Understanding What Long-Term Care Is and How Much It Might Cost You

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Addressing the potential threat of long-term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 69% of people over age 65 can expect to need extended care services at some point in their lives. So, understanding the various types of long-term care services – and what those services may cost – is critical as you consider your retirement approach.1

What Is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care is not a single activity. It refers to a variety of medical and non-medical services needed by those who have a chronic illness or disability that is most commonly associated with aging.

Long-term care can include everything from assistance with activities of daily living – help dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, or even driving to the store – to more intensive therapeutic and medical care requiring the services of skilled medical personnel.

Long-term care may be provided at home, at a community center, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home. And long-term care is not exclusively for the elderly; it is possible to need long-term care at any age.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?

Long-term care costs vary state by state and region by region. The national average for care in a skilled care facility (semi-private in a nursing home) is $85,775 a year. The national average for care in an assisted living center is $45,000 a year. Home health aides cost a median $18,200 per year, but that rate may increase when a licensed nurse is required.

Individuals who would rather not burden their family and friends have two main options for covering the cost of long-term care: they can choose to self-insure or they can purchase long-term care insurance.

Many self-insure by default – simply because they haven’t made other arrangements. Those who self-insure may depend on personal savings and investments to fund any long-term care needs. The other approach is to consider purchasing long-term care insurance, which can cover all levels of care, from skilled care to custodial care to in-home assistance.

When it comes to addressing your long-term care needs, many look to select a strategy that may help them protect assets, preserve dignity, and maintain independence. If those concepts are important to you, consider your approach for long-term care.

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▲Long-term care planning
At age 65, the lifetime likelihood of needing at least some care is nearly 70%. Most often, care will be at home although it may progress to other settings. Duration of care needs vary widely, with about 5 in 10 men and 4 in 10 women requiring significant care for zero – 90 days and 1 in 10 men and nearly 2 in 10 women needing significant care for 5 years or more. When planning for long-term care consider multiple solutions that may be utilized including family assistance, income, savings, home equity, life insurance for a surviving spouse, and insurance options that range from traditional long-term care insurance to combination products. (2)

Sources

  1. fool.com/retirement/2018/09/02/5-long-term-care-stats-that-will-blow-you-away.aspx
  2. 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 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.

What to Do When a Family Member Dies: A Financial Checklist for Difficult Times

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The passing of a loved one irrevocably alters family life. After a death, there is so much to attend to; it is better to do it sooner rather than later. Here, then, is a list of what commonly needs to be looked after.

Request copies of the death certificate.

Depending on where you live, you have two or three places to turn to for this document. You can phone, email, or personally visit the office of the county recorder (or county clerk, as the term may be). Alternately, you can contact your state’s vital records department (sometimes called the state registrar or department of health); it may take a little longer to get the document this way. In addition, some large and mid-sized cities maintain their own registrars of births and deaths.

Call advisors, executors, & business partners as applicable.

The deceased’s lawyer and CPA should be quickly notified along with any business partners and the executor of his or her estate. You must have a say in the decision-making. The tasks of protecting family assets, carrying out your loved one’s bequests, and determining the next steps for a business will follow.

Call your loved one’s current or former employer(s).

Notify them, even if your loved one left the workforce years ago, as retirement savings or pension payments may be involved. As the conversation develops, it is perfectly appropriate to ask about pertinent financial matters – say, 401(k) or 403(b) savings that will be inherited by a beneficiary or what will happen to unused vacation time and/or unpaid bonuses.

Funds amassed in a qualified retirement plan sponsored by an employer (or an IRA, for that matter) commonly go to the primary beneficiary who has been named on the most recent beneficiary form filled out by the account owner. That sounds simple enough – but certain rules and regulations can make things complicated. (1)

As a general rule, if the late 401(k) or 403(b) account owner was your spouse, then you are the presumed beneficiary of the 401(k) or 403(b) assets. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), workplace retirement plans are directed to abide by this guideline. If someone else has been named as the primary beneficiary of the account, with your consent, then the assets will go to that person. (2)

If the late 401(k) or 403(b) account owner was single, the assets in the account will go to whomever is designated as the primary beneficiary. The beneficiary designation will override other estate planning documents. (3)

To arrange and confirm the transfer or distribution of such assets, the beneficiary form must be found. If you can’t locate it, the employer and/or the financial firm overseeing the retirement plan should provide access to a copy. The financial firm should ask you to supply:

  • A certified copy of the account owner’s death certificate
  • A notarized affidavit of domicile (a document certifying his or her place of residence at the time of death)

If you have been widowed, call Social Security.

