What’s the Difference Between an IRA and a 401(k) for Retirement Savings?

piggy-2889044_1920

Comparing their features, merits, and demerits.

How do you save for retirement?

Two options probably come to mind right away: the IRA and the 401(k). Both offer you relatively easy ways to build a retirement fund. Here is a look at the features, merits, and demerits of each account, starting with what they have in common.

SIMILARITIES:

1. Taxes are deferred on money held within IRAs and 401(k)s.

That opens the door for tax-free compounding of those invested dollars – a major plus for any retirement saver. (1)

2. IRAs and 401(k)s also offer you another big tax break.

It varies depending on whether the account is traditional or Roth in nature. When you have a traditional IRA or 401(k), your account contributions are tax deductible, but when you eventually withdraw the money for retirement, it will be taxed as regular income. When you have a Roth IRA or 401(k), your account contributions are not tax deductible, but if you follow Internal Revenue Service rules, your withdrawals from the account in retirement are tax free. (1)

3. Generally, the I.R.S. penalizes withdrawals from these accounts before age 59½.

Distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s prior to that age usually trigger a 10% federal tax penalty, on top of income tax on the withdrawn amount. Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s allow you to withdraw a sum equivalent to your account contributions at any time without taxes or penalties, but early distributions of the account earnings are taxable and may also be hit with the 10% early withdrawal penalty. (1)

4. You must make annual withdrawals from 401(k)s and traditional IRAs after age 70½.

Annual withdrawals from a Roth IRA are not required during the owner’s lifetime, only after his or her death. Even Roth 401(k)s require annual withdrawals after age 70½. (2)

DIFFERENCES:

1.Annual contribution limits for IRAs and 401(k)s differ greatly.

You may direct up to $18,500 into a 401(k) in 2018; $24,500, if you are 50 or older. In contrast, the maximum 2018 IRA contribution is $5,500; $6,500, if you are 50 or older. (1)

2. Your employer may provide you with matching 401(k) contributions.

This is free money coming your way. The match is usually partial, but certainly nothing to disregard – it might be a portion of the dollars you contribute up to 6% of your annual salary, for example. Do these employer contributions count toward your personal yearly 401(k) contribution limit? No, they do not. Contribute enough to get the match if your company offers you one.1

3. An IRA permits a wide variety of investments, in contrast to a 401(k).

The typical 401(k) offers only about 20 investment options, and you have no control over what investments are chosen. With an IRA, you have a vast range of potential investment choices. (1,3)

4. You can contribute to a 401(k) no matter how much you earn.

Your income may limit your eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA; at certain income levels, you may be prohibited from contributing the full amount, or any amount. (1)

5. If you leave your job, you cannot take your 401(k) with you.

It stays in the hands of the retirement plan administrator that your employer has selected. The money remains invested, but you may have less control over it than you once did. You do have choices: you can withdraw the money from the old 401(k), which will likely result in a tax penalty; you can leave it where it is; you can possibly transfer it to a 401(k) at your new job; or, you can roll it over into an IRA. (4,5)

6. You cannot control 401(k) fees.

Some 401(k)s have high annual account and administrative fees that effectively eat into their annual investment returns. The plan administrator sets such costs. The annual fees on your IRA may not nearly be so expensive. (1)

All this said, contributing to an IRA or a 401(k) is an excellent idea.

In fact, many pre-retirees contribute to both 401(k)s and IRAs at once. Today, investing in these accounts seems all but necessary to pursue retirement savings and income goals.

JP-GTR-2018-18

▲The power of tax-deferred compounding

Deferring the tax on investment earnings, such as dividends, interest or capital gains, may help accumulate more after-tax wealth over time than earning the same return in a taxable account. This is known as tax-deferred compounding. This chart shows an initial $100,000 after-tax investment in either a taxable or tax-deferred account that earns a 6% return (assumed to be subject to ordinary income taxes). Assuming an income tax rate of 24%, the value of the tax-deferred account (net of taxes owed) after 30 years accumulates over $79,000 more than if the investment return had been taxed 24% each year. (6)

Sources:

  1. nerdwallet.com/article/ira-vs-401k-retirement-accounts
  2. irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-required-minimum-distributions
  3. tinyurl.com/y77cjtfz
  4. finance.zacks.com/tax-penalty-moving-401k-ira-3585.html
  5. cnbc.com/2018/04/26/what-to-do-with-your-401k-when-you-change-jobs.html
  6. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/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 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.

