LeTort Trust Announces the Appointments of Robin Burnhisel and Brian Sweeney

Camp Hill, PA (July 6, 2022) LeTort Trust is pleased to announce the recent appointment of Robin Burnhisel to Family Wealth Relationship Manager and Brian Sweeney to Systems Administrator.

Robin will support the personal trust team by responding to client inquiries, researching, and resolving questions, coordinating client financial information, and interacting with clients and their other advisors. She brings extensive experience in both the trust and investment industry and estate administration. Robin has completed the School of Trust and Relationship Management through Cannon Financial Institute. She holds a PA Producer Insurance License for health, accident, life, property and casualty and obtained her CISR designation through the National Alliance of Insurance Education.

“Robin is an outstanding addition to the LeTort Trust team,” said Katie Clarke, President of LeTort Trust, “We are committed to providing the highest quality of customer service and wealth management and Robin will play an integral role in deepening our relationships and ensuring our clients have the best possible outcome for their financial futures.”

Brian will manage LeTort’s information technology systems and will handle all network management, preventative maintenance, and troubleshooting hardware and software. He will take primary responsibility for technological information and system security. He will also be the lead contact for all external platform providers and the IT liaison amongst the internal team.

“Brian brings years of IT experience to this role,” said Dan Eichelberger, Chief Investment Officer for LeTort Trust, “As our business continues to evolve, we recognize the need for an in-house IT expert to help us strengthen security and maintain integrity amongst our systems. We are thrilled to have Brian on board and know he will play a crucial role in providing technical services to our team and clients.”

LeTort Trust is an Independent Trust Company, providing comprehensive Qualified Retirement Plan, Personal Trust and Wealth Management services designed for the complex financial needs of businesses, institutions, and individuals. For further information on LeTort Trust, please visit our website at www.letorttrust.com.

 

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IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2022

Highlights of changes for 2022

The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased to $20,500. Limits on contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs remains unchanged at $6,000.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, their full contribution to a traditional IRA is deductible. If the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced or phased out until it is eliminated. The amount of the deduction depends on the taxpayer’s filing status and their income.

Traditional IRA income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $68,000 to $78,000 – Single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan
  • $109,000 to $129,000 – Married couples filing jointly. This applies when the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan.
  • $204,000 to $214,000 – A taxpayer not covered by a workplace retirement plan married to someone who’s covered.
  • $0 to $10,000 – Married filing a separate return. This applies to taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan

Roth IRA contributions income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $129,000 to $144,000 – Single taxpayers and heads of household
  • $204,000 to $214,000- Married, filing jointly
  • $0 to $10,000 – Married, filing separately

Saver’s Credit income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $41,000 to $68,000 – Married, filing jointly.
  • $30,750 to $51,000 – Head of household.
  • $20,500 to $34,000 – Singles and married individuals filing separately.

The amount individuals can contribute to SIMPLE retirement accounts also increases to $14,000 in 2022.

Phyllis Harmon Selected for Tribute to Women of Excellence Class of 2022

The YWCA Greater Harrisburg has announced their nominations for the 33rd Annual Tribute to Women of Excellence, Class of 2022, including LeTort’s Chief Operating Officer & Director of Wealth Management, Phyllis Harmon. Phyllis is passionate about helping our clients, a mentor to our staff, and dedicated to giving back to our community. She has made a difference in so many lives.

During the last 33 years, the YWCA has honored well over 700 extraordinary women for their contributions to our region, both professionally and philanthropically.

Nominees:

  • participates actively in the community as a mentor, volunteer or role model
  • demonstrates integrity, strength of character and leadership
  • and embraces the vision and mission of the YWCA.

The full class of 2022:

Lynn Brooks, Life’s Journey Therapy Solutions

Melisa Burnett, Hamilton Health Center

Raeann Buskey – EMERGING LEADER, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities

Susan Cort, JPL

Katharine Dalke, MD, Penn State Health

Joyce Davis – LEGACY AWARD, PA Media Group

Lindsay Drew, iChase Solutions Marketing, LLC

Heather Eickhoff, PHR, SHRM-CP, Gannett Fleming

Suzanne Engels, Capital Blue Cross

Tracy Fleager, Penn National Insurance

Jeshanah Fox, Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz

Dr. Oralia Garcia Dominic, Highmark

Annie Garner, Dauphin County Library System

Becky Giannelli, PSECU

Shannon Gierasch, West Shore Home

Jodi Griffis, M&T Bank

Dr. Kimberly Harbaugh, Penn State Health

Phyllis Harmon, LeTort Trust

Brenna Kernan, Members 1st Federal Credit Union

Emily Lewis, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

Dr. Kit Lu, UPMC

Ashley Mentzer, Thrive Fit Co.

