Building an Emergency Fund

BUILDING AN EMERGENCY FUND

 

Creating a financial cushion for stressful times.

Presented by «representativename»

 

How would you respond to sudden financial demands? We all define “emergencies” differently, but we are not immune to them. How can we plan to stay afloat financially when they occur?

 

Most households are not financially prepared for an emergency – not even close. A recent study from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 64% of Americans had less than $1,000 in funds earmarked for a crisis.1

 

While the recession did its part to siphon emergency funds from families, attention must be paid to rebuilding those funds. It may be difficult; it may be inconvenient. That doesn’t make it any less of a priority.

 

Emergencies tend to be linked to long-term debt. Having a designated emergency fund can help you attack that debt. When most people think of financial emergencies, they think of medical problems and burdensome costs that their insurance won’t fully absorb – but there are other paths to long-term debt, such as a sudden layoff, a natural disaster, a family issue with financial underpinnings or even an abrupt need to move to another metro area, for whatever reason.

 

How large should the fund be? You decide. An old rule of thumb is six months of net income or six months of expenses. If you are snickering or laughing out loud at your chances of saving that much, you aren’t alone. If your prospects of building a five-figure emergency fund seem remote, try to create one equivalent to two or three months of net income. Any amount is better than none.

 

How do you do it without hurting your standard of living? Few of us have a lump sum we can just reassign for emergencies. So consider these subtle savings opportunities.

> You could pay cash whenever possible, opening the door to incremental savings that credit card companies would otherwise take from you. A few dozen bucks can become a few hundred bucks, then a few thousand bucks over time. Incidentally, in a nationwide survey conducted by Chase Blueprint and LearnVest, 31% of people polled cited credit card debt as a major barrier to achieving financial objectives. The credit card debt carried by this 31% averaged about $5,000. Clearly, living on credit cards will thwart your effort to build a rainy day fund.2

> You could vow not to spend frivolously, thereby retaining money you might be tempted to throw away on impulse.

 

> You could sell stuff – stuff somebody else, maybe down the street or across the country, might want. Incidental shipping and handling costs could seem irrelevant next to the cash you generate.

 

> You could arrange direct deposit or start a seasonal savings account. The psychology behind both moves is simple: you are less likely to spend money if it doesn’t pass through your wallet.

 

Here’s how not to do it. Try to avoid building a crisis fund through self-defeating methods. For example:

 

> Don’t start an emergency fund with a loan. Do it with your own accumulated savings, bonus money from your job performance, royalties – whatever the origin, use money you have made or and/or saved yourself, not money you have borrowed from lenders or relatives.

 

> Don’t do it using payday loans or cash advances. High-interest short-term loans and cash advances on credit cards are often pitched as rescues to struggling households. Thanks to their absurd interest rates, payday loans are not financial “life rafts” by any means. Cash advances on credit and debit cards come with disproportionately high fees. Sadly, people who go in for these loans and advances once commonly go in for them again.

 

> Don’t refrain from paying certain bills. Let’s say that you have eight debts you have to pay per month. If you only pay three of them each month and carefully alternate which debts get paid down, can you create an emergency fund with the money you avoid paying? Well, yes – but you may imperil your credit rating in the process.

 

If you don’t have a designated emergency fund, you can build it up in the same way that you probably invest: a little at a time, with relatively little impact on your lifestyle. It can be done. It should be done.

«representativename» may be reached at «representativephone» or «representativeemail».

«representativewebsite»

 

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.

 

 

Citations.

1 – http://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/5-ways-to-start-an-emergency-fund/ [8/14/12]

2 – http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/11/01/seven-reasons-why-need-to-create-emergency-fund-now/ [11/1/12]

 

 

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.


The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T,Glaxosmithkline, Merck,  Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil,  Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may
be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

 

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Should you pay off your mortgage or invest?

Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage or Invest?

Owning a home outright is a dream that many Americans share. Having a mortgage can be a huge burden, and paying it off may be the first item on your financial to-do list. But competing with the desire to own your home free and clear is your need to invest for retirement, your child’s college education, or some other goal. Putting extra cash toward one of these goals may mean sacrificing another. So how do you choose?

Evaluating the opportunity cost

Deciding between prepaying your mortgage and investing your extra cash isn’t easy, because each option has advantages and disadvantages. But you can start by weighing what you’ll gain financially by choosing one option against what you’ll give up. In economic terms, this is known as evaluating the opportunity cost.

Here’s an example. Let’s assume that you have a $300,000 balance and 20 years remaining on your 30-year mortgage, and you’re paying 6.25% interest. If you were to put an extra $400 toward your mortgage each month, you would save approximately $62,000 in interest, and pay off your loan almost 6 years early.

By making extra payments and saving all of that interest, you’ll clearly be gaining a lot of financial ground. But before you opt to prepay your mortgage, you still have to consider what you might be giving up by doing so–the opportunity to potentially profit even more from investing.

To determine if you would come out ahead if you invested your extra cash, start by looking at the after-tax rate of return you can expect from prepaying your mortgage. This is generally less than the interest rate you’re paying on your mortgage, once you take into account any tax deduction you receive for mortgage interest. Once you’ve calculated that figure, compare it to the after-tax return you could receive by investing your extra cash.

For example, the after-tax cost of a 6.25% mortgage would be approximately 4.5% if you were in the 28% tax bracket and were able to deduct mortgage interest on your federal income tax return (the after-tax cost might be even lower if you were also able to deduct mortgage interest on your state income tax return). Could you receive a higher after-tax rate of return if you invested your money instead of prepaying your mortgage?

Keep in mind that the rate of return you’ll receive is directly related to the investments you choose. Investments with the potential for higher returns may expose you to more risk, so take this into account when making your decision.