How Working Past 65 Can Help Improve a Women’s Retirement Prospects

people-3370833_1920

Why striving to stay in the workforce a little longer may make financial sense.

The median retirement age for an American woman is 62.

The Federal Reserve says so in its most recent Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (2017). Sixty-two, of course, is the age when seniors first become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. This factoid seems to convey a message: a fair amount of American women are retiring and claiming Social Security as soon as they can. (1)

What if more women worked into their mid-sixties?

Could that benefit them, financially? While health issues and caregiving demands sometimes force women to retire early, it appears many women are willing to stay on the job longer. Fifty-three percent of the women surveyed in a new Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies poll on retirement said that they planned to work past age 65. (2)

Staying in the workforce longer may improve a woman’s retirement prospects.

If that seems paradoxical, consider the following positives that could result from working past 65:

1. More years at work leaves fewer years of retirement to fund.

Many women are worried about whether they have saved enough for the future. Two or three more years of income from work means two or three years of not having to draw down retirement savings.

2. Retirement accounts have additional time to grow and compound.

Tax-deferred compounding is one of the greatest components of wealth building. The longer a tax-deferred retirement account has existed, the more compounding counts.

Suppose a woman directs $500 a month into such a tax-favored account for decades, with the investments returning 7% a year. For simplicity’s sake, we will say that she starts with an initial contribution of $1,000 at age 25. Thirty-seven years later, she is 62 years old, and that retirement account contains $974,278. (3)

If she lets it grow and compound for just one more year, she is looking at $1,048,445. Two more years? $1,127,837. If she retires at age 65 after 40 years of contributions and compounded annual growth, the account will contain $1,212,785. By waiting just three years longer, she leaves work with a retirement account that is 24.4% larger than it was when she was 62. (3)

A longer career also offers a chance to improve Social Security benefit calculations.

Social Security figures retirement benefits according to a formula. The prime factor in that formula is a worker’s average indexed monthly earnings, or AIME. AIME is calculated based on that worker’s 35 highest-earning years. But what if a woman stays in the workforce for less than 35 years? (4)

Some women interrupt their careers to raise children or care for family members or relatives.

This is certainly work, but it does not factor into the AIME calculation. If a woman’s work record shows fewer than 35 years of taxable income, years without taxable income are counted as zeros. So, if a woman has only earned taxable income in 29 years of her life, six zero-income years are included in the AIME calculation, thereby dragging down the AIME. By staying at the office longer, a woman can replace one or more of those zeros with one or more years of taxable income. (4)

In addition, waiting to claim Social Security benefits after age 62 also results in larger monthly Social Security payments.

A woman’s monthly Social Security benefit will grow by approximately 8% for each year she delays filing for her own retirement benefits. This applies until age 70. (4)

Working longer might help a woman address major retirement concerns.

It is an option worth considering, and its potential financial benefits are worth exploring.

JP-GTR-2018-6

▲ Older Americans in the workforce

The long-term trend is that more people are working at older ages, as seen in the top chart. Even so, with the large increase in the age 65+ population shown in the grey shading, there will be more people than ever stopping work in the coming years. The bottom chart shows the reasons for working in retirement, or after they typically have retired from their primary career. It indicates that the definition of retirement is changing, as more people are working due to positive reasons such as wanting to stay active and socially engaged more so than for financial reasons.

Sources

  1. dqydj.com/average-retirement-age-in-the-united-states/
  2. thestreet.com/retirement/18-facts-about-womens-retirement-14558073
  3. investor.gov/additional-resources/free-financial-planning-tools/compound-interest-calculator
  4. fool.com/retirement/social-securitys-aime-what-is-it.aspx
  5. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/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. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. 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.

