When it comes to retirement savings, one of the best options available to those who don't have a workplace retirement plan is an IRA. These savings vehicles allow for future retirees to save up to $6,000 per year in a tax-advantaged manner as of 2019. Those who have reached age 50 can add another $1,000 to their accounts each year. 

Types of IRAs

There are two main types of IRAs. The first is the traditional IRA, and it allows individuals to save on a tax-deferred basis. Effectively, a traditional IRA allows account holders to cut their adjusted gross income by the amount of their savings. This will cut a retirement saver's taxes in the year the money gets saved. The second is the Roth IRA, and this account allows people to save after-tax income while allowing for tax-free growth and withdrawals as long as certain conditions are met. 

When Are Taxes Due?

The tax advantages of IRA accounts are their strongest characteristic. In a taxable account, savers would have to pay taxes on any dividends or capital gains earned within a given year. Within an IRA, those taxes are deferred in the case of a traditional IRA or nonexistent in the case of a Roth. Those who have a Roth IRA pay their tax bill up front, and the government will never tax the contributions or the withdrawals as long as the withdrawal of any gains comes after age 59.5.

On the other hand, those who save in a traditional IRA will have to pay taxes when they withdraw the money. The effective rate could be 0% as long as the taxpayer has enough deductions to avoid exceeding the standard deduction or any itemized deductions. Most people will not find themselves in this situation. The rate could theoretically go up to the top marginal rate the IRS charges at any given time. As of 2019, that rate is 37%, but a retiree would have to have an income of more than $500,000 to hit that rate.

With a Roth IRA, it's possible to take out the contributions without penalty at any time as long as the account is at least five years old. This is not possible with a traditional account. Any withdrawal from a traditional IRA will be taxable because of the up-front tax deduction. The government wants the tax revenue at some point. Any withdrawals of contributions or growth from a traditional IRA would incur an early withdrawal penalty of 10% if the account holder is not yet 59.5 years old. Only the growth would see the early withdrawal penalty with a Roth. 

Which Is Better?

Like many personal finance decisions, the answer to the question of which IRA is better depends upon a person's individual situation. Those who have higher incomes can lose the tax benefit on a traditional IRA if they have a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k). The ability to contribute to a Roth IRA phases out if a worker makes $137,000 as of 2019. Couples can make up to $203,000 and still contribute to a Roth. Those who are married with children and have a relatively low income would likely do better with a Roth because they would pay little in taxes even before any IRA savings. Those with a higher income can take advantage of the tax-deferred benefit of the traditional IRA.

It's also possible to contribute to a "backdoor" Roth account. Families with higher incomes could transfer money from a traditional IRA to a Roth in years they have a low adjusted gross income due to deductions from business losses or other reasons. This allows for the tax-deferred deduction up front and the benefits of tax-free withdrawals from a Roth while minimizing taxable income throughout the process.

Another consideration when it comes to IRAs are the required minimum distributions, commonly known as RMDs. There are no RMDs with a Roth IRA, which could leave the money to compound for decades after retirement. Those who invest in a traditional IRA will have to take out a growing percentage of their accounts each year after hitting 70.5 years of age. The percentage grows each year based upon expected mortality rates. Again, the government wants the tax revenue at some point. Regardless, of which account a person decides to use, deciding to save for retirement is an important step to take to ensure financial stability in old age.

 Everyone faces the concept of retirement at some point. The closer an individual gets to retirement age, the more concerned he may become about his ability to live comfortably after retirement. It may also make him wonder whether his retirement benefits will be available when he is ready to collect.

The Future of Pensions

Those who expect to collect a pension when they reach retirement age may have become concerned about recent reports regarding pension-fund growth. Recent issues regarding pension fund investments such as:

• Modest economic growth
• Low interest rates
• Rich stock valuations

These factors have caused some economic experts to begin reevaluating previous assumptions they had concerning returns on pension funds. Keeping the above factors in mind, anyone whose retirement income includes a pension is encouraged to speak to a financial adviser to assess the effects these projections may have on his financial plans.

One problem is the benefits many state and local governments are committed to paying cost more than the availability of funds. This shortage of funds could result in decreased pensions for retirees, increases in taxes or decreases in other programs funded by various governmental agencies; this may be necessary to cover the deficit in the pension funds.

According to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the low interest rates that have been consistently in effect since 2009 has led to a re-evaluation of many public pension plans. This has been necessary for these entities to project potential long-term investment returns. In addition, they have been forced to reduce previous assumptions regarding plan investments This has been necessary to allow these entities to project potential long-term investment returns.

Public Pension Funding

Government-funded pension plans reported assets of $4.41 trillion during the period ending September 30, 2018. How are the assets used to fund the pensions? They are held in trust and invested so that they will be available to fund the cost of pension benefits. The return on those investments is essential since the earnings from those investments provide most of the financing for public pensions. Any shortage in projected long-term earnings from those investments must be replaced through increases in contributions or reductions in benefits. 