Rosie Mesich, KPMG

Elizabeth Mihmet, Hospice of Central PA

Meera Modi, McNees Wallace & Nurick

Leah Payne, Christian Churches United

Susan Roof, Board of the Central PA Food Bank

Lauren Turnbull, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts

The Tribute to Women of Excellence event also raises essential funds so that the YWCA Greater Harrisburg can continue providing life-changing programs and services.

Saving for College and Retirement

What is it?

These days it’s not uncommon for parents to postpone starting a family until both spouses are settled in their marriage and careers, often well into their 30s and 40s. Though this financial security can be an advantage, it can also present a dilemma–the need to save for college and retirement at the same time.

The prevailing wisdom has parents saving for both goals at the same time. The reason is that older parents can’t afford to put off saving for retirement until the college years are over, because to do so means missing out on years of tax-deferred growth. Moreover, because generous corporate pensions (and lifetime job security) are now the exception rather than the rule, employees must take greater responsibility for funding their own retirements.

First, determine your monetary needs

The first step is to determine your projected monetary needs, both for retirement and college. This analysis will reveal whether you are on a savings course to meet both goals, or whether some modifications will be necessary.

You’ve come up short: what are your options?

You’ve run the numbers on both your anticipated retirement and college expenses, and you’ve come up short. The numbers say you won’t be able to afford to educate your children and retire with the lifestyle you expected based on your current earnings. Now what? It’s time to sit down and make some tough decisions about your expectations and, ultimately, how to compromise.

The following options can help you in that effort. Some parents may need to combine more than one strategy to meet their goals.

Defer retirement

Staying in the workforce longer is one way of meeting your retirement and education goals. The longer you wait to dip into your retirement funds, the longer the money will last.

Reduce standard of living now or in retirement

You may be able to adjust your spending habits now in order to have more money later. Consider making a written budget to track your monthly income and expenses. If your monetary needs have fallen far short of the mark, you will need to make a bigger spending adjustment than you would with a lesser shortfall. The following are some suggested changes:

  • Move to a less-expensive home or apartment
  • Sell your second car and carpool whenever possible
  • Reduce your entertainment budget (e.g., bring your lunch to work, eat out once a month instead of every week, rent movies instead of going to the cinema)
  • Get books and magazines from the library instead of the bookstore
  • Cancel any club memberships (e.g., golf club, health club)
  • Set a limit on birthday and holiday gifts for family members
  • Forgo expensive vacations
  • Shop for clothes in the off-season, when they’re likely to be on sale
  • Buy used furniture and used big-ticket items
  • Limit your child’s extracurricular activities, like music lessons or hockey camp

If you’re unable or unwilling to lower your standard of living now, perhaps you can lower it in retirement. This may mean revising your expectations about a luxurious, vacation-filled retirement. The key is to recognize the difference between the things you want and the things you need. The following are a few suggestions to help reduce your standard of living in retirement:

  • Reduce your housing expectations
  • Cut back on travel plans
  • Own a less-expensive automobile
  • Lower household expenses

Note: There’s a difference between reducing your standard of living in retirement and drastically reducing your standard of living in retirement. Most professionals discourage the use of retirement funds for your child’s education if paying college bills will leave you high and dry in your retirement years.

Work part-time during retirement

About 25 percent of retirees work part-time. You may find that the extra income enables you to enjoy the kind of retirement you had anticipated.

Increase earnings (i.e., spouse returns to work)

Increasing earnings may be another way to meet both your education and retirement goals. The usual scenario is that a stay-at-home spouse returns to the workforce. This has the benefit of increasing the family’s earnings so there’s more money available to save for education and/or retirement. However, there are drawbacks. The additional income may push the family into a higher tax bracket, and incidental expenses like day care and commuting costs may eat into your overall take-home pay.

In addition to a spouse returning to work, one spouse may decide to increase his or her hours at work, take another job with better compensation, or moonlight at a second job. Factors to consider here include the expectation of increased job pressure, less availability for child rearing and household management, the amount of extra income, the opportunity for advancement, and job security. Another way to create extra income is for a spouse to turn a hobby into a business.