Other points to consider

While evaluating the opportunity cost is important, you’ll also need to weigh many other factors. The following list of questions may help you decide which option is best for you.

  • What’s your mortgage interest rate? The lower the rate on your mortgage, the greater the potential to receive a better return through investing.
  • Does your mortgage have a prepayment penalty? Most mortgages don’t, but check before making extra payments.
  • How long do you plan to stay in your home? The main benefit of prepaying your mortgage is the amount of interest you save over the long term; if you plan to move soon, there’s less value in putting more money toward your mortgage.
  • Will you have the discipline to invest your extra cash rather than spend it? If not, you might be better off making extra mortgage payments.
  • Do you have an emergency account to cover unexpected expenses? It doesn’t make sense to make extra mortgage payments now if you’ll be forced to borrow money at a higher interest rate later. And keep in mind that if your financial circumstances change–if you lose your job or suffer a disability, for example–you may have more trouble borrowing against your home equity.
  • How comfortable are you with debt? If you worry endlessly about it, give the emotional benefits of paying off your mortgage extra consideration.
  • Are you saddled with high balances on credit cards or personal loans? If so, it’s often better to pay off those debts first. The interest rate on consumer debt isn’t tax deductible, and is often far higher than either your mortgage interest rate or the rate of return you’re likely to receive on your investments.
  • Are you currently paying mortgage insurance? If you are, putting extra toward your mortgage until you’ve gained at least 20% equity in your home may make sense.
  • How will prepaying your mortgage affect your overall tax situation? For example, prepaying your mortgage (thus reducing your mortgage interest) could affect your ability to itemize deductions (this is especially true in the early years of your mortgage, when you’re likely to be paying more in interest).
  • Have you saved enough for retirement? If you haven’t, consider contributing the maximum allowable each year to tax-advantaged retirement accounts before prepaying your mortgage. This is especially important if you are receiving a generous employer match. For example, if you save 6% of your income, an employer match of 50% of what you contribute (i.e., 3% of your income) could potentially add thousands of extra dollars to your retirement account each year. Prepaying your mortgage may not be the savviest financial move if it means forgoing that match or shortchanging your retirement fund.
  • How much time do you have before you reach retirement or until your children go off to college? The longer your timeframe, the more time you have to potentially grow your money by investing. Alternatively, if paying off your mortgage before reaching a financial goal will make you feel much more secure, factor that into your decision.

The middle ground

If you need to invest for an important goal, but you also want the satisfaction of paying down your mortgage, there’s no reason you can’t do both. It’s as simple as allocating part of your available cash toward one goal, and putting the rest toward the other. Even small adjustments can make a difference. For example, you could potentially shave years off your mortgage by consistently making biweekly, instead of monthly, mortgage payments, or by putting any year-end bonuses or tax refunds toward your mortgage principal.

And remember, no matter what you decide now, you can always reprioritize your goals later to keep up with changes to your circumstances, market conditions, and interest rates.

 Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed bynetbenefits.fidelity.com, AT&T, Qwest, access.att.comfidelity.com, ING Retirement, Bank of America, Raytheonhewitt.com, Glaxosmithkline, Pfizer, Chevron, resources.hewitt.com, ExxonMobil, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Merck, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

 

Cease Your Money Paralysis

A decision not made may have financial consequences. There is an old belief that women are more cautious about money than men, and whether you believe that or not, both women and men may fall prey to a kind of money paralysis as they age – in which financial indecision is regarded as a form of “safety.”

Retirement seems to heighten this tendency. If you are single, retired, and female, you may be extremely fearful of drawing down your retirement savings too soon; or investing in a way that would mean any kind of risk.

This is understandable: if you are over 80, you likely have memories of the Great Depression, and baby boomers have memories of the severe economic downturn of the late 2000s.

“Paralysis by analysis,” or simple hesitation, may cost you in the long run. Your retirement may last much longer than you presume it will – perhaps 30 or 40 years – and maintaining your standard of living will undeniably take some growth investing. As much as you may want to stay out of stocks and funds, they offer you a chance to out-earn inflation – a chance you forfeit at your financial peril.

Even minor inflation can subtly reduce your purchasing power over time. Of all the risks to quality of life in retirement, this is often the least noticed. Doing nothing about it – or investing in a way that avoids all or nearly all risk – may put you at greater and greater financial disadvantage as your retirement proceeds.

Keeping a foot in the stock market – in whatever major or minor way you choose – allows your invested assets the potential to keep pace with or outpace inflation.

Retirement is the time to withdraw retirement assets. Some women (and men) are extremely reluctant to tap into their retirement nest eggs, even when the money has been set aside for years for a specific dream. Even though they have saved or dedicated, say, $20,000 for world travel, when retirement comes they may be skittish about actually using the money for that purpose. Buying a car to replace one that has been driven for 15 years, or remodeling part of the house to make it more livable after 70 or 80 may be viewed as extravagances.

We cannot control how long we will live, how much money we will need in the future, or how well the economy will perform next year or ten years on. There comes a point where you must live for today. Pinching pennies in retirement with the idea that the great bulk of your savings is for “someday” can weigh on your psyche. What does your retirement dream amount to if you don’t start living it once you retire?

If you fear outliving your money, remember that growth investing offers you the potential to generate a larger retirement fund for yourself. If you seek more retirement income, ask a financial professional about ways to arrange it – there are multiple ways to plan for it, and some that involve little risk to principal.