If you already receive benefits, you may now be eligible for greater benefits. (4)

If your spouse received Social Security and you did not, you may now qualify for survivor benefits – and you should let Social Security know as soon as possible, as these benefits may be paid out relative to your application date rather than the date of your loved one’s death. (4)

If this is the case, you may apply for survivor benefits by phone or by visiting a Social Security office. You will need to have some extensive paperwork on hand, specifically:

  • Proof of the death (death certificate, funeral home documentation)
  • Your late spouse’s Social Security number
  • His/her most recent W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return
  • Your own Social Security number & birth certificate
  • Social Security numbers & birth certificates of any dependent children
  • Your marriage certificate, if you have been widowed
  • The name of your bank & the number of your bank account, for direct deposit purposes

If you have reached full retirement age, you will likely get 100% of the basic benefit amount that your late spouse was receiving. If you are in your sixties, but haven’t yet reached full retirement age, you may receive anywhere from 71% to 99% of that amount. If you have a child younger than 16, you will get 75% of your late spouse’s basic benefit amount and so will your child. (4,5)

Contact the insurance company.

Assuming your loved one had some form of life insurance, contact the policyholder services department of that insurer and confirm the steps for claiming the death benefit. A claim form will have to be filled out, signed, and presented to the insurance company (one for each named adult beneficiary of the policy), and a certified copy of the death certificate must also be sent. If the primary beneficiary of a policy is deceased, the contingent beneficiary can usually claim the death benefit with a claim form, plus the death certificates of the policy owner and the primary beneficiary. Some insurers simply have you submit a form reporting the death of the policyholder first, and then follow up by mailing you forms and instructions for the next steps. (6)

Death benefits are generally paid out within 30 to 60 days of a claim. Presumably, they will be paid out in a lump sum. Some insurers will let a beneficiary receive a payout as a stream of monthly income or in installments. (7)

It isn’t unusual for people to own multiple life insurance policies. The AARP, AAA, and myriad banks and non-profits market group life coverage to members/customers, and mortgage lenders and credit issuers offer forms of life insurance for borrowers. Tracking all this coverage down is the problem, and canceled checks and bank records don’t always provide ready clues. Not surprisingly, websites have appeared that will help you search for life insurance policies, and you may be able to locate policies with the help of your state insurance commissioner’s office. (8)

If the family member was a veteran, call the VA.

Your family may be entitled to funeral and burial benefits. In addition, the Veterans Administration offers Death Pensions and Aid & Attendance and Housebound Pensions to lower-income widows of deceased wartime veterans and their unmarried children. (9)

These pensions are needs based. To be eligible for the Death Pension, a widow or child’s “countable” income must fall below a certain yearly limit set by Congress. (A “child” as old as 22 may be eligible for the Death Pension.) The deceased veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and they must have served 90 or more days of active duty, at least 1 day of it during wartime. If they entered active duty after September 7, 1980, then in most cases, 24 months or more of active duty service are necessary for a Death Pension to eventually be paid. The Aid & Attendance and Housebound Pensions provide some recurring income to pay for licensed home health aide or homemaker services. (9)

It is wise to contact a Veterans Services Officer before you file such a pension claim, as they can be a big help during the process. You can find a VSO through your state veterans’ affairs department or through the VFW, the Order of the Purple Heart, the American Legion, or the non-profit National Veterans Foundation. (9)

A final individual income tax return may be required for the deceased.

You or your tax professional should consult I.R.S. Publication 17 for more detail. Also, search for “Topic 356 – Decedents” on the I.R.S. website. Deductible expenses paid by the deceased before death can generally be claimed as deductions on such a return. (10)

If you have been widowed, consider the future.

In the coming days or weeks, you should arrange a meeting to review your retirement planning strategy, and your will, beneficiary designations, and estate plan may also need to be updated. The passing of your spouse may necessitate a new executor for your own estate. Any durable powers of attorney may also need to be revised.