Projections are necessary to fund a pension benefit and make assumptions concerning future events. Public pension plans typically consist of two components: the real return rate and inflation. When these two components are added together, the result is what is called the nominal rate of return, the most common rate used in the industry.

The real rate of return is the second component of the return on investment projection. This component consists of the actual return on the investment after it is adjusted for inflation. The purpose of knowing the real rate of return is so those in charge of monitoring the pension funds know the return that the investment generated for the fund. This allows them to better assess the future of the fund and plans for future investments.

The risk an individual pension may face is contingent upon several factors: inflation, return on investments and rate of return. While currently corporate pension funds are doing better than government-funded pension funds, this continued growth could change at any time. Pension funding always carries an element of risk; the future retirees need to follow the news in order to make plans for their future income.

Planning for retirement allows for many considerations and avoiding Probate is one of them.  The good news is if own a retirement account and have named beneficiaries, the account does not have to go through the probate process in most cases. Avoiding probate should be one of the goals of proper estate and retirement planning. While probate is a good fail-safe to ensure the property of a deceased owner is distributed fairly, probate also introduces delays, expenses, and headaches that are not usually necessary.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the judicial process in which the property of the deceased is fairly distributed to creditors and heirs. In the United States, probate is based on the wishes of the deceased as laid out in a document called a will. The probate court will ignore any instruction in the will that is not legally binding. If no will exists, state laws of inheritance are followed.

As probate is a judicial process, there will be court fees and lawyer fees paid out from the holdings of the estate. Some lawyers base their fees on the value of the estate in probate, so minimizing the value of the estate will save money which can be distributed to the heirs. The probate process also takes time – for a non-contested will, probate typically takes from six to eighteen months to complete.

Why are Retirement Accounts Different?

A will cannot supersede instructions in other legally binding documents or contracts. In the case of retirement accounts, there is an agreement on how the money will be distributed to beneficiaries after the owner's death. If valid beneficiaries are named on the retirement accounts, those beneficiaries will be entitled to the portion of the account as named. If the will directs how the retirement accounts should be settled, the court will ignore that part of the will during probate as long as the beneficiaries are valid.

Under What Circumstances Do Retirement Accounts Go Through Probate?

There are a few circumstances in which retirement accounts will go through probate. If the retirement account owner has named his or her estate as the beneficiary, the retirement account will go through probate. If the beneficiaries are not valid – such as a deceased person or a minor – the account will go through probate.

In some rare cases, a retirement account owner may want their retirement accounts to go through probate. If the owner has outlived everyone he or she would care to name as a beneficiary, the owner may wish to pass the account through probate. A more common reason why retirement accounts pass through probate is because the account owner did not keep the beneficiary list up to date. If the owner started a job before starting a family, it would make sense to name the estate as the beneficiary. The accounts would go through the probate process if the owner did not change the beneficiary list as his or her life circumstances changed.

In the community property states, a living spouse is entitled to at least half of the value of retirement accounts. If the spouse is not named as a 50% or greater beneficiary for the retirement account, the spouse can claim their share in probate court. In other states, surviving spouses are guaranteed something from the deceased's estate. If there is no or little remaining value beyond retirement accounts, the probate court will consider retirement account money even if the spouse was not a named beneficiary.

When planning an estate, it is essential to know how property will be distributed upon the owner's death. Different rules and laws apply to different assets. In general, it is best to avoid probate whenever possible. For retirement accounts, the time and expense of probate can be avoided by naming valid beneficiaries on the retirement account. Be sure to check your beneficiary designations every few years to make sure the money is distributed according to your wishes.


Source:  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/100616/do-retirement-accounts-go-through-probate.asp 

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) recently passed in the House of Representatives by a margin of 417-3 last Thursday. The bill is slated to be successfully ratified into law by the U.S. Senate later in the year in a rare moment of bipartisanship.

The SECURE Act marks the most momentous legislative change in retirement planning since the Pension Protection Act of 2006. That said, the SECURE Act that passed in the House of Representatives recently is a necessary and expected change to the U.S. retirement system. 

Why? Because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in President Trump's first year in office effectively punted on retirement reform. The SECURE Act, by contrast, would allow for 29 fresh provisions or groundbreaking changes to existing retirement protocol. 

The way that all of this will play out legislatively is fairly predictable. The Senate has a sister bill called the Retirement Enhancement Securities Act (RESA), which will interplay with the U.S. House of Representatives SECURE Act. Aspects of the Senate bill will make their way into, and be modified by, the House bill and vice versa over the coming weeks. 

This reconciliation process is needed to harmonize the bills with each other and with what average Americans want out of their retirement plans. The bill that makes it out of reconciliation is expected to remove IRA age limits, expand the start of required minimum distributions (RMDs), and enhance the possibility that more employers set money aside for retirement plans. 

