Investing

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

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Comparing their features, merits, and demerits.

How do you save for retirement?

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

SIMILARITIES:

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

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

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

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

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

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traditional IRAs and 401(k)s prior to that age usually trigger a 10% federal tax penalty, on top of income tax on the withdrawn amount.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

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

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

DIFFERENCES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. You cannot control 401(k) fees.

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

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

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

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▲The power of tax-deferred compounding

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

Sources:

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

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

Which Retirement Savings Vehicle Should You Use: Traditional IRA or Roth IRA?

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Perhaps both traditional and Roth IRAs can play a part in your retirement plans.

IRAs can be an important tool in your retirement savings belt, and whichever you choose to open could have a significant impact on how those accounts might grow.

IRAs, or Individual Retirement Accounts, are investment vehicles used to help save money for retirement. There are two different types of IRAs: traditional and Roth. Traditional IRAs, created in 1974, are owned by roughly 35.1 million U.S. households. And Roth IRAs, created as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act in 1997, are owned by nearly 24.9 million households. (1)

Both kinds of IRAs share many similarities, and yet, each is quite different. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Up to certain limits, traditional IRAs allow individuals to make tax-deductible contributions into the retirement account. Distributions from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. For individuals covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction for a traditional IRA in 2019 has been phased out for incomes between $103,000 and $123,000 for married couples filing jointly and between $64,000 and $74,000 for single filers. (2,3)
  2. Also, within certain limits, individuals can make contributions to a Roth IRA with after-tax dollars. To qualify for a tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½. Like a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are limited based on income. For 2019, contributions to a Roth IRA are phased out between $193,000 and $203,000 for married couples filing jointly and between $122,000 and $137,000 for single filers. (2,3)
  3. In addition to contribution and distribution rules, there are limits on how much can be contributed to either IRA. In fact, these limits apply to any combination of IRAs; that is, workers cannot put more than $6,000 per year into their Roth and traditional IRAs combined. So, if a worker contributed $3,500 in a given year into a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA would be limited to $2,500 in that same year. (4)
  4. Individuals who reach age 50 or older by the end of the tax year can qualify for annual “catch-up” contributions of up to $1,000. So, for these IRA owners, the 2019 IRA contribution limit is $7,000. (4)

If you meet the income requirements, both traditional and Roth IRAs can play a part in your retirement plans. And once you’ve figured out which will work better for you, only one task remains: opening an account.

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▲  Evaluate a Roth at different life stages

The decision to make a pre-tax/deductible contribution to a Traditional 401(k) or IRA or an after-tax contribution to a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA is based on the income tax rate of the individual at the time of making the contribution, and his/her anticipated tax rate in the future. The difference in tax rates can be caused by an investor’s personal situation and/or tax policy over time. This chart shows a typical wage curve and the general “rule of thumb” about what type of contribution may be most appropriate based on current income and the bracket in retirement. An additional consideration is to maintain a healthy mix of taxable, tax-free (Roth) and tax-deferred accounts so that you can have greater flexibility to manage your income taxes. The numbers on the chart specify situations in which contributing to a Roth option should be carefully considered. (5)

Sources

  1. https://www.ici.org/pdf/per23-10.pdf
  2. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gearing-up-for-retirement-make-sure-you-understand-your-tax-obligations-2018-06-14
  3. https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/new-401-k-and-ira-limits
  4. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-ira-contribution-limits
  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 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 Tolerate Market Turbulence When Investing For The Long Term

photo of white roller coaster

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Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.

Volatility will always be around on Wall Street, and as you invest for the long term, you must learn to tolerate it. Rocky moments, fortunately, are not the norm.

Since the end of World War II, there have been dozens of Wall Street shocks.

Wall Street has seen 56 pullbacks (retreats of 5-9.99%) in the past 73 years; the S&P index dipped 6.9% in this last one. On average, the benchmark fully rebounded from these pullbacks within two months. The S&P has also seen 22 corrections (descents of 10-19.99%) and 12 bear markets (falls of 20% or more) in the post-WWII era. (1)

Even with all those setbacks, the S&P has grown exponentially larger. During the month World War II ended (September 1945), its closing price hovered around 16. At this writing, it is above 2,750. Those two numbers communicate the value of staying invested for the long run. (2)

This current bull market has witnessed five corrections, and nearly a sixth (a 9.8% pullback in 2011, a year that also saw a 19.4% correction). It has risen roughly 335% since its beginning even with those stumbles. Investors who stayed in equities through those downturns watched the major indices soar to all-time highs. (1)

As all this history shows, waiting out the shocks may be highly worthwhile.

