Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Retirement’ Category

11
May

Required Distributions from Inherited Retirement Accounts Change after 2019

Changes were made to the Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for inherited Retirement Accounts by The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019. The ability of beneficiaries to “stretch-out” the distribution of the account balance of an inherited defined contribution plan or an IRA were changed. After 2019 beneficiaries must  distribute the full amount in the account within 10 years of the original owner’s death, with some exceptions. Where an exception applies, the entire account must generally be emptied within 10 years of the beneficiary’s death, or within 10 years after a minor child beneficiary reaches age 21.
IRS issued proposed regulations (generally applicable starting in 2022) that interpret the revised required minimum distribution (RMD) rules in February 2022. The new rules are complex and create uncertainty. Hopefully, the IRS will simplify and answer the questions. Account owners and their beneficiaries would benefit by familiarize themselves with these new interpretations and how they might be affected by them.

RMD BasicsOwners of traditional IRAs and participants of retirement plan like a 401(k) must start taking RMDs in the year they reach age 72 (age 70½ if you were born before July 1, 1949). An owner of the account may be able to wait until the year after retiring to start RMDs from that account at age 72 or older and still working for the employer that maintains the retirement plan. No RMDs are required from a Roth IRA during lifetime (beneficiaries are subject to inherited retirement account rules). Generally, a 50% penalty applies to the extent that RMDs are not timely distributed.
Changes were made to the Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for inherited Retirement Accounts by The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019. The ability of beneficiaries to “stretch-out” the distribution of the account balance of an inherited defined contribution plan or an IRA were changed. After 2019 beneficiaries must  distribute the full amount in the account within 10 years of the original owner’s death, with some exceptions. Where an exception applies, the entire account must generally be emptied within 10 years of the beneficiary’s death, or within 10 years after a minor child beneficiary reaches age 21.

IRS issued proposed regulations (generally applicable starting in 2022) that interpret the revised required minimum distribution (RMD) rules in February 2022. The new rules are complex and create uncertainty. Hopefully, the IRS will simplify and answer the questions. Account owners and their beneficiaries would benefit by familiarize themselves with these new interpretations and how they might be affected by them.

RMD Basics
Owners of traditional IRAs and participants of retirement plan like a 401(k) must start taking RMDs in the year they reach age 72 (age 70½ if you were born before July 1, 1949). An owner of the account may be able to wait until the year after retiring to start RMDs from that account at age 72 or older and still working for the employer that maintains the retirement plan. No RMDs are required from a Roth IRA during lifetime (beneficiaries are subject to inherited retirement account rules). Generally, a 50% penalty applies to the extent that RMDs are not timely distributed.

The required beginning date (RBD) for the first year must be taken  by April 1 of the next year. After the first distribution, annual distributions must be taken by the end of each year. Note,  if the first distribution is delayed until April 1 two distributions will be required for that year, one by April 1 and the other by December 31.

The RMD rules govern how quickly retirement plans and/or IRAs must be distributed by the beneficiaries of the accounts. The rules are largely based on two factors: (1) the individuals named as beneficiaries of the retirement plan, and (2) whether the owner dies before or on or after your RBD. Because no lifetime RMDs are required from a Roth IRA, Roth IRA owners are always treated as dying before their RBD.

Who Is Subject to the 10-Year Rule?

Eligible designated beneficiaries (EDBs) are permitted to stretch out distributions to a limited extent. EDB’s include your surviving spouse, your minor children, any individuals not more than 10 years younger than you, and certain disabled or chronically ill individuals. Generally, EDBs can take annual required distributions based on remaining life expectancy. However, once an EDB dies, or once a minor child EDB reaches age 21, any remaining funds must be distributed within 10 years.

Note that the SECURE Act requires that if a designated beneficiary is not an EDB, the entire account must be fully distributed within 10 years after your death.

What If the Designated Beneficiary Is Not an EDB?
If you die before your required beginning date, no distributions are required during the first nine years after your death, but the entire account must be distributed in the tenth year.

If you die on or after your required beginning date, annual distributions based on the designated beneficiary’s remaining life expectancy are required in the first nine years after the year of your death, then the remainder of the account must be distributed in the tenth year.

What If the Beneficiary Is a Nonspouse EDB?

Annual distributions will be required based on your remaining life expectancy. If death occurs before the required beginning date, required annual distributions will be based on the EDB’s remaining life expectancy. If the owner of the account dies on or after their required beginning date, annual distributions after the owner’s death will be based on the greater of (a) what would have been the owners remaining life expectancy or (b) the beneficiary’s remaining life expectancy. Also, if distributions are calculated each year based on what would have been the remaining life expectancy, the entire account must be distributed by the end of the calendar year in which the beneficiary’s remaining life expectancy would have been reduced to one or less (if the beneficiary’s remaining life expectancy had been used).

