen

  • one price drop of more than 80%
  • another price drop of nearly 60%
  • three more drops of more than 30%
  • and three more drops of at least 20%.

This equates to eight bear markets in six years. It can be a very wild ride—more so than stocks and gold!

Taxes

There are tax consequences to sell your coins. Those sales get taxed as capital gains and losses. You need to be aware of your holding periods to know whether it’s short term or long term.

Are Purchases Considered Redemptions?

If you are using your Bitcoins to buy something, is that considered a redemption? This is a vague area. In some cases, using your digital currency as payment is considered a redemption. This could create a taxable event you did not expect.

Fees

There are some transaction fees to buy and sell Bitcoin. You want to be aware of those.

Non-traditional Businesses

You cannot buy cryptocurrency through most traditional financial institutions. Major brokerage firms and banks won’t hold or execute the trades.

The “Wild West” of Finance

Many governments fear criminals use Bitcoin to launder money. The United States asks if you have a cryptocurrency account on your tax return. They ask to help them track potential criminal activity.

Security of your account is also a concern. It’s a new frontier with very little regulation. There are many concerns about the security of your digital key and avoiding hackers.

Your digital key is very important. Recently, a CEO from a cryptocurrency exchange died with his passwords. He had over $150 million tied up in cryptocurrency. His family cannot access those accounts without the digital keys.

How do You Buy It? (My Own Experience)

The first thing you need to have is a digital wallet. There are many well-known providers. I used Coinbase. I opened an account in less than 10 minutes. I had a little difficulty linking it to one of the banks I deal with, but I was able to fix the issue.

Coinbase charges a minimum transaction fee of $2.99. The costs are then about 1.5% of the amount you buy or sell.

Overall, the process was very easy.

If you want to use a brokerage firm, try Betterment or Robinhood.

Is Bitcoin a Good Investment?

It has been terrific if (and that is a big “IF“) you can withstand the volatility. But nobody knows how it will do in the future. Right now, it is near its all-time high. You could be buying high, hoping it goes higher. You may want to wait for a correction—it tends to correct frequently. And there are tax consequences when you sell your coins.

You need to be careful and make sure you have your strong passwords written down somewhere. If something happens to you, your loved ones can access that account. 

Blockchain

Blockchain technology has a lot of potential uses in many different industries.

  • you could use it to verify your title to real estate
  • governments could use it for online voting security
  • Stock exchanges can use it to verify ownership of stock certificates. This could speed up trade settlements
  • companies like FedEx and UPS can use it to verify their deliveries
  • the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards is already using blockchain to authenticate credentials

Bitcoin is a new frontier in the investing world. If you would like to learn more or get an objective opinion about how cryptocurrency could fit into your plan, check with a financial planner.

Talk to a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional

 


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About the Author

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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Offered Early Retirement? Start Here.

Offered Early Retirement? Start Here

A listener was offered early retirement.  There is a lot to consider before making your decision to retire—even if you weren’t offered an incentive.  If you’re thinking about retiring soon, and don’t know where to begin, start here.

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This week we have a question from David. He writes, “I’ll be 62 in the spring. My employer has offered early retirement. How do I know if I can make it work?

This is an excellent question. Let’s cover some of the basics.

Know Your Numbers!

This means your income and your expenses.

Your Savings

How much have you saved? And how much income can your nest egg provide? This is an important thing to determine. The more you withdraw from your nest egg, the greater the risk of running out of money during your lifetime.

You want to get as much as you can without putting too much stress on that account.

Pension

Are you going to get a pension? If so, how much will it be? Should you consider a lump sum payout if it is available? This is an important decision to make. For some people taking the monthly payments makes the most sense. For others, taking a lump sum is a better choice. You will want to work through the numbers and determine what is right for you.

Social Security

You need to make a decision about your Social Security. You are eligible to start your Social Security at 62. But that comes with big discounts. Can you wait to take your Social Security until age 65 or your normal retirement age? Waiting to start your benefits reduces the discount. This can result in thousands of dollars of additional benefits over your lifetime. But it does not always make sense to wait. Sometimes it makes sense to start it at 62 if you need to. Please look at this decision very carefully.