The alternative is trying to time the market. That can be a fool’s errand. To succeed at market timing, investors have to be right twice, which is a tall order. Instead of selling in response to paper losses, perhaps they should respond to the fear of missing out on great gains during a recovery and hang on through the choppiness.

After all, volatility creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality companies are suddenly available at a discount. Investors effectively pay a lower average cost per share to obtain them.

Bad market days shock us because they are uncommon.

If pullbacks or corrections occurred regularly, they would discourage many of us from investing in equities; we would look elsewhere to try and build wealth. A decade ago, in the middle of the terrible 2007-09 bear market, some investors convinced themselves that bad days were becoming the new normal. History proved them wrong.

As you ride out this current outbreak of volatility, keep two things in mind.

One, your time horizon. You are investing for goals that may be five, ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. One bad market week, month, or year is but a blip on that timeline and is unlikely to have a severe impact on your long-run asset accumulation strategy. Two, remember that there have been more good days on Wall Street than bad ones. The S&P 500 rose in 53.7% of its trading sessions during the years 1950-2017, and it advanced in 68 of the 92 years ending in 2017. (3,4)

Sudden volatility should not lead you to exit the market.

If you react anxiously and move out of equities in response to short-term downturns, you may impede your progress toward your long-term goals.

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▲ 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 page advocates for simple balanced portfolio, as well as for having an appropriate time horizon.

Sources

  1. marketwatch.com/story/if-us-stocks-suffer-another-correction-start-worrying-2018-10-16
  2. multpl.com/s-p-500-historical-prices/table/by-month
  3. crestmontresearch.com/docs/Stock-Yo-Yo.pdf
  4. icmarc.org/prebuilt/apps/downloadDoc.asp
  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.

 

The Importance of Matching Your Investments to Your Risk Tolerance

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When turbulence hits Wall Street, are you stressed out?

If you have taken on too much risk in your portfolio – which can happen through intention or inattention – stock market volatility may make you anxious. So from time to time, it is a good idea to review how your assets are invested. Your asset allocation should correspond to your tolerance for risk, and if it doesn’t, it should be adjusted.

A balanced portfolio may help you come out of stock market dips in better shape. Stocks and stock funds aren’t the only investment classes you can choose from, and you won’t be alone if you decide to examine other investment options.

Treasuries, bonds and bond funds become attractive to investors when Wall Street turns especially volatile. Certain forms of alternative investments gain attention as well, particularly those with low or no correlation to the equities markets. Bonds tend to maintain their strength when stocks perform poorly. Some cautious investors maintain a cash position in all stock market climates, even raging bull markets.

Downside risk can particularly sting investors who have devoted too much of their portfolios to momentum/expensive stocks. A stock with a price-earnings ratio above 20 may be particularly susceptible to downside risk. (1)

Underdiversification risk can also prove to be an Achilles heel. Some portfolios contain just a few stocks – in the classic example, someone has invested too heavily in company stock and a few perceived “winners.” If a large chunk of the portfolio’s assets are devoted to five or six stocks, the portfolio’s value may be impacted if shares of even one of those companies plummet. This is why it is wise to own a variety of stocks across different sectors. The same principle applies to stock funds. If the S&P 500 corrects (that is, drops 10% or more in a short interval), the possibility grows that an aggressive growth mutual fund may dive. (1)

Are you retired, or retiring?

If you are, this is all the more reason to review and possibly even revise your portfolio. Frequently, people approach or enter retirement with portfolios that haven’t been reviewed in years. The asset allocation that seemed wise ten years ago may be foolhardy today.

Many people in their fifties and sixties do need to accumulate more money for retirement; you may be one of them. That sentiment should not lead you to accept extreme risk in your portfolio. You’ll likely want consistent income and growth in the absence of a salary, however, and therein lies the appeal of a balanced investment approach designed to manage risk while encouraging an adequate return.

Review the risk in your portfolio?

You may find that you have a mix of investments that matches your risk tolerance. Or, your portfolio may need minor or major adjustments. The right balance may help you insulate your assets to a greater degree when stock market turbulence occurs.