Both the SECURE Act and RESA are meant to address social security funding issues and out-of-control pharmaceutical costs in particular and healthcare expenses more generally. The Medicare system is thought to be under serious strain at present since about a third of Americans don't set anything aside for retirement and rely on the system to the exclusion of everything else. 

So, how can the SECURE Act and RESA make things better? The first salient aspect of both of these plans is that each enhances the ability of small employers to create retirement plans for their employees. The bills make multi-employer plans easier to undertake, and each plan allows smaller employers the opportunity to create 401(k) retirement plans with fewer worries about fiduciary oversight. 

The SECURE Act will also delay the RMD (minimum distribution) requirement to at least 72 years of age. The current RMD cutoff is 70.5 years of age. The surprising thing about these upcoming retirement changes is that the Senate is attempting to push the RMD requirement to beyond the House's ambitious uptick and set the RMD requirement to 75 years of age. 

Another positive aspect of these upcoming changes to retirement planning in the United States is a removal of age limits on IRA contributions. Previously, retirement savings were effectively discouraged insofar as individuals who continued to work into their seventies had a harder time making contributions. In the old system, once you hit the age of 70.5 years old you were disallowed any contribution to an IRA, though you could still contribute to a Roth IRA past this arbitrary cutoff. Section 114 of the House's SECURE Act would shore up older workers' ability to make regular IRA contributions by axing the aforementioned age limitation. 

But since every new piece of legislation has to include both a stick and a carrot in order to correctly balance incentives that Americans will face when planning for retirement, both the SECURE Act and Resa feature some kind of tax credit for automatic enrollment. These tax credits will redound to small employers. The aim is greater accessibility.


Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-on-track-to-pass-bill-making-big-changes-to-u-s-retirement-system-11558625474

Although we assume many of our readers know what a 401(k) and an IRA are, let’s cover these quickly.

What is a 401(k)?

401(k) retirement, savings, and investment accounts are places to store money in which your contributions are typically matched - a portion of those earnings, usually not all of them in dollar-for-dollar fashion - by your employer. These plans are named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code - 401(k) - that lays out the rules for these plans.

There are other benefits that 401(k) plans bring to the table, such as not having to pay money on the growth of your 401(k) account over the years. You don't have to pay any taxes on the money you contribute to your 401(k) account once you wait to withdraw such money until you are 59.5 years of age.

What is an IRA?

IRA is short for Individual Retirement Account, which is a type of savings account that is one of the most popular kinds in its class across the United States.

Individual Retirement Accounts are similar to bank accounts, though they can be used to purchase things like stocks, mutual funds, other financial instruments, and investments of all sorts. Further, IRAs bring tax breaks to the table that are different than those associated with the 401(k) plan.

Now that you understand what a 401(k) plan and an IRA are, let's check up on this year's changes to the 401(k) account's contribution limit

Put simply, Americans who are saving for retirement will be able to fork over an extra $500 to their 401(k) accounts and their Individual Retirement Accounts. 

401(k), 403(b), and 457 accounts, as well as the Thrift Savings Plan, will be legally able to shelter $19,000 in earnings in 2019. This is an increase from last year's cap of $18,500. Thanks to this change, employees across the country will be able to put off paying income tax on roughly $42 if they take advantage of it by actually putting in $19,000 this year instead of just $18,500. 

Workers who are of at least 50 years of age will be able to put back a maximum of $25,000 to such accounts in 2019, which is up from the cap of $24,500 from last year. 

The 2019 Individual Retirement Account Contribution Amount

In 2018, the IRA contribution cut-off was $5,500. It had remained at this amount since 2013. This year's $500 increase in the maximum contribution one can put in in a year's time.

American workers who are of age 50 or greater will not be able to store more money to their Individual Retirement Accounts in their later years in a greater amount than what was available in previous years. The catch-up contribution cap for the Individual Retirement Account will stay true at $1,000.

Traditional IRA Changes

People who own 401(k) accounts can't claim tax deductions on their contributions for 2019 if their earnings are more than $74,000 or $123,000 in a year if they're filing individually or as married couples. Each of the amounts increased $1,000 this year and $2,000 this year, respectively. The tax deduction starts being phased out at the amounts of $64,000 and $103,000 for 2019.

Roth IRA changes

This year, the ceiling for Roth IRA contributions after taxes have been deducted rose $2,000 this year for individuals and $4,000 this year for married couples filing jointly. 

People making $137,000 individually or $203,000 as married couples can't contribute to Roth IRAs. Their abilities to contribute start to be phased out at the dollar values of $122,000 and $193,000 for individuals and married couples, respectively.

As you are working, you are in the “accumulation” phase of your life.  Remember, you need to plan for the “de-cumulation” phase as well, those are your retirement years.   We are here to help guide you as you approach retirement and guide you through your retirement years.