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The stock market may be up and down this year, but America’s economic recovery seems to be proceeding at a decent pace. Anyone who wants some evidence of that can find it in some key fundamental indicators.

Pessimists may counter: didn’t the economy grow just 0.1% in the first quarter? Indeed, that was the federal government’s initial estimate – but the initial estimate of quarterly GDP is twice revised, and often drastically so. Other key indicators point to a healthier economy, and some suggest that March and April were better than presumed.1

Jobless claims reached a 7-year low this month. They decreased to pre-recession levels at last, with a seasonally-adjusted 297,000 applications received in the week of May 3-10, the fewest in any week since May 2007. Economists Reuters polled thought 320,000 claims would appear.2

Hiring has picked up. April saw employers hire 288,000 people with gains in the manufacturing, construction, and professional/technical sectors. Even state and local governments hired.1

From November to April, non-farm payrolls grew by an average of 203,000 jobs per month. From January through April, the gain averaged 214,000 jobs per month. That is the kind of steady growth that pulls an economy out of the doldrums.1,3

Yes, the jobless rate hit a 5½-year low in April partly due to fewer jobseekers – but when fewer people look for work, it often translates to an indirect benefit for those in the hunt. That benefit is higher pay. Analysts think noticeable wage growth might be the next step in the labor market recovery.1

So has consumer spending. With a 0.9% increase (0.7% in inflation-adjusted terms), March was the strongest month for personal spending since August 2009. While the gain on April retail sales was just 0.1%, the March advance was just revised up to 1.5%, representing the best month for retail purchases in four years.3,4

The sequester is in the rear-view mirror. Major federal spending cuts probably exerted a significant drag on the economy in 2013. In 2014, they are gone.

The manufacturing & service sectors keep growing. The Institute for Supply Management’s globally respected monthly PMIs monitor these sectors. ISM recorded economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanding for an eleventh straight month in April; its service sector index has recorded growth for 51 straight months.5,6

Inflation is normalizing. In the big picture, inflation is not necessarily a negative. At the turn of the decade, our economy faced notable deflation risk. The euro area is still facing it today – as of April, consumer prices there had risen just 0.7% in a year. A return to moderate inflation is expected as the economy recovers. Interest rates should move higher, and in the long run, higher interest rates should lend a helping hand to the savings efforts of many households and the incomes of many retirees.7

Pending home sales went positive again in March. Before the 3.4% gain in that month, this leading indicator of housing market demand had been negative since last June. An increase in contracts to buy homes speaks to a pickup in residential real estate. The gain brought the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index to a reading of 97.4 in March, close to its origination (or “normal”) mark of 100.8

Some analysts think Q2 should bring solid expansion. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect GDP to hit 3.5% this quarter, and in the Wall Street Journal’s May poll of 48 economists, the consensus was for 3.3% growth in Q2.3,9

More inflation pressure, tightening by the Federal Reserve … how can that be good? In the short term, it will likely hamper the stock market and the housing market. In fact, the Mortgage Bankers Association has been tracking a reduction in demand for home loans, and that and any wavering in consumer spending may lead the Fed to ease a little longer or less gradually than planned (news Wall Street might welcome).7

Normal is good. Over the past several years, we have witnessed some extreme and aberrational times with regard to market behavior and monetary policy. A little equilibrium may not be so bad.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – mercurynews.com/business/ci_25684116/u-s-has-best-month-job-gains-two [5/2/14]

2 – reuters.com/article/2014/05/15/idUSLNSFGEAGK20140515 [5/15/14]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/sales-at-us-retailers-barely-rise-in-april-2014-05-13 [5/13/14]

4 – tinyurl.com/q88a338 [5/1/14]

5 – ism.ws/ISMReport/MfgROB.cfm [5/1/14] 

6 – ism.ws/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm [5/5/14] 

7 – blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/04/30/macro-horizons-all-eyes-on-fed-but-central-banks-overseas-more-interesting/ [4/30/14] 

8 – usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/04/28/contracts-to-buy-us-homes-up-1st-time-since-june [4/28/14]

9 -  projects.wsj.com/econforecast/#ind=gdp&r=20 [5/14]

If you want significant reward, you will have to assume some risk. Anyone investing in securities – particularly stocks and funds – must accept that reality.

Investing in the markets gives you an opportunity to accelerate the growth of your savings and outpace inflation, and you definitely want that chance – but how do you cope with the risks linked to it?