Sources

  1. fc.standardandpoors.com/sites/client/wfs2/wfs/article.vm?topic=6064&siteContent=8339
  2. https://youtu.be/ylJSorjN9PY

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 Risks of Putting Too Much Money Into an Annuity

women s in gray turtleneck sweater pointing white contract paper

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Although annuities can be a useful piece of a retirement strategy these private income contracts do have potential flaws.

It may not be good to have all your eggs in an annuity basket.

Or even a majority of your eggs, financially speaking.

Fundamentally, an annuity contract means handing over your money to an insurer.

In turn, the insurer pays out an income stream to you from that lump sum (or from the years of purchase payments you have made). The insurance company holds the money; you do not. From one standpoint, this arrangement has some merit; it relieves you of the burden of having to manage that money. From another standpoint, it has a few significant drawbacks. (1,2)

Annuities are often illiquid.

If you run into a situation where you need cash in retirement (a major home repair, a legal settlement, big medical expenses), do not expect to withdraw that cash from your annuity. If you have owned the annuity for some time, you may have to pay a hefty withdrawal penalty to access the money. From the insurer’s point of view, you are violating a contract. Should you have buyer’s remorse and decide you want out of your annuity contract soon after its inception, you will probably face a surrender charge. If you back out after the initial year of the contract, the surrender charge is commonly about 7% of your account value; it usually declines by a percentage point for each subsequent year you have spent in the annuity contract before surrendering.(2)

Annuities come with high annual fees.

A yearly management fee of 1.25% or more is not uncommon. Then there are mortality and expense (M&E) fees, fees for add-ons and guarantees, and up-front charges. If you have a variable annuity, throw in investment management fees as well. The “fee drag” for variable annuities may effectively eat away at their annual returns. (2)

Annuity joint-and-survivor income provisions may not be as beneficial as they seem.

Many annuities feature this payment structure, whereby the income payments continue to a surviving spouse after the death of one spouse. The downside of this arrangement: from the start, the income payments are less than what they ordinarily would be. If you are the annuity holder and you think your spouse may pass away before you do or are already confident that your spouse will be in a good financial position after your death, then a joint-and-survivor annuity payment structure may be nice, but not really necessary. (3)

If you do not yet own an annuity, consider that you may not need one.

The federal government basically gives you the equivalent of a deferred annuity: Social Security. Like an annuity, Social Security provides you with a reliable income stream – and your Social Security income is adjusted for inflation. (4)

Think of an annuity as one potential piece of a retirement strategy.

See it as a component or a supplement of that strategy, not the core.

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▲Understanding annuities: Which annuity may be right for you?

Annuities come in all shapes and sizes, which can often confuse investors. This chart helps to identify the type of annuity that aligns to specific income needs and tolerance for investment risk, and provides information about how the annuity growth and payout amounts are determined, as well as other key characteristics to know.

Sources

  1. tinyurl.com/y9mukmp3
  2. annuitieshq.com/articles/annuities-good-bad-depends-actually
  3. forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2018/03/29/five-reasons-not-to-buy-an-annuity/
  4. ssa.gov/oact/cola/latestCOLA.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 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.

When Will the Current Business Cycle Peak?

person standing on hand rails with arms wide open facing the mountains and clouds

Photo by Nina Uhlíková on Pexels.com

As the bull market lengthens further, this is a natural question to ask.

This decade has brought a long economic rebound to many parts of America.

Any investor must recognize two indisputable facts. One, expansions eventually give way to recessions. Two, bull markets are punctuated by bear markets. The question is when we will see the next recession, the next bear market, or both.

All business cycles have four phases.

The first phase – expansion – is often the longest. It is characterized by two phenomena: a bull market and annualized GDP of 2% or greater. This expansion culminates at a peak, which is phase two. The peak is characterized by irrational exuberance on Wall Street, economic growth of 3% or more, a distinct acceleration of consumer prices, and the emergence of asset bubbles. (3)

Then – perhaps, imperceptibly – supply begins to exceed demand. Fundamental indicators begin to weaken; yet, the economy still grows – just not at the pace it previously did. Then, the growth diminishes altogether, and the business cycle enters phase three – contraction. GDP goes negative for two or more successive quarters, which defines a recession. Corporate earnings take a major hit, depressing investors. Equities enter a bear market. Finally, things come to a trough – a bottom. On Wall Street, institutional investors reach a point of capitulation – a moment when they decide there is more potential upside than downside to stocks. Investors and consumers start to become less pessimistic. Suddenly, supply has to keep up with demand again. Things brighten, and a new business cycle begins. (3)

How will we know precisely when the business cycle has peaked?