After the death of the  beneficiary or if the beneficiary is a minor child turns age 21, annual distributions based on remaining life expectancy must continue during the first nine years after the year of such an event. The entire account must be fully distributed in the tenth year.

What If a Designated Beneficiary A Spouse?
There are many special rules if a spouse is a designated beneficiary. The 10-year rule generally has no effect until after the death of the surviving spouse, or possibly until after the death of the spouse’s designated beneficiary.

What Life Expectancy Is Used to Determine RMDs After Death?

Annual required distributions based on life expectancy are generally calculated each year by dividing the account balance as of December 31 of the previous year by the applicable denominator for the current year (but the RMD will never exceed the entire account balance on the date of the distribution).

When life expectancy is used, the applicable denominator is the life expectancy in the calendar year of death, reduced by one for each subsequent year.  When the nonspouse beneficiary’s life expectancy is used, the applicable denominator is that beneficiary’s life expectancy in the year following the calendar year of your death, reduced by one for each subsequent year. (Note that if the applicable denominator is reduced to zero in any year using this “subtract one” method, the entire account would need to be distributed.) And at the end of the appropriate 10-year period, any remaining balance must be distributed.

The rules relating to required minimum distributions are complicated, and the consequences of making a mistake can be severe. Talk to a tax professional to understand how the rules, and the new proposed regulations, apply to your individual situation.

3
Jan

Social Security Offices will not reopen for in-person meetings as originally planned January 3, 2022.

December 22, 2021, SSA announced they would not re-open as many expected.

The public is encouraged to use their online services. https://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/
Their online services can be accessed by activating your Social Security account. Create an account if you do not have an account.
https://secure.ssa.gov/RIL/SiView.action
https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/

The phone numbers for the local offices can be found using their “Field Office Locator”
https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

Their COVID-19 web page provides mor information to learn more.
https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/

The Retirement Benefit portal has been updated.
https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/

5
Dec

2021 RMDs

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021 must be paid by December 31, 2021. The requirement for 2020 was waived. Check with the custodian(s) where your IRA(s) are held if you have not yet received your entire RMDs for 2021. Some custodians have indicated delays in completing time sensitive transactions by December 31, 2021.

Annual RMDs have been required to begin at age 70.5 before a recent change. This requirement still applies to anyone born by June 30, 1949. Anyone born on or after July 1, 1949, are now required to start at age 72.

An exception to the beginning date applies to employees of retirement plans sponsored by their employers unless they own 5% or more of their employer. The required beginning date is postponed until they retire.

The first RMD may be postponed till April 1 of the following year. Delaying the distribution will result in 2 distributions in the following year. Among the factors to consider is the tax impact of delaying the RMD to April 1 of the next year.

RMDs apply to defined contributions plans and Induvial Retirement Plans (IRA). The distribution rules appl to IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and Qualified Plans, such as Simplified Employee Plans, 401(k) Plans, are examples of Qualified Plans.

A 50% penalty applies if the RMDs are not paid by December 31 of the year required.

The above rules do not apply beneficiaries of inherited accounts. The rules for inherited is beyond the scope of this discussion.

RMDs are the minimum distribution. Larger distributions are permitted. This may apply when the applicable tax rate will be different in each year. Another factor is if you have a large or unexpected expenditures.

Your account balance is usually calculated as of December 31 of the year preceding the calendar year for which the distribution is required to be made. That balance is generally divided by the life expectancy factor determined by the IRS. You use your attained age in the distribution year by factor in the applicable IRS Uniform Lifetime Tables. The table assumes that you have designated a beneficiary who is exactly 10 years younger than you are. Every IRA owner’s and plan participant’s calculation is based on the same assumption.

Different calculations are used if the spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. the calculation of your RMDs may be based on the longer joint and survivor life expectancy of you and your spouse.

A new table will be used starting in 20222. The tables will reduce the annual RMD. The foregoing is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, or other professional advice. Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances. Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained. JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other source

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021 must be paid by December 31, 2021. The requirement for 2020 was waived. Check with the custodian(s) where your IRA(s) are held if you have not yet received your entire RMDs for 2021. Some custodians have indicated delays in completing time sensitive transactions by December 31, 2021.

Annual RMDs have been required to begin at age 70.5 before a recent change. This requirement still applies to anyone born by June 30, 1949. Anyone born on or after July 1, 1949, are now required to start at age 72.

An exception to the beginning date applies to employees of retirement plans sponsored by their employers unless they own 5% or more of their employer. The required beginning date is postponed until they retire.

The first RMD may be postponed till April 1 of the following year. Delaying the distribution will result in 2 distributions in the following year. Among the factors to consider is the tax impact of delaying the RMD to April 1 of the next year.

RMDs apply to defined contributions plans and Induvial Retirement Plans (IRA). The distribution rules appl to IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and Qualified Plans, such as Simplified Employee Plans, 401(k) Plans, are examples of Qualified Plans.