Here are the four varieties of investing risk – and tactics that may help you manage or counteract them.

Diversification & concentration risk. This occurs when a portfolio isn’t varied enough. Some investors have everything in a handful of stocks or a couple of funds representing just one or two “hot” market sectors. If macroeconomic factors hurt those companies or industries, that undiversified portfolio may suffer a major setback. Even a bad earnings season may do significant damage.

Tactic: Diversify across asset classes, moving money into funds that provide broader market exposure. Avoid a glut of holdings in a given sector – even a sector everyone insists is “hot.” The flavor of the month can sour next month. Broad diversification gives investors a chance to capture gains in different market climates, and sets them up for less pain if a particular sector or asset class dives.

Reinvestment & timing risk. All investors would like to buy low and sell high, but some succumb to impatience and leap in and out of the market. In attempting to time the market, they end up hurting the long-range performance of their portfolios. The weakness of buying high and selling low has caused too many investors to miss the best market days. Besides that, bond investors commonly face reinvestment risk – the hazard that a bond’s coupon will end up reinvested someday in a lower-yielding security.

With regard to stocks, here are some long-term statistics worth noting. Standard & Poor’s research shows that if a hypothetical investor had simply parked $10,000 in an index fund mimicking the S&P 500 on January 1, 1994 and just watched it for 20 years, he or she would have wound up with $58,350 at the end of 2013. If the same investor was out of the market for just five of the top-performing days during those 20 years, he or she would have amassed only $38,723. Investment research firm DALBAR estimates that from 1991-2010, the average mutual fund investor earned 3.8% a year compared to an average 9.1% annual return for the S&P – and that 5.3% difference no doubt relates to buying high and selling low.1,2

Tactic: Instead of jockeying in and out of stocks and funds, buy and hold while scheduling consistent income through bond laddering. Use dollar cost averaging to pick up more shares of quality companies in down markets, with anticipation that they will be worth more in better times. Employ tax loss harvesting: harvest losses to offset capital gains, with the objective of bettering the after-tax return of your taxable investments.

Credit quality, interest rate & inflation risk. As you invest in the bond market, these three risks must be watched. A corporate bond’s rating (credit quality) may be downgraded by S&P or Moody’s, for example, implying a greater default risk for the bond issuer and signaling less certainly that you’ll redeem all coupons and principal. Interest rates can climb, sending bond prices south. Rising inflation can turn a bond that seemed like a “can’t lose” investment years ago into a loser at the date of maturity.

Tactic: Use individual bond issues in a laddered strategy and/or target maturity bond funds; think about zero-coupon or revenue muni bonds, or explore hybrids like preferred securities or structured notes.

General market risk. Anyone with a foot in the markets must recognize systemic risk – the potential that many or all market sectors may be riled by shocks such as a geopolitical crisis, an act of terrorism, a recession or a natural disaster. How do you cope with that?

Tactic: If you hold stocks that have logged significant gains, consider adopting a collar strategy for them – that is, writing a call option and purchasing a put option on equivalent shares. This move essentially gives you a covered call and a protective put and targets two exit prices for the underlying stock. Collars can be highly useful when volatility strikes Wall Street, and they may let you hedge positions in certain funds when conditions turn bearish. In the bigger picture, you could look into a core-and-satellite approach to investing: passively managed investments at the core of a portfolio, actively managed investments as the “satellites” seeking greater returns in different market climates under the guidance of a skilled money manager.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – fc.standardandpoors.com/sites/client/wfs2/wfs/article.vm?topic=6064&siteContent=8339 [5/5/14]

2 – cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57402744/why-investors-are-their-own-worst-enemy/ [3/26/12]

3 – news.morningstar.com/classroom2/course.asp?docId=3035&page=4&CN=com [5/8/14]

 

TOD, JTWROS...what do these obscure acronyms signify? They are shorthand for transfer on death and joint tenancy with right of ownership – two designations that permit automatic transfer of bank or investment accounts from a deceased spouse to a surviving spouse.

This automatic transfer of assets reflects a legal tenet called the right of survivorship – the idea that the surviving spouse should be the default beneficiary of the account. In some states, a TOD or JTWROS beneficiary designation is even allowed for real property.1

When an account or asset has a TOD or JTWROS designation, the right of survivorship precedes any beneficiary designations made in a will or trust.1,2 

There are advantages to having TOD and JTWROS accounts … and disadvantages as well.