Early Retirement Incentive Payment

If you are getting an incentive to retire, how will that impact your cash flow? Does the payment mean you will not have to take income from your 401k? Does it provide enough income so you can delay your Social Security?

If you can use that money to pay your expenses, you can reduce stress on your savings or improve your Social Security benefits.

Expenses

Knowing your expenses is very important. Look at what you are spending now and how it will change when you retire. Certain things in your budget are going away. You are not going to be driving to work every day. You won’t be buying clothes for work and you may spend less on meals, too.

Some expenses might increase. You may play golf more often. You may have other hobbies that cost money. That means you might be spending more on some things.

If things are tight, is there anything that you can cut from your budget? Are there lower priority expenses that you can drop to help make things work for a few years.

Spending is a major component of your long-term financial success. In fact, overspending can be one of the biggest reasons people run out of money.

Debt

Do you have a lot of debt? Loan payments can be a significant expense, especially car payments and mortgage payments. Can you can use your early incentive payment to eliminate some of those debts? That could have a big impact on your cash flow. You need to work through the numbers to see if this is worth considering.

You may want to consider refinancing your mortgage. This isn’t an ideal strategy. The ideal situation would be to be debt free when you retire. Refinancing your mortgage could lower your monthly payment and help your budget.

Early Retirement Offer Start Here
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The Big Issue: Health Insurance

Because you are only 62, one of the biggest things that you will face is buying health insurance. Recently, we have heard quotes for coverage between $2,000 and $3,500 a month. This is a very significant expense. You can expect the premiums to increase each year until you are eligible for Medicare.

Most of those policies are going to have big deductibles, and the coverage may not be ideal. You may also have to change doctors, and you may not be able to go to your preferred hospital.

The health insurance marketplace in our area is very difficult right now. But, if you can figure this out, you have a real chance to make early retirement work.

Your Spouse

Is your spouse going to retire or continue working? If they are going to keep working, how will they adjust to you being home all day when they have to get up and go to work? Maybe they are retiring too, and you both will have to adjust to both of you being home all day.

Practical and Objective Advice

You want to make the right decision for your family.  Consider talking to a fiduciary financial advisor to help you work through the numbers.
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About the Author

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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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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We answer:

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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About the Author

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 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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Should You Convert to a Roth IRA?

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About the Author

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?

what should i do with my old retirement plan

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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: 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.

what should i do with my old retirement plan

 

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About the Author

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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Ask a CFP® Pro: Do I Need Medicare Supplement Insurance?

Ask a CFP® Pro: Do I Need Medicare Supplement Insurance?

Today on our show, we offer a simple, low-cost estate planning tip to help you avoid probate.  We talk about the current bear market, and share some expert predictions.  And we answer three questions.  The big one: do I need Medicare supplement insurance?

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Medicare Supplement Insurance

Listen Now: Do I Need Medicare Supplement Insurance?

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Episode Transcript: Do I Need Medicare Supplement Insurance?

Estate Planning Tip: Transfer On Death Provisions

One of the things we’re going to talk about today is a basic estate planning tip. Oftentimes people ask us what happens to their accounts when they die. A lot of times, they’re trying to avoid the probate process. The probate process can be somewhat inefficient. So let’s talk today about it. Let’s talk about what happens when an account owner dies? What happens to their account.

Standard Individual Accounts

If a person has an individual account.  What happens when they die? we have to open an estate account. In order to do that, we will need:

  • A tax ID number for the Estate (normally the attorney applies for it)
  • A copy of the owner’s death certificate,
  • And a court-certified letter of testamentary. Sometime this is called a court appointment, which names the executor of the estate.

When we do that the original account is frozen. We can’t do any transactions in that account, and we can’t send out any money.

Once we get all the paperwork together, the assets transfer into the estate account. 

How long does it take to transfer an estate account to the beneficiaries?

That’s completely up to the executor. We need a letter signed by them to distribute those assets from the estate account. It can be pretty quick. They can also leave it there for an extended period of time. It’s completely up to them and how quickly they want to get that settled.