A 50% penalty applies if the RMDs are not paid by December 31 of the year required.

The above rules do not apply beneficiaries of inherited accounts. The rules for inherited is beyond the scope of this discussion.

RMDs are the minimum distribution. Larger distributions are permitted. This may apply when the applicable tax rate will be different in each year. Another factor is if you have a large or unexpected expenditures.

Your account balance is usually calculated as of December 31 of the year preceding the calendar year for which the distribution is required to be made. That balance is generally divided by the life expectancy factor determined by the IRS. You use your attained age in the distribution year by factor in the applicable IRS Uniform Lifetime Tables. The table assumes that you have designated a beneficiary who is exactly 10 years younger than you are. Every IRA owner’s and plan participant’s calculation is based on the same assumption.

Different calculations are used if the spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. the calculation of your RMDs may be based on the longer joint and survivor life expectancy of you and your spouse.

A new table will be used starting in 20222. The tables will reduce the annual RMD.

The foregoing is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended or designed to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, or other professional advice. Such advice requires consideration of individual circumstances. Before any action is taken based upon this information, it is essential that competent, individual, professional advice be obtained. JAS Financial Services, LLC is not responsible for any modifications made to this material, or for the accuracy of information provided by other source

11
Nov

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) for 2021

Following are some of the developments to be consider before December 31,2021.

What Are RMDs?

Required annual distributions are required if you have a traditional IRA and most employer-sponsored retirement plans. RMDs are not required from an employer plan if you are still working at the company sponsoring the plan and you do not own more than 5% of the company. You can always take more than the required amount if you choose.

The portion of an RMD representing earnings and tax-deductible contributions is taxed as ordinary income, unless the RMD is a qualified distribution from a Roth account. Failing to take the full amount of an RMD could result in a penalty tax of 50% of the difference.

Everyone who reached 70½ (required beginning date) before January 1, 2020, was required to start making annual RMDs. Generally, RMDs must be taken by December 31 each year. You can delay your first RMD until April 1 following the year in which you reach RMD age; however, you will then need to take two RMDs in one year — the first by April 1 and the second by December 31. (If you reached age 72 in the first half of 2021, different rules apply; see below.)  You should weigh the decision to delay your first RMD carefully. Taking two distributions in one year might bump you into a higher income tax bracket for that year.

New RMD Age and a 2020 Waiver Add Complexity

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 raised the minimum RMD age to 72 from 70½ beginning in 2020. That means if you reached age 70½ before 2020, you are currently required to take minimum distributions.

However, there was a pandemic-related rule change in 2020 that might have affected some retirement savers who reached age 70½ in 2019. To help individuals manage financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, RMDs were waived in 2020, including any postponed from 2019. In other words, some taxpayers could have benefited from waiving both their 2019 and 2020 RMDs.

Anyone who took advantage of the 2020 waiver should note that RMDs have resumed in 2021 and need to be taken by December 31. The option to delay to April 1, 2022, applies only to first RMDs for those who have reached or will reach age 72 on or after July 1, 2021.

New Life Expectancy Tables
The IRS publishes tables in Publication 590-B that are used to help calculate RMDs. To determine the amount of a required distribution, you would divide your account balance as of December 31 of the previous year by the appropriate age-related factor in one of three available tables.

Recognizing that life expediencies have increased, the IRS has issued new tables designed to help investors stretch their retirement savings over a longer period. These new tables will take effect for RMDs beginning in 2022. Investors may be pleased to learn that calculations will typically result in lower annual RMD amounts and potentially lower income tax obligations as a result. The old tables still apply to 2021 distributions, even if they’re postponed until 2022.

The New Fixed Distribution

The New Fixed Distribution Rule

The beneficiaries of an IRA, other than a spouses and certain other specified persons, are required to take the balance of the account within 10 years. The distributions do not have to be consist in each year if the entire balance is paid out within 10-years

Timing

Allow for delays in in processing and delivery of the distributions before December 31, 2021.

For more information on RMDs, consider speaking with your financial and tax professionals.

19
Oct

Is the Back-Door Roth IRA Going Away for Good?

Among the many provisions in the multi-trillion-dollar legislative package being debated in Congress is a provision that would eliminate a strategy that allows high-income investors to pursue tax-free retirement income: the so-called back-door Roth IRA. The next few months may present the last chance to take advantage of this opportunity.

Roth IRA Background
Since its introduction in 1997, the Roth IRA has become an attractive investment vehicle due to the potential to build a sizable, tax-free nest egg. Although contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, any earnings in the account grow tax-free if future distributions are qualified. A qualified distribution is one made after the Roth account has been held for five years and after the account holder reaches age 59½, becomes disabled, dies, or uses the funds for the purchase of a first home ($10,000 lifetime limit).