TOD & JTWROS accounts can usually avoid probate. As TOD and JTWROS beneficiary designations define a direct route for account transfer, there is rarely any need for such assets to be probated. The involved financial institution has a contractual requirement (per the TOD or JTWROS designation) to pay the balance of the account funds to the surviving spouse.1

In unusual instances, an exception may apply: if the deceased account owner has actually outlived the designated TOD beneficiary or beneficiaries, then the account faces probate.3

What happens if both owners of a JTWROS account pass away at the same time? In such cases, a TOD designation applies (for any named contingent beneficiary).3

To be technically clear, transfer on death signifies a route of asset transfer while joint tenancy with right of ownership signifies a form of asset ownership. In a variation on JTWROS called tenants by entirety, both spouses are legally deemed as equal owners of the asset or account while living, with the asset or account eventually transferring to the longer-living spouse.3

Does a TOD or JTWROS designation remove an account from your taxable estate? No. A TOD or JTWROS designation makes those assets non-probate assets, and that will save your executor a little money and time – but it doesn’t take them out of your gross taxable estate.

In fact, 100% of the value of an account with a TOD beneficiary designation will be included in your taxable estate. It varies for accounts titled as JTWROS. If you hold title to a JTWROS account with your spouse, 50% of its value will be included in your taxable estate. If it is titled as JTWROS with someone besides your spouse, the entire value of the account will go into your taxable estate unless the other owner has made contributions to the account.4

How about capital gains? JTWROS accounts in common law states typically get a 50% step-up in basis upon the death of one owner. In community property states, the step-up is 100%.5

Could gift tax become a concern? Yes, if the other owner of a JTWROS account is not your spouse. If you change the title on an account to permit JTWROS, you are giving away a percentage of your assets; the non-spouse receives a gift from you. If the amount of the gift exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion, you will need to file a gift tax return for that year. If you retitle the account in the future so that you are again the sole owner, that constitutes a gift to you on behalf of the former co-owner; he or she will need to file a gift tax return if the amount of the gift tops the annual exclusion.5

TOD & JTWROS designations do make account transfer easy. They simplify an element of estate planning. You just want to be careful not to try and make things too simple.

TOD or JTWROS accounts are not cheap substitutes for wills or trusts. If you have multiple children and name one of them as the TOD beneficiary of an account, that child will get the entire account balance and the other kids will get nothing. The TOD beneficiary can of course divvy up those assets equally among siblings, but in doing so, that TOD beneficiary may run afoul of the yearly gift tax exclusion.2

JTWROS accounts have a potential a drawback while you are alive. As they are jointly owned, you have a second party fully capable of accessing and using the whole account balance.2

As you plan your estate, respect the power of TOD & JTWROS designations. Since they override any beneficiary designations made in wills and trusts, you want to double-check any will and trust(s) you have to make sure that you aren’t sending conflicting messages to your heirs.2

That aside, TOD & JTWROS designations represent convenient ways to arrange the smooth, orderly transfer of account balances when original account owners pass away.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – dummies.com/how-to/content/bypassing-probate-with-beneficiary-designations.navId-323700.html [5/5/14]

2 – galaw.com/the-dangers-of-pod-and-tod-accounts/ [2/4/14]

3 – fidelity.com/estate-planning-inheritance/estate-planning/asset-strategies/brokerage [5/13/14] 

4 – theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/167700/what-is-probate.html [5/10/13] 

5 – newsobserver.com/2013/06/08/2944839/advice-on-joint-tenancy-with-rights.html [6/8/13]

 

Will you live to be 100? If you’re a woman, your odds of becoming a centenarian are seemingly better than those of men. In the 2010 U.S. Census, over 80% of Americans aged 100 or older were women.1

Will you eventually live alone? According to the Administration on Aging (a division of the federal government’s Department of Health & Human Services), about 47% of women aged 75 or older lived alone in 2010. If that prospect seems troubling, there is another statistic that also may: while 6.7% of men age 65 and older lived in poverty in 2010, 10.7% of women in that age demographic did.2,3

Statistics like these carry a message: women need to pay themselves first. A phrase has emerged to describe all this: longevity risk. As so many women outlive their spouses by several years or more, a woman may need several years more worth of retirement income. So there is a need to consider income sources – and investment strategies – for the years after a spouse passes away.