Sources

  1. thebalance.com/review-401-k-plan-beneficiary-designations-2894174
  2. nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/if-you-don-t-want-leave-retirement-accounts-your-spouse.html
  3. cnbc.com/2018/04/16/out-of-date-beneficiary-designations-are-a-common-and-costly-mistake.html
  4. thebalance.com/social-security-survivor-benefits-for-a-spouse-2388918
  5. ssa.gov/planners/survivors/onyourown.html
  6. nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/beneficiaries-claim-life-insurance-32433.html
  7. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/121914/life-insurance-policies-how-payouts-work.asp
  8. thebalance.com/finding-a-lost-life-insurance-policy-4066234
  9. nvf.org/pensions-for-survivors-of-deceased-wartime-veterans/
  10. irs.gov/taxtopics/tc356.html

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.

Why Diversification, Patience, and Consistency are Important When Investing

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Regardless of how the markets may perform, consider making the following part of your investment philosophy:

Diversification

The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has real value when it comes to investing. In a bear or bull market, certain asset classes may perform better than others. If your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment (say, mostly in mutual funds or mostly in CDs or money market accounts), you could be hit hard by stock market losses, or alternately, lose out on potential gains that other kinds of investments may be experiencing. There is an opportunity cost as well as risk.(1)

Asset allocation strategies are used in portfolio management. A financial professional can ask you about your goals, tolerance for risk, and assign percentages of your assets to different classes of investments. This diversification is designed to suit your preferred investment style and your objectives.

Patience

Impatient investors obsess on the day-to-day doings of the stock market. Have you ever heard of “stock picking” or “market timing”? How about “day trading”? These are all attempts to exploit short-term fluctuations in value. These investing methods might seem fun and exciting if you like to micromanage, but they could add stress and anxiety to your life, and they may be a poor alternative to a long-range investment strategy built around your life goals.

Consistency

Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their 401(k) and similar investments through payroll deduction or automatic withdrawal. They are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves build wealth for retirement and for long-range goals. Investing regularly (and earlier in life) helps you to take advantage of the power of compounding as well.

MI-GTM_3Q19_September-63

▲ Time, diversification and the volatility of returns

This chart shows historical returns by holding period for stocks, bonds and a 50/50 portfolio, rebalanced annually, over different time horizons. The bars show the highest and lowest return that you could have gotten during each of the time periods (1-year, 5-year rolling, 10-year rolling and 20-year rolling). This chart advocates for a simple balanced portfolio, as well as for having an appropriate time horizon. (2)

Sources

  1. forbes.com/sites/brettsteenbarger/2019/05/27/why-diversification-works-in-life-and-markets
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

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.

Understanding Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) From Your IRA

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When you reach age 70½, the Internal Revenue Service instructs you to start making withdrawals from your traditional IRA(s). These withdrawals are also called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). You will make them, annually, from now on. (1)

If you fail to take your annual RMD or take out less than the required amount, the I.R.S. will notice. You will not only owe income taxes on the amount not withdrawn, you will owe 50% more. (The 50% penalty can be waived if you can show the I.R.S. that the shortfall resulted from a “reasonable error” instead of negligence.) (1)

Many IRA owners have questions about the rules related to their initial RMDs, so let’s answer a few.

How does the I.R.S. define age 70½?

Its definition is pretty straightforward. If your 70th birthday occurs in the first half of a year, you turn 70½ within that calendar year. If your 70th birthday occurs in the second half of a year, you turn 70½ during the subsequent calendar year. (2)

Your initial RMD has to be taken by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. All the RMDs you take in subsequent years must be taken by December 31 of each year. (1)

So, if you turned 70 during the first six months of 2020, then you will be 70½ by the end of 2020, and you must take your first RMD by April 1, 2021. If you turn 70 in the second half of 2020, then you will be 70½ in 2021, and you won’t need to take that initial RMD until April 1, 2022. (1)

Is waiting until April 1 of the following year to take my first RMD a bad idea?

The I.R.S. allows you three extra months to take your first RMD, but it isn’t necessarily doing you a favor. Your initial RMD is taxable in the year that it is taken. If you postpone it into the following year, then the taxable portions of both your first RMD and your second RMD must be reported as income on your federal tax return for that following year. (2)

An example: James and his wife Stephanie file jointly, and they earn $78,950 in 2019 (the upper limit of the 22% federal tax bracket). James turns 70½ in 2019, but he decides to put off his first RMD until April 1, 2020. Bad idea: this means that he will have to take two RMDs before 2020 ends. So, his taxable income jumps in 2020 as a result of the dual RMDs, and it pushes the pair into a higher tax bracket for 2020 as well. The lesson: if you will be 70½ by the time 2019 ends, take your initial RMD by the end of 2019 – it might save you thousands in taxes to do so. (3)

How do I calculate my first RMD?