Unlike other retirement savings accounts, original owners of Roth IRAs are not subject to required minimum distributions at age 72 — another potentially tax-beneficial benefit that makes Roth IRAs appealing in estate planning strategies. (Beneficiaries are subject to distribution rules.)

However, as initially passed, the 1997 legislation rendered it impossible for high-income taxpayers to enjoy Roth IRAs. Individuals and married taxpayers whose income exceeded certain thresholds could neither contribute to a Roth IRA nor convert traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA.

A Loophole Emerges
Nearly 10 years after the Roth’s introduction, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 ushered in a change that relaxed the conversion rules beginning in 2010; that is, as of that year, the income limits for a Roth conversion were eliminated, which meant that anyone could convert traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA. (Of course, a conversion results in a tax obligation on deductible contributions and earnings that have previously accrued in the traditional IRA.)

One perhaps unintended consequence of this change was the emergence of a new strategy that has been utilized ever since: High-income individuals could make full, annual, nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA and convert those contribution dollars to a Roth. If the account holders had no other IRAs (see note below) and the conversion was executed quickly enough so that no earnings were able to accrue, the transaction could potentially be a tax-free way for otherwise ineligible taxpayers to fund a Roth IRA. This move became known as the back-door Roth IRA.

(Note: When calculating a tax obligation on a Roth conversion, investors must aggregate all their IRAs, including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, before determining the amount. For example, say an investor has $100,000 in several different traditional IRAs, 80% of which is attributed to deductible contributions and earnings. If that investor chose to convert any traditional IRA assets — even recent after-tax contributions — to a Roth IRA, 80% of the converted funds would be taxable. This is known as the “pro-rata rule.”)

Current Roth IRA Income Limits
For 2021, you can generally contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA (traditional, Roth, or a combination of both); $7,000 if you’ll be age 50 or older by December 31. However, your ability to make contributions to a Roth IRA is limited or eliminated if your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, falls within or exceeds the parameters shown below.

If your federal filing status is:Your 2021 Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is:You can’t contribute to a Roth IRA for 2021 if your MAGI is:
Single or head of householdMore than $125,000 but less than $140,000$140,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)More than $198,000 but less than $208,000$208,000 or more
Married filing separatelyLess than $10,000$10,000 or more

Note that your contributions generally can’t exceed your earned income for the year (special rules apply to spousal Roth IRAs).

Now or Never … Maybe
While no one knows for sure what may come of the legislative debates, the current proposal would prohibit the conversion of nondeductible contributions from a traditional IRA after December 31, 2021. If you expect your MAGI to exceed this year’s thresholds and you’d like to fund a Roth IRA for 2021, the next few months may be your last chance to use the back-door strategy. Contact your financial and tax professionals for more information.

There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results.

You can make 2021 IRA contributions up until April 15, 2022, but if the legislation is enacted, a Roth conversion involving nondeductible contributions would have to be conducted by December 31, 2021.

Keep in mind that a separate five-year rule applies to the principal amount of each Roth IRA conversion you make unless an exception applies.

8
Jul

Should You Be Concerned About Inflation?

If you pay attention to financial news, you are probably seeing a lot of discussion about inflation, which has reared its head in the U.S. economy after being mostly dormant for the last decade. In May 2021, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), often called headline inflation, rose at an annual rate of 5.0%, the highest 12-month increase since August 2008.1

The CPI-U measures the price of a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by residents of urban and metropolitan areas — about 93% of the U.S. population. You have likely seen price increases in some of the goods and services you purchase, and if so it’s natural to be concerned.

The larger question is whether these price increases are temporary, caused by factors such as supply-chain issues and labor shortages that will be resolved as the economy continues to emerge from the pandemic, or whether they indicate a fundamental imbalance that could cause widespread long-term inflation and hold back economic growth.

Most economists — including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — believe the current spike is primarily due to transitory factors that will fade in the coming months. One example of this, cited by Powell in a recent press conference, is the price of lumber.2–3

Supply and Demand

Early in the pandemic, many lumber mills shut down or cut back on production because they expected a major slowdown in building. In fact, demand for housing and home renovation increased during the pandemic, as many people who worked from home wanted more space, a different location, or  improvements to their current homes. Low supply and high demand sent lumber prices soaring.4

Sawmills geared up as quickly as they could and were reaching full capacity just as demand began to ebb, with builders cutting back due to high prices and homeowners using their discretionary income to buy other goods and services. Suddenly the supply exceeded demand, and prices began to drop. Wholesale lumber prices are still higher than before the pandemic, and it takes time for price drops to filter down to the retail level, but it’s clear that the extreme inflation was transitory and has been reversed. The lumber story also suggests that consumers and businesses will cut back on spending for a product that becomes too expensive rather than spend at any price and feed an inflationary spiral.5