Be more aggressive in investments

Your analysis has shown that your current savings (and the accompanying investment vehicles) will leave you short of your education and retirement goals. One option is to try to earn a greater rate of return on your savings. This may mean choosing more aggressive investments (e.g., growth stocks) over more conservative investments (e.g., bonds, certificates of deposit, savings accounts). This strategy works best the more years you have until retirement.

Caution: The more aggressive the investment, the greater the risk of loss of your principal. This strategy isn’t for people who shudder at the slightest downturn in the stock market. If you’ll have trouble sleeping at night, you probably shouldn’t take on greater risk in your investment portfolio.

Reduce education goal

One of the realities parents may have to face is that they can’t afford to fund 100 percent (or 75 percent, or 50 percent, as the case may be) of their child’s college education. This is often an emotional issue. Parents naturally want the best for their children. For many parents, this translates into sending them to (and paying for) college (especially in cases where one or both parents didn’t have such an opportunity).

You may have dreamed that your child would go to a prestigious Ivy League school. Well, with a year’s cost at such a school hovering at the $40,000 mark, maybe you need to lower your expectations. That small liberal arts college or the big state school may challenge your child just as much and at a far lower cost. Remember, there are loans available for college, but none for retirement.

Children pay more and/or assume more responsibility for loans

With college costs continuing to increase at a rate faster than most family incomes, and with perhaps more than one child in the family picture, chances are that more responsibility will fall on your child to help fund college costs. This money can come from part-time jobs or gifts, though the majority of your child’s contribution is likely to come from student loans.

Though student loans can be a financial burden in the early years, when graduates are just starting out in their careers, many loan providers offer flexible repayment options in anticipation of this common situation. In addition, if your child meets certain income limits, he or she can deduct the interest paid on qualified student loans.

When children take out student loans, parents can always decide to help financially rather than mortgaging their house before college. Students who take out student loans to pay for college may have a more vested interest in their education than students who receive help from their parents.

Other ways to lower cost of college

In addition to reducing your education goal and having your child pay a portion of college costs, there are other ways to lower the cost of college. For example, your child can choose a college with an accelerated program that allows students to graduate in three years instead of four. Likewise, your child may choose to attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year private institution. The diploma will reflect the four-year college, but your pocketbook won’t.

How do you decide what strategy is best for you?

This decision must be made on a case-by-case basis. What works for one family may not work for another family. In some cases, more than one strategy will be necessary to deal with the demands of educating children and retiring successfully. Factors influencing your decision may include the following:

  • The amount of your financial need
  • Your current income and assets and any expectation of significant future income (e.g., a bonus at work, exercise of stock options, an inheritance)
  • The number of years you have until retirement
  • Your willingness to reduce your standard of living (now or in the future) for the sake of your children
  • The number of children in your family who plan on attending college
  • The academic, athletic, or other notable skills of your child that may raise the possibility of a college scholarship

Can retirement accounts be used to save for college?

Yes. But should you? Probably not. Many financial advisors recommend against dipping into your retirement account to pay college expenses as a preferred strategy. But if you must, there are some tax breaks available.

It’s now possible to withdraw money from either a traditional IRA or Roth IRA before age 59½ to pay college expenses without incurring the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty that normally applies to such withdrawals. However, any distributions of earnings and deductible contributions from a traditional IRA and any nonqualified distributions of earnings from a Roth IRA may be included in your income for the year, which may push you into a higher tax bracket.

Tip: This college exception to the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is a good reason to funnel your child’s income from a part-time job into an IRA.

Unfortunately, there’s no similar college exception for employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) plan. So, if you’re under age 59½, you’ll pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on any withdrawals. As with an IRA, any withdrawals are added into your income for the year, which may push you into a higher tax bracket. Nevertheless, saving in a 401(k) plan can be an attractive option for some parents because the company may match employee contributions and because most employer plans allow you to borrow against your contributions (and possibly earnings) before age 59½ without penalty.

Tip: Some parents who have built a college fund within their 401(k) accounts, but who are not yet 59½ when the kids are in college, take out what’s called a bridge loan (such as a home equity loan) to pay their child’s college bills. A bridge loan is a source of funds that tides you over until it’s more economical to tap your retirement account. Although you pay interest on a bridge loan, it may still cost less than what your 401(k) funds can earn. Then, when you turn 59½, you can start tapping your 401(k) plan to pay off the bridge loan with no early withdrawal penalty.

A benefit of using retirement accounts to save for college is that the federal government doesn’t consider the value of your retirement accounts in awarding financial aid (the federal formula also excludes annuities, cash value life insurance, and home equity from consideration). However, most private colleges do consider the value of your retirement accounts in deciding which students are the most deserving of campus-based aid.