Don’t forget America’s built-in retirement insurance: Social Security. For every year you wait to claim Social Security benefits after your full retirement age (either 66 and 67 for most people) and age 70, your monthly payments grow by 8%. In contrast, if you start taking Social Security before your full retirement age, it will mean less SSI per month than if you had waited.1

The 4% rule may provide you with a guideline. For many years, some retirement planners have recommended that a retiree withdraw between 4-4.5% annually from savings. (This percentage is gradually adjusted north for inflation over the years.)2

The 4% rule is a worthwhile rule for many retirees, but it is hardly the only yardstick for retirement income withdrawals. At its Squared Away blog, the influential Center for Retirement Research at Boston College notes a study from one of its economists on this topic. It suggests an alternative – termed the RMD strategy – that mimics the Required Minimum Distributions the federal government requires from a traditional IRA after the original IRA owner enters his or her seventies. In this withdrawal strategy, you start withdrawing only 3.1% of your retirement assets at age 65, which climbs to 4.4% at 75 and then 6.8% by 85. (That is just withdrawal off of principal; interest and dividends can be added to that to give you more income.)2

Are you wondering just how much money to live on in retirement? Are you also wondering how your retirement savings and income may grow? Talk with a financial professional about your options – you may have many more than you initially assume. A practical outlook on investing and decisions to work longer or claim Social Security later can also potentially help you amass or receive more money for the years ahead.

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.

1 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/08/22/5-cures-for-womens-retirement-spending-paralysis/ [8/22/13]

2 – squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/retiree-paralysis-can-i-spend-my-money/ [7/11/13]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Qwest, Hughes, Glaxosmithkline, Alcatel-Lucent, ExxonMobil, Verizon, Merck, Bank of America, Chevron, Raytheon, Pfizer, ING Retirement, AT&T, Northrop Grumman, or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

 

 

 

 

HOW MUCH RETIREMENT INCOME WILL YOU REALLY NEED?

 Many people underestimate lifestyle costs, medical expenses and inflation.

What is enough? What is not enough? If you’re considering retiring in the near future, you’ve probably heard or read that you need about 70% of your end salary to live comfortably in retirement. This estimate is frequently repeated … but that doesn’t mean it is true for everyone. It may not be true for you.

You won’t learn how much retirement income you’ll need by reading this article. You’ll want to meet with a qualified retirement planner who can help you plan to estimate your lifestyle needs and short-term and long-term expenses.

That said, there are some factors which affect retirement income needs – and too often, they go unconsidered.

Health. Most of us will face a major health problem at some point in our lives – perhaps even multiple or chronic health problems. We don’t want to think about that reality. But if you’re a new retiree, think for a moment about the costs of prescription medicines, and recurring treatment for chronic ailments. These minor and major costs can really take a bite out of retirement income, even with a great health care plan. While generics have slowed the advance of prescription drug costs to about 1-2% a year recently,1 one estimate found that a 65-year-old who retired in 2007 would need $215,000 to pay for overall retirement health care costs – up about 7.5% from 2006.2

Heredity. If you come from a family where people frequently live into their 80s and 90s, you may live as long or longer. Imagine retiring at 55 and living to 95 or 100. You would need 40-45 years of steady retirement income.

Portfolio. Many people retire with investment portfolios they haven’t reviewed in years, with asset allocations that may no longer be appropriate. New retirees sometimes carry too much risk in their portfolios, with the result being that the retirement income from their investments fluctuates wildly with the vagaries of the market. Other retirees are super-conservative investors: their portfolios are so risk-averse that they can’t earn enough to keep up with even moderate inflation, and over time, they find they have less and less purchasing power.

Spending habits. Do you only spend 70% of your salary? Probably not. If you’re like many Americans, you probably spend 90% or 95% of it. Will your spending habits change drastically once you retire? Again, probably not. Most people only change spending habits in response to economic necessity or in pursuit of new financial goals. People don’t want to “live on less” once they have had “more”.

Social Security (or lack thereof). In 2005, SSI represented 39% of a typical 65-year-old retiree’s income. But by 2030, Social Security may only replace 29% of that income, after deductions for Medicare premiums and income taxes. Since 1983, retirees earning more than $25,000 in SSI have had to pay income tax on a portion of their benefits.3 This is all presuming Social Security is still around in 2030.

So will you have enough? When it comes to retirement income, a casual assumption may prove to be woefully inaccurate. Meet with a qualified retirement planner while you are still working to discuss these factors and estimate how much you will really need.

These are the views of Peter Montoya Inc., not the named Representative or Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representative nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information.

Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

 

Citations. 1 nytimes.com/2007/09/21/business/21generic.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

2 marketwatch.com/news/story/health-care-costs-retirement-rise/story.aspx?guid=%7bEF2B6CDA-E176-4747-B528-76AC814051C5%7d&print=true&dist=printTop

3 money.cnn.com/2007/05/14/pf/retirement/nasi__report/index.htm

 

 

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.


The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement,  Hughes, Pfizer, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may
be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

 

Tips for Retirement

A few simple steps to help you get started on the right foot.

Planning financially for retirement may feel overwhelming. For some, that feeling is what keeps them from really focusing on and implementing a plan. If you haven’t started planning for your retirement – do yourself a favor and make TODAY the day you begin.

1. The earlier the better. 

Time is definitely one of your greatest allies. A person who begins contributing a modest amount to a retirement plan in their early twenties could end up on par with someone who contributes much more aggressively but does not start until their mid-thirties. Even if you have to start small, start now. Whatever amount you can afford to set aside for later, do it – and let it grow. If you don’t have the luxury of starting young, don’t waste time worrying about it. Start now. You’ll never again be younger than you are today.

2. Be smart about what you’ll need

Yes, it’s true – the senior discount is alive and well, and the general cost of living may be less for those who have retired. But don’t forget, there are other costs to consider. Your healthcare costs, for example, may be greater in retirement simply because you’re not as healthy as you were in your youth. Additionally, you’ll want to take inflation into account. If you plan your retirement based on the cost of living and income of your 30’s, by the time you hit your retirement years, you may find you greatly underestimated your needs.