Chips and Cars

Another example of pandemic-driven imbalance between supply and demand is used car and truck prices, which have skyrocketed almost 30% over the last 12 months and represent a substantial portion of the overall increase in CPI. Used vehicles are hard to find in large part because fewer new cars are being built — and fewer new cars are being built because there is a shortage of computer chips. A single new car can require more than 1,000 chips, and when auto manufacturers were forced to close their factories early in the pandemic and new vehicle sales plummeted due to lack of demand, chip manufacturers shifted from producing chips for cars to producing chips for high-demand consumer electronics such as webcams, phones, and laptops.6–8

As the economy reopened and the demand for cars increased, chip producers were unable to shift and increase production quickly enough to meet the needs of auto manufacturers. The chip shortage is expected to reduce global auto production by 3.9 million vehicles in 2021, a drop of 4.6%. Unlike lumber, the chip shortage may take some time to resolve, because chip manufacturing is a long, multi-step process and most chips are manufactured outside the United States. The federal government has stepped in to encourage U.S. manufacturers to build new facilities and increase production.9

Fundamental Forces

Imbalances between supply and demand are to be expected as the economy reopens, and most such imbalances should work themselves out in the marketplace. But other forces could fuel more extensive inflation. Massive federal stimulus packages have provided consumers with more money to spend, while ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve has increased the money supply and made it easier to borrow.

Although unemployment is still relatively high at 5.9%, millions of jobs remain open as workers are hesitant to return to positions they consider unsafe in light of the pandemic, are unable to work due to lack of child care, and/or are rethinking their careers in a post-pandemic world.10–11This may change in September as extended unemployment benefits expire and children return to school, but the current imbalance is forcing many businesses to raise wages, especially in lower-paying jobs.12

The increases so far are primarily “catching up” after many years of low wages and should be absorbed by businesses or passed on to consumers with moderate price increases.13 However, if wages and prices increase too quickly and consumers earning higher wages are willing to spend regardless of rising prices — because they expect prices to rise even higher — the wage-price inflation spiral could be difficult to control.

Reading the Economy

When considering the current situation, it’s helpful to look at other measures of inflation.

Base effect. On a purely mathematical level, high 12-month CPI increases in March, April, and May 2021 reflect the fact that the CPI is being compared with those months in 2020, when prices decreased as the economy closed in response to the pandemic. This comparison to unusually low numbers is called the base effect. To avoid this effect, it’s helpful to look at annualized inflation over a two-year period, comparing prices now with prices before the pandemic. By that measure, current inflation is about 2.5%, a little higher than the average over the last decade but not nearly as concerning as a 5.0% level.14

Core inflation. Prices of some items are more volatile than others, and food and energy are especially volatile categories that can change quickly even in a low-inflation environment. For this reason, economists tend to look more carefully at core inflation, which strips out food and energy prices and generally runs lower than CPI-U. Core CPI rose at an annual rate of 3.8% in May 2021, which sounds better than 5.0% until you consider that it is the highest core inflation since June 1992. The good news is that the 0.7% monthly increase from April to May was lower than the 0.9% rise from March to April, suggesting that core inflation may be slowing down.  (The CPI-U increase also slowed in May, rising 0.6% for the month after a 0.8% increase in April.)15

Sticky prices.  Another helpful measure is the sticky-price CPI, which sorts the components of the CPI into categories that are relatively slow to change (sticky) and those that change more rapidly (flexible). The sticky price CPI increased just 2.7% over the 12-month period ending in May 2021. By contrast, the flexible component of the CPI increased 12.4% over the year.16 This suggests that a variety of factors — such as problems with supply chains, labor, and extreme weather — may be moving prices on flexible items, but that underlying economic forces are moving more stable prices at a relatively moderate rate.

The Fed’s Arsenal

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), an arm of the Federal Reserve, is charged with setting economic policy to meet its dual mandate of fostering maximum employment while promoting price stability. The Fed’s primary economic tools are the benchmark federal funds rate, which affects many other interest rates, and its bond-buying program, which injects liquidity into the economy. Put simply, the Fed lowers the funds rate and buys bonds to stimulate the economy and increase employment, and raises the rate and stops buying bonds or sells bonds to put the brakes on inflation.

The federal funds rate has been at its rock-bottom range of 0.0% to 0.25% since March 2020, when the Fed dropped it quickly in the face of the pandemic, and the Federal Reserve is buying $120 billion in government bonds every month, much less than it did early in the pandemic but still a substantial and steady injection of money into the economy.17 (Unlike an individual or a regular bank that must spend money to purchase bonds, the central bank buys bonds by creating an electronic deposit in one of its member banks, thus creating “new money” that can be used to lend and circulate into the economy.)

Some inflation is necessary for economic growth — without it, an economy is stagnant — and in 2012, the FOMC set a 2% target for healthy inflation, based on a measure called the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index. The PCE price index uses much of the same data as the CPI, but it captures a broader range of expenditures and reflects changes in consumer spending.

