Posts By Scott Weiss, CFP®

Post-Retirement Risks That Can Get In The Way of Making Your Money Last

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“What is your greatest retirement fear?”

If you ask any group of retirees and pre-retirees this question, “outliving my money” will likely be one of the top answers. In fact, 51% of investors surveyed for a 2019 AIG retirement study ranked outliving their money as their top anxiety. (1)

Retirees face greater “longevity risk” today.

The Census Bureau says that Americans typically retire around age 63. Social Security projects that today’s 63-year-olds will live into their mid-eighties, on average. This is a mean life expectancy, so while some of these seniors may pass away earlier, others may live past 90 or 100. (2,3)

If your retirement lasts 20, 30, or even 40 years, how well do you think your retirement savings will hold up? What financial steps could you take in your retirement to try and prevent those savings from eroding? As you think ahead, consider the following possibilities and realities.

Understand that you may need to work part time in your sixties and seventies.

The income from part-time work can be an economic lifesaver for retirees. What if you worked part time and earned $20,000-30,000 a year? If you can do that for five or ten years, you effectively give your retirement savings five or ten more years to last and grow.

Retire with health insurance and prepare adequately for out-of-pocket costs.

Financially speaking, this may be the most frustrating part of retirement. You can enroll in Medicare at age 65, but how do you handle the premiums for private health insurance if you retire before then? Striving to work until you are eligible for Medicare makes economic sense and so does building a personal health care account. According to Fidelity research, a typical 65-year-old couple retiring today will face out-of-pocket health care costs approaching $300,000 over the rest of their lives. (4)

Many people may retire unaware of these financial factors.

With luck and a favorable investing climate, their retirement savings may last a long time. Luck is not a plan, however, and hope is not a strategy. Those who are retiring unaware of these factors may risk outliving their money.

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▲ The retirement equation

Planning for retirement can be overwhelming as individuals navigate various retirement factors over which we have varying levels of control. There are challenges in retirement planning over which we have no control, like the future of tax policy and market returns, and factors over which we have limited control, like longevity and how long we plan to work. The best way to achieve a secure retirement is to develop a comprehensive retirement plan and to focus on the factors we can control: maximize savings, understand and manage spending and adhere to a disciplined approach to investing. (5)

Sources

  1. markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/more-than-half-of-americans-want-to-live-to-100-but-worry-about-affording-longer-lifespans-1028099970
  2. thebalance.com/average-retirement-age-in-the-united-states-2388864
  3. usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2019/09/30/social-security-4-key-trends-you-need-know-benefits/3790032002/
  4. fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/transition-to-medicare
  5. 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.

End-of-Year Money Moves for 2019

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Here are some things you might consider before saying goodbye to 2019.

What has changed for you in 2019?

Did you start a new job or leave a job behind? Did you retire? Did you start a family? If notable changes occurred in your personal or professional life, then you will want to review your finances before this year ends and 2020 begins.

Even if your 2019 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can manage your take bill and/or build a little more wealth.

Keep in mind this article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice. Please consult your tax, legal, and accounting professionals before modifying your tax strategy.

Do you practice tax-loss harvesting?

That is the art of taking capital losses (selling securities worth less than what you first paid for them) to offset your short-term capital gains. You might want to consider this move, which may lower your taxable income. It should be made with the guidance of a financial professional you trust. (1)

In fact, you could even take it a step further. Consider that up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from ordinary income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years. When you live in a high-tax state, this is one way to defer tax. (1)

Do you want to itemize deductions?

You may just want to take the standard deduction for 2019, which has ballooned to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint filers because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. If you do think it might be better for you to itemize, now would be a good time to get receipts and assorted paperwork together. While many miscellaneous deductions have disappeared, some key deductions are still around: the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, now capped at $10,000; the mortgage interest deduction; the deduction for charitable contributions, which now has a higher limit of 60% of adjusted gross income; and the medical expense deduction. (2,3)

Could you ramp up 401(k) or 403(b) contributions?

Contribution to these retirement plans may lower your yearly gross income. If you lower your gross income enough, you might be able to qualify for other tax credits or breaks available to those under certain income limits. Note that contributions to Roth 401(k)s and Roth 403(b)s are made with after-tax rather than pretax dollars, so contributions to those accounts are not deductible and will not lower your taxable income for the year. (4,5)

Are you thinking of gifting?

How about donating to a qualified charity or nonprofit organization before 2019 ends? Your gift may qualify as a tax deduction. You must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift. (4,5)

While we’re on the topic of estate strategy, why not take a moment to review your beneficiary designations? If you haven’t reviewed them for a decade or more (which is all too common), double-check to see that these assets will go where you want them to go, should you pass away. Lastly, look at your will to see that it remains valid and up to date.