What does this mean for the here and now? It means contributing as much as your budget allows to your retirement accounts. Procrastination is your enemy and compound interest is your friend. It means accepting some investment risk – growth investing for the long run is looking more and more like a necessity.

You will need steady income, and you will need to keep growing your savings. In 2012, Social Security income represented 50.4% of the average annual income for unmarried and widowed woman aged 65 and older. Having a monthly check is certainly comforting, but that check may not be as large as you would like. The average woman 65 or older received but $12,520 in Social Security benefits in 2012.4

You will likely need multiple streams of income in retirement, and fortunately forms of investment, housing decisions and inherited assets can potentially lead to additional income sources. A chat with a financial professional may help you determine which options are sensible to pursue.

Your income and your savings must also keep up with inflation. Even mild inflation can exact a toll on your purchasing power over time.

Risk-averse investing may come with a price. In 2013, the investment giant Allianz surveyed Americans with more than $200,000 in investable assets and unsurprisingly learned that their #1 priority was retirement savings protection. What did surprise some analysts was their penchant for conservative investing during a banner year for stocks.5

Memories of the 2008-09 bear market were apparently hard to dispel: 76% of those surveyed indicated that given the choice between an investment offering a 4% return with protection of principal and an investment offering an 8% return but lacked principal protection, they would take the one with the 4% return.5

A substandard return shouldn’t seem so attractive. If your portfolio yields 4% a year and inflation is running at 1% a year (as it is now), you can live with it. Your investments aren’t earning much, but the Consumer Price Index isn’t gaining on you. If consumer prices rise 3.3% annually (which was what yearly inflation averaged across 2004-07), you are barely making headway. You actually may be losing ground against certain consumer costs. If inflation tops 4% (and it might, if interest rates take off later in this decade), you have a real problem.6

Cumulative inflation can really eat into things, as a check of a simple inflation calculator reveals. An $18.99 steak dinner at a nice restaurant in 2000 would cost you $24.54 today given the ongoing tame-to-moderate inflation over the last 14 years. That’s 36.3% more.7

As much as we would like to park our retirement money and avoid risk, fixed-income investments don’t always offer much reward these days. Retirees can feel like they are being punished by low interest rates, as they can see prices rising faster around them at the grocery store and for assorted services and goods. Interest rates will rise, but equity investments have traditionally offered the potential for greater returns than fixed-income investments and in all likelihood will continue to do so.

Growth investing is a necessary response to longevity risk. After all, you can’t risk outliving your retirement savings. Keeping part of your portfolio in the stock market offers you the potential to keep growing your retirement money, thereby offering you the chance have a larger retirement fund from which to withdraw proportionate income.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Citations

1 – census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-239.html [12/10/12]

2 – aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/6.aspx [4/10/14] 

3 – aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/10.aspx [4/10/14]

4 – ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/women.htm [3/14]

5 – foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/10/24/wall-streets-rallying-so-why-are-boomers-so-scared/ [10/24/13]

6 – usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/ [4/10/14]

7 – usinflationcalculator.com/ [4/10/14]

When turbulence hits Wall Street, are you stressed out? If you have taken on too much risk in your portfolio – which can happen through intention or inattention – stock market volatility may make you anxious. So from time to time, it is a good idea to review how your assets are invested. Your asset allocation should correspond to your tolerance for risk, and if it doesn’t, it should be adjusted.

A balanced portfolio may help you come out of stock market dips in better shape. Stocks and stock funds aren’t the only investment classes you can choose from, and you won’t be alone if you decide to examine other investment options.

Treasuries, bonds and bond funds become attractive to investors when Wall Street turns especially volatile. Certain forms of alternative investments gain attention as well, particularly those with low or no correlation to the equities markets. Bonds tend to maintain their strength when stocks perform poorly. Some cautious investors maintain a cash position in all stock market climates, even raging bull markets.

Downside risk can particularly sting investors who have devoted too much of their portfolios to momentum/expensive stocks. A stock with a price-earnings ratio above 20 may be particularly susceptible to downside risk.1

Underdiversification risk can also prove to be an Achilles heel. Some portfolios contain just a few stocks – in the classic example, someone has invested too heavily in company stock and a few perceived “winners.” If a large chunk of the portfolio’s assets are devoted to five or six stocks, the portfolio’s value may be impacted if shares of even one of those companies plummet.  This is why it is wise to own a variety of stocks across different sectors. The same principle applies to stock funds. If the S&P 500 corrects (that is, drops 10% or more in a short interval), the possibility grows that an aggressive growth mutual fund may dive.1

Are you retired, or retiring? If you are, this is all the more reason to review and possibly even revise your portfolio. Frequently, people approach or enter retirement with portfolios that haven’t been reviewed in years. The asset allocation that seemed wise ten years ago may be foolhardy today.