3. Be smart about how long you’ll need it

When Social Security was being developed, in the 1930’s, a male retiring in the United States was really only expected to live about 12 years past his date of retirement. 2 However, the average life expectancy of a United States citizen has risen fairly steadily throughout the last fifty years. 1 Depending on when you retire, you may need to plan for 20 or more years of income.

4. Take advantage of tax-deferred contributions.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes people determine how much they can afford to contribute to a retirement account based on their net income, rather than their gross income. You may decide you can only afford $50 less per paycheck, net. But remember that some contributions, like those to your 401(k) for example, may be made with pre-tax dollars. That means you can afford to contribute a bit more from your gross income and still only “miss” $50 from your net income. This is an important consideration.

5. Take advantage of matching contributions.

If your employer offers a 401(k) match – consider scrimping here and there in order to take maximum advantage of it. It’s a very positive domino effect. The more you contribute, the more you earn in matching contributions (up to the maximum allowable amount). Think of it this way – if your employer offers a 50% match, then for every $100 you don’t contribute, you’re missing out on $50 in “free money”. You’re also missing out on the growth potential of that money as well.

6. Do the math. 

This might be the most important retirement tip of all. Block off some time to sit down and do some calculations. Consider the different levels of contributions you could make and calculate how far those could take you by the time you reach retirement. Once you see what you COULD achieve, you may be more motivated to increase your contributions.

7. Trim the fat.

Keep careful track of your spending for one month (if you bank online, you may have access to tools that help you do this). After one full month, sit down and take a careful look at what you spent money on. Did it all make sense? Was some of it frivolous? Any regrets? Taking a close look at exactly where your money is going is often the best way to discover areas that need improvement, and ways you could adjust your spending habits. Add up all the money you feel you spent unnecessarily, then add that amount to the contribution math you did previously … how much further might that extra monthly contribution have taken you?

8. Get help.

These retirement tips are intended to help you get started down a path toward, potentially, a more successful retirement. But they’re just that – a starting point. While it’s definitely important to educate yourself and understand your finances, seeking the assistance of a financial professional may be one of the best moves you could make.

1 -google.com/publicdata?ds=wb wdi&met=sp_dyn_le00_in&idim=country:USA&dl=en&hl=en&q=life+expectancy [10/29/10]

2 – http://www.newretirement.com/Planning101/Retiring_Too_Soon.aspx [10/25/10]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. If assistance or further information is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional.

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, ING Retirement,  Glaxosmithkline, access.att.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, Northrop Grumman, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Raytheon, Merck, AT&T, resources.hewitt.com, hewitt.com, ExxonMobil, Qwest, Chevron,Hughes, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

529 college savings plan

Section 529 college savings plans are tax-advantaged college savings vehicles and one of the most popular ways to save for college today. Much like the way 401(k) plans revolutionized the world of retirement savings a few decades ago, 529 college savings plans have revolutionized the world of college savings. As of June 2012, assets in 529 college savings plans totaled $157.3 billion (Source: College Board’s 2012 Trends in Student Aid Report).

Tax advantages and more

529 college savings plans offer a unique combination of features that no other college savings vehicle can match:

  • Federal tax advantages: Contributions to your account grow tax deferred and earnings are tax free if the money is used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses. (The earnings portion of any withdrawal not used for college expenses is taxed at the recipient’s rate and subject to a 10% penalty.)
  • State tax advantages: Many states offer income tax incentives for state residents, such as a tax deduction for contributions or a tax exemption for qualified withdrawals.
  • High contribution limits: Most plans let you contribute over $300,000 over the life of the plan.
  • Unlimited participation: Anyone can open a 529 college savings plan account, regardless of income level.
  • Professional money management: College savings plans are offered by states, but they are managed by designated financial companies who are responsible for managing the plan’s underlying investment portfolios.
  • Flexibility: Under federal rules, you are entitled to change the beneficiary of your account to a qualified family member at any time as well as rollover the money in your 529 plan account to a different 529 plan once per year without income tax or penalty implications.
  • Wide use of funds: Money in a 529 college savings plan can be used at any college in the United States or abroad that’s accredited by the Department of Education and, depending on the individual plan, for graduate school.
  • Accelerated gifting: 529 plans offer an excellent estate planning advantage in the form of accelerated gifting. This can be a favorable way for grandparents to contribute to their grandchildren’s education. Specifically, individuals can make a lump-sum gift to a 529 plan of up to $70,000 ($140,000 for married couples) and avoid gift tax, provided the gift is treated as having been made in equal installments over a five-year period and no other gifts are made to that beneficiary during the five years.

Choosing a college savings plan

Although 529 college savings plans are a creature of federal law, their implementation is left to the states. Currently, there are over 50 different college savings plans available because many states offer more than one plan.

You can join any state’s 529 college savings plan, but this variety may create confusion when it comes time to select a plan. To make the process easier, it helps to consider a few key features:

  • Your state’s tax benefits: A majority of states offer some type of income tax break for 529 college savings plan participants, such as a deduction for contributions or tax-free earnings on qualified withdrawals. However, some states limit their tax deduction to contributions made to the in-state 529 plan only. So make sure to find out the exact scope of the tax breaks, if any, your state offers.
  • Investment options: 529 plans vary in the investment options they offer. Ideally, you’ll want to find a plan with a wide variety of investment options that range from conservative to more growth-oriented to match your risk tolerance. To take the guesswork out of picking investments appropriate for your child’s age, most plans offer aged-based portfolios that automatically adjust to more conservative holdings as your child approaches college age. (Remember, though, that any investment involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of how an investment will perform in the future.)
  • Fees and expenses: Fees and expenses can vary widely among plans, and high fees can take a bigger bite out of your savings. Typical fees include annual maintenance fees, administration and management fees (usually called the “expense ratio”), and underlying fund expenses.
  • Reputation of financial institution: Make sure that the financial institution managing the plan is reputable and that you can reach customer service with any questions.