I.R.S. Publication 590 is your resource. You calculate it using I.R.S. life expectancy tables and your IRA balance on December 31 of the previous year. For that matter, if you Google “how to calculate your RMD,” you will see links to RMD worksheets at irs.gov and a host of other free online RMD calculators. (1,4)

If your spouse is more than 10 years younger than you and happens to be designated as the sole beneficiary for one or more of the traditional IRAs that you own, you should use the I.R.S. IRA Minimum Distribution Worksheet (downloadable as a PDF online) to help calculate your RMD. (5)

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If your IRA is held at one of the big investment firms, that firm may calculate your RMD for you and offer to route the amount into another account of your choice. It will give you and the I.R.S. a 1099-R form recording the income distribution and the amount of the distribution that is taxable. (6)

When I take my RMD, do I have to withdraw the whole amount?

No. You can also take it in smaller, successive withdrawals. Your IRA custodian may be able to schedule them for you. (7)

What if I have more than one traditional IRA?

You then figure out your total RMD by calculating the RMD for each traditional IRA you own, using the IRA balances on the prior December 31. This total is the basis for the RMD calculation. You can take your RMD from a single traditional IRA or multiple traditional IRAs. (1)

What if I have a Roth IRA?

If you are the original owner of that Roth IRA, you don’t have to take any RMDs. Only inherited Roth IRAs require RMDs. (7)

Be proactive when it comes to your first RMD

Putting off the initial RMD until the first quarter of next year could mean higher-than-normal income taxes for the year ahead. (2)

▼RMDs at a Glance for All Account Types

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Sources

  1. irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Required-Minimum-Distributions
  2. kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T045-C032-S014-avoid-the-5-biggest-ira-rmd-mistakes.html
  3. taxfoundation.org/2019-tax-brackets/
  4. google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=how+to+calculate+your+RMD
  5. irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/jlls_rmd_worksheet.pdf
  6. finance.zacks.com/everyone-ira-1099r-4710.html
  7. fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/smart-ira-withdrawal-strategies
  8. https://static.twentyoverten.com/58e639ce21cca2513c90975b/CMPlElT87-y/RMDMFSFlyer.pdf

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.

Why You Shouldn’t Take a Loan From Your Retirement Plan

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Thinking about borrowing money from your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account?

Think twice about that because these loans are not only risky, but injurious, to your retirement planning.

A loan of this kind damages your retirement savings prospects.

A 401(k), 403(b), or 457 should never be viewed like a savings or checking account. When you withdraw from a bank account, you pull out cash. When you take a loan from your workplace retirement plan, you sell shares of your investments to generate cash. You buy back investment shares as you repay the loan. (1)

In borrowing from a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, you siphon down invested retirement assets, leaving a smaller account balance that experiences a smaller degree of compounding. In repaying the loan, you will likely repurchase investment shares at higher prices than in the past – in other words, you will be buying high. None of this makes financial sense.(1)

Most plan providers charge an origination fee for a loan (it can be in the neighborhood of $100), and of course, they charge interest. While you will repay interest and the principal as you repay the loan, that interest still represents money that could have remained in the account and remained invested.1,2

As you strive to repay the loan amount, there may be a financial side effect. You may end up reducing or suspending your regular per-paycheck contributions to the plan. Some plans may even bar you from making plan contributions for several months after the loan is taken. (3,4)

Your take-home pay may be docked.

Most loans from 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are repaid incrementally – the plan subtracts X dollars from your paycheck, month after month, until the amount borrowed is fully restored. (1)

If you leave your job, you will have to pay 100% of your 401(k) loan back.

This applies if you quit; it applies if you are laid off or fired. Formerly, you had a maximum of 60 days to repay a workplace retirement plan loan. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 changed that for loans originated in 2018 and years forward. You now have until October of the year following the year you leave your job to repay the loan (the deadline is the due date of your federal taxes plus a 6-month extension, which usually means October 15). You also have a choice: you can either restore the funds to your workplace retirement plan or transfer them to either an IRA or a workplace retirement plan elsewhere.(2)

If you are younger than age 59½ and fail to pay the full amount of the loan back, the I.R.S. will characterize any amount not repaid as a premature distribution from a retirement plan – taxable income that is also subject to an early withdrawal penalty. (3)

Even if you have great job security, the loan will probably have to be repaid in full within five years.

Most workplace retirement plans set such terms. If the terms are not met, then the unpaid balance becomes a taxable distribution with possible penalties (assuming you are younger than 59½.(1)

Would you like to be taxed twice?