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

LeTort Trust does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of PA. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.

Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2019.

 

Financial Basics for Millennials

Financial Basics for Millenials

With age comes responsibility, so if you’re a young adult in your 20s or 30s, chances are you’ve been introduced to the realities of adulthood. While you’re excited by all the opportunities life has to offer, you’re also aware of your emerging financial responsibility. In the financial realm, the millennial generation (young adults born between 1981 and 1997) faces a unique set of challenges, including a competitive job market and significant student loan debt that can make it difficult to obtain financial stability.

Poor money management can lead to debt, stress, and dependency on others. Fortunately, good money management skills can make it easier for you to accomplish your personal goals. Become familiar with the basics of planning now, and your future self will thank you for being responsible.

Figure out your financial goals

Setting goals is an important part of life, particularly when it comes to your finances. Over time, your goals will probably change, which will likely require you to make some adjustments. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are my short-term goals (e.g., new car, vacation)?
  • What are my intermediate-term goals (e.g., buying a home)?
  • What are my long-term goals (e.g., saving for your child’s college education, retirement)?
  • How important is it for me to achieve each goal?
  • How much will I need to save for each goal?

Once you have a clear picture of your goals, you can establish a budget that will help you target them.

Build a budget

A budget helps you stay on track with your finances. There are several steps you’ll need to take to establish a budget. Start by identifying your current monthly income and expenses. This is easier than it sounds: Simply add up all of your sources of income.

Do the same thing with your expenses, making sure to include discretionary expenses (e.g., entertainment, travel, hobbies) as well as fixed expenses (e.g., housing, food, utilities, transportation).

Compare the totals. Are you spending more than you earn? This means you’ll need to make some adjustments to get back on track. Look at your discretionary expenses to identify where you can scale back your spending. It might take some time and self-discipline to get your budget where it needs to be, but you’ll develop healthy financial habits along the way.

On the other hand, you may discover that you have extra money that you can put toward savings. Pay yourself first by adding to your retirement account or emergency fund. Building up your savings using extra income can help ensure that you accomplish your financial goals over the long term.

Establish an emergency fund

It’s an unpleasant thought, but a financial crisis could strike when you least expect it, so you’ll want to be prepared. Protect yourself by setting up a cash reserve so you have funds available in the event you’re confronted with an unexpected expense.

Otherwise you may need to use money that you have earmarked for another purpose–such as a down payment on a home–or go into debt.

You may be familiar with advice that you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your cash reserve. In reality, though, the amount you should save depends on your particular circumstances. Consider factors like job security, health, income, and debts owed when deciding how much money should be in your cash reserve.

A good way to accumulate emergency funds is to earmark a percentage of your paycheck each pay period. When you reach your goal, don’t stop adding money–the more you have saved, the better off you’ll be.

Review your cash reserve either annually or when your financial situation changes. Major milestones like a new baby or homeownership will likely require some adjustments.

Be careful with credit cards

Credit cards can be useful in helping you monitor how much you spend, but they can also lead you to spend more than you can afford. Before accepting a credit card offer, evaluate it carefully by doing the following:

  • Read the terms and conditions closely
  • Know what the interest rate is and how it is calculated
  • Understand hidden fees such as late-payment charges and over-limit fees
  • Look for rewards and/or incentive programs that will be most beneficial to you

Contact the credit card issuer if you have questions about the language used in an offer. And if you are trying to decide between two or more credit card offers, be sure to evaluate them to determine which will work best for you.

Bear in mind that your credit card use affects your credit score. Avoid overspending by setting a balance that you’re able to pay off fully each month. That way, you can safely build credit while being financially responsible. Take into account that missed payments of any sort can cause your credit score to suffer. In turn, this could make it more difficult and expensive to borrow money later.

Deal with your existing debt

At this stage in your life, you might be dealing with student loan debt and wondering how you can pay it off. Fortunately, there are many repayment plans that make it easier to pay off student loans. Check to see whether you qualify for income-sensitive repayment options or Income-Based Repayment. Even if you’re not eligible, you may be able to refinance or consolidate your loans to make the repayment schedule easier on your budget. Explore all your options to find out what works best for you.

Beware of new borrowing

You’re doing your best to pay off your existing debt, but you might find that you need to borrow more (for example, for graduate school or a car). Think carefully before you borrow.