More specifically, the FOMC focuses on core PCE (excluding food and energy), which remained below the 2% target for most of the last decade. In August 2020, the FOMC changed its policy to target an average PCE inflation rate of 2% and indicated it would allow inflation to run higher for some time to balance the time it ran below the target. This is the current situation. Core PCE increased at a 12-month rate of 3.4% in May 2021, but so far the Fed has shown little inclination to take action in the short term.18 The FOMC projects PCE inflation to drop to 3.1% by the end of the year and to 2.1% by the end of 2022.19

At its June meeting, the FOMC did indicate an important shift by projecting the federal funds rate would increase in 2023 to a range of 0.5% to 0.75%, effectively two quarter-point steps.  (In March, the projection had been to hold the rate steady at least through 2023.) Fed Chair Powell also indicated that the FOMC has begun “talking about talking about” reducing the monthly bond purchases.20 Neither of these signals suggests any immediate action or serious concern about inflation. However, the fact that the funds rate remains near zero and that the Fed continues to buy bonds gives the central bank powerful “weapons” to employ if it believes inflation is increasing too quickly.

The next few months may indicate whether inflation is slowing down or changes in monetary policy are necessary. Unfortunately, prices do not always come down once they rise, but it may be helpful to keep in mind that prices of many goods and services did decline during the pandemic, and the higher prices you are seeing today might not be far out of line compared with prices before the economic slowdown. As long as inflation begins trending downward, it seems likely that the current numbers reflect growing pains of the recovery rather than a long-term threat to economic growth.

U.S. Treasury securities are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value of Treasury securities fluctuates with market conditions. If not held to maturity, bonds could be worth more or less than the original amount paid. Projections are based on current conditions, are subject to change, and may not come to pass.

1, 6, 10, 14) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

2, 17, 19–20) Federal Reserve, 2021

3) Bloomberg, June 5, 2021

4–5) The New York Times, June 21, 2021

7) CBS News, June 22, 2021

8–9) Time, June 28, 2021

11) CNBC, June 8, 2021

12–13) CNBC, May 22, 2021

15) The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2021

16) Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 2021

18) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2021

13
Jan

Revisiting the 4% Rule

Saving for retirement is not easy, but using your retirement savings wisely can be just as challenging. How much of your savings can you withdraw each year? Withdraw too much and you run the risk of running out of money. Withdraw too little and you may miss out on a more comfortable retirement lifestyle.

For more than 25 years, the most common guideline has been the “4% rule,” which suggests that a withdrawal equal to 4% of the initial portfolio value, with annual increases for inflation, is sustainable over a 30-year retirement. This guideline can be helpful in projecting a savings goal and providing a realistic picture of the annual income your savings might provide. For example, a $1 million portfolio could provide $40,000 of income in the first year with inflation-adjusted withdrawals in succeeding years.

The 4% rule has stimulated a great deal of discussion over the years, with some experts saying 4% is too low and others saying it’s too high. The most recent analysis comes from the man who invented it, financial professional William Bengen, who believes the rule has been misunderstood and offers new insights based on new research.

Original research

Bengen first published his findings in 1994, based on analyzing data for retirements beginning in 51 different years, from 1926 to 1976. He considered a hypothetical, conservative portfolio comprising 50% large-cap stocks and 50% intermediate-term Treasury bonds held in a tax-advantaged account and rebalanced annually. A 4% inflation-adjusted withdrawal was the highest sustainable rate in the worst-case scenario — retirement in October 1968, the beginning of a bear market and a long period of high inflation. All other retirement years had higher sustainable rates, some as high as 10% or more.1)

Of course, no one can predict the future, which is why Bengen suggested the worst-case scenario as a sustainable rate. He later adjusted it slightly upward to 4.5%, based on a more diverse portfolio comprising 30% large-cap stocks, 20% small-cap stocks, and 50% intermediate-term Treasuries.2)

New research

In October 2020, Bengen published new research that attempts to project a sustainable withdrawal rate based on two key factors at the time of retirement: stock market valuation and inflation (annual change in the Consumer Price Index). In theory, when the market is expensive, it has less potential to grow, and sustaining increased withdrawals over time may be more difficult. On the other hand, lower inflation means lower inflation-adjusted withdrawals, allowing a higher initial rate. For example, a $40,000 first-year withdrawal becomes an $84,000 withdrawal after 20 years with a 4% annual inflation increase but just $58,000 with a 2% increase.

To measure market valuation, Bengen used the Shiller CAPE, the cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio for the S&P 500 index developed by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller. The price-earnings (P/E) ratio of a stock is the share price divided by its earnings per share for the previous 12 months. For example, if a stock is priced at $100 and the earnings per share is $4, the P/E ratio would be 25. The Shiller CAPE divides the total share price of stocks in the S&P 500 index by average inflation-adjusted earnings over 10 years.

5% rule?

