Planning Income For Life: Using The Bucket Strategy in Retirement

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Constructing a portfolio this way may help you ride through a bear market in retirement.

The bucket approach may help you through different market cycles in retirement.

This investing strategy, credited to a Florida financial planner named Harold Evensky, has simple and complex variations. It assigns fixed-income and equity investments to different “buckets” with the goal of providing sufficient cash flow to retirees during different stages of their “second acts.” (1,2)

The simplest version involves just two buckets.

One holds the equivalent of 1-5 years of cash reserves (in deposit accounts and/or fixed-income investments), and the other holds everything else in the investment portfolio. When you need to fund your expenses, you turn to the cash and the fixed-income vehicles and leave equities untouched. Rebalancing your portfolio (that is, selling investments in an overweighted asset class) lets you increase the size of your cash bucket. (1,2)

Other versions of the bucket approach have longer time horizons.

In one variation designed to be used for at least 25 years, a cash reserve bucket is created to fund the first two years of retirement, its size approximating 10% of the portfolio; the cash comes from FDIC-insured sources or Treasuries. A second bucket, intended to generate somewhat greater income, is planned for the rest of the first decade of retirement; this bucket is filled with longer-duration, fixed-income investments and comprises about 35% of the portfolio. The third bucket (the other 55%) is designed for the years afterward and contains a sizable equities position; the goal here is to realize some growth and compounding for a decade, then tap into that bucket for income. (1,2)

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In glimpsing the details of the bucket approach, you can also see the big picture.

Suppose a bear market occurs just as you retire. Since your retirement income strategy pulls cash from deposit accounts and fixed-income investments first, your equity positions have time to rebound. You have a chance to avoid selling low (and selling off part of your retirement fund).

Is the bucket approach foolproof?

No, but no investing strategy is. In the worst-case scenario, you drain 100% of the cash bucket(s) and end up with an all-equities portfolio. That is hardly what you want in retirement. Bucket allocations must be carefully calculated, and periodic bucket rebalancing is also needed.

The bucket approach may have both financial and psychological merits.

Most retirees use the 4% rule (or something close) when withdrawing income: they take distributions from various accounts and asset classes, perhaps with little regard for tax efficiency. If Wall Street stumbles and their portfolios shrink, they may panic and make moves they will later regret – such as selling low, abandoning stocks, or even running toward alternative investments in desperation.

When you use a bucket approach, you first turn to cash and/or liquid securities for retirement income rather than equities. Psychologically, you know that if a bear market arrives early in your retirement, your equity holdings will have some time to recover. This knowledge is reassuring, and it may dissuade you from impulsive financial decisions.

Sources

  1. seattletimes.com/business/about-to-retire-heres-how-to-cope-with-stock-market-shocks/
  2. news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=839521
  3. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/adv/insights/guide-to-retirement

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Are we in for another round of high oil prices?

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Oil prices have a stealthy way of luring investors into the complacency of a trading range, before taking a dramatic turn on the cusp of a single geopolitical factor (often in the Middle East) or variety of coinciding factors.

Supply and demand

With any asset, it all comes back to the confluence of supply and demand that drives final pricing. The prior range of $45-55 was largely kept in check by the various supply and demand factors falling into balance. In normal conditions, demand is far more predictable than supply over the long-term, with steady growth being the norm in most nations as populations and industries grow, and the secular trend of emerging market demand growing at a faster rate than that of developed markets. Recessions and shifts to better energy efficiency can alter this pattern a bit, but growth remains the base case.

Supply remains the wildcard

We’ve been told we’re awash in domestic oil, thanks to new North American finds resulting from increasingly efficient extraction techniques, such as directional drilling, which is pulling more oil from nooks and crannies deeper in the ground (and ocean floor). Also, the advent and increased cost-effectiveness of shale oil production has allowed for the opening of large swaths of locked oil previously unusable. This potential volume has threatened global supply, traditionally managed by OPEC, and particularly the leader of the group, Saudi Arabia. The problem has stemmed from the Saudis and neighboring countries needing a certain price per barrel in order to maintain adequate incoming revenue to balance government budgets—these breakevens have generally been well over $75/barrel. In response, OPEC has implemented production cuts in order to artificially constrain supply and keep prices higher. In the past, this has been difficult, due to widespread ‘cheating’ (producing more than promised) by members, but in this case, with everyone needing more revenue, compliance seems to have improved. This last week’s pullout of the Iran nuclear deal by the U.S. and potential for re-imposed sanctions has created another problem for supply abroad (the Chinese tend to be heavier users of Iranian oil). Internal political tension in Venezuela, another large producer, has also threatened supplies.