With so many plans available, it may be helpful to consult an experienced financial professional who can help you select a plan and pick your plan investments, giving you peace of mind. In fact, some 529 college savings plans are advisor-sold only, meaning that you’re required to go through a designated financial advisor to open an account. Always carefully read the 529 plan issuer’s official materials before investing.

Account mechanics

Once you’ve selected a plan, opening an account is easy. You’ll need to fill out an application, where you’ll name a beneficiary and select one or more of the plan’s investment portfolios to which your contributions will be allocated. Also, you’ll typically be required to make an initial minimum contribution, which must be made in cash or a cash equivalent.

Thereafter, most plans will allow you to contribute as often as you like. This gives you the flexibility to tailor the frequency of your contributions to your own needs and budget, as well as to systematically invest your contributions. You’ll also be able to change the beneficiary of your account to a qualified family member (e.g., siblings, stepsiblings, parents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, first cousins) with no income tax or penalty implications. Most plans will also allow you to change your investment portfolios (either for your future or current contributions) if you’re unhappy with their investment performance.

529 prepaid tuition plans–a distant cousin

There are actually two types of 529 plans–college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. As of June 2012, assets in 529 prepaid tuition plans totaled $21.5 billion (Source: College Board’s 2012 Trends in Student Aid Report). The tax advantages of college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans are the same, but the account features are very different. A prepaid tuition plan lets you prepay tuition at participating colleges at today’s prices for use by the beneficiary in the future. The following chart describes the main differences:

College Savings Plans Prepaid Tuition Plans
Offered by states Offered by states and private colleges
You can join any state’s plan State-run plans require you to be a state resident
Contributions are invested in your individual account in the investment portfolios you have selected Contributions are pooled with the contributions of others and invested exclusively by the plan
Returns are not guaranteed; your account may gain or lose value, depending on how the underlying investments perform Generally a certain rate of return is guaranteed
Funds can be used at any accredited college in the U.S. or abroad Funds can only be used at participating colleges, typically state universities

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Merck, Pfizer, Chevron, HughesBank of America, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Verizon, Glaxosmithklinehewitt.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached atwww.theretirementgroup.com

All About IRAs

All about IRAs

An individual retirement arrangement (IRA) is a personal retirement savings plan that offers specific tax benefits. In fact, IRAs are one of the most powerful retirement savings tools available to you. Even if you’re contributing to a 401(k) or other plan at work, you should also consider investing in an IRA.

What types of IRAs are available?

There are two major types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Both allow you to make annual contributions of up to $5,500 in 2013 ($5,000 in 2012). Generally, you must have at least as much taxable compensation as the amount of your IRA contribution. But if you are married filing jointly, your spouse can also contribute to an IRA, even if he or she does not have taxable compensation. The law also allows taxpayers age 50 and older to make additional “catch-up” contributions. These folks can put up to $6,500 in their IRAs in 2013 ($6,000 in 2012).

Both traditional and Roth IRAs feature tax-sheltered growth of earnings. And both give you a wide range of investment choices. However, there are important differences between these two types of IRAs. You must understand these differences before you can choose the type of IRA that’s best for you.

Traditional IRAs

Practically anyone can open and contribute to a traditional IRA. The only requirements are that you must have taxable compensation and be under age 70½. You can contribute the maximum allowed each year as long as your taxable compensation for the year is at least that amount. If your taxable compensation for the year is below the maximum contribution allowed, you can contribute only up to the amount you earned.

Your contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible on your federal income tax return. This is important because tax-deductible (pretax) contributions lower your taxable income for the year, saving you money in taxes. If neither you nor your spouse is covered by a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, you can generally deduct the full amount of your annual contribution. If one of you is covered by such a plan, your ability to deduct your contributions depends on your annual income (modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI) and your income tax filing status. You may qualify for a full deduction, a partial deduction, or no deduction at all.

What happens when you start taking money from your traditional IRA? Any portion of a distribution that represents deductible contributions is subject to income tax because those contributions were not taxed when you made them. Any portion that represents investment earnings is also subject to income tax because those earnings were not previously taxed either. Only the portion that represents nondeductible, after-tax contributions (if any) is not subject to income tax. In addition to income tax, you may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59½, unless you meet one of the exceptions.

Traditional IRAs–Tax Year 2013
Individuals Covered by an Employer Plan
Filing status Deduction is limited if MAGI between: No deduction if MAGI over:
Single/Head of household $59,000 – $69,000 $69,000
Married joint* $95,000 – $115,000 $115,000
Married separate $0 – $10,000 $10,000
* If you’re not covered by an employer plan, but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $178,000 to $188,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $188,000.

If you wish to defer taxes, you can leave your funds in the traditional IRA, but only until April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70½. That’s when you have to take your first required minimum distribution from the IRA. After that, you must take a distribution by the end of every calendar year until your funds are exhausted or you die. The annual distribution amounts are based on a standard life expectancy table. You can always withdraw more than you’re required to in any year. However, if you withdraw less, you’ll be hit with a 50% penalty on the difference between the required minimum and the amount you actually withdrew.

Roth IRAs

Not everyone can set up a Roth IRA. Even if you can, you may not qualify to take full advantage of it. The first requirement is that you must have taxable compensation. If your taxable compensation is at least $5,500 in 2013 ($5,000 in 2012), you may be able to contribute the full amount. But it gets more complicated. Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in any year depends on your MAGI and your income tax filing status. Your allowable contribution may be less than the maximum possible, or nothing at all.