Again using historical data — for retirement dates from 1926 to 1990 — Bengen found a clear correlation between market valuation and inflation at the time of retirement and the maximum sustainable withdrawal rate. Historically, rates ranged from as low as 4.5% to as high as 13%, but the scenarios that supported high rates were unusual, with very low market valuations and/or deflation rather than inflation.3)

For most of the last 25 years, the United States has experienced high market valuations, and inflation has been low since the Great Recession.4-5) In a high-valuation, low-inflation scenario at the time of retirement, Bengen found that a 5% initial withdrawal rate was sustainable over 30 years.6) While not a big difference from the 4% rule, this suggests retirees could make larger initial withdrawals, particularly in a low-inflation environment.

One caveat is that current market valuation is extremely high: The S&P 500 index had a CAPE of 34.19 at the end of 2020, a level only reached (and exceeded) during the late-1990s dot-com boom and higher than any of the scenarios in Bengen’s research.7)  His range for a 5% withdrawal rate is a CAPE of 23 or higher, with inflation between 0% and 2.5%.8) (Inflation was 1.2% in November 2020.9) Bengen’s research suggests that if market valuation drops near the historical mean of 16.77, a withdrawal rate of 6% might be sustainable as long as inflation is 5% or lower. On the other hand, if valuation remains high and inflation surpasses 2.5%, the maximum sustainable rate might be 4.5%.10)

It’s important to keep in mind that these projections are based on historical scenarios and a hypothetical portfolio, and there is no guarantee that your portfolio will perform in a similar manner. Also remember that these calculations are based on annual inflation-adjusted withdrawals, and you might choose not to increase withdrawals in some years or use other criteria to make adjustments, such as market performance.

Although there is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results, a professional can evaluate your objectives and available resources and help you consider appropriate long-term financial strategies, including your withdrawal strategy.

All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value of Treasury securities fluctuates with market conditions. If not held to maturity, they could be worth more or less than the original amount paid. Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. Rebalancing involves selling some investments in order to buy others; selling investments in a taxable account could result in a tax liability.

The S&P 500 index is an unmanaged group of securities considered representative of the U.S. stock market in general. The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific investment. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Actual results will vary.

1-2) Forbes Advisor, October 12, 2020

3-4, 6, 8, 10) Financial Advisor, October 2020

5, 9) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020

7) multpl.com, December 31, 2020

4
Nov

IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2021

Many IRA and retirement plan limits are indexed for inflation each year. While some of the limits remain unchanged for 2021, other key numbers have increased.

IRA contribution limits

The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA in 2021 is $6,000 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2020. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains $1,000. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA in 2021, but your total contributions cannot exceed these annual limits.

Income limits for deducting traditional IRA contributions

If you (or if you’re married, both you and your spouse) are not covered by an employer retirement plan, your contributions to a traditional IRA are generally fully tax deductible. If you’re married, filing jointly, and you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is between $198,000 and $208,000 (up from $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020), and eliminated if your MAGI is $208,000 or more (up from $206,000 in 2020).

For those who are covered by an employer plan, deductibility depends on your income and filing status.

If your 2021 federal income tax  filing status is:Your  IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is      between:Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household$66,000 and $76,000$76,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying      widow(er)$105,000 and $125,000 (combined)$125,000 or more      (combined)
Married filing separately$0      and $10,000$10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) in 2021 if your MAGI is $66,000 or less (up from $65,000 in 2020). If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) if your MAGI is $105,000 or less (up from $104,000 in 2020).

Income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA

The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased.

If your 2021 federal income tax filing status is:Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is:You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of householdMore than $125,000 but less than $140,000$140,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying      widow(er)More than $198,000 but less than $208,000      (combined)$208,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separatelyMore than $0 but less than $10,000$10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $6,000  ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is $125,000 or less (up from $124,000 in 2020). And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $198,000 or less (up from $196,000 in 2020). Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.

Employer retirement plan limits

Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2021 remain unchanged from 2020. The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan remains  $19,500 in 2021. This limit also applies to 403(b) and 457(b) plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan. If you’re age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,500 to these plans in 2021. [Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.]

The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) remains $13,500 in 2021, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains $3,000.

Plan type:Annual dollar  limit:Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b),      Federal Thrift Plan$19,500$6,500
SIMPLE plans$13,500$3,000

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($19,500 in 2021 plus any applicable catch-up contributions). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and SIMPLE plans are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and  a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan — a total of     $39,000 in 2021 (plus any catch-up contributions).

The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan [for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan] in 2021 is $58,000 (up from $57,000 in 2020) plus age 50 or older catch-up     contributions. This includes both your contributions and your employer’s     contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.

Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2021 is $290,000 (up from $285,000 in 2020), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2021 is the look-back year) remains      $130,000 (unchanged from 2020).