When you borrow from an employee retirement plan, you invite that prospect. You will be repaying your loan with after-tax dollars, and those dollars will be taxed again when you make a qualified withdrawal of them in the future (unless your plan offers you a Roth option). (3,4)

Why go into debt to pay off debt?

If you borrow from your retirement plan, you will be assuming one debt to pay off another. It is better to go to a reputable lender for a personal loan; borrowing cash has fewer potential drawbacks.

You should never confuse your retirement plan with a bank account.

Some employees seem to do just that. Fidelity Investments says that 20.8% of its 401(k) plan participants have outstanding loans in 2018. In taking their loans, they are opening the door to the possibility of having less money saved when they retire. (4)

Why risk that? Look elsewhere for money in a crisis. Borrow from your employer-sponsored retirement plan only as a last resort.

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▲The toxic effect of loans and withdrawals

The top chart shows that employees who took loans and a withdrawal from their account may end up with significantly lower balances in the end. The bottom chart shows that the employee did not get the benefit of contributions and company match when paying back their loans. To avoid this scenario, stress the importance of an emergency reserve and savings for other goals outside of the retirement account. If the employee must borrow, if they keep contributing while paying back the loan that may mitigate the negative impact of the loan.

Sources

  1. gobankingrates.com/retirement/401k/borrowing-401k/
  2. forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/01/16/new-tax-law-liberalizes-401k-loan-repayment-rules/
  3. cbsnews.com/news/when-is-it-ok-to-withdraw-or-borrow-from-your-retirement-savings/
  4. cnbc.com/2018/06/26/the-lure-of-a-401k-loan-could-mask-its-risks.html
  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. 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.

Covering the Cost of College Using 529 Plans, Coverdell ESAs, UTMA or UGMA accounts

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You can plan to meet the costs through a variety of methods.

How can you cover your child’s future college costs?

Saving early (and often) may be the key for most families. Here are some college savings vehicles to consider.

529 plans

Offered by states and some educational institutions, these plans let you save up to $14,000 per year for your child’s college costs without having to file an IRS gift tax return. A married couple can contribute up to $28,000 per year. (An individual or couple’s annual contribution to the plan cannot exceed the IRS yearly gift tax exclusion.) These plans commonly offer you options to try and grow your college savings through equity investments. You can even participate in 529 plans offered by other states, which may be advantageous if your student wants to go to college in another part of the country. (1,2)

While contributions to a 529 plan are not tax-deductible, 529 plan earnings are exempt from federal tax and generally exempt from state tax when withdrawn, as long as they are used to pay for qualified education expenses of the plan beneficiary. If your child doesn’t want to go to college, you can change the beneficiary to another child in your family. You can even roll over distributions from a 529 plan into another 529 plan established for the same beneficiary (or for another family member) without tax consequences. (1)

Grandparents can start a 529 plan, or other college savings vehicle, just as parents can; the earlier, the better. In fact, anyone can set up a 529 plan on behalf of anyone. You can even establish one for yourself. (1)

529 plans have been improved with two additional features. One, you can now use 529 plan dollars to pay for computer hardware, software, and computer-related technology, as long as such purchases are qualified higher education expenses. Two, you can now reinvest any 529 plan distribution refunded to you by an eligible educational institution, as long as it goes back into the same 529 plan account. You have a 60-day period to do this from when you receive the refund. (3)

Investors should consider the investment objective, risks, charges, and expenses associated with 529 plans before investing. More information about 529 plans is available in each issuer’s official statement, which should be read carefully before investing. A copy of the official statement can be obtained from a financial professional. Before investing, consider whether your state offers a 529 plan that provides residents with favorable state tax benefits.

Coverdell ESAs

Single filers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $95,000 or less and joint filers with AGI of $190,000 or less can pour up to $2,000 annually into these tax-advantaged accounts. While the annual contribution ceiling is much lower than that of a 529 plan, Coverdell ESAs have perks that 529 plans lack. Money saved and invested in a Coverdell ESA can be used for college or K-12 education expenses. Coverdell ESAs offer a broader variety of investment options compared to many 529 plans, and plan fees are also commonly lower.(4)