Some take as few as 30 days. Some take six months or more.

Transfer on Death Provisions

One thing you can do to improve the efficiency of this process is to use a transfer on death registration. What do we need to do to create a TOD account? And, what happens when we have a TOD provision on the account? What happens when the original owner passes away?

The form that the original owner would need to sign is actually called a non-probate TOD agreement. That form names beneficiaries for that individual account. And it specifies how they want the assets in that individual account to be divided.

We need

  • the name of the beneficiary,
  • the social security number and date of birth.
  • We also need the percentage of the assets that will go to each of them.

When the owner passes, the account is frozen. Individual accounts are opened for each beneficiary. We need a copy of the death certificate and a form called a transfer on death affidavit. Each beneficiary signs this form. This allows them to accept the assets from the decedent’s account.

Once we get the forms, the assets can transfer in two to three days.

It’s a lot more efficient than having an estate account. Plus, you don’t have to go through a lot of the probate stuff. It’s not going to completely avoid probate, there still may be some loose ends. But, it’s going to be a whole lot more efficient.

Once those accounts are open, each beneficiary has the option to do whatever they wish. They can liquidate it. They can continue the relationship with our firm. Or they can transfer it to another firm. It’s a much faster and more efficient way to get assets from the original owner to their heirs.

Joint Accounts

Can you add TOD provisions to a joint account?

On a joint account, when the first owner dies all the assets immediately go to the surviving owner. When the second owner dies, you would do it the same as if it was an individual account,

Typically, it goes to the surviving spouse (most of the time). In those cases, the TOD provision on a joint account comes into play if there’s a simultaneous death. Once the account goes to the survivor, they have to do the TOD paperwork all over again.

IRA’s, Retirement Plans, and Insurance Contracts

These provisions don’t apply to IRAs or retirement plans. IRAs and retirement plans have their own beneficiary designations. They are non-probate assets. It also doesn’t apply to insurance contracts like annuities or life insurance. Those also are non-probate assets that have beneficiary designations. It only applies to individual and joint accounts.

Still need a will…

This does not replace the need to have a will or a trust. You should involve your estate planning attorney (if you have one). They may have other ideas that are better suited for you.

This is a simple and easy way for you to do some basic estate planning. And it costs nothing.

Note:

The account owner must sign the TOD application. Powers of attorney cannot sign this form. Even if the power of attorney document says that the agent can name beneficiaries, we require a signature from the account owner.

Let's Talk Stocks...

Medicare Supplement insurance - Bear market

It’s been crazy.

Every time I speak to someone, they say that they can’t believe that the stock market keeps going up like it has. Here’s where we are in the current bear market.

We had a 35% drop in the first quarter. Since then, we’ve seen stock prices increase by about 44%. Year to date, prices are at a breakeven point. We started the year with the S&P 500 at 3,230. On price basis, the S&P 500 is breakeven for the year.

Prices have to go up another 5.5% percent to set a new high. The high point is 3,386. We still have a little bit to go to completely erase the bear.

Given the amount of bad news we’ve had, the increase doesn’t make sense. There is still a lot of potential bad news out there too. It doesn’t seem possible that we’ve erased that big of a drop this fast.

The virus isn’t going away either. Many states are trying to avoid another shutdown. I know we have mask requirements now in Ohio and West Virginia. I saw where Kentucky closed bars and limited restaurant capacity to 25%. States are trying to avoid shutting down, but there are some potential ugly things out there. You can make the case for why this market is going to correct again, but you can also find some rays of sunshine.

Expert Predictions

Medicare Supplement Insurance

It’s interesting to see what some of the experts think. Bloomberg released a recent survey of their equity market experts. They asked 17 analysts for their forecast for the year end value of the S&P 500. The average of the 17 predictions for the year end value is 3100. That’s about a 4% drop from current levels. On average, they think that stocks are a bit ahead of themselves and we’re due for a reset.