Can you take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit?

The AOTC allows individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less (and joint filers with MAGI of $160,000 or less) a chance to claim a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified college expenses. Phaseouts kick in above those MAGI levels. (6)

See that you have withheld the right amount.

If you discover that you have withheld too little on your W-4 form so far, you may need to adjust your withholding before the year ends.

What can you do before ringing in the New Year?

Talk with a financial or tax professional now rather than in February or March. Little year-end moves might help you improve your short-term and long-term financial situation.

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▲ A closer look at tax rates – 2019

At-a-glance individual federal income tax guide for 2019. (7)

Sources

  1. investopedia.com/articles/taxes/08/tax-loss-harvesting.asp
  2. nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/itemize-take-standard-deduction/
  3. investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/addroths.asp
  4. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/041315/tips-charitable-contributions-limits-and-taxes.asp
  5. marketwatch.com/story/how-the-new-tax-law-creates-a-perfect-storm-for-roth-ira-conversions-2018-03-26
  6. irs.gov/newsroom/american-opportunity-tax-credit-questions-and-answers
  7. 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.

Understanding the Parts (A, B, C, D) of Medicare and What They Cover

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Whether your 65th birthday is on the horizon or decades away, you should understand the parts of Medicare – what they cover and where they come from.

Parts A & B: Original Medicare

There are two components. Part A is hospital insurance. It provides coverage for inpatient stays at medical facilities. It can also help cover the costs of hospice care, home health care, and nursing home care – but not for long and only under certain parameters. (1,2)

Seniors are frequently warned that Medicare will only pay for a maximum of 100 days of nursing home care (provided certain conditions are met). Part A is the part that does so. Under current rules, you pay $0 for days 1-20 of skilled nursing facility (SNF) care under Part A. During days 21-100, a $170.50 daily coinsurance payment may be required of you. (2)

Part B is medical insurance and can help pick up some of the tab for physical therapy, physician services, expenses for durable medical equipment (hospital beds, wheelchairs), and other medical services, such as lab tests and a variety of health screenings. (1)

Part B isn’t free. You pay monthly premiums to get it and a yearly deductible (plus 20% of costs). The premiums vary according to the Medicare recipient’s income level. The standard monthly premium amount is $135.50 this year. The current yearly deductible is $185. (Some people automatically receive Part B coverage, but others must sign up for it.) (3)

Part C: Medicare Advantage plans.

Insurance companies offer these Medicare-approved plans. To keep up your Part C coverage, you must keep up your payment of Part B premiums as well as your Part C premiums. To say not all Part C plans are alike is an understatement. Provider networks, premiums, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket spending limits can all vary widely, so shopping around is wise. During Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (October 15 – December 7), seniors can choose to switch out of Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa; although, any such move is much wiser with a Medigap policy already in place. (4,5)

How does a Medigap plan differ from a Part C plan? Medigap plans (also called Medicare Supplement plans) emerged to address the gaps in Part A and Part B coverage. If you have Part A and Part B already in place, a Medigap policy can pick up some copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for you. You pay Part B premiums in addition to Medigap plan premiums to keep a Medigap policy in effect. These plans no longer offer prescription drug coverage. (6)

Part D: prescription drug plans.

While Part C plans commonly offer prescription drug coverage, insurers also sell Part D plans as a standalone product to those with Original Medicare. As per Medigap and Part C coverage, you need to keep paying Part B premiums in addition to premiums for the drug plan to keep Part D coverage going. (7)

Every Part D plan has a formulary, a list of medications covered under the plan. Most Part D plans rank approved drugs into tiers by cost. The good news is that Medicare’s website will determine the best Part D plan for you. Go to medicare.gov/find-a-plan to start your search; enter your medications and the website will do the legwork for you. (8)

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▲ What is Medicare?

The left side of this table shows all the parts of Medicare. The next column to the right has a check mark for all the parts of Medicare that are included in traditional Medicare. Individuals sign up for the different parts, and Part A is usually free for most people. The column to the far right shows what is typically included in Medicare Advantage, which are local plans sold by private companies. Usually Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are limited to a local network of providers. During the annual enrollment period, beneficiaries may switch from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage and vice versa. However, Medigap, which covers the gaps in Parts A and B, is only available with traditional Medicare, and must be signed up for when first eligible or the individual may be denied coverage, face underwriting or incur higher premiums. Whichever plan an individual chooses, they should consider future coverage needs including drug coverage to avoid lifetime penalties when signing up later. (9)

Sources

  1. mymedicarematters.org/coverage/parts-a-b/whats-covered/
  2. medicare.gov/coverage/skilled-nursing-facility-snf-care
  3. medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs
  4. medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/medicare-basics/medicare-coverage-overview/original-medicare
  5. medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/joining-a-health-or-drug-plan
  6. medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/whats-medicare-supplement-insurance-medigap
  7. ehealthinsurance.com/medicare/part-d-all/medicare-part-d-prescription-drug-coverage-costs
  8. https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/what-drug-plans-cover
  9. 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.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Reverse Mortgage For Retirement Income

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Often criticized, these loans are getting another look.

