Retirement


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We are now halfway through 2009. If you do not max-out your 401(k), 403(b) or other employer-sponsored retirement plans with the maximum contribution this halfway point in the year is good time to increase your contribution percentage to get you further towards that goal. Slowly increasing this by 1 or-3% of your pay one or two times a year will ease the decrease in take home pay so that you can easily adjust. This prevents abandoning increased contributions in the future.

Remember those that reach their retirement savings goals have a plan or a process to get there. If you are hesitant, then I suggest looking at the facts. Here is a great 401(k) online contribution calculator.  This should be utilized so you understand what the actual amount that will be taken out of your take home pay. Since 401(k) contributions are taken out of your pay before income tax is calculated, then you lower the amount of income on which you will be taxed. Fewer taxes will be taken out. The end result is that the extra 1% contribution, will decrease your take home pay by less than 1%. Look at it as your contribution is “on sale” just like your favorite brand of jeans.

Other times to increase your contribution until you are reaching the maximum include:

  • January 1
  • Your birthday
  • Date your raise becomes effective

Be sure to check with your employer-sponsored plan to see if you can enroll in an automatic increase program that will increase your contribution percentage for you. Life is busy and many of us will not remember to increase that percentage. These options automate the process of increasing your retirement savings for you! Send me a quick email at barbarakingnh@gmail.com if you have any questions.

The news is filled with celebrity passings this last week. Ed McMahon lived a long and good life. The other three Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays had not reached conventional “old age”.  This demonstrates the importance of estate planning before a health crisis hits or something sudden happens. By estate planning I mean a short list of items:

  • Do you have a valid, updated will and/or trust for your estate that expresses your wishes? (Moving states, divorce, inheritance are reasons to update.)
  • Do you have sufficient life insurance for your family to continue your current lifestyle? (new baby or life change may call for more insurance)
  • Have you protected your estate financially with Long Term Care Insurance?

Without estate planning you are setting your family up for:

  • Leaving your family without the financial resources necessary to carry on without you.
  • Longer time to settle your estate.
  • More expense in settling estate and less money for your family.
  • Family conflict if your wishes were not in a will or trust. This destroys the family left behind.

Move estate planning to the top of your to-do list so you can live without regret. Also check-in with your parents and siblings to make sure they have taken care of the three questions above. Families are complex and if another member of your family hasn’t taken care of their affairs you may end up dealing with the aftermath.

Yes, it is ok to look. As the end of the second financial quarter hits Wall Street it is time to see where things are at in your portfolio.  I am frequently asked “Should I even look at my investments, 401k, IRA, 529 savings plan or brokerage account?” In general, my advice has been if you don’t need it tomorrow, don’t obsess and look all the time. Instead take action where you can. This may be cutting back spending, changing investments to adjust for your new risk tolerance or saving more to makeup the gap in your account balances.  Here are my Top 10 Reasons to Sneak a Peak.

10. Admit it, you look everyday so why would today be any different?

9. Your mom told you not to look.

8. Finally you’ve made the appointment with a financial advisor and need to know where your 401(k) and IRAs are to prepare.

7. You can’t move forward with your financial plan unless you know where you are today.

6. How else will you know what to complain or brag about at the next BBQ? (Up or down, everyone is talking about the stock market.)

5. It may be time to rebalance your investment portfolio.

4. Good excuse to open that bottle of tequila or wine that you’ve been eyeing to get through the pain.

3. If your risk tolerance has changed because of the market turmoil your retirement investments need to be adjusted accordingly.

2. Relieve stress by printing out your 401(k) or IRA statements and tying them to a bottlerocket on the 4th.

1. You want to retire, it’s time for a new gameplan. Sneak a peak and start today!

Always wanted a Roth IRA, but your income exceeds the limits? New way available soon. Income limits for converting IRAs to Roth IRAs are being removed in 2010. You have to pay the taxes now, but then it grows tax free. Why convert  in 2010?

  • Portfolio is down, means taxes you owe will be down when the rules are lifted Jan. 1.
  • Those that convert in the first year can spread the taxes out over two years. This is a one-time only offer for the first year of this rule change.
  • If you believe taxes will go up, this is how you hedge your nest egg. Growth and withdrawals are tax-free in Roth IRAs (for both you and your heirs).
  • No Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) once you hit 70 1/2, makes this an excellent weatlh transfer tool.

I look at this as a rare gift from the government. You have to pay the taxes now, but you would pay taxes upon withdrawal. This provides you with more tax strategy options in retirement.

Great article in Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition about these changes. Will definitely be topic of future posts as we approach 2010. Start talking to your accountant now!

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204612504574193480955034164.html

Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. Let’s consider why organizations eliminated or reduced 401(k) matching contributions.