Tax Year 2013
Filing status Contribution is limited if MAGI between: No contribution if MAGI over:
Single/Head of household $112,000 – $127,000 $127,000
Married joint $178,000 – $188,000 $188,000
Married separate $0 – $10,000 $10,000

Your contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. You can invest only after-tax dollars in a Roth IRA. The good news is that, if you meet certain conditions, your withdrawals from a Roth IRA will be completely free from federal income tax, including both contributions and investment earnings. To be eligible for these qualifying distributions, you must meet a five-year holding period requirement. In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • You have reached age 59½ by the time of the withdrawal
  • The withdrawal is made because of disability
  • The withdrawal is made to pay first-time homebuyer expenses ($10,000 lifetime limit from all IRAs)
  • The withdrawal is made by your beneficiary or estate after your death

Qualified distributions will also avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. This ability to withdraw your funds with no taxes or penalty is a key strength of the Roth IRA. And remember, even nonqualified distributions will be taxed (and possibly penalized) only on the investment earnings portion of the distribution, and then only to the extent that your distribution exceeds the total amount of all contributions that you have made.

Another advantage of the Roth IRA is that there are no required distributions after age 70½ or at any time during your life. You can put off taking distributions until you really need the income. Or, you can leave the entire balance to your beneficiary without ever taking a single distribution. Also, as long as you have taxable compensation and qualify, you can keep contributing to a Roth IRA after age 70½.

Choose the right IRA for you

Assuming you qualify to use both, which type of IRA is best for you? Sometimes the choice is easy. The Roth IRA will probably be a more effective tool if you don’t qualify for tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. However, if you can deduct your traditional IRA contributions, the choice is more difficult. Most professionals believe that a Roth IRA will still give you more bang for your dollars in the long run, but it depends on your personal goals and circumstances. The Roth IRA may very well make more sense if you want to minimize taxes during retirement and preserve assets for your beneficiaries. But a traditional deductible IRA may be a better tool if you want to lower your yearly tax bill while you’re still working (and probably in a higher tax bracket than you’ll be in after you retire). A financial professional or tax advisor can help you pick the right type of IRA for you.

Note:   You can have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but your total annual contribution to all of the IRAs that you own cannot be more than $5,500 in 2013 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older).

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, access.att.com, Raytheon, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent, resources.hewitt.com, Merck, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices?

 

Even the most seasoned investors are prone to their influence.

Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions.  They are less routinely cautioned about letting their preconceptions and biases color their financial choices.

In a battle between the facts & our preconceptions, our preconceptions may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance. So it may actually “pay” us to recognize our biases as we invest. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.

Valuing outcomes of investment decisions more than the quality of those decisions. An investor thinks, “I got a great return off of that decision” instead of thinking, “that was a good decision because ______.”

How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision, and to therefore believe that the decisions with the best outcomes were in fact the best decisions (not necessarily true).

Valuing facts we “know” & “see” more than “abstract” facts. Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information that relates to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the health of the economy.

On Main Street, we find a classic example in Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index. In the August edition of this monthly poll of more than 3,500 U.S. adults, 55% of respondents said the American economy is “getting worse” instead of better. In fact, more Americans have told Gallup that the economy is getting worse rather than better since March.1

This flies in the face of the declining jobless rate, the strong hiring of 2015, the comeback of the housing market, and key surveys showing years of consistent monthly growth in the manufacturing and service sectors – but in all probability, these poll respondents are not looking at economic indicators when they make such a judgment. Their neighbor was laid off, or there was a story on the nightly news about a new homeless camp growing in size. These are facts they can “see” – and therefore, in their minds the economy is getting worse.1

Valuing the latest information most. In the investment world, the latest news is almost always more valuable than old news… but when the latest news is consistently good (or consistently bad), memories of previous market climate(s) may become too distant. If we are not careful, our minds may subconsciously dismiss the eventual emergence of the next bear (or bull) market.

Being overconfident. The more experienced we are at investing, the more confidence we have about our investment choices. When the market is going up and a clear majority of our investment choices work out well, this reinforces our confidence, sometimes to a point where we may start to feel we can do little wrong thanks to the state of the market, our investing acumen or both. This can be dangerous. 

The herd mentality. You know how this goes: if everyone is doing something, they must be doing it for sound and logical reasons. If most investors are getting out of equities, or getting back into equities, it follows that you should follow them. The herd mentality is what leads many investors to buy high (and sell low). It can also promote panic selling. Above all, it encourages market timing – and when investors try to time the market, they frequently realize subpar returns.

Did you know that American retail investors held equity shares for an average of 6.3 years during the 1950s? That duration kept shortening until the 2000s, when it was reduced to roughly six months – which is still the average today. We have exponentially greater media coverage of Wall Street today than we had in the 1950s, and that may be the big factor in that difference – but still, you have to wonder how much better the typical investor’s return would be if he or she had the patience of the investors of the past.2 

Extreme aversion to risk. Some investors want zero risk, or close. What price do they pay in pursuit of that goal? The opportunity cost may be sizable. In building an extremely risk-averse portfolio, they thwart their potential for significant gains when the equity markets advance.

Everyone loves to be certain about things. Sometimes, however, we need to ask ourselves what that certainty is based on, and what it reflects about ourselves. Examining our preconceptions may help us as we invest.

Citations.

1 – gallup.com/poll/184640/economic-confidence-index-stable.aspx [8/18/15]

2 – nytimes.com/2014/01/13/your-money/stocks-and-bonds/why-we-buy-in-a-marked-up-market.html [1/13/14]

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Raytheon, Hughes, Verizon, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Northrop Grumman, Merck, Pfizer, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

Self-Directed IRAs

A self-directed IRA isn’t a different type of IRA. Rather, the term refers to any individual retirement account (traditional or Roth) that allows you to direct the investment of your IRA assets into nontraditional investments. For example, in addition to the usual IRA mainstays (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and CDs), a self-directed IRA might invest in real estate, limited partnership interests, or anything else the law (and your IRA trustee/custodian) allows. In fact, the only investment you can’t have in an IRA is life insurance. Collectibles (e.g., artwork, stamps, wine, and antiques) aren’t prohibited, but if your IRA purchases these items, you could suffer adverse tax consequences.

