IRA

How Does Rolling a 401(k) into an IRA Fit into My Retirement Plan?

Whether or not to roll a 401(k) into an IRA when you are changing jobs or retiring early, does not have a simple yes/no answer. There are a number of factors to consider.

If your retirement plan includes retiring before you reach age 59 ½, you may not want to move your 401(k) into an IRA at all. It may be better to move it into your current employer’s 401(k) plan. Moving those funds into an IRA, may limit your withdrawal options in retirement, says Forbes in the article, “Should I Roll My Old 401(k) To An IRA If I Want To Retire Early?”

MP900409252There’s a 10% penalty to withdraw funds from your traditional IRA before 59½, unless you qualify for an exception. However, many people don't know that the IRS lets employees who retire or otherwise leave a company at age 55 or older, to withdraw from their employer's plan without a penalty. Therefore, if you retire at age 55 and roll over your 401(k) to an IRA, you'll have to wait 4½years longer to withdraw your funds without a penalty.

At any age, there will be income taxes to pay on withdrawals. If you have a traditional 401(k), you got a tax break when you invested. Your funds then grew tax-deferred all those years. The IRS now wants to tax your money. When you withdraw from your traditional 401(k), your funds will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates.

There are also some side benefits to staying with a 401(k), instead of opening up a rollover IRA. First, it simplifies your investments. If you roll your 401(k) to your current firm when you switch jobs, you know exactly what your funds are invested in and can check the balance all in one place. It could also protect you from legal judgments. Keeping retirement funds in a company plan, instead of an IRA, will keep it safe.

You should discuss your asset protection strategy with your estate planning attorney.

Remember, not everyone qualifies to invest in a Roth. However, it is possible to contribute to a Roth IRA in a roundabout way, called a "backdoor” Roth IRA. It is complicated and you will need to talk to your tax advisor. Basically, you can open a non-deductible IRA and contribute to it, up to the maximum of $5,500 (or $6,500 if you are over age 50), then immediately convert it to a Roth IRA. Because you haven’t earned any interest, you don’t have any taxes to pay on the conversion.  Now you have a Roth IRA!

However, if you own any other traditional IRAs, you may have to pay pro-rata taxes on the conversion. If you want to try a backdoor Roth IRA, transferring your old 401(k) to your new employer’s plan may be the best way to go.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you don’t run afoul of any IRS rules on retirement accounts, if you intend to retire early. Making an expensive mistake could undo your early retirement.

Reference: Forbes (August 31, 2018)“Should I Roll My Old 401(k) To An IRA If I Want To Retire Early?”

Don’t Make This Common Estate Planning Gaffe: Check Your Beneficiary Designations

If you forget, you may find that your designated beneficiary isn’t who you want it to be.

When was the last time you even remembered which of your accounts have beneficiary designations? If you don’t remember, it’s time to check them.

MP900409252Life insurance, IRAs, bank accounts and investment portfolios all have beneficiary designations.

Investopedia says that outdated beneficiary designations can cause problems in its article, “The Importance of Updating Retirement Account Beneficiaries.” There have been many cases of retirement account owners who have been divorced and remarried, but failed to update their beneficiary designations.

If you forget, you may find that your designated beneficiary isn’t who you want it to be. That can frequently be the case in the event of a divorce, remarriage or if new children or grandchildren were welcomed to the family since your retirement plan account was started. If you named a charity as your beneficiary years ago, it may no longer exist.

It is good if you are reviewing your estate plan regularly. However, remember that retirement accounts aren’t part of your estate and aren’t governed by the provisions of your will, so it is important to keep these retirement documents updated.

Retirement account beneficiary designations are often neglected: they don’t get the attention they need!

Failing to update beneficiary designations can be very frustrating for the family. They’re the ones who will need to go to court to get a legal determination of the true beneficiary. The judge’s decision may not be what the deceased would have wished.