A poor economic climate reduced revenues, which led to a reduction in expenses. To your company the 401(k) match is an expense. As companies learn to run leaner it will be difficult to bring back an expense. Until employers are competing for employees again, I do not believe this will be an area of focus for most organizations.

I truly believe that companies will have all intended to bring back the 401(k) match. In reality, my prediction is many will bring it back when the economy has full recovered, but it will be smaller than before. While the match may seem small, how your company deals with employee retirement plans has a huge impact on your overall financial plan.

Here is how one Fortune 50 company has evolved it’s employee retirement options over the last decade. Imagine that 10 years ago your employer had a defined benefit pension plan when you joined. You knew then it was a great retirement benefit. Then they switched to a cash balance plan with a full 6% match on the 401(k). You are disappointed, but the full 6% match is one of the best out there, so you are still feeling pretty good. Tough times this year and the company has gone to a variable match up to 4%, dependent on company performance. Bad year, you get 0%. The challenge a number of people within 15 years of retirement face is that the pension they thought they would have is gone and if you knew that 10 years ago you might have saved differently.

You could be in a place where retirement savings need to be ramped up to hit your goals. Action Item: Sit and figure out how the changes in your employer sponsored retirement plans impact your financial plan and retirement goals. Make savings adjustments now so you get there faster.

New rule moving forward – Save more and expect less from your company.

Advisory Services offered through Axiom Advisors, LLC. A registered Investment Advisor Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Broker/Dealer member FINRA/SIPC Axiom Advisors, LLC and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated

Your 401k match is gone. Now What?
 
Did you receive a company wide email lately that went something like this:
 
In these tough economic we are looking to remain as efficient and lean an organization as possible, without elimination of additional positions. The company’s 401(k) matching contribution will be suspended until business improves…
 
As an employee what are you going to say? Of course you’ll be thankful to have your job vs. 401(k)match.
 
It is no secret companies are cutting expenses drastically to stay open and keep employees. The 401(k) match is a big target. The wave of reductions and eliminations in matching contributions started as a domino effect. Small companies it has happened more quickly. Once one large company took a swipe at the matching contribution, it was easier for other’s to follow. Shareholders like the message that everyone in the company is making a sacrifice in order to save talented employees and reduce expenses.
 
While this may seem like a minor change, it should be addressed as part of your financial plan. Questions to ask yourself:
  • Do you need your 401(k) to be your automatic savings mechanism? (Are you a disciplined saver or would you spend it?)
  • If your putting less than $6,000 into your 401(k) is it your best option?
  • What is your tax benefit? Do you need the income tax savings?
  • How close are you to reaching retirement/financial independence?
 First, if you are not a disciplined saver keep the 401(k) so you keep up the automatic saving. To slowly increasing your savings put a reminder on your calendar to increase your contribution 1% on your birthday. (Stop reading now if you are not a good saver.)
 
If you are putting away less than $6,000 and don’t see this amount increasing much, then a regular IRA may be a better option for several reasons.
  • More investment options. Most 401(k) programs have a set number of funds to which you are limited. An IRA significantly expands your pool of available investments and mutual funds. This provides better access to great money managers, potentially giving you a significant advantage over your 401(k).
  • IRA contributors have 15 1/2 months to make a contribution for the calendar year. For example in 2009, you can make contributions to an IRA from January 1, 2009 – April 15, 2010.
  • You will have the same income tax benefit in your IRA as your 401(k) if you contribute less than $6,000, as your contribution is not taxable income. (Your withdrawals will be taxable.)
Let’s not forget about the Roth IRA. If you are not a fan of taxes and believe that when you retire either your tax bracket will be higher and/or in general taxes will be higher this may be another option. The Roth IRA is paid with after-tax dollars today and all withdrawals are tax free, as you will not be taxed on the growth of the account upon withdrawal.
 
First check if you qualify for a Roth IRA account in 2009.
 
Married combined modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must be below $166,000. This phases out between $166,000 and $176,000. $176,000 or more and you are ineligible.
 
Individual MAGI must be below $105,000. This phases out between $105,000 and $120,000. More than $120,000 is ineligible.
 
If your eligible for the Roth IRA you have a few options.
  • Save in your 401(k) or IRA to receive a tax benefit today and fully fund a Roth IRA account for $5,000 (50+ $6,000) for tax free withdrawals later. Win today and in the future with taxes.
  • If you only save $5,000 or less you can decide to save taxes today via your 401(k) or IRA, or pay the taxes today and have not tax worries when it comes time for withdrawing in retirement.
 
This is a lot to think about. You must take the time to understanding how your 401(k) match being gone can impact your savings mechanisms for retirement and your overall financial plan. One small email from the big boss can change a lot.
 
Advisory Services offered through Axiom Advisors, LLC. A registered Investment Advisor Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Broker/Dealer member FINRA/SIPC Axiom Advisors, LLC and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated
 

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