Contributions to Coverdell ESAs aren’t tax-deductible, but the account enjoys tax-deferred growth and withdrawals are tax-free so long as they are used for qualified education expenses. Contributions may be made until the account beneficiary turns 18. The money must be withdrawn when the beneficiary turns 30 (there is a 30-day grace period), or taxes and penalties will be incurred. Money from a Coverdell ESA may even be rolled over tax-free into a 529 plan (but 529 plan money may not be rolled over into a Coverdell ESA). (2,4)

UGMA & UTMA accounts

These all-purpose savings and investment accounts are often used to save for college. When you put money in the account, you are making an irrevocable gift to your child. You manage the account assets. When your child reaches the “age of majority” (usually 18 or 21, as defined by state UGMA or UTMA law), he or she can use the money to pay for college. However, once that age is reached, that child can also use the money to pay for anything else.(5)

Imagine your child graduating from college debt-free. With the right kind of college planning, that may happen.

JPM_CPE_19
▲Comparing college savings vehicles
  • 529 plan: Potential for tax-free investing for qualified education expenses;* high levels of flexibility, control and contribution maximums along with special gift and estate tax benefits.
  • Custodial account: Less tax efficiency and control than other accounts; higher impact on financial aid eligibility.
  • Coverdell account: Potential for tax-free investing for any qualified education expense; more restrictions and lower contributions than other accounts.
  • Key takeaway: Not all college savings plans are the same. Differences among accounts can have a major impact on current taxes and future college funds.

* Earnings on non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. Federal law allows distributions for tuition expenses in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school (“K-12 Tuition Expenses”) of up to $10,000 per beneficiary per year. Under New York State law, distributions for K-12 Tuition Expenses will be considered non-qualified withdrawals and will require the recapture of any New York State tax benefits that have accrued on contributions.

Sources

  1. irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers 
  2. time.com/money/3149426/college-savings-esa-529-differences-financial-aid/ 
  3. figuide.com/new-benefits-for-529-plans.html
  4. time.com/money/4102891/coverdell-529-education-college-savings-account/ 
  5. franklintempleton.com/investor/products/goals/education/ugma-utma-accounts?role=investor
  6. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/102915/life-insurance-vs-529.asp
  7. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/products/college-savings-plan/college-planning-essentials

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.

How to Use a Bucket Strategy to Help Guard Against Market Volatility

 

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Image by TRIXIE BRADLEY from Pixabay

The Bucket Strategy can take two forms.

1. The Expenses Bucket Strategy:

With this approach, you segment your retirement expenses into three buckets:

  • Basic Living Expenses – food, rent, utilities, etc.
  • Discretionary Expenses – vacations, dining out, etc.
  • Legacy Expenses – assets for heirs and charities

This strategy pairs appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket. If this source of income falls short, you might consider whether a fixed annuity can help fill the gap. With this approach, you are attempting to match income sources to essential expenses. (1)

The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contact. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, a 10% federal income tax penalty may apply (unless an exception applies).

For the Discretionary Expenses bucket, you might consider investing in top-rated bonds and large-cap stocks that offer the potential for growth and have a long-term history of paying a steady dividend. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates fall, the value of existing bonds typically drop. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity an investor will receive the interest payments due, plus their original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Dividends on common stock are not fixed and can be decreased or eliminated on short notice.

Finally, if you have assets you expect to pass on, you might position some of them in more aggressive investments, such as small-cap stocks and international equity. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss.

International investments carry additional risks, which include differences in financial reporting standards, currency exchange rates, political risk unique to a specific country, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. These factors may result in greater share price volatility.

2. The Timeframe Bucket Strategy:

This approach creates buckets based on different timeframes and assigns investments to each. For example:

  • 1 to 5 Years: This bucket funds your near-term expenses. It may be filled with cash and cash alternatives, such as money market accounts. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities but they are not backed by any government institution, so it’s possible to lose money. Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.
  • 6 to 10 Years: This bucket is designed to help replenish the funds in the 1-to-5-Years bucket. Investments might include a diversified, intermediate, top-rated bond portfolio. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
  • 11 to 20 Years: This bucket may be filled with investments such as large-cap stocks, which offer the potential for growth.
  • 21 or More Years: This bucket might include longer-term investments, such as small-cap and international stocks.

Each bucket is set up to be replenished by the next longer-term bucket. This approach can offer flexibility to provide replenishment at more opportune times. For example, if stock prices move higher, you might consider replenishing the 6-to-10-Years bucket, even though it’s not quite time.

A bucket approach to pursue your income needs is not the only way to build an income strategy, but it’s one strategy to consider as you prepare for retirement.