Many people in their fifties and sixties do need to accumulate more money for retirement; you may be one of them. That sentiment should not lead you to accept extreme risk in your portfolio. You’ll likely want consistent income and growth in the absence of a salary, however, and therein lies the appeal of a balanced investment approach designed to manage risk while encouraging an adequate return.

Why not take a look into your portfolio? Ask a financial advisor to assist you. You may find that you have a mix of investments that matches your risk tolerance. Or, your portfolio may need minor or major adjustments. The right balance may help you insulate your assets to a greater degree when stock market turbulence occurs.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

What was once allowed is now prohibited. In 2008, an affluent New York City couple made a series of withdrawals and transfers among contributory IRAs, rollover IRAs and non-IRA investment accounts, all with the long-established 60-day deadline for tax-free IRA rollovers in mind. As esteemed tax attorney Alvan Bobrow and his wife withdrew and rolled over a series of five-figure sums within a six-month period, they assumed their actions were permissible under the Internal Revenue Code. In January 2014, a U.S. Tax Court judge ruled otherwise.1

This Tax Court opinion has prompted the IRS to tighten the IRA rollover rules. In the past, some clever taxpayers have effectively treated themselves to interest-free loans from their IRA funds by using multiple IRA accounts to sequence multiple 60-day rollover periods. In the court’s view, the Bobrows were exploiting this loophole, and the IRS is closing it.1,2

Starting in 2015, you are allowed one IRA-to-IRA rollover per 365 days – period. A subtle but important change has been made. Publication 590 has long stated that a taxpayer can generally only make one tax-free rollover of any part of a distribution from a single IRA to another IRA during a 12-month period. That didn’t preclude a taxpayer from making multiple IRA-to-IRA rollovers using multiple IRAs during such a timeframe.1,4

In response to Bobrow v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2014-21, the IRS issued Announcement 2014-15. Effective January 1, 2015, the once-a-year rollover restriction applies to all IRAs maintained by a taxpayer. So the tactic of making multiple IRA-to-IRA tax-free rollovers during a 12-month period is kaput.3,4

So beginning next year, you can only make a tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover if you haven’t made one within the past 365 days.3

Don’t grumble just yet. If you want to move money between IRAs more than once next year, there is still a way you can do it. The new IRS rule change doesn’t apply to every type of IRA “rollover.”

The financial media uses the phrase “IRA rollover” pretty loosely. When you read a story about “IRA rollovers,” the term may refer to IRA-to-IRA rollovers, distributions from a workplace retirement plan going into an IRA, or a trustee-to-trustee transfer of IRA assets between financial firms in which the taxpayer never handles the money.

Here’s the good news. IRS Announcement 2014-15 states: “These actions by the IRS will not affect the ability of an IRA owner to transfer funds from one IRA trustee directly to another, because such a transfer is not a rollover and, therefore, is not subject to the one-rollover-per-year limitation of § 408(d)(3)(B).”3

In other words … the new restriction does not apply to trustee-to-trustee transfers. The IRS has clearly defined in the above language that it does not regard these transfers as rollovers. Some transition relief is also available: the IRS won’t apply the new limitation to any rollover involving an IRA distribution that happens prior to January 1, 2015.4

Some important questions beg for answers. As Bloomberg BNA notes, the new limitation actually muddies the waters a bit. Some taxpayers own both traditional and Roth IRAs; will they be allowed to take one distribution from their traditional IRA with the intention of a tax-free rollover and another distribution from their Roth IRA pursuant to a tax-free rollover within the same 12-month period? Could an IRA owner and his/her tax planner argue that a succession of linked IRA distributions pursuant to a single outcome substantively amount to a single distribution, citing the step transaction doctrine in defense?4

It is possible that further guidance from the IRS may emerge. Regardless of whether it does or not, IRA-to-IRA rollovers are about to be scrutinized more closely.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/seeing-double [2/4/14]

2 – marketwatch.com/story/new-ira-rollover-rule-coming-in-2015-2014-04-04 [4/4/14]

3 – irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/a-14-15.pdf [4/16/14]

4 – tinyurl.com/lnd86vs [4/24/14]

When was the last time you looked at your life insurance coverage? Why not do it now? Life insurance can be a remarkable utility as an estate planning and tax-saving tool. Whether you have no life insurance, or you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, it is always a good idea to be aware of your options and be prepared.