12 Tax Scams and Schemes To Watch Out For This Tax Season (And Throughout The Year)

hands-545394_1920

Year after year, certain taxpayers resort to schemes in an effort to put one over on the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.). These cons occur year-round, not just during tax season. In response to their frequency, the I.R.S. has listed the 12 biggest offenses – scams that you should recognize, schemes that warrant penalties and/or punishment.

1. Phishing

If you get an unsolicited email claiming to be from the I.R.S., it is a scam. The I.R.S. never reaches out via email, regardless of the situation. If such an email lands in your inbox, forward it to phishing@irs.gov. You should also be careful with sending personal information, including payroll or other financial information, via an email or website. (1,2)

2. Phone scams

Each year, criminals call taxpayers and allege that said taxpayers owe money to the I.R.S. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says that over the last five years, 12,000 victims have been identified, resulting in a cumulative loss of more than $63 million. Visual tricks can lend authenticity to the ruse: the caller ID may show a toll-free number. The caller may mention a phony I.R.S. employee badge number. New spins are constantly emerging, including threats of arrest, and even deportation. (1,2)

3. Identity theft

The I.R.S. warns that identity theft is a constant concern, but not just online. Thieves can steal your mail or rifle through your trash. While the I.R.S. has made headway in terms of identifying such scams when related to tax returns, and plays an active role in identifying lawbreakers, the best defense that remains is caution when your identity and information are concerned. (1,2)

4. Return preparer fraud

Almost 60% of American taxpayers use a professional tax preparer. Unfortunately, among the many honest professionals, there are also some con artists out there who aim to rip off personal information and grab phantom refunds, so be careful when making a selection. (1,2)

5. Fake charities

Some taxpayers claim that they are gathering funds for hurricane victims, an overseas relief effort, an outreach ministry, and so on. Be on the lookout for organizations that are using phony names to appear as legitimate charities. A specious charity may ask you for cash donations and/or your Social Security Number and banking information before offering a receipt. (1,2)

6. Inflated refund claims

In this scenario, the scammers do prepare and file 1040s, but they charge big fees up front or claim an exorbitant portion of your refund. The I.R.S. specifically warns against signing a blank return as well as preparers who charge based on the amount of your tax refund. (1,2)

7. Excessive claims for business credits

In their findings, the I.R.S. specifically notes abuses of the fuel tax credit and research credit. If you or your tax preparer claim these credits without meeting the correct requirements, you could be in for a nasty penalty. (1,2)

8. Falsely padding deductions on returns

Some taxpayers exaggerate or falsify deductions and expenses in pursuit of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and other federal tax perks. Resist the temptation to pad the numbers and avoid working with scammers who pressure you to do the same. (1,2)

9. Falsifying income to claim credits

Some credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, are reported by scammers claiming false income. You are responsible for what appears on your return, so a boosted income can lead to big penalties, interest, and back taxes. (1,2)

10. Frivolous tax arguments

There are seminar speakers and books claiming that federal taxes are illegal and unconstitutional and that Americans only have an implied obligation to pay them. These and other arguments crop up occasionally when people owe back taxes, and at present, they carry little weight in the courts and before the I.R.S. There’s also a $5,000 penalty for filing a frivolous tax return, so these fantasies are best ignored. (1,2)

11. Abusive tax shelters

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and that’s especially true of complicated tax avoidance schemes, which attempt to hide assets through a web of pass-through companies. The I.R.S. suggests that a second opinion from another financial professional might help you avoid making a big mistake. (1,2)

12. Offshore tax avoidance

Not all taxpayers adequately report offshore income, and if you don’t, you are a lawbreaker, according to the I.R.S. You could be prosecuted or contend with fines and penalties. (1,2)

Watch out for these ploys – ultimately, you are the first defense against a scam that could cause you to run afoul of tax law.

Sources

  1. irs.gov/newsroom/irs-wraps-up-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2018-encourages-taxpayers-to-remain-vigilant
  2. forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/03/22/irs-warns-on-dirty-dozen-tax-scams/

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.

4 Important Questions You’ll Need to Answer Before Claiming Social Security

img_0546 2

Whether you want to leave work at 62, 67, or 70, claiming the retirement benefits you are entitled to by federal law is no casual decision. You will want to consider a few key factors first.