Five of these people have predicted that the S&P index will fall below 3000, which would be a 7%% drop from current levels. The lowest prediction is 2,750. That is a significant drop. The highest prediction was 3,500, which would be a new all-time high. That would be about a 7% increase from where we are right now.

How good are these predictions? We’ve talked about this in the past. Crystal balls aren’t always in working order. We really don’t know how accurate these forecasts will be.

If someone were to press me on it, I predict 3,150. I also believe we’ve gone a little bit too far, and we’ll see a small pullback.

Insurance Medicare Supplement
Medicare Supplement Insurance Do I Need

Question 1: Do I Need to Keep My Medicare Supplement Insurance?

If a person has Medicare A and B, plus prescription insurance, what is the benefit of Medicare supplementinsurance? Ours runs around $500 a month and there is no way we come close to that in paid claim benefits. I’m not a healthcare guru. But it seems to me there could be better ways to invest my $6,000 a year.

What does Medicare Cover?

To answer this question, we need to dig into what Medicare covers. Traditional Medicare has two parts. Part A is hospitalization. This covers hospital stays, skilled nursing home visits and hospice care.

Part B covers medical expenses. This includes doctor visits, surgeries and procedures. It also covers preventative care, durable medical equipment, clinical trials, and ambulance services.

Part A

Medicare doesn’t pay 100% of your expenses. Part A, has a $1,408 deductible for your first 60 days in a hospital. That is per benefit period.

A new benefit period starts if you haven’t been in the hospital for 60 days. Here’s an example. If you went into the hospital today, and you were there five days, you’d pay $1408. If you go back to the hospital later this year, say November. You would start a new benefit period. That means you have to pay another $1,408 deductible.

Days 61 through 90 cost you $352 per day, this is your out of pocket cost. And if you’re in a hospital more than 90 days, days 91 plus can cost you up to $704 per day. That’s your risk on the hospitalization side.

Part B

Part B is your medical expenses and is your doctor visits. So you have a $198 deductible. And then Medicare pays 80% of the Medicare approved amount. You pay the other 20% and any of the excess non-approved amounts.

Let’s say you have a joint replacement, and your total bill is $50,000. You pay the first $200. And then you pay 20% of the remaining bill. That’s $10,000! That’s your risk exposure in this case.

What do Medicare Supplements cover?

Medicare supplement insurance policies cover these out of pocket expenses. Most of them cover the Part A deductible. And they cover the Part A coinsurance—which are the costs beyond day 60. They also pay the Part B coinsurance.

Some Medicare supplement insurance policies will pay the Part B deductible. In our experience, you usually pay more in premium than the Part B deductible. We usually don’t recommend policies that cover the Part B deductible. Many will also cover the Part B excess charges. If a doctor bills $1,000 for a procedure and Medicare only approves $800, many of those plans will cover that extra $200. They cover some other things as well.

Is it worth it?

Is $6,000 per year worth it? When you’re healthy, and you don’t have claims, it doesn’t seem like it. But remember, you may not be in good health in the future, and you could have a claim at any time. Your risk exposure to not have that coverage is significant.

In many respects, this is like your homeowner’s policy or your car insurance. You pay premiums for years. If you never have a claim, you start to wonder, “Why do I do this?” But one car accident and you have a $3,500 repair. Suddenly, you’re glad you have that car insurance.

Medicare Supplement Insurance is the same thing. You could use that $6,000 a year to make money. But what would the net cost be if something major happened? And as you get older, you have an increased possibility of that happening.

You have to make that decision on your own. But in many respects, we find that the Medicare Supplement insurance premiums can be worth it.

Insurance Medicare Supplement
Supplement Medicare

Question 2: What is Your Opinion of Gold and Silver as an Investment Option?

With all the advertising promoting gold and silver as a safer investment. What is your opinion of that, and what is your advice to someone weighing that as an option?

Safer? Really?

Safer is an interesting way to put that. I’m not sure I would call gold and silver “safer.”

Gold and silver are fear assets. When things around us are going poorly, precious metals tend to do a lot better.