There can also be an issue, if some children are named as beneficiaries, but the document isn't updated to include those who were born after the initial designation. That’s why you should update your beneficiary designation right after any change in family status—and review it periodically, so they never are out-of-date or incorrect.  You should always have a contingency beneficiary.

Another option is to draft customized beneficiary designations to address "what-if" situations.

If you don’t name a beneficiary, the beneficiary may be determined by federal or state law, or by the plan document that governs your retirement accounts. For qualified plans like profit-sharing plans, 401(k)s, and money purchase pension plans, federal regulations automatically designate the spouse of the account owner as the beneficiary. The spouse has to approve of any other designation, and this must be in writing and notarized. If the retirement account owner is single, her estate may be the default beneficiary.

An IRA plan's documents also provide a default designation, if the designated beneficiary predeceases the IRA owner. The default options vary among IRA custodians and trustees. While the default options rid any administrative responsibilities from account owners, they may not reflect their preferences. As a result, account owners should review the plan document and be certain that they update their beneficiary designations regularly.

Many IRA plan documents have default beneficiary options, so if you designate two people as your beneficiaries and one predeceases you, the share that belonged to the deceased beneficiary automatically goes to the surviving beneficiary. If you have a customized designation, you can instruct how that portion would be distributed, instead of having it default to the surviving beneficiary.

When you sit down with a qualified estate planning attorney, make a complete inventory of your assets and include the names of your beneficiaries and contingency beneficiaries. Don’t leave this detail out, or you’ll risk creating a real problem for your family.

Reference: Investopedia(2018) “The Importance of Updating Retirement Account Beneficiaries”

When is the Best Time to Start Taking Social Security?

Consider these twin concepts—opportunity cost and delayed retirement credits—before you decide

Consider these twin concepts—opportunity cost and delayed retirement credits—before you decide when to start taking Social Security.

MP900411753By waiting until age 70, you’ll increase your monthly benefit, but at what cost?A recent article inForbes,“Social Security Benefits: Getting Paid To Wait,”examines the dilemma. Money managers call it “opportunity risk:” if you take money from retirement accounts that would otherwise be invested and grow, in order to delay taking Social Security, you are risking the potential for that money to grow.

Can you plan for opportunity cost? Start by looking at whether to wait to take Social Security after your “normal” retirement age, which is 66 for most people. If you wait to claim at age 70, you’ll see the largest-possible Social Security benefit. If you’re not working, you’ll probably be withdrawing money from your retirement funds, which means that those funds won’t be able to grow for a period of several years. As a result, you’ll need to weigh the opportunity cost of not having funds growing tax-deferred in your retirement accounts, against the larger Social Security benefit you will eventually get.

The math isn’t always easy to calculate, but there’s a simple, indirect rule of thumb that Social Security provides. It is known as “delayed retirement credits.” Based on your birth year, Social Security will give you a bonus for waiting to claim benefits. Take a look at how that works:

Delayed Retirement Credits

Year of birth     Credit per year

1917-24                         3.0%

1925-26                         3.5%

1927-28                         4.0%

1929-30                         4.5%

1931-32                         5.0%

1933-34                         5.5%

1935-36                         6.0%

1937-38                         6.5%

1939-40                         7.0%

1941-42                         7.5%

1943 and later              8.0%

 Therefore, if you were born after 1943, for every year you wait to claim benefits after age 66 or so, you get an 8% bump in potential benefits up until age 70. That can be a sweet deal, especially if your portfolio isn’t giving you that kind of return. If it’s doing better than that (after taxes), then you might want to leave as much money as you can in your own savings.

If you elect to work, you can build up a larger nest egg, avoid withdrawals and take Social Security later for the maximum benefit. However, not everybody can work later, nor will they be able to plan to delay retirement withdrawals or Social Security. However, if you see that your work/lifestyle situation is flexible, you should run several scenarios.

Your decision needs to be made after reviewing every source of income, considering your tax and estate plan. Of course, the more assets you own, the more complex the analysis will become. Taxes are a considerable concern, since most of your retirement fund withdrawals (except for Roth IRAs) will be taxable. Another factor to consider: your expected life span. If you come from a family with long life spans, your planning may be different than if you have a chronic condition, like diabetes or heart disease.