1. How long do you think you will live?

If you have a feeling you will live into your nineties, for example, it may be better to claim later. If you start receiving Social Security benefits at or after Full Retirement Age (which varies from age 66-67 for those born in 1943 or later), your monthly benefit will be larger than if you had claimed at 62. If you file for benefits at FRA or later, chances are you probably a) worked into your mid-sixties, b) are in fairly good health, c) have sizable retirement savings. (1)

If you sense you might not live into your eighties or you really need retirement income, then claiming at or close to 62 might make more sense. If you have an average lifespan, you will, theoretically, receive the average amount of lifetime benefits regardless of when you claim them; the choice comes down to more lifetime payments that are smaller or fewer lifetime payments that are larger. For the record, Social Security’s actuaries project the average 65-year-old man living 84.3 years and the average 65-year-old woman living 86.7 years. (2)

2. Will you keep working?

You might not want to work too much, for earning too much income can result in your Social Security being withheld or taxed.

Prior to Full Retirement Age, your benefits may be lessened if your income tops certain limits. In 2018, if you are 62-65 and receive Social Security, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $2 that you earn above $17,040. If you receive Social Security and turn 66 later this year, then $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $3 that you earn above $45,360. (3)

Social Security income may also be taxed above the program’s “combined income” threshold. (“Combined income” = adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of Social Security benefits.) Single filers who have combined incomes from $25,000-34,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits, and that also applies to joint filers with combined incomes of $32,000-44,000. Single filers with combined incomes above $34,000 and joint filers whose combined incomes surpass $44,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits. (3)

3. When does your spouse want to file?

Timing does matter, especially for two-income couples. If the lower-earning spouse collects Social Security benefits first, and then the higher-earning spouse collects them later, that may result in greater lifetime benefits for the household. (4)

4. How much in benefits might be coming your way?

Visit ssa.gov to find out, and keep in mind that Social Security calculates your monthly benefit using a formula based on your 35 highest-earning years. If you have worked for less than 35 years, Social Security fills in the “blank years” with zeros. If you have, say, just 33 years of work experience, working another couple of years might translate to slightly higher Social Security income. (1)

Your claiming decision may be one of the major financial decisions of your life. Your choices should be evaluated years in advance, with insight from the financial professional who has helped you plan for retirement.

jp-gtr-2018-10

▲ Maximizing Social Security benefits

The age at which one claims Social Security greatly affects the amount of benefit received. Key claiming ages are 62, full retirement age (FRA is currently 66 and 4 months for today’s 62-year-olds) and 70, as shown in the row of ages in the middle of the slide. The top three graphs show the three most common ages an individual is likely to claim and the monthly benefit he or she would receive at those ages. Claiming at the latest age (70) provides the highest monthly amount but delays receipt of the benefit for 8 years. Claiming at Full Retirement Age, 66 and 4 months, or 62 years old provides lesser amounts at earlier ages. The grey shading between the bar charts represents the ages at which waiting until a later claim age results in greater cumulative benefits than the earlier age. This is called the breakeven age. The breakeven age between taking benefits at age 62 and FRA is age 76 and between FRA and 70 is 80. Not shown is the breakeven between 62 and 70, which is 79 (78 and 6 months). Along the bottom of the page, the percentages show the probability that a man, woman or one member of a married couple currently age 62 will reach the specified ages. Comparing these percentages against the breakeven ages will help a beneficiary make an informed decision about when to claim Social Security if maximizing the cumulative benefit received is a primary goal. Note that while the benefits shown are for a high-income earner who maxes out their Social Security taxes each year (income of $128,700 in 2018), the breakeven ages would hold true for those at other income levels.

Sources

  1. fool.com/investing/2018/07/07/4-frequently-asked-social-security-questions.aspx
  2. ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html
  3. blackrock.com/investing/literature/investor-education/social-security-retirement-benefits-quick-reference-one-pager-va-us.pdf
  4. thebalance.com/social-security-for-married-couples-2389042
  5. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/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. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. 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.