About 40% of Americans have no life insurance. LIMRA, an insurance industry group analyzing insurance trends in the U.S., recently found that among men and women, ownership of life insurance policies has hit its lowest level since 2004. LIMRA’s study shows 39% of men without even term life coverage, and 43% of women in the same boat.1

Alarmingly, the population of married men aged 35-54 who had life insurance dropped more than 10% from 2004-10. Men who fall into this age bracket are usually in or near their peak earning years, and about half of them are fathers.1

Another alarming finding from the survey: a third of new parents admit they have insufficient life insurance coverage, yet only about 40% try to rectify that problem within two years of the birth of their first child.1

Any family, anywhere, any time. Watch a life insurance commercial, and you’re likely to see a young or maturing family. However, this is hardly the only context in which life insurance matters.

*It can be a vital part of a financial strategy for empty-nesters who want to retire to a comfortable lifestyle.

*A buy-sell agreement funded with life insurance can allow a surviving business owner to buy the company interest of a deceased owner at a previously established price. Key-person insurance can aid a business if a core employee passes away. (It is possible for a business to fund a buy-sell agreement and key-person insurance with pre-tax dollars, making these moves truly tax-efficient.)

There are numerous options when it comes to life insurance: whole life, term, and variable to name a few.  But what are the differences? How do you choose?  The differences between policy types can be significant.  So, which is right for you?  There are many factors to contemplate when deciding what type of life insurance will best suit your needs. If you haven’t reviewed your insurance lately, or don’t think you need life insurance, consider the following potential life factors:

*You are married and your spouse depends on your income

*You have children

*You have an aging parent or disabled relative who depends on you for support

*Your retirement savings and pension won’t be enough for your spouse to live on

*You have a large estate and expect your heirs will owe estate taxes

*You own a business, especially if you have a partner

*You have a substantial joint financial obligation such as a personal loan for which another person would be legally responsible after your death

If your circumstances match with any of the items above, or you anticipate a change, you may have a need for life insurance, or to update your current coverage.

Life insurance is a way to protect your loved ones financially after you die. In each of these cases, the proceeds from a life insurance policy can help them manage financially as they adjust to life without your income. The proceeds can also be used to meet funeral and other final expenses, which can run into thousands of dollars.

Permanent life insurance offers a death benefit plus the opportunity to build cash value over time. There are even tax perks in such coverage: not only are the death benefits from the policy received tax-free, but the cash value has the opportunity to grow tax-deferred during your lifetime, and any loans taken against the policy’s cash value aren’t subject to federal income tax as they aren’t considered cash distributions.2

Underinsured? Uninsured? If certain life events have caused you to think about insuring yourself, check in with an insurance professional before September ends. It represents the right thing to do for you, your spouse and your family.

A way to help you as you plan to build wealth. There are cash-rich life insurance policies with tax-advantaged savings features that offer you the potential to earn interest based on the gains of an equity index. Others permit you to direct a percentage of your premiums to investment sub-accounts which may generate tax-free earnings. These policies can be useful when it comes to business continuation and employee benefits, retirement planning, education planning and estate planning.

Are you adequately insured? Are you using life insurance smartly? Life insurance is like the Swiss Army knife of estate planning: there are so many ways you can use it as you plan to pursue your goals. Whether you simply need to insure yourself or need to protect your estate through sophisticated planning, it’s time to think about life insurance – and all the ways it can potentially help you financially.

 

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – limra.com/Posts/PR/Industry_Trends_Blog/LIMRA__Life_Insurance_Findings_and_Father%E2%80%99s_Day.aspx [4/14]

2 – newyorklife.com/products/tax-advantages-permanent-life-insurance [4/14]

 

Just what is an RMD? After you turn 70½, the IRS requires you to withdraw some of the money in most retirement savings accounts each year. These withdrawals are officially called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).1

You must take an RMD from a traditional IRAs after you turn 70½, even if you are still working. If you don’t, a severe financial penalty awaits – you may have to pay a 50% tax on the amount not distributed. You are not required to take RMDs from a Roth IRA during your