Reference: Forbes (June 1, 2018)“Social Security Benefits: Getting Paid To Wait”

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on an Inherited Annuity?

If it seems like everything is subject to an inheritance tax, well, that is often true.

Yes, there are taxes due on inherited annuities. The amount depends upon your relationship to the deceased and the value of the annuity.

TaxIf it seems like everything is subject to an inheritance tax, well, that is often true. In a recent article from nj.com, “Who pays inheritance tax on an annuity?” a beneficiary asks what happens when a Class D beneficiary inherits a qualified annuity.

In this case, which occurred in New Jersey, transfers for less than $500, life insurance proceeds, and certain state and federal pension payments are exempt. However, everything else is subject to the inheritance tax. This includes items controlled by beneficiary designations, instead of a will, like an IRA, 401(k) or annuity.

If it’s an annuity at issue, the date of death valuation must be listed on the New Jersey Inheritance Tax form (IT-R), which is for assets left to Class D beneficiaries. The personal representative (or executor or administrator) of the estate has a fiduciary duty to file the inheritance tax return (Form IT-R). The tax return, along with payment for any taxes owed, is due eight months from the date of death in that state.

The person responsible for paying the tax, depends on the deceased's will. For example, the will could state that all estate or inheritance taxes are paid out of the deceased's residuary estate, which is the part of a deceased's estate that remains after all debts have been paid and specific bequests have been distributed.

If the estate has sufficient funds to pay the tax, the beneficiaries won't owe anything.  However, the will could state that all estate/inheritance taxes are paid proportionately by the recipient, even for assets not controlled by the will. That’s the default in New Jersey, when the will doesn’t say how death taxes get apportioned or the deceased died intestate (without a will).

There can be an issue when the beneficiary refuses to pay his or her share. In that case, the executor is still obligated to pay the tax with other estate funds, if any, which will negatively affect the inheritance of other beneficiaries under the will.

In that case, the executor can sue to recover the funds from non-paying beneficiary. If the executor can't pay the tax because there aren’t enough funds in the estate, the state of New Jersey will bring a delinquency claim directly against the non-paying beneficiary.

The best course of action is simply for the beneficiary to pay their share. An executor with an uncooperative beneficiary, should speak with an estate planning attorney to explore their options and protect the estate and the executor.

Reference: nj.com (May 14, 2018)“Who pays inheritance tax on an annuity?”

Should I Use My Savings for a Down Payment on a New Home?

One way to boost your chances of getting a mortgage and winning a bidding war

It’s not an easy time to be a home buyer, since bank requirements for mortgages are stringent and in some markets, the inventory is low. One way to boost your chances of getting a mortgage and winning a bidding war: a bigger than usual down payment.

MP900442456Tapping your retirement account for a larger down payment on a home purchase has certain advantages, according to a recent article in Forbes, “Should You Use Your Retirement Savings to Buy a Home?Among the advantages are some tax breaks from the IRS, if you qualify as a first-time home buyer.

Get this: you don’t actually have to be buying a home for the first timein your life to be considered a “first-time” home buyer. The IRS defines a first-time home buyer as any home buyer who has had no present interest in a main home during the two-year period ending on the date of acquisition of the new home. Therefore, provided that you haven’t lived in a home you owned for the last two years, you are considered a first-time home buyer, even if you previously owned a home. If you’re married, your spouse also has to satisfy this requirement.

If you withdraw money from a traditional IRA before age 59½, there's typically a 10% penalty for early withdrawal. However, the IRS has an exception that lets you to withdraw up to $10,000 over a lifetime, without a penalty for first-time home purchases.  You should also note that while the distributions are not subject to penalty, they are still subject to income taxes. If you’ve owned a Roth IRA for at least five years, any distributions used for a first-time home purchase (subject to the $10,000 lifetime limit) are treated as qualified distributions. This means the amount distributed will be exempt from penalties and income taxes. If you haven’t owned a Roth IRA for at least five years, your distribution may still avoid penalties but some or all of it may be taxed.