U.S. infrastructure is an issue

Many of these issues appear manageable, however, one that has created problems for the safety valve of U.S. shale acting as the swing producer is infrastructure. While the oil is there, pipeline and rail capacity hasn’t kept up, due to a lack of upswing in capex spending in recent years. Oil companies and pipeline operators will typically tend to push more significant infrastructure investments if prices are expected to stay high and they have a better chance of recouping their initial fixed costs, so this tends to be a multi-year effort rather than a short-term remedy.

Crude could trade in the range of $60-70 over the next several years

Price movements, especially those due to fickle geopolitics, can be impossible to predict, but it appears consensus from a variety of sources is for crude to trade in the range of $60-70 over the next several years. Not surprisingly, estimates for future prices tend to anchor themselves around current prices. This is a bit higher than the expected range in the $50’s not that long ago, but certainly not exorbitant.

Source

  1. LSA Portfolio Analytics

The Major 2018 Federal Tax Changes

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Comparing the old rules with the new.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made dramatic changes to federal tax law.

It is worth reviewing some of these changes as 2019 approaches and households and businesses refine their income tax strategies.

Income tax brackets have changed.

The old 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% brackets have been restructured to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. These new percentages are slated to apply through 2025. Here are the thresholds for these brackets in 2018.(1,2)

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The standard deduction has nearly doubled.

This compensates for the disappearance of the personal exemption, and it may reduce a taxpayer’s incentive to itemize. The new standard deductions, per filing status:

  • Single filer: $12,000 (instead of $6,500)
  • Married couples filing separately: $12,000 (instead of $6,500)
  • Head of household: $18,000 (instead of $9,350)
  • Married couples filing jointly & surviving spouses: $24,000 (instead of $13,000)

The additional standard deduction remains in place.

Single filers who are blind, disabled, or aged 65 or older can claim an additional standard deduction of $1,600 this year. Married joint filers are allowed to claim additional standard deductions of $1,300 each for a total additional standard deduction of $2,600 for 2018. (2,3)

The state and local tax (SALT) deduction now has a $10,000 ceiling.

If you live in a state that levies no income tax, or a state with high income tax, this is not a good development. You can now only deduct up to $10,000 of some combination of a) state and local property taxes or b) state and local income taxes or sales taxes per year. Taxes paid or accumulated as a result of business or trade activity are exempt from the $10,000 limit. Incidentally, the SALT deduction limit is just $5,000 for married taxpayers filing separately. (1,4)

The estate tax exemption is twice what it was.

Very few households will pay any death taxes during 2018-25. This year, the estate tax threshold is $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples; these amounts will be indexed for inflation. The top death tax rate stays at 40%. (2)

More taxpayers may find themselves exempt from Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

The Alternative Minimum Tax was never intended to apply to the middle class – but because it went decades without inflation adjustments, it sometimes did. Thanks to the tax reforms, the AMT exemption amounts are now permanently subject to inflation indexing.

AMT exemption amounts have risen considerably in 2018:

  • Single filer or head of household: $70,300 (was $54,300 in 2017)
  • Married couples filing separately: $54,700 (was $42,250 in 2017)
  • Married couples filing jointly & surviving spouses: $109,400 (was $84,500 in 2017)

These increases are certainly sizable, yet they pale in proportion to the increase in the phase-out thresholds. They are now at $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for joint filers as opposed to respective, prior thresholds of $120,700 and $160,900. (2)

The Child Tax Credit is now $2,000.

This year, as much as $1,400 of it is refundable. Phase-out thresholds for the credit have risen substantially. They are now set at the following modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) levels:

  • Single filer or head of household: $200,000 (was $75,000 in 2017)
  • Married couples filing separately: $400,000 (was $110,000 in 2017) (2)

Some itemized deductions are history.