27
Apr

Coping with Market Volatility: Be Willing to Take Advantage of Market Downturns

Anyone can look good during a bull market. Smart investors are prepared to weather the inevitable rough patches, and even the best aren’t successful all the time. When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you originally made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold, regardless of what the overall market is doing.

If you no longer want to hold an investment, you could take a tax loss, if that’s a possibility. Selling locks in any losses on an investment, but it also generates cash that can be used to purchase other investments that may be available at an appealing discount.  Sound research might turn up buying opportunities on stocks that have dropped for reasons that have nothing to do with the company’s fundamentals. In a down market, most stocks are available at lower prices, but some are better bargains than others.

There also are other ways to reap some benefit from a down market. If the value of your IRA or 401(k)  has dropped dramatically, you likely won’t be able to harvest a tax benefit from those losses, because taxes generally aren’t owed on those accounts until the money is withdrawn. However, if you’ve considered converting a tax-deferred plan to a Roth IRA, a lower account balance might make a conversion more attractive. Though the conversion would trigger income taxes in the year of the conversion, the tax would be calculated on the reduced value of your account. With some expert help, you can determine whether and when such a conversion might be advantageous.

A volatile market is never easy to endure, but learning from it can better prepare you and your portfolio to weather and take advantage of the market’s ups and downs.

For more information on these strategies, contact us. We’re here to help.

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.

Although there is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results, a professional can evaluate your objectives and available resources and help you consider appropriate long-term financial strategies.

To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings (and assets converted to a Roth), Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement, and the distribution must take place after age 59½ (with some exceptions). Under current tax law, if all conditions are met, the account will incur no further income tax liability for the rest of the owner’s lifetime or for the lifetime of the owner’s heirs, regardless of how much growth the account experiences.

17
Apr

CARES Act: Retirement Plan Relief Provisions

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act  was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This $2 trillion emergency relief package represents a bipartisan effort to assist both individuals and businesses in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic crisis. The CARES Act provisions for retirement plan relief for individuals under federal tax law are discussed here.

For those seeking access to their retirement funds, these include special provisions for coronavirus-related distributions and loans. For those seeking to preserve their retirement funds, certain required minimum distributions from retirement funds have been suspended.

Coronavirus-related distributions

A 10% penalty tax generally applies to distributions from an employer retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA) before age 59½ unless an exception applies. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the penalty tax will not apply to up to $100,000 of coronavirus-related distributions to an individual during 2020. Additionally, income resulting from a coronavirus-related distribution is spread over a three-year period for tax purposes unless an individual elects otherwise. Coronavirus-related distributions can also be paid back to an eligible retirement plan within three years of the day after the distribution was received.

What does “coronavirus related” mean?

For purposes of the distribution and loan rules described here, “coronavirus related” applies to individuals diagnosed with the illness or who have a spouse or dependent diagnosed with the illness, as well as individuals who experience adverse financial consequences as a result of the pandemic. Adverse financial consequences could include quarantines, furloughs, and business closings.

Loans from qualified plans

Qualified plans such as a 401(k) can allow an employee to take out a loan. These loans can generally be repaid over a period of up to five years. They’re also generally limited to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of the total benefit the employee has a right to receive under the plan. However, for a coronavirus-related loan made between March 27, 2020, and September 22, 2020, the loan limit is increased to $100,000 or 100% of the amount the employee can rightfully receive under the plan (whichever amount is less). In the case of a loan outstanding after March 26, 2020, the due date for any repayment that would normally be due between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020, may be delayed by coronavirus-related qualifying  individuals for one year, and the delay period is disregarded in determining the five-year period and the term of the loan.

Most required minimum distributions (RMDs) suspended for 2020

RMDs are generally required to start from an employer retirement plan or IRA by April 1 of the year after the plan participant or IRA owner reaches age 70½ (age 72 for those who reach age 70½ after 2019). If an employee continues working after age 70½ (age 72 for those who reach age 70½ after 2019), RMDs from an employer retirement plan maintained by the current employer can be deferred until April 1 of the year after retirement. (RMDs are not required from a Roth IRA during the lifetime of the IRA owner.) RMDs are also generally required to beneficiaries after the death of the plan participant or IRA owner. A 50% penalty applies to an RMD that is not made.

The CARES Act suspends RMDs from IRAs and defined contribution plans (other than Section 457 plans for nongovernmental tax-exempt organizations) for 2020. This waiver includes any RMDs for 2019 with an April 1, 2020, required beginning date that were not taken in 2019. This one-year suspension does not generally affect how post-2020 RMDs are determined.

A recent IRS Notice (2020-23) clarifies the application to RMDs taken between February 1 and May 15. The 60-day rollover rule is waived if rolled over by July 15, 2020. The one-per-year rule still applies to all rollover situations, and inherited IRA RMDs cannot be rolled over.

There may be additional guidance issued in the future. It is not clear why RMDs made in January and after May 15th are not covered. Maybe the one-per-year rule would be modified.