Any money you put into Roth IRAs comes out first. It isn’t subject to taxes or penalties, because you’ve already paid taxes on the money before you deposited it. Therefore, the first-time home purchase exception is really only applicable, after you’ve withdrawn all of your contributions. As a result, many people withdraw all of their initial contributions plus$10,000 of growth with no tax consequences.

This same exception does not apply to your retirement account through work. The only way to withdraw money from your employer-sponsored retirement plan (e.g., your 401(k)) for a home purchase, while you are working and under age 59½, is through a hardship withdrawal. Buying a home is one of the reasons allowed for a hardship withdrawal, but you’ll have the early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59½, and any pre-tax withdrawals or growth in your Roth 401(k) will also be taxed.

Another option is to use the 401(k) loan provision to access those funds to buy a home without the tax. Many companies also let you have longer than the standard five-year pay-back period to repay a residential 401(k) loan. However, you may have to show that you actually closed on a home. The interest you pay goes back into your own account, but will be double taxed when you withdraw it.

This could be a risky move, especially if you are going to use the equity in your home as an income stream during retirement. If you can’t make payments on the loan, you could lose both your home and your retirement money. Speak with your estate planning attorney to work through the details, before taking this step. You don’t want to jeopardize your retirement or your home ownership. There may be better alternatives.

Reference: Forbes(May 20, 2018) “Should You Use Your Retirement Savings to Buy a Home?

What Should a Financial Plan Include?

You may need a guide—but how do you know who to choose?

Hit a spring pothole and you can lose a tire. But hit a pothole with your financial plan, and you may be in for a bigger problem than replacing a tire.

MP900398819Do you have an up-to-date roadmap to your retirement? Keeping your finances, investments and retirement plan on a smooth road has become more and more challenging. Every day seems to bring a new regulation, investment product, or app that claims to offer the best route. You may need a guide—but how do you know who to choose?

Kiplinger’srecent article, “5 Bases You Need Covered With Your Retirement Plan,”says there are plenty of financial professionals today who can get you started down the right path with investment advice. However, a professional who limits his or her professional life solely to investing advice, isn’t going to get you comfortably and confidently to your retirement goals. Be sure you have someone who will concentrate on these five key areas of your financial life:

Income Planning.Your retirement could last for decades. You must be certain that you’ll have reliable income streams to pay your monthly expenses. This area typically should cover things like Social Security maximization, income and expense analysis, inflation, a plan for the surviving spouse, longevity protection and investment planning. Once your income plan has been created, you need to analyze your remaining assets (those that you won’t have to draw from every month). This should cover your risk tolerance, adjusting your portfolio to reduce fees, volatility control, ways to reduce risk while still working toward your goals and comprehensive institutional money management.

Tax Planning. Your comprehensive retirement plan should include strategies to decrease tax liabilities, such as determining the taxable nature of your current portfolio, possible IRA planning, looking at ways to include tax-deferred or tax-free money in your plan, prioritizing tax categories from which to draw income initially to potentially reduce your tax burden and considering ways to leverage your qualified money to leave tax-free dollars to your beneficiaries.

Health Care Planning. Retirees today must have a plan to address rising health care costs with little expense. Strategies should include examining Medicare Parts A, B, and D, reviewing options for a long-term care plan and legacy planning.

It’s critical that your hard-earned assets go to heirs and loved ones in the most tax-efficient manner possible. Your financial adviser should work collaboratively with a qualified estate planning attorney to help with these tasks:

  • Maximize estate and income tax planning opportunities;
  • Protect any assets in trust and ensure that they’re distributed probate-free to beneficiaries and
  • Prevent your IRA and other qualified accounts from becoming fully taxable to beneficiaries upon death.