FINAL-2019-GTR-2_22_HIGH-RES-37

▲ Structuring a portfolio in retirement – the bucket strategy

Experiencing market volatility in retirement may result in some people pulling out of the market at the wrong time or not taking on the equity exposure they need to combat inflation. Leveraging mental accounting to encourage better behaviors–aligning a retirement portfolio in time-segmented buckets–may help people maintain a disciplined investment strategy through retirement with an appropriate level of equity exposure. The short-term bucket, invested in cash and cash equivalents, should cover one or more years of a household’s income gap in retirement–with the ideal number of years determined based on risk tolerance and market conditions over the near term. A ‘cushion’ amount should also be maintained to cover unexpected expenses. The intermediate-term bucket should have a growth component, with any current income generated through dividends or interest moved periodically to replenish the short-term bucket. The longer-term portfolio can be a long-term care reserve fund or positioned for legacy planning purposes, and pursue a more aggressive investment objective, based on the time horizon. (2)

Sources

  1. kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T037-C000-S002-how-to-implement-the-bucket-system-in-retirement.html
  2. 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 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.

How Fixed-Income Can Help Protect Your Retirement Savings During Market Volatility

person holding pink piggy coin bank

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

When stocks soar, fixed-income investments have comparatively little allure.

Investors hungry for double-digit returns may regard them as bland, vanilla securities saddled with an opportunity cost, geared to risk-averse retirees who are “playing not to lose.”

An investment earning a consistent rate of return on a fixed schedule is not a negative. Fixed-income investments are something you may want as part of your portfolio, particularly when stocks fall.

Fixed-income investments have a steadiness that stocks lack.

Most are simple debt instruments: an investor transfers or pays money to a government or financial institution in exchange for a promise of recurring payments and eventual return of principal. (1)

Corporate and government bonds are popular fixed-income investments. U.S. Treasury bills, bonds, and notes, all backed by the federal government, pay interest based on the duration and nature of the security. States and municipalities also issue bonds to generate funds for infrastructure projects. Corporate bonds usually have 10-year or 20-year durations; the interest on them may exceed that of Treasuries and state and muni bonds, but the degree of risk is greater for the bondholder. Firms with subpar credit ratings issue bonds that are junk rated, offering a relatively higher return and higher risk. (1)

There are bond funds that also pay a set rate of return. Some of these funds trade like stocks and can be bought and sold during a trading day, not merely after the close. They typically contain a wide variety of both corporate and government bonds. (2)

Additionally, there are money market funds and money market accounts. They do differ. A money market fund is a managed investment fund made up of assorted fixed-income debt securities. A money market account is simply a high-yield bank account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). (3)

Consider certificates of deposit as well. Banks create these debt securities to generate pools of capital to use for their business and personal loans. Some CDs have terms of less than a year; many are multiyear. Typically, the longer the commitment a CD investor makes, the greater the coupon (annual interest rate) on the CD. These investments are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. (1,3)

At some point, you might want less of your portfolio in equities. That realization might be prompted by a consideration of the markets or simply by where you are in life.

When the financial markets turn volatile, the last thing you want is to have all your investments moving in the same direction at the same time.

If your portfolio includes a balance of investments from different asset classes, some with little or no correlation to the stock market, then you may take less of a loss than someone whose portfolio is overloaded in equities.

The risk is, this “someone” could be you. Across a long bull market, the equity investments within your portfolio will usually outgain the non-equity investments. That can throw your original asset allocations out of whack and leave you mostly invested in stocks. If stocks plunge, the value of your portfolio can drop rapidly. (4)

The conventional wisdom is to lessen your equity position as you age. You may currently hold stocks across many sectors of the S&P 500, but that is not diversification. True diversification uses multiple asset classes – and conservative, fixed-income investments – to try to minimize risk.

Fixed-income investments may not always return as spectacularly as equity investments, but they are also less prone to spectacular losses. They are designed to provide some stability for an investor, and as you get older, stability becomes increasingly important.

MI-GTM_3Q19_August_High-Res-60

▲ Asset class returns

This chart shows the historical performance and volatility of different asset classes, as well as an annually rebalanced asset allocation portfolio. The asset allocation portfolio incorporates the various asset classes shown in the chart and highlights that balance and diversification can help reduce volatility and enhance returns. (5)

Sources

  1. thestreet.com/investing/fixed-income/what-is-fixed-income-investment-14758617
  2. investopedia.com/articles/investing/041615/pros-cons-bond-funds-vs-bond-etfs.asp
  3. thebalance.com/certificates-of-deposit-versus-money-markets-356054
  4. fool.com/investing/2018/01/29/heres-how-bull-markets-can-be-bad-for-your-portfol.aspx
  5. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

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.