Without seeing the future, we cannot know. We can make an educated guess based on fundamental economic indicators and earnings, but we will really only know looking back.

How can we prepare for the later phases the business cycle?

Some healthy skepticism and some diversification may help. Investors who tend to get burned the most in an economic downturn (or bear market) are those who have fallen in love with one sector or one asset class. Their portfolios have become unbalanced, perhaps just because of the gains seen in the bull market.

Some investors opt for active portfolio management in recognition of business cycles, and their heavy influence on stock market cycles. Others choose to buy and hold, feeling that it is all too easy to mistime cycles while getting in and out of this or that investment class.

▼ Phases of the Business Cycle

Citations.

  1. inc.com/associated-press/jobs-report-october-2017.html
  2. instituteforsupplymanagement.org/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm
  3. thebalance.com/where-are-we-in-the-current-business-cycle-3305593
  4. Economics for Investment Decision Makers: Micro, Macro, and International Economics 1st Edition by Christopher D. Piros (Author), Jerald E. Pinto (Author), Larry Harris (Foreword)

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-the-Year Money Moves for 2018

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Here are some things you might want to do before saying goodbye to 2018.

What has changed for you in 2018?

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 2019 begins.

Even if your 2018 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can plan to save some taxes and/or build a little more wealth.

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. If you fall into one of the upper tax brackets, you might want to consider this move, which directly lowers 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 2018, 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 the 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 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 pre-tax dollars, so contributions to those accounts are not deductible and will not lower your taxable income for the year. They will, however, help to strengthen your retirement savings. (4)

Are you thinking of gifting?

How about donating to a qualified charity or non-profit organization before 2018 ends? In most cases, these gifts are partly tax deductible. You must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift.5

If you donate publicly traded shares you have owned for at least a year, you can take a charitable deduction for their fair market value and forgo the capital gains tax hit that would result from their sale. If you pour some money into a 529 college savings plan on behalf of a child in 2018, you may be able to claim a full or partial state income tax deduction (depending on the state).2,6

Of course, you can also reduce the value of your taxable estate with a gift or two. The federal gift tax exclusion is $15,000 for 2018. So, as an individual, you can gift up to $15,000 to as many people as you wish this year. A married couple can gift up to $30,000 in 2018 to as many people as they desire.7

While we’re on the topic of estate planning, why not take a moment to review the beneficiary designations for your IRA, your life insurance policy, and workplace retirement plan? 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.

Should you convert all or part of a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA?

You will be withdrawing money from that traditional IRA someday, and those withdrawals will equal taxable income. Withdrawals from a Roth IRA you own are not taxed during your lifetime, assuming you follow the rules. Translation: tax savings tomorrow. Before you go Roth, you do need to make sure you have the money to pay taxes on the conversion amount. A Roth IRA conversion can no longer be recharacterized (reversed). (8)

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. Phase-outs kick in above those MAGI levels.9

See that you have withheld the right amount. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act lowered federal income tax rates and altered withholding tables. If you discover that you have withheld too little on your W-4 form so far in 2018, you may need to adjust your withholding before the year ends. The Government Accountability Office projects that 21% of taxpayers are withholding less than they should in 2018. Even an end-of-year adjustment has the potential to save you some tax.10

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.

Sources

  1. nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/just-how-valuable-is-daily-tax-loss-harvesting/
  2. marketwatch.com/story/how-to-game-the-new-standard-deduction-and-3-other-ways-to-cut-your-2018-tax-bill-2018-10-15
  3. hrblock.com/tax-center/irs/tax-reform/3-changes-itemized-deductions-tax-reform-bill/
  4. investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/addroths.asp
  5. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/041315/tips-charitable-contributions-limits-and-taxes.asp
  6. savingforcollege.com/article/how-much-is-your-state-s-529-plan-tax-deduction-really-worth
  7. fool.com/retirement/2018/06/28/5-things-you-might-not-know-about-the-estate-tax.aspx
  8. marketwatch.com/story/how-the-new-tax-law-creates-a-perfect-storm-for-roth-ira-conversions-2018-03-26
  9. fool.com/investing/2018/03/17/your-2018-guide-to-college-tuition-tax-breaks.aspx
  10. money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/taxes/articles/2018-10-16/should-you-adjust-your-income-tax-withholding

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.