Ask yourself the following questions before you do:

  • Is this purchase necessary?
  • Have you comparison-shopped to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal?
  • How much will this loan or line of credit cost over time?
  • Can you afford to add another monthly payment to your budget?
  • Will the interest rate change if you miss a payment?
  • Are your personal finances in good shape at this time, or should you wait to borrow until you’ve paid off pre-existing debt?

Weigh your pre-existing debt against your need to borrow more and determine whether this is a wise decision at this particular point in your life.

Take advantage of technology

Access to technology at a young age is one major advantage that benefits millennials, compared with their parents and grandparents when they were starting out. These days, there’s virtually an app or a program for everything, and that includes financial basics. Do your homework and find out which ones could be the most helpful to you. Do you need alerts to remind you to pay bills on time? Do you need help organizing your finances? Are you looking for a program that allows you to examine your bank, credit card, investment, and loan account activities all at once?

Researching different programs can also help with number crunching. Many financial apps offer built-in calculators that simplify tasks that may seem overwhelming, such as breaking down a monthly budget or figuring out a loan repayment plan.

Experiment with what you find, and you’ll most likely develop skills and insight that you can use as a starting point for future planning.

Although apps are one way to get started, consider working with a financial professional for a more personalized strategy.

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

LeTort Trust does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of PA. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.

Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2019.

Retirement Income: The Transition Into Retirement

Timing is Everything

When it comes to transitioning into retirement, timing really is everything. The age at which you retire can have an enormous impact on your overall retirement income situation, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve considered your decision from every angle. In fact, you may find that deciding when to retire is actually the product of a series of smaller decisions and calculations.

Your retirement: How long should you plan for?

The good news is that, statistically, you’re going to live for a long time. That’s also the bad news, though, because that means your retirement income plan is going to have to be sufficient to provide for your needs over (potentially) a long period of time.

How long? In 2020, the average 65-year-old American could expect to live for another 18.5 years.1 Keep in mind as well that life expectancy has increased at a steady pace over the years, and is expected to continue increasing.

The bottom line is that it’s not unreasonable to plan for a retirement period that lasts for 30 years or more.

Thinking of retiring early?

Retiring early can be wonderful if you’re ready both emotionally and financially. Consider the financial aspect of an early retirement with great care, though. An early retirement can dramatically change your retirement finances because it affects your income plan in two major ways.

First, you’re giving up what could be prime earning years, a period of time during which you could be adding to your retirement savings. More importantly, though, you’re increasing the number of years that your retirement savings will need to provide for your expenses. And a few years can make a tremendous difference.

There are other factors to consider as well:

  • A longer retirement period means a greater potential for inflation to eat away at your purchasing power.
  • You can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be as much as 25% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on the year you were born).
  • If you’re covered by an employer pension plan, check to make sure it won’t be negatively affected by your early retirement. Because the greatest accrual of benefits generally occurs during your final years of employment, it’s possible that early retirement could effectively reduce the benefits you receive.
  • If you plan to start using your 401(k) or traditional IRA savings before you turn 59½, you may have to pay a 10% early distribution penalty tax in addition to any regular income tax due [with some exceptions, including payments made from a 401(k) plan due to your separation from service in or after the year you turn 55, and distributions due to disability].
  • You’re not eligible for Medicare until you turn 65. Unless you’ll be eligible for retiree health benefits through your employer (or have coverage through your spouse’s plan), or you take another job that offers health insurance, you’ll need to calculate the cost of paying for insurance or health care out-of- pocket, at least until you can receive Medicare coverage.

Thinking of postponing retirement?

Postponing retirement lets you continue to add to your retirement savings. That’s especially advantageous if you’re saving in tax-deferred accounts, and if you’re receiving employer contributions. For example, if you retire at age 65 instead of age 55, and manage to save an additional $20,000 per year in your 401(k) at an 8% rate of return during that time, you can add an extra $312,909 to your retirement fund. (This hypothetical example of mathematical principles is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any specific investment.

Fees and expenses are not considered and would reduce the performance shown if they were included. Actual results will vary.)

Even if you’re no longer adding to your retirement savings, delaying retirement postpones the date that you’ll need to start withdrawing from your savings. Thatcould significantly enhance your savings’ potential to last throughout your lifetime.

And, of course, there are other factors that you should consider:

  • Postponing full retirement gives you additional transition time if you need it.
  • If you’re considering a new career or volunteer opportunities in retirement, you could lay the groundwork by taking classes or trying out your new role part-time.
  • Postponing retirement may allow you to delay taking Social Security retirement benefits, potentially increasing your benefit.
  • If you postpone retirement beyond age 72, you’ll need to begin taking required minimum distributions from any traditional IRAs and employer- sponsored retirement plans (other than your current employer’s retirement plan), even if you do not need the funds.

