Well-equipped for retirement?

According to the Population Reference Bureau, 76.4 million Americans were born in the period 1946–1966.  For retirement, a majority of these Baby Boomers must rely on the 401(k) system or equivalent defined-contribution plans (where the worker does a majority of the savings and, in many cases, may receive matching contributions from their employer).  This is because the key retirement predecessors, “defined-benefit” plans (such as pensions), have increasingly become a thing of the past.

What’s troubling is the Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior 2014 DALBAR survey results indicate that investors are not very effective in managing their own investment portfolios.  And among other things, the survey shows that workers aren’t saving enough for retirement.  To quote Dr. Olivia Mitchell, Executive Director of Wharton’s Pension Research Council “more than half of U.S. retirees will rely on Social Security for more than 50% of their total income.”  This will sadly leave them with the painful choice of a significant drop in their standard of living, or even more concerning, the risk of outliving their retirement savings.  One simple conclusion, workers should seek help to review and plan for their retirement – a second set of eyes to help them get, or even stay, on track.

Unused 529 Contributions

From time to time concerned parents share that they don’t want to save toward college in a tax-free 529 savings plan because they don’t want to incur any penalties if their child gets a full scholarship or doesn’t use all of the savings in the plan account.  Many times the potential penalties are misunderstood.  Below are a few things to consider regarding unused 529 account savings that may help you determine if the 529 plan is appropriate for you:

  • Federal law imposes a 10% penalty on “earnings” (not principal) for non-qualified withdrawals.  These distributions are allocated between principal and earnings on a pro-rata basis.
  • If you withdraw funds not needed for college because the beneficiary has received a scholarship, you may be able to qualify for an exception to the IRS penalty on non-qualified distributions.
  • There is an exception on non-qualified distributions if you terminate the account because the beneficiary has died or is disabled.
  • Remember that any earnings portion of non-qualified distributions come back to the 529 account owner (typically the parent) as ordinary income and taxed at the owner’s tax rate.
  • When the original beneficiary (the student) doesn’t need the funds in the account, don’t forget that you can change the “beneficiary” to another qualifying family member in order to maintain the account and avoid or delay taking a non-qualified withdrawal.

Remember to review current tax law with your financial advisor, CPA or accountant prior to making any non-qualified withdrawals from a 529 account to help determine what penalty or negative tax consequences you may incur.  Source: IRS.gov

Improving your Retirement Picture

In a recent national retirement plan survey conducted by Matthey Greenwald & Associates of Washington, D.C., employer retirement plan participants shared some interesting facts. Here is a clip of some of the key findings provided by American Century Investment Services: 

  • A majority of participants, particularly older participants, have at least some regret about not doing a better job saving for retirement. In fact, participants gave themselves roughly a C+ on putting money away for retirement and on investing. 
  • The large majority of participants across all age groups wish they had saved more in the first five years of their working lives. 
  • Only one in ten strongly agrees that they knew what they were doing with their investments. 
  • Seven in ten are at least fairly interested in having a program that would increase their savings by 1%. 
  • Roughly two-thirds in each age group expect the financial advisor to play a major role going forward when it comes to preparing for retirement. 

Does all this make sense to you?  If we can help you or someone you know have enough for retirement please give us a call now.  We are ready to help.

Keeping the summer financially sound

The summer months typically include vacation, a little time off from work, or hopefully some time to just relax.  You can use these moments to refuel and even travel a bit.  However, the summer can also lead to increased expenditures, and for many, a time when they prefer to “take a break” from their finances.  Here are some practical tips that can help you stay the course with your finances during the summertime:  1) utilize automatic bank drafts to invest regularly, 2) set up automatic bill pay to avoid late charges or missing bills, and 3) avoid making unnecessary impulse purchases.  It’s also a good time to review your semi-annual statements and call ahead to schedule a future appointment with your advisor or Certified Financial Planner™ to review your accounts after the break.