Is a reverse mortgage worth it?

Before the great recession, couples who asked their retirement advisors if they should get a reverse mortgage were often given a quick answer: “No.”

Today, the answer to that question might be “yes”. In an environment with minimal interest rates, these loans can offer retired homeowners a source of tax-free cash, either in periodic payments or a lump sum. (A HELOC is also possible.)

How does it work?

A reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against your home equity while retaining ownership of your residence. Many of these loans have variable rates, consequently permitting different payment options. (1)

Reverse mortgage balances increase with time, as there are no monthly payments to reduce principal as in a “forward” mortgage. The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until you move out of the home or pass away. At the time of repayment, the amount owed will not exceed the home’s value – but when the loan becomes due it must typically be paid in full, including interest and closing costs. (1)

What are the qualifications?

You must be 62 or older to get a reverse mortgage. You also have to own your home free and clear, or have a mortgage balance that can easily be paid off using funds from the loan. In addition, you must keep paying property taxes and homeowners insurance and maintain your residence with needed repairs to avoid defaulting on the loan. (2,3,4)

Why not get a reverse mortgage?

These products have gotten a bad rap for many reasons. At first, they were seen as loans of last resort. If you were up in age and close to outliving your money, they could give you needed income.

Then the perception of reverse mortgages began to change, thanks to marketing. Commercials for these loans appeared everywhere, with celebrities hawking them as a cure for retirement income woes. Sixty-something homeowners liked the pitch and signed up – but today, some wish they had studied the fine print.

  1. Reverse mortgages can come with severe fees – origination fees, closing fees and even ongoing fees to cover the risk of a possible default or the sale of the property for less than the value of the loan.
  2. If just one spouse takes out the loan and then dies or moves out of the house, the spouse whose name isn’t on the loan is stuck with paying off the mortgage – and that often means selling the home in question.
  3. You are giving up home equity. Let’s say that you have to move because of family or health reasons. How would you finance that move?
  4. If you have cash flow problems and can’t keep up with your property taxes or homeowners insurance, you could default and lose your home. According to Forbes, about 10% of U.S. homeowners with reverse mortgages currently face this risk.
  5. If you really want to use your home as an ATM in retirement, you could refinance or take out a home equity loan or HELOC with no reverse mortgage involved. (3,4)

During 2011-2012, Wells Fargo, MetLife and Bank of America all got out of the reverse mortgage business. Interpret that as you wish. Their reverse mortgages represented 36% of the market. In their absence, smaller nonbank originators have picked up the slack – perhaps not the best development for interested homeowners. (3)

So why get a reverse mortgage?

Even with all the demerits that these loans have, they can be a boon to retirees searching for a consistent income stream. That includes younger retirees: a recent MetLife study shows that 15% more homeowners aged 62-64 considered a reverse mortgage in 2010 than in 1999. Forbes notes that reverse mortgage applicants trending younger, with about 70% opting for a fixed rate lump sum payment option. (3,5)

There are three types of reverse mortgages.

The single-purpose reverse mortgage (offered by nonprofits and state and local agencies) is the least expensive. Federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) are HUD-backed and may only proceed after consumer counseling from an independent government-approved housing counseling agency. That is also true for some proprietary reverse mortgages available from private lenders. HECMs let you choose your cash payment option, and you can change it if you need to for a fee of about $20. (1)

Reality can’t be ignored: many baby boomers are house-rich, cash-poor and scared of retiring with insufficient income. Is a reverse mortgage their only choice? Hardly – yet with interest rates low and retirement savings scant, more and more baby boomers may resolve to convert home equity into cash.

Sources

  1. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/homes/rea13.shtm
  2. blogs.smartmoney.com/encore/2012/08/07/reversing-the-negative-view-of-reverse-mortgages/
  3. www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2012/06/28/cfpb-dont-get-stung-by-a-reverse-mortgage/
  4. www.npr.org/2011/02/15/133777150/Reverse-Mortgages-Good-For-Seniors
  5. www.bankrate.com/financing/mortgages/too-young-for-reverse-mortgage/ 

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net 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.

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

u s dollar bills pin down on the ground

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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

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 4.45.19 PM

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

man holding ipad

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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.

FINAL-2019-GTR-2_22_HIGH-RES-46
▲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.