Here’s Why Your Diversified Portfolio is Underperforming The Market

photo of person holding black pen

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.

Your Portfolio vs. the S&P 500

“Why is my portfolio underperforming the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter.

The short answer is that while the U.S. equities market has realized significant gains in 2018, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds have underperformed and exerted a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.

A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes.

This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.

Because of this long bull market, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned. A portfolio once evenly held in equities and fixed income may now have a majority of its assets held in stocks, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return more than in the past.(1)

Yes, stock markets – as in stock markets worldwide.

Today, investors have more global exposure than they once did. In the 1990s, international holdings represented about 5% of an individual investor’s typical portfolio. Today, that has risen to about 15%. When overseas markets struggle, it does impact the return for many U.S. investors – and struggle they have. A strong dollar, the appearance of tariffs – these are considerable headwinds. (2,3)

In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact.

At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly affected when tech shares slide, as investors witnessed in fall 2018. (4)

How about the fixed-income market?

Well, this has been a weak year for bonds, and bonds are not known for generating huge annual returns to start with. (3)

This year, U.S. stocks have been out in front.

A portfolio 100% invested in the U.S. stock market would have a 2018 return like that of the S&P 500. But who invests entirely in stocks, let alone without any exposure to international and emerging markets? (3)

Just as an illustration, assume there is a hypothetical investor this year who is actually 100% invested in equities, as follows: 50% domestic, 35% international, 15% emerging markets. In the first two-thirds of 2018, that hypothetical portfolio would have advanced just 3.6%. (3)

Your portfolio is not the market – and vice versa.

Your investments might be returning 3% or less so far this year. Yes – this year. Will the financial markets behave in this exact fashion next year? Will the sector returns or emerging market returns of 2018 be replicated year after year for the next 10 or 15 years? The chances are remote.

The investment markets are ever-changing.

In some years, you may get a double-digit return. In other years, your return is much smaller. When your portfolio is diversified across asset classes, the highs may not be so high – but the lows may not be so low, either. When things turn volatile, diversification may help insulate you from some of the ups and downs you go through as an investor.

MI-GTM_4Q18_November_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. seattletimes.com/business/5-steps-to-take-if-the-bull-market-run-has-you-thinking-of-unloading-stocks/
  2. forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2018/08/05/how-most-investors-get-their-international-stock-exposure-wrong/
  3. thestreet.com/investing/stocks/dear-financial-advisor-why-is-my-portfolio-performing-so-14712955
  4. cnbc.com/2018/04/20/tech-dominates-the-sp-500-but-thats-not-always-a-bad-omen.html
  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 You’ll Need to Tolerate Some Risk When Investing

ImageExample

When financial markets have a bad day, week, or month, discomforting headlines and data can swiftly communicate a message to retirees and retirement savers alike: equity investments are risky things, and Wall Street is a risky place.


Use this tool to determine your Risk Number: http://bit.ly/WFGYourRiskNumber


All true. If you want to accumulate significant retirement savings or try and grow your wealth through the opportunities in the markets, this is a reality you cannot avoid.

Regularly, your investments contend with assorted market risks. They never go away. At times, they may seem dangerous to your net worth or your retirement savings, so much so that you think about getting out of equities entirely.

If you are having such thoughts, think about this: in the big picture, the real danger to your retirement could be being too risk averse.

Is it possible to hold too much in cash?

Yes. Some pre-retirees do. (Even some retirees, in fact.) They have six-figure savings accounts, built up since the Great Recession and the last bear market. It is a prudent move. A dollar will always be worth a dollar in America, and that money is out of the market and backed by deposit insurance.

This is all well and good, but the problem is what that money is earning. Even with interest rates rising, many high-balance savings accounts are currently yielding less than 0.5% a year. The latest inflation data shows consumer prices advancing 2.3% a year. That money in the bank is not outrunning inflation, not even close. It will lose purchasing power over time. (1,2)

Consider some of the recent yearly advances of the S&P 500.

In 2016, it gained 9.54%; in 2017, it gained 19.42%. Those were the price returns; the 2016 and 2017 total returns (with dividends reinvested) were a respective 11.96% and 21.83%. (3,4)

Yes, the broad benchmark for U.S. equities has bad years as well.