How Does A 401(k) Plan Work?

401(k) Plans

Qualified cash or deferred arrangements (CODAs) permitted under Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code, commonly referred to as “401(k) plans,” have become one of the most popular types of employer-sponsored retirement plans.

How does a 401(k) plan work?

With a 401(k) plan, you elect either to receive cash payments (wages) from your employer immediately, or defer receipt of a portion of that income to the plan. The amount you defer (called an “elective deferral” or “pre-tax contribution”) isn’t currently included in your income; it’s made with pre-tax dollars. Consequently, your federal taxable income (and federal income tax) that year is reduced. And the deferred portion (along with any investment earnings) isn’t taxed to you until you receive payments from the plan.

Melissa earns $30,000 annually. She contributes $4,500 of her pay to her employer’s 401(k) plan on a pre-tax basis. As a result, Melissa’s taxable income is $25,500. She isn’t taxed on the deferred money ($4,500), or any investment earnings, until she receives a distribution from the plan.

You may also be able to make Roth contributions to your 401(k) plan. Roth 401(k) contributions are made on an after-tax basis, just like Roth IRA contributions. Unlike pre-tax contributions to a 401(k) plan, there’s no up-front tax benefit, but qualified distributions from a Roth 401(k) account are entirely free from federal income tax.

When can I contribute?

You can contribute to your employer’s 401(k) plan as soon as you’re eligible to participate under the terms of the plan. In general, a 401(k) plan can make you wait up to a year before you’re eligible to contribute. But many plans don’t have a waiting period at all, allowing you to contribute beginning with your first paycheck.

Some 401(k) plans provide for automatic enrollment once you’ve satisfied the plan’s eligibility requirements. For example, the plan might provide that you’ll be automatically enrolled at a 3% pre-tax contribution rate (or some other percentage) unless you elect a different deferral percentage, or choose not to participate in the plan. This is sometimes called a “negative enrollment” because you haven’t affirmatively elected to participate — instead you must affirmatively act to change or stop contributions. If you’ve been automatically enrolled in your 401(k) plan, make sure to check that your assigned contribution rate and investments are appropriate for your circumstances.

How much can I contribute?

There’s an overall cap on your combined pre-tax and Roth 401(k) contributions. You can contribute up to $19,000 of your pay ($25,000 if you’re age 50 or older) to a 401(k) plan in 2019. If your plan allows Roth 401(k) contributions, you can split your contribution between pre-tax and Roth contributions any way you wish. For example, you can make $10,000 of Roth contributions and $9,000 of pre-tax 401(k) contributions. It’s up to you.

But keep in mind that if you also contribute to another employer’s 401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE, or SAR-SEP plan, your total contributions to all of these plans — both pre-tax and Roth — can’t exceed $19,000 ($25,000 if you’re age 50 or older). It’s up to you to make sure you don’t exceed these limits if you contribute to plans of more than one employer.

Can I also contribute to an IRA?

Your participation in a 401(k) plan has no impact on your ability to contribute to an IRA (Roth or traditional). You can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA in 2019, $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older (or, if less, 100% of your taxable compensation). But, depending on your salary level, your ability to take a tax deduction for your traditional IRA contributions may be limited if you participate in a 401(k) plan.

What are the tax consequences?

When you make pre-tax 401(k) contributions, you don’t pay current income taxes on those dollars (which generally means more take-home pay compared to an after-tax Roth contribution of the same amount). But your contributions and investment earnings are fully taxable when you receive a distribution from the plan.

In contrast, Roth 401(k) contributions are subject to income taxes up front, but qualified distributions of your contributions and earnings are entirely free from federal income tax. In general, a distribution from your Roth 401(k) account is qualified only if it satisfies both of the following requirements:

  • It’s made after the end of a five-year waiting period
  • The payment is made after you turn 59½, become disabled, or die

The five-year waiting period for qualified distributions starts with the year you make your first Roth contribution to the 401(k) plan. For example, if you make your first Roth contribution to your employer’s 401(k) plan in December 2019, your five-year waiting period begins January 1, 2019, and ends on December 31, 2023. Each nonqualified distribution is deemed to consist of a pro-rata portion of your tax-free contributions and taxable earnings.

What about employer contributions?

Many employers will match all or part of your contributions. Your employer can match your Roth contributions, your pre-tax contributions, or both. But your employer’s contributions are always made on a pre-tax basis, even if they match your Roth contributions. That is, your employer’s contributions, and investment earnings on those contributions, are always taxable to you when you receive a distribution from the plan.