The list of disappeared deductions is long and includes the following tax breaks:

  • Home equity loan interest deduction
  • Moving expenses deduction
  • Casualty and theft losses deduction (for most taxpayers)
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses deduction
  • Subsidized employee parking and transit deduction
  • Tax preparation fees deduction
  • Investment fees and expenses deduction
  • IRA trustee fees (if paid separately)
  • Convenience fees for debit and credit card use for federal tax payments
  • Home office deduction
  • Unreimbursed travel and mileage deduction

Under the conditions set by the reforms, many of these deductions could be absent through 2025. (5,6)

Many small businesses have the ability to deduct 20% of their earnings.

Some fine print accompanies this change. The basic benefit is that business owners whose firms are LLCs, partnerships, S corporations, or sole proprietorships can now deduct 20% of qualified business income*, promoting reduced tax liability. (Trusts, estates, and cooperatives are also eligible for the 20% pass-through deduction.) (4,7)

Not every pass-through business entity will qualify for this tax break in full, though.

Doctors, lawyers, consultants, and owners of other types of professional services businesses meeting the definition of a specified service business* may make enough to enter the phase-out range for the deduction; it starts above $157,500 for single filers and above $315,000 for joint filers. Above these business income thresholds, the deduction for a business other than a specified service business* is capped at 50% of total wages paid or at 25% of total wages paid, plus 2.5% of the cost of tangible depreciable property, whichever amount is larger. (4,7)

* See H.R. 1 – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Part II—Deduction for Qualified Business Income of Pass-Thru Entities

We now have a 21% flat tax for corporations.

Last year, the corporate tax rate was marginally structured with a maximum rate of 35%. While corporations with taxable income of $75,000 or less looked at no more than a 25% marginal rate, more profitable corporations faced a rate of at least 34%. The new 21% flat rate aligns U.S. corporate taxation with the corporate tax treatment in numerous other countries. Only corporations with annual profits of less than $50,000 will see their taxes go up this year, as their rate will move north from 15% to 21%. (2,4)

The Section 179 deduction and the bonus depreciation allowance have doubled.

Business owners who want to deduct the whole cost of an asset in its first year of use will appreciate the new $1 million cap on the Section 179 deduction. In addition, the phaseout threshold rises by $500,000 this year to $2.5 million. The first-year “bonus depreciation deduction” is now set at 100% with a 5-year limit, so a company in 2018 can now write off 100% of qualified property costs through 2022 rather than through a longer period. Please note that bonus depreciation now applies for used equipment as well as new equipment. (1,7)

Like-kind exchanges are now restricted to real property.

Before 2018, 1031 exchanges of capital equipment, patents, domain names, private income contracts, ships, planes, and other miscellaneous forms of personal property were permitted under the Internal Revenue Code. Now, only like-kind exchanges of real property are permitted. (7)

This may be the final year for the individual health insurance requirement.

The Affordable Care Act instituted tax penalties for individual taxpayers who went without health coverage. As a condition of the 2018 tax reforms, no taxpayer will be penalized for a lack of health insurance next year. Adults who do not have qualifying health coverage will face an unchanged I.R.S. individual penalty of $695 this year. (1,8)

Sources

  1. cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12388205/2018-tax-reform-law-new-tax-brackets-credits-and-deductions
  2. fool.com/taxes/2017/12/30/your-complete-guide-to-the-2018-tax-changes.aspx
  3. cnbc.com/2017/12/22/the-gop-tax-overhaul-kept-this-1300-tax-break-for-seniors.html
  4. investopedia.com/taxes/how-gop-tax-bill-affects-you/
  5. tinyurl.com/ycqrqwy7/
  6. forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/12/20/what-your-itemized-deductions-on-schedule-a-will-look-like-after-tax-reform/ 
  7. americanagriculturist.com/farm-policy/10-agricultural-improvements-new-tax-reform-bill
  8. irs.gov/newsroom/in-2018-some-tax-benefits-increase-slightly-due-to-inflation-adjustments-others-unchanged

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.