Historically, it has had about one negative year for every three positive years. Looking through relatively recent historical windows, the positives have mostly outweighed the negatives for investors. From 1973-2016, for example, the S&P gained an average of 11.69% per year. (The last 3-year losing streak the S&P had was in 2000-02.) (5)

Your portfolio may not return as well as the S&P does in a given year, but when equities rally, your household may see its invested assets grow noticeably.

When you bring in equity investment account factors like compounding and tax deferral, the growth of those invested assets over decades may dwarf the growth that could result from mere checking or savings account interest.

At some point, putting too little into investments and too much in the bank may become a risk – a risk to your retirement savings potential.

At today’s interest rates, the money you are saving may end up growing faster if it is invested in some vehicle offering potentially greater reward and comparatively greater degrees of risk to tolerate.

Having a big emergency fund is good.

You can dip into that liquid pool of cash to address sudden financial issues that pose risks to your financial equilibrium in the present.

Having a big retirement fund is even better.

When you have one of those, you may confidently address the biggest financial risk you will ever face: the risk of outliving your money in the future.

MI-GTM_4Q18-HIGH-RES-14

Annual returns and intra-year declines

This chart shows intra-year stock market declines (red dot and number), as well as the market’s return for the full year (gray bar). What is clear is that the market is capable of recovering from intra-year drops and finishing the year in positive territory, which should encourage investors to stay the course when markets get choppy.

Sources

  1. valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates
  2. investing.com/economic-calendar/
  3. money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/
  4. ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_total_return_annual
  5. thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year-2388543

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

How the Sequence of Investment Returns Can Negatively Impact Retirees

silver and gold coins

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.

What exactly is the “sequence of returns”?

The phrase simply describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?

The answer: no impact at all.

Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have a major effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.

During the accumulation phase, the sequence of returns is ultimately inconsequential.

Yearly returns may vary greatly or minimally; in the end, the variance from the mean hardly matters. (Think of “the end” as the moment the investor retires: the time when the emphasis on accumulating assets gives way to the need to withdraw assets.)

An analysis from BlackRock bears this out.

The asset manager compares three model investing scenarios: three investors start portfolios with lump sums of $1 million, and each of the three portfolios averages a 7% annual return across 25 years. In two of these scenarios, annual returns vary from -7% to +22%. In the third scenario, the return is simply 7% every year. In all three scenarios, each investor accumulates $5,434,372 after 25 years – because the average annual return is 7% in each case. (1)

Here is another way to look at it.

The average annual return of your portfolio is dynamic; it changes, year-to-year. You have no idea what the average annual return of your portfolio will be when “it is all said and done,” just like a baseball player has no idea what his lifetime batting average will be four seasons into a 13-year playing career. As you save and invest, the sequence of annual portfolio returns influences your average yearly return, but the deviations from the mean will not impact the portfolio’s final value. It will be what it will be. (1)

When you shift from asset accumulation to asset distribution, the story changes.

You must try to protect your invested assets against sequence of returns risk.

This is the risk of your retirement coinciding with a bear market (or something close). Even if your portfolio performs well across the duration of your retirement, a bad year or two at the beginning could heighten concerns about outliving your money.

For a classic illustration of the damage done by sequence of returns risk, consider the awful 2007-2009 bear market. Picture a couple at the start of 2008 with a $1 million portfolio, held 60% in equities and 40% in fixed-income investments. They arrange to retire at the end of the year. This will prove a costly decision. The bond market (in shorthand, the S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) gains 5.7% in 2008, but the stock market (in shorthand, the S&P 500) dives -37.0%. As a result, their $1 million portfolio declines to $800,800 in just one year. (2)

Here is a good chart from investmentmoats.com which helps visually explain what how early negative returns in retirement could potentially impact final portfolio value:

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If you are about to retire, do not dismiss this risk.

If you are far from retirement, keep saving and investing knowing that the sequence of returns will have its greatest implications as you make your retirement transition.

Sources

  1. blackrock.com/pt/literature/investor-education/sequence-of-returns-one-pager-va-us.pdf
  2. kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C032-S014-is-your-retirement-income-in-peril-of-this-risk.html
  3. http://investmentmoats.com/budgeting/retirement-planning/explaining-sequence-of-return-risk-and-possible-solutions/
  4. https://retireone.com/sequence-of-returns/

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.