How should I choose between pre-tax and Roth contributions?

Assuming your 401(k) plan allows you to make Roth 401(k) contributions, which option might you choose? It depends on your personal situation. If you think you’ll be in a similar or higher tax bracket when you retire, Roth 401(k) contributions may be more appealing, since you’ll effectively lock in today’s lower tax rates. However, if you think you’ll be in a lower tax bracket when you retire, pre-tax 401(k) contributions may be more appropriate. Your investment horizon and projected investment results are also important factors. A financial professional can help you determine which course is appropriate for you.

Whichever you decide — Roth or pre-tax — make sure you contribute as much as necessary to get the maximum matching contribution from your employer. This is essentially free money that can help you reach your retirement goals that much sooner.

What happens when I terminate employment?

Generally, you forfeit all contributions that haven’t vested. “Vesting” is the process of earning the right, over time, to employer contributions. Your contributions, pre-tax and Roth, are always 100% vested. But your 401(k) plan may generally require up to six years of service before you fully vest in employer matching contributions (although some plans have a much faster vesting schedule).

When you terminate employment, you can generally take a distribution (all or part of which may be taxable to you), leave your money in your 401(k) plan (if your vested balance exceeds $5,000) until the plan’s normal retirement age (typically age 65), or you can roll your dollars over to an IRA or to another employer’s retirement plan that accepts rollovers, maintaining the tax-deferred advantages.*

What else do I need to know?

  • Saving for retirement is easier when your contributions automatically come out of each paycheck
  • You may be eligible to borrow up to one-half of your vested 401(k) account (to a maximum of $50,000) if you need the money
  • You may be able to make a hardship withdrawal if you have an immediate and heavy financial need. But this should be a last resort — hardship distributions are taxable events (except for Roth qualified distributions)
  • If you receive a distribution from your 401(k) plan before you turn 59½, (55 in certain cases), the taxable portion may be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty unless an exception applies
  • Depending on your income, you may be eligible for an income tax credit of up to $1,000 for amounts contributed to the 401(k) plan
  • Your assets are generally fully protected from creditors in the event of your, or your employer’s, bankruptcy
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
LeTort Trust does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of PA. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.
Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2019.
 

Advanced Estate Planning for Women

Advanced Estate Planning Concepts for Women

Statistically speaking, women live longer than men; if you’re married, that means that the odds are that you’re going to outlive your husband. That’s significant for a couple of reasons. First, it means that if your husband dies before you, you’ll likely inherit his estate. More importantly, though, it means that to a large extent, you’ll probably have the last word about the final disposition of all of the assets you’ve accumulated during your marriage. But advanced estate planning isn’t just for women who are or were married. You’ll want to consider whether these concepts and strategies apply to your specific circumstances.

Transfer taxes

When you transfer your property during your lifetime or at your death, your transfers may be subject to federal gift tax, federal estate tax, and federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. (The top estate and gift tax rate is 40%, and the GST tax rate is 40%.) Your transfers may also be subject to state taxes.

Federal gift tax

Gifts you make during your lifetime may be subject to federal gift tax. Not all gifts are subject to the tax, however. You can make annual tax-free gifts of up to $15,000 per recipient. Married couples can effectively make annual tax-free gifts of up to $30,000 per recipient. You can also make tax-free gifts for qualifying expenses paid directly to educational or medical services providers. And you can also make deductible transfers to your spouse and to charity. There is a basic exclusion amount that protects a total of up to about $11,400,000 (in 2019, $11,180,000 in 2018) from gift tax and estate tax.

Federal estate tax

Property you own at death is subject to federal estate tax. As with the gift tax, you can make deductible transfers to your spouse and to charity, and there is a basic exclusion amount that protects up to about $11,400,000 (in 2019, $11,180,000 in 2018) from tax.

Portability

The estate of someone who dies in 2011 or later can elect to transfer any unused applicable exclusion amount to his or her surviving spouse (a concept referred to as portability). The surviving spouse can use this deceased spousal unused exclusion amount (DSUEA), along with the surviving spouse’s own basic exclusion amount, for federal gift and estate tax purposes. For example, if someone died in 2011 and the estate elected to transfer $5,000,000 of the unused exclusion to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse effectively has an applicable exclusion amount of about $16,400,000 to shelter transfers from federal gift or estate tax in 2019.

Federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax

The federal GST tax generally applies if you transfer property to a person two or more generations younger than you (for example, a grandchild). The GST tax may apply in addition to any gift or estate tax. Similar to the gift tax provisions above, annual exclusions and exclusions for qualifying educational and medical expenses are available for GST tax. You can protect up to about $11,400,000 (in 2019, $11,180,000 in 2018) with the GST tax exemption.

Indexing for inflation

The annual gift tax exclusion, the gift tax and estate tax basic exclusion amount, and the GST tax exemption are all indexed for inflation and may increase in future years.

Income tax basis

Generally, if you give property during your life, your basis (generally, what you paid for the property, with certain up or down adjustments) in the property for federal income tax purposes is carried over to the person who receives the gift. So, if you give your $1 million home that you purchased for $50,000 to your brother, your $50,000 basis carries over to your brother — if he sells the house immediately, income tax will be due on the resulting gain.

In contrast, if you leave property to your heirs at death, they get a “stepped-up” (or “stepped-down”) basis in the property equal to the property’s fair market value at the time of your death. So, if the home that you purchased for $50,000 is worth $1 million when you die, your heirs get the property with a basis of $1 million. If they then sell the home for $1 million, they pay no federal income tax.

Lifetime giving

Making gifts during one’s life is a common estate planning strategy that can also serve to minimize transfer taxes. One way to do this is to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion, which lets you give up to $15,000 (in 2018 and 2019) to as many individuals as you want gift tax free. As noted above, there are several other gift tax exclusions and deductions that you can take advantage of. In addition, when you gift property that is expected to appreciate in value, you remove the future appreciation from your taxable estate. In some cases, it may even make sense to make taxable gifts to remove the gift tax from your taxable estate as well.

Trusts

There are a number of trusts that are often used in estate planning. Here is a quick look at a few of them.

  • Revocable trust. You retain the right to change or revoke a revocable trust. A revocable trust can allow you to try out a trust, provide for management of your property in case of your incapacity, and avoid probate at your death.
  • Marital trusts. A marital trust is designed to qualify for the marital deduction. Typically, one spouse gives the other spouse an income interest for life, the right to access principal in certain circumstances, and the right to designate who receives the trust property at his or her death. In a QTIP variation, the spouse who created the trust can retain the right to control who ultimately receives the trust property when the other spouse dies. A marital trust is included in the gross estate of the spouse with the income interest for life.
  • Credit shelter bypass trust. The first spouse to die creates a trust that is sheltered by his or her applicable exclusion amount. The surviving spouse may be given interests in the trust, but the interests are limited enough that the trust is not included in his or her gross estate.
  • Grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT). You retain a right to a fixed stream of annuity payments for a number of years, after which the remainder passes to your beneficiaries, such as your children. Your gift of a remainder interest is discounted for gift tax purposes.
  • Charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT). You retain a stream of payments for a number of years (or for life), after which the remainder passes to charity. You receive a current charitable deduction for the gift of the remainder interest.
  • Charitable lead annuity trust (CLAT). A fixed stream of annuity payments benefits a charity for a number of years, after which the remainder passes to your noncharitable beneficiaries, such as your children. Your gift of a remainder interest is discounted for gift tax purposes.

Life insurance

Life insurance plays a part in many estate plans. In a small estate, life insurance may actually create the estate and be the primary financial resource for your surviving family members. Life insurance can also be used to provide liquidity for your estate, for example, by providing the cash to pay final expenses, outstanding debts, and taxes, so that other assets don’t have to be liquidated to pay these expenses. Life insurance proceeds can generally be received income tax free.

Life insurance that you own on your own life will generally be included in your gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. However, it is possible to use an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to keep the life insurance proceeds out of your gross estate.

With an ILIT, you create an irrevocable trust that buys and owns the life insurance policy. You make cash gifts to the trust, which the trust uses to pay the policy premiums. (The trust beneficiaries are offered a limited period of time to withdraw the cash gifts.) If structured properly, the trust receives the life insurance proceeds when you die, tax free, and distributes the funds according to the terms of the trust.

As you plan your estate, it is important to consider the tax implications. This can range from planning for the income tax basis of your property, to the gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax potentially applicable to transfers of your property.

Women live an average of 5.0 years longer than men.* That’s important because it means that there’s a greater chance that you’ll need your assets to last for a longer period of time. Keep this in mind when you consider making lifetime gifts. Property you give away is no longer available to you.

*NCHS Data Brief, No. 328, November 2018.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
LeTort Trust does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of PA. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.
Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2019.