Getting started

First, you’ll need to find a trustee or custodian that specializes in self-directed IRAs. Make sure you understand the expenses involved–some trustees charge transaction fees and/or asset-based fees, depending on the particular investment. You also need to be aware of the prohibited transaction rules. These rules are designed to make sure that only your IRA, and not you (or your immediate family), benefits from your IRA transactions. For example, you are prohibited from buying investments from, or selling investments to, your IRA. If you violate these rules, your account will cease to be treated as an IRA, with potentially devastating tax consequences.

Finally, you need to understand the UBIT (unrelated business income tax) rules. Even though IRA investments usually grow tax deferred (or even potentially tax free in the case of a Roth IRA), if your IRA conducts certain business activities or has debt-financed income, then your IRA could be taxed currently on all or part of the income generated.

Investing in real estate

Your self-directed IRA can invest in virtually any form of real estate. That includes direct ownership in property as well as indirect ownership through limited partnership interests, REITs, and mortgage obligations. Your IRA can buy a beach house, a multifamily home, commercial property, raw land, time shares, condos, an island–almost anything. Your IRA can be the sole owner of the real estate, or a partial owner with others.

Your IRA can even borrow money to purchase real estate. However, it may be difficult to find a bank that will lend money to your IRA (since you can’t personally guarantee the note). Borrowing may also cause some of the income (or sales proceeds) from the property to be taxed currently to your IRA under the UBIT rules. When you invest in real estate, you’ll also need to pay particular attention to the prohibited transaction rules. You can’t, for example, sell property you already own to your IRA. And neither you nor certain family members can use real estate while it’s owned by your IRA. As discussed below, that sort of self-dealing can result in your entire IRA becoming taxable to you.

Keep in mind that when you hold real estate in a traditional IRA, you’ll have to pay tax at ordinary income rates when your account is ultimately paid out to you–whether you receive cash or the property itself. Qualified distributions from a self-directed Roth IRA, on the other hand, are free from federal income tax, which makes the Roth IRA an attractive vehicle for real estate ownership. Say you’ve found your dream retirement home. It may be possible to have your Roth IRA purchase the property, rent it out to an unrelated party to generate income, and then, when you’re ready to retire, have the IRA distribute the property (and any income) to you tax free. (A distribution is qualified if you satisfy a five-year holding period and you’re either age 59½ or disabled when you receive the distribution.)

Finally, note that you’ll need to pay any expenses related to your real estate investment out of your IRA, so make sure it will have enough cash each year to cover any real estate taxes, legal fees, repairs, insurance, and other costs.

What are prohibited transactions?

Generally, a prohibited transaction is any improper use of an IRA account or annuity by you, your beneficiary, or any disqualified person. Disqualified persons include IRA fiduciaries (see below) and members of your family (spouse, ancestor, lineal descendant, and any spouse of a lineal descendant). The following are examples of prohibited transactions with an IRA:

  • Borrowing money from it • Selling property to it
  • Receiving unreasonable compensation for managing it
  • Using it as security for a loan
  • Buying property for personal use (present or future) with IRA funds

For this purpose, a fiduciary includes anyone who does any of the following:

  • Exercises any discretionary authority or discretionary control in managing your IRA or exercises any authority or control in managing or disposing of its assets
  • Provides investment advice to your IRA for a fee, or has any authority or responsibility to do so
  • Has any discretionary authority or discretionary responsibility in administering your IRA

Consequences of engaging in a prohibited transaction

Generally, if you (or your beneficiary after your death) engage in a prohibited transaction at any time during the year, the account stops being an IRA as of the first day of that year. The account is also treated as distributing all its assets to you at their fair market values on the first day of the year. For a traditional IRA, if the total of those values exceeds your basis in the IRA, you’ll have a taxable gain that’s includible in your income. If you’re not yet age 59½, the 10% premature distribution penalty tax may also apply. The IRS hasn’t yet provided specific guidance describing how these rules apply to Roth IRAs. However, it’s probable that if you’ve satisfied the requirements for a qualified distribution, the distribution will still be tax free. A nonqualified distribution from a Roth IRA will result in a taxable gain to the extent the distribution exceeds your Roth IRA contributions (and again, the premature distribution penalty tax may apply if you haven’t yet reached age 59½).

What is UBIT?

UBIT stands for “unrelated business income tax.” While not common, it can apply to your traditional (and Roth) IRA. (The UBIT rules also apply to most employer retirement plans and tax-exempt organizations.) In simple terms, if your IRA regularly conducts a trade or business (for example, you buy and operate a bakery using IRA funds), then the income from that trade or business (less any expenses directly connected with carrying on the trade or business) is subject to UBIT. The IRA is taxed on the income (unrelated business taxable income, or UBTI) at trust tax rates.

The term “trade or business” is defined as any activity carried on for the production of income from selling goods or performing services. This has been broadly interpreted to apply even if an IRA doesn’t directly conduct a business, but instead invests in a pass-through entity, like a partnership, that conducts a trade or business. If an IRA invests in a partnership that conducts a trade or business, then the IRA must calculate its UBTI based on its share of the partnership’s gross income and deductions. This information is provided by the partnership to the IRA on Schedule K-1.