Why Portfolio Diversification Is Important During Volatile Markets

brown eggs in brown wicker basket

Photo by Julian Schwarzenbach on Pexels.com

A multiple asset class portfolio prevents having all your investment eggs in one basket.

Diversification Helps You Manage Risk

We all want a terrific ROI, but risk management matters just as much in investing, perhaps more. That is why diversification is so important. There are two great reasons to invest across a range of asset classes, even when some are clearly outperforming others.

REASON #1:

Potentially Capture Gains in Different Market Climates

If you allocate your invested assets across the breadth of asset classes, you will at least have some percentage of your portfolio assigned to the market’s best-performing sectors on any given trading day. If your portfolio is too heavily weighted in one asset class, or in one stock, its return is riding too heavily on its performance.

Your portfolio is like a garden. A good gardener will plant a variety of flowers to ensure something is always blooming. The gardener knows that some flowers eventually die off or may not grow well but if there is enough diversity the overall picture will still look good.

REASON #2:

Potentially Less Financial Pain if Stocks Decline

If you have a lot of money in growth stocks and aggressive growth funds (and some people do), what happens to your portfolio in a correction or a bear market? You’ve got a bunch of losers on your hands. Tax loss harvesting can ease the pain only so much.

Diversification gives your portfolio a kind of “buffer” against market volatility and drawdowns. Without it, your exposure to risk is magnified.

ADVICE:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Believe the cliché: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Wall Street is hardly uneventful and the behavior of the market sometimes leaves even seasoned analysts scratching their heads. We can’t predict how the market will perform; we can diversify to address the challenges presented by its ups and downs.

MI-GTM_3Q19_August_High-Res-60

▲ Asset class returns

This chart shows the historical performance and volatility of different asset classes, as well as an annually rebalanced asset allocation portfolio. The asset allocation portfolio incorporates the various asset classes shown in the chart and highlights that balance and diversification can help reduce volatility and enhance returns. (2)


Sources

  1. usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/story/2011-12-08/investment-diversification/51749298/1
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer
  3. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

How to Value the Value of Working With a Financial Advisor

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Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

A good professional provides important guidance and insight through the years.

What kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor?

The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long-lasting.

There are certain investors who turn to a financial professional with one goal in mind: the “alpha” objective of beating the market, quarter after quarter. Even Wall Street money managers fail at that task – and they fail routinely.

At some point, these investors realize that their financial professional has no control over what happens in the market. They come to understand the real value of the relationship, which is about strategy, coaching, and understanding.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncoached investor may make self-defeating decisions. Today’s steady stream of instant information can prompt emotional behavior and blunders.

No investor is infallible

Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. Overconfidence can set in, and the reality that the market has occasional bad years can be forgotten.

This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden Wall Street shock may lead an investor to sell low today, buy high tomorrow, and attempt to time the market.

Market timing may be a factor in the following divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, U.S. stocks gained 10% a year on average from 1988-2018, yet the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.1% annually in that period. (1)

A good financial professional helps an investor commit to staying on track

Through subtle or overt coaching, the investor learns to take short-term ups and downs in stride and focus on the long term. A strategy is put in place, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount.

As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward.

Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life.

The investor gains a new level of understanding, a context for all the investing and saving. The effort to build wealth and retire well is not merely focused on “success,” but also on significance.

This is the value a financial professional brings to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time.MI-GTM_3Q19_August_High-Res-64

▲ Diversification and the average investor

The top chart shows the powerful effects of portfolio diversification. It illustrates the difference in movements between the S&P 500, a 60/40 portfolio and a 40/60 portfolio indicating when each respective portfolio would have recovered its original value at the peak of the market in 2007 from the market bottom in 2009. It shows that the S&P 500 fell far more than either of the two diversified portfolio and also took two or more years longer to recover its value. The bottom chart shows 20-year annualized returns by asset class, as well as how an “average investor” would have fared. The average investor asset allocation return is based on an analysis by Dalbar, which utilizes the net of aggregate mutual fund sales, redemptions and exchanges each month as a measure of investor behavior.

Sources

  1. cnbc.com/2019/07/31/youre-making-big-financial-mistakes-and-its-your-brains-fault.html
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

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.