Points to Consider as You Approach Retirement

10 Years and Counting: Points to Consider as You Approach Retirement

If you’re a decade or so away from retirement, you’ve probably spent at least some time thinking about this major life change. How will you manage the transition? Will you travel, take up a new sport or hobby, or spend more time with friends and family? Should you consider relocating? Will you continue to work in some capacity? Will changes in your income sources affect your standard of living?

When you begin to ponder all the issues surrounding the transition, the process can seem downright daunting. However, thinking about a few key points now, while you still have years ahead, can help you focus your efforts and minimize the anxiety that often accompanies the shift.

Reassess your living expenses

A step you will probably take several times between now and retirement — and maybe several more times thereafter — is thinking about how your living expenses could or should change. For example, while commuting and other work-related costs may decrease, other budget items may rise. Health-care costs, in particular, may increase as you progress through retirement.

Try to estimate what your monthly expense budget will look like in the first few years after you stop working. And then continue to reassess this budget as your vision of retirement becomes reality.

According to a recent survey, just 38% of retirees said they were “very confident” that they would be able to meet their basic expenses in retirement, while only 26% showed similar levels of confidence in meeting health-care costs.1 Keeping a close eye on your spending in the years leading up to retirement can help you more accurately anticipate your budget during retirement.

Consider all your income sources

First, figure out how much you stand to receive from Social Security. The amount you receive will depend on your earnings history and other unique factors. You can elect to receive retirement benefits as early as age 62, however, doing so will result in a reduced benefit for life. If you wait until your full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on your birth date) or later (up to age 70), your benefit will be higher. The longer you wait, the larger it will be.2

You can get an estimate of your retirement benefit at the Social Security Administration website, ssa.gov. You can also sign up for a my Social Security account to view your online Social Security statement, which contains a detailed record of your earnings and estimates for retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. Your retirement benefit estimates include amounts at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70. Check your statement carefully and address any errors as soon as possible.

Next, review the accounts you’ve earmarked for retirement income, including any employer benefits. Start with your employer-sponsored plan, and then consider any IRAs and traditional investment accounts you may own. Try to estimate how much they could provide on a monthly basis. If you are married, be sure to include your spouse’s retirement accounts as well. If your employer provides a traditional pension plan, contact the plan administrator for an estimate of that monthly benefit amount.

Do you have rental income? Be sure to include that in your calculations. Might you continue to work? Some retirees find that they are able to consult, turn a hobby into an income source, or work part-time. Such income can provide a valuable cushion that helps retirees postpone tapping their investment accounts, giving the assets more time to potentially grow.

Some other ways to generate extra cash during retirement include selling gently used goods (such as furniture or designer accessories), pet sitting, and participating in the sharing economy — e.g., using your car as a taxi service.

Pay off debt, power up your savings

Once you have an idea of what your possible expenses and income look like, it’s time to bring your attention back to the here and now. Draw up a plan to pay off debt and power up your retirement savings before you retire.

Why pay off debt? Entering retirement debt-free — including paying off your mortgage — will put you in a position to modify your monthly expenses in retirement if the need arises. On the other hand, entering retirement with a mortgage, loan, and credit-card balances will put you at the mercy of those monthly payments. You’ll have less of an opportunity to scale back your spending if necessary.

Why power up your savings? In these final few years before retirement, you’re likely to be earning the highest salary of your career. Why not save and invest as much as you can in your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan and/or IRAs? Aim for maximum allowable contributions. And remember, if you’re 50 or older, you can take advantage of catch-up contributions, which enable you to contribute an additional $6,000 to your 401(k) plan and an extra $1,000 to your IRA in 2019.

Manage taxes

As you think about when to tap your various resources for retirement income, remember to consider the tax impact of your strategy. For example, you may want to withdraw money from your taxable accounts first to allow your employer-sponsored plans and IRAs more time to potentially benefit from tax-deferred growth. Keep in mind, however, that generally you are required to begin taking minimum distributions from tax-deferred accounts in the year you turn age 70½, whether or not you actually need the money. (Roth IRAs are an exception to this rule.)

If you decide to work in retirement while receiving Social Security, understand that income you earn may result in taxable benefits. IRS Publication 915 offers a worksheet to help you determine whether any portion of your Social Security benefit is taxable.

If leaving a financial legacy is a goal, you’ll also want to consider how estate taxes and income taxes for your heirs figure into your overall decisions.

Managing retirement income to result in the best possible tax scenario can be extremely complicated. Qualified tax and financial professionals can provide valuable insight and guidance.3

Account for health care

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reported that the average 65-year-old married couple, with average prescription drug expenses, would need $240,000 in savings to have at least a 75% chance of meeting their insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health-care costs in retirement in 2018.4 This figure illustrates why health care should get special attention as you plan the transition to retirement.

As you age, the portion of your budget consumed by health-related costs (including both medical and dental) will likely increase. Although original Medicare will cover a portion of your costs, you’ll still have deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Unless you’re prepared to pay for these costs out of pocket, you may want to purchase a supplemental Medigap insurance policy. Medigap policies are sold by private health insurers and are standardized and regulated by both state and federal law. These plans cover certain specified services, but offer different combinations of coverage. Some cover all or part of your Medicare deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance costs.

Another option is Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C), which allows Medicare beneficiaries to receive health care through managed care plans and private fee-for-service plans. To enroll in Medicare Advantage, you must be covered under both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. For more information, visit medicare.gov.

Also think about what would happen if you or your spouse needed home care, nursing home care, or other forms of long-term assistance, which Medicare and Medigap will not cover. Long-term care costs vary substantially depending on where you live and can be extremely expensive. For this reason, people often consider buying long-term care insurance. Policy premiums may be tax deductible, based on a number of different factors. If you have a family history of debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s, have substantial assets you’d like to protect, or want to leave assets to heirs, a long-term care policy may be worth considering.5

Ease the transition

These are just some of the factors to consider as you prepare to transition into retirement. Breaking the bigger picture into smaller categories and using the years ahead to plan accordingly may help make the process a little easier.

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.
 

 

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.