Your estate planning attorney should be able to give you some recommendations for trustworthy and respected professionals. You’ll also need to do your homework, and interview more than two or three to make sure that it’s a good fit. Ideally, this person will work with you, your estate planning attorney and your CPA, as part of a team, for many decades.

Reference: Kiplinger(May 4, 2018) “5 Bases You Need Covered With Your Retirement Plan”

Did the New Tax Law Change Roth IRA Contribution Limits for 2018?

Unlike contributions to a traditional IRA—which may be tax-deductible—a Roth IRA has no up-front tax break.

If you are 50 or older, you can put $6,500 into your Roth IRA: that includes a “catch up” contribution of $1,000. Typical Roth IRA contributions are still limited to $5,500 a year. There are income limits,  which you’ll need to be careful about.

MP900404926One good thing about the new tax law: it raised income limits to qualify for the maximum contribution to a Roth IRA.  However, the maximum contribution to a Roth IRA in 2018 is the same as 2017.

Kiplinger’s recent article on this topic asks “How Much Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA for 2018?”In its answer, the article explains that the maximum amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA for 2018 is $5,500, if you're younger than 50. Those age 50 and older can add an extra $1,000 per year in "catch-up" contributions. That is $6,500, which is the maximum contribution amount and the same as 2017.

The actual amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA is based on your income. To be eligible to contribute the maximum for 2018, your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than $120,000 if you’re single or $189,000 if you’re married and filing jointly. The contributions start to phase out above those amounts. You can't put any money into a Roth IRA once your income reaches $135,000 if single or $199,000, if married and filing jointly. Roth IRA income limits have increased slightly from 2017.

Unlike contributions to a traditional IRA—which may be tax-deductible—a Roth IRA has no up-front tax break. Money goes into the Roth after it’s been taxed. However, when you begin withdrawing funds in retirement, your contributions and all the earnings will be tax-free.

Roth’s are also more flexible than traditional, deductible IRAs. You can withdraw contributions to a Roth account anytime, tax- and penalty-free.  However, if you want to withdraw earnings tax-free, you need to be at least age 59½ and must have owned the Roth for at least five years.

Roth’s aren’t subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 70½, and you can deposit money at any age, provided you have earned income from a job or self-employment. Traditional IRAs prohibit new contributions once you reach 70½, even if you’re working.

There’s no minimum age limit to open a Roth IRA, and you can contribute to another individual's Roth account as a gift. However, the recipients must have earned income, and you can only contribute an amount up to that person's annual earnings or $5,500, whichever isless.

The popular Roth IRA accounts are used by many to leave money to heirs. Beneficiaries do have to take distributions over time, but they don’t have to pay taxes on the distributions. That’s an attractive benefit!

Reference: Kiplinger(April 22, 2018) “How Much Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA for 2018?”

Under New Tax Law, Roth IRAs are More Attractive

Here are the two biggest tax advantages from Roth IRAs

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have made the Roth more attractive as retirement savings vehicles.

MP900398747Here are the two biggest tax advantages from Roth IRAs: withdrawals are tax free, and you don’t have to worry about required minimum distributions. According to MarketWatch’s article, “How the new tax law creates a ‘perfect storm’ for Roth IRA conversions,”today’s federal income tax rates might be the lowest you’ll see for the rest of your life.

Tax-Free Withdrawals. Unlike traditional IRA withdrawals, qualified Roth IRA withdrawals are federal-income-tax-free and most often state-income-tax-free. A qualified withdrawal is one taken after you, as the Roth account owner, have met both of the following requirements: (i) you’ve had at least one Roth IRA open for more than five years; and (ii) you’ve reached age 59½ or become disabled or dead. To satisfy the five-year requirement, the clock starts on the first day of the tax year for which you make your initial contribution to your first Roth account. That initial contribution can be a regular annual contribution or a conversion contribution.

RMD Exemption. Unlike a traditional IRA, you don’t have to start taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Roth accounts after reaching age 70½. Instead, you can leave your Roth account(s) untouched for as long as you live if you want. This makes your Roth IRA a great asset to leave to your family, if you don’t need the Roth money to help finance your retirement.