Right now, we are in a pandemic. We have a situation where the government is spending a lot of money to help people. They’re printing the money. And there’s some questions about whether they can sustain this long-term.

When a country does this, they’re trying to create some type of inflation. If we have hyperinflation—like Venezuela, they’re the most recent high profile case. In Venezuela, inflation has been some 3,000%. They’ve printed all this money. A loaf of bread costs $200. The price of gold also goes much higher.

When you look at what’s happening in America right now, some believe gold might be a really good asset. We keep pumping out trillions of dollars of stimulus money. The Fed continues to buy assets, and the money’s coming out of thin air. There’s a good reason to think gold could go much higher.

Consider all the alternatives

You have to consider a couple of other things as well. What other investments can you use? Stocks are one choice. we’re big believers in stocks. Equities have a lot of volatility. As we’ve talked about, we could see the stock market fall more in the coming months. Gold and silver may do a better job of holding their value over the next few months.

Bonds don’t look attractive right now. Yields are extremely low. And the only way bonds can generate any significant gains is if yields go even lower. Gold and silver may do a better job of holding their value than bonds right now.

Current prices matter

The other thing you need to consider are current prices. Gold recently set all-time highs. So you’re buying an asset at its highest price—ever. You are buying now and hoping it goes higher. Much of the gain from Gold has already happened.

If the US economy continues to rebound, gold prices could fall. Silver isn’t near an all time high. It has some room to run, but there are similar concerns.

Volatility in Gold and Silver

Medicare Supplement Insurance Gold Silver Stocks

Remember, gold and silver have a lot of volatility. All three investments have times when they perform extremely well. And, all three have times when they deliver gut wrenching drops.

Gold and silver can do well when stocks don’t. But the opposite can also be true. You have to be careful when you’re buying any type of asset when prices are at all-time highs. A lot of the gains have already happened.

There was an interesting stat from that chart. From 2007 through June of this year, stocks and gold have a very similar average annual return. I would have thought that stocks would have performed better. But the recent events had a significant impact on these numbers.

Question 3: Is the Media Moving the Market?

Is the market today being influenced by the media, especially the liberal left agenda?

This is an interesting question. When you’re in an election year, politics tends to dominate the headlines.

Both sides are trying to make themselves look good, and make the other side look bad. So both sides are pushing their agenda. It depends on which channel you turn to on a given night. as to which one you’ll hear.

You can argue the market has improved because the conservative agenda has shined. You can also make a case that the market has improved because of the liberal agenda. I’m not sure either argument is valid.

It depends on your perspective. You can create a reason for the moves in your own mind. You might believe the stock market is pricing in a Joe Biden victory in November. You can argue the stock market has benefited more from policies put forth by republicans.

When stocks go up, there are more buyers than sellers. When stocks go down, there are more sellers than buyers.

A lot of what we’ve seen to this point from the government has had a lot of bipartisan support. A lot of it has been driven by actions of the Federal Reserve—who is supposed to be politically neutral. You can’t really say that one party’s agenda is responsible for what is happening in the market.

Constant themes in the stock market…

As we get closer to the election, politics will play a bigger role in the day to day volatility. But you have to remember something with stocks: companies still find ways to make money. When we’re investing in stocks, we are buying those future profits. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge, Businesses will find a way to make money and grow their earnings.

The other thing to remember is volatility.  It’s always part of the stock market, no matter who’s in charge. We will always see stock prices have wild swings up and down.

In the big picture, the reasons why the market does what it does really don’t matter that much. Over time, stocks go up. It’s what they do. Politics don’t matter as much as some people want to believe.

What’s moving the market?

So my answer to the question. Nobody’s agenda is affecting the stock market. Stocks have gone up for these three reasons:

  • Anticipation of economic recovery
  • Optimism for a vaccine coming to market quickly
  • Earnings news hasn’t been as bad as anticipated

That’s why the stock market has gone up. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with right vs left or conservative vs liberal.

Medciare Insurance Supplement
Medicare Supplement
Medicare Supplement Insurance

 

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What Do You Think? Add your comments, or ask your questions below

Financial Planning

About the Author

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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