There are numerous exclusions from the definition of UBTI, including dividends, interest, annuities, royalties, and rents from real property. However, even otherwise exempt income can become subject to UBIT if the property is acquired with borrowed funds. For example, if your IRA purchases real property and finances the purchase with a mortgage, any rental income attributable to the financed portion of the property will be UBTI, even though that rental income would otherwise be exempt. An IRA needs at least $1,000 of gross income from unrelated businesses for the UBIT to apply. The IRA itself is responsible for paying the tax. This may result in double taxation as the income will be subject to tax again, under the regular IRA distribution rules, when ultimately distributed from the IRA (although qualified distributions from Roth IRAs will be tax free).

As you can see, a self-directed IRA can provide you with almost unlimited investment flexibility, but also presents some traps for the unwary. Your financial professional can help you weigh the benefits and risks of a self-directed IRA, and help you determine if it’s the right choice for you.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Merck, Pfizer, AT&T, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Bank of America, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com..

Protecting Your Loved Ones with Life Insurance

How much life insurance do you need?

Your life insurance needs will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your family, the nature of your financial obligations, your career stage, and your goals. For example, when you’re young, you may not have a great need for life insurance. However, as you take on more responsibilities and your family grows, your need for life insurance increases.

Here are some questions that can help you start thinking about the amount of life insurance you need:

  • What immediate financial expenses (e.g., debt repayment, funeral expenses) would your family face upon your death?
  • How much of your salary is devoted to current expenses and future needs?
  • How long would your dependents need support if you were to die tomorrow?
  • How much money would you want to leave for special situations upon your death, such as funding your children’s education, gifts to charities, or an inheritance for your children?
  • What other assets or insurance policies do you have?

Types of life insurance policies

The two basic types of life insurance are term life and permanent (cash value) life. Term policies provide life insurance protection for a specific period of time. If you die during the coverage period, your beneficiary receives the policy’s death benefit. If you live to the end of the term, the policy simply terminates, unless it automatically renews for a new period. Term policies are typically available for periods of 1 to 30 years and may, in some cases, be renewed until you reach age 95. With guaranteed level term insurance, a popular type, both the premium and the amount of coverage remain level for a specific period of time.

Permanent insurance policies offer protection for your entire life, regardless of your health, provided you pay the premium to keep the policy in force. As you pay your premiums, a portion of each payment is placed in the cash-value account. During the early years of the policy, the cash-value contribution is a large portion of each premium payment. As you get older, and the true cost of your insurance increases, the portion of your premium payment devoted to the cash value decreases. The cash value continues to grow–tax deferred–as long as the policy is in force. You can borrow against the cash value, but unpaid policy loans will reduce the death benefit that your beneficiary will receive. If you surrender the policy before you die (i.e., cancel your coverage), you’ll be entitled to receive the cash value, minus any loans and surrender charges.

Many different types of cash-value life insurance are available, including:

  • Whole life: You generally make level (equal) premium payments for life. The death benefit and cash value are predetermined and guaranteed (subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company). Your only action after purchase of the policy is to pay the fixed premium.
  • Universal life: You may pay premiums at any time, in any amount (subject to certain limits), as long as the policy expenses and the cost of insurance coverage are met. The amount of insurance coverage can be changed, and the cash value will grow at a declared interest rate, which may vary over time.
  • Indexed universal life: This is a form of universal life insurance with excess interest credited to cash values. But unlike universal life insurance, the amount of interest credited is tied to the performance of an equity index, such as the S&P 500.
  • Variable life: As with whole life, you pay a level premium for life. However, the death benefit and cash value fluctuate depending on the performance of investments in what are known as subaccounts. A subaccount is a pool of investor funds professionally managed to pursue a stated investment objective. You select the subaccounts in which the cash value should be invested.
  • Variable universal life: A combination of universal and variable life. You may pay premiums at any time, in any amount (subject to limits), as long as policy expenses and the cost of insurance coverage are met. The amount of insurance coverage can be changed, and the cash value goes up or down based on the performance of investments in the subaccounts.

With so many types of life insurance available, you’re sure to find a policy that meets your needs and your budget.

Choosing and changing your beneficiaries

When you purchase life insurance, you must name a primary beneficiary to receive the proceeds of your insurance policy. Your beneficiary may be a person, corporation, or other legal entity. You may name multiple beneficiaries and specify what percentage of the net death benefit each is to receive. If you name your minor child as a beneficiary, you should also designate an adult as the child’s guardian in your will.

What type of insurance is right for you?

Before deciding whether to buy term or permanent life insurance, consider the policy cost and potential savings that may be available. Also keep in mind that your insurance needs will likely change as your family, job, health, and financial picture change, so you’ll want to build some flexibility into the decision-making process. In any case, here are some common reasons for buying life insurance and which type of insurance may best fit the need.

Mortgage or long-term debt: For most people, the home is one of the most valuable assets and also the source of the largest debt. An untimely death may remove a primary source of income used to pay the mortgage. Term insurance can replace the lost income by providing life insurance for the length of the mortgage. If you die before the mortgage is paid off, the term life insurance pays your beneficiary an amount sufficient to pay the outstanding mortgage balance owed.

Family protection: Your income not only pays for day-to-day expenses, but also provides a source for future costs such as college education expenses and retirement income. Term life insurance of 20 years or longer can take care of immediate cash needs as well as provide income for your survivor’s future needs. Another alternative is cash value life insurance, such as universal life or variable life insurance. The cash value accumulation of these policies can be used to fund future income needs for college or retirement, even if you don’t die.

Small business needs: Small business owners need life insurance to protect their business interest. As a business owner, you need to consider what happens to your business should you die unexpectedly. Life insurance can provide cash needed to buy a deceased partner’s or shareholder’s interest from his or her estate. Life insurance can also be used to compensate for the unexpected death of a key employee.

Review your coverage

Once you purchase a life insurance policy, make sure to periodically review your coverage; over time your needs will change. An insurance agent or financial professional can help you with your review.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Patrick Ray, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

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Patrick Ray is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.