Annual Roth contributions make the most sense for those who think they’ll pay the same or higher tax rates during retirement. Higher future taxes can be avoided on Roth account earnings, because qualified Roth withdrawals are federal-income-tax-free (and typically not taxed at the state level).  However, the downside is you don’t get a deduction for making Roth contributions.

Therefore, if you anticipate paying lower taxes in retirement, you might want to make deductible traditional IRA contributions (if your income allows). That’s because the current deductions may be worth more to you, than tax-free withdrawals down the road.

 What is the other best-case scenario for annual Roth contributions? It is when you’ve maxed out on deductible retirement plan contributions. Annual contributions are limited, and earned income is required. The maximum you can contribute to a Roth for any tax year is the lesser of: (1) your earned income for the year; or (2) the annual contribution limit for the year. Earned income is wage and salary income (including bonuses), self-employment income, and alimony received that is included in your gross income (believe it or not). If you’re married, you can add your spouse’s earned income to the total. Remember, after reaching age 70½, you can still make annual Roth IRA contributions, provided there are no problems with the earned income limitation or the income-based phase-out rule. However, you can’t make any more contributions to traditional IRAs after you reach age 70½.

Roth conversions. Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, is the fastest way to get a large amount of money into a Roth IRA. This conversion is considered a taxable distribution, since you have received a payout from the traditional IRA. Once that money is deposited into a new Roth IRA, it will trigger a tax bill. However, with federal income taxes so low, now is the time to do this, since you’ll be avoiding the possibility of higher rates on the post-conversion income that will be in the Roth account. You should also remember that if you’ve had at least one Roth account open for more than five years, withdrawals are federal income tax free.

Reference: MarketWatch(March 27, 2018) “How the new tax law creates a ‘perfect storm’ for Roth IRA conversions”

Proper Planning for the Distribution of an IRA

Understand the rules, so the money goes where you want it to.

The rules for IRA distributions can be complicated. Unforeseen circumstances can make things even more complex. Understand the rules, so the money goes where you want it to.

Family - IRA PlanningWhat happens if you designate each of your two adult children as 50/50 beneficiaries of your IRA, and then one of them dies? Will the funds go to your grandchildren?

MarketWatchanswered that question in its article, “Who gets your IRA when you die? It’s not so simple.”The answer to what happens to the IRA money is dependent upon what the beneficiary designations say and when one of the children passes away. The beneficiary designations state how it will be distributed. However, that may not be what is written in your will.

If the children are alive when the IRA owner dies, and she simply named them 50/50 outright beneficiaries, they will each get half the funds. Each child could do whatever they wanted, including placing the funds in an inherited IRA account and naming their choice of beneficiaries.

However, if either child dies before the parent with the IRA passes away, and she doesn’t update the beneficiary designation before she dies, there are two common default arrangements built into account forms for IRAs, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuity contracts, and “transfer on death” arrangements available in some states. One is per capita: if one child is dead at the time of the parent’s death and is still listed as a 50% beneficiary, then 100% of this share will go to the surviving child.

The other common arrangement is per stirpes—Latin for “by the root.” Here, rather than the predeceasing child’s share going to their surviving sibling, the share goes to the deceased beneficiary’s children.

Be sure to obtain a copy of what you filed for your beneficiary designations.  You should carefully review the language to be certain that it meshes with your wishes. If you want your assets to flow differently, speak with an estate planning attorney about drafting a custom beneficiary designation. Some people don’t want one of their beneficiaries to inherit outright and have free reign with the funds. An attorney can help protect that person and the money.

If you want to have people who are not “linear” decedents be beneficiaries, such as family friends or spouses of children, you’ll need to sit down with an estate planning attorney to make sure that the legal documents are correctly drafted. You may decide to use a custom beneficiary designation or trusts to achieve this.

Reference: MarketWatch(March 17, 2018) “Who gets your IRA when you die? It’s not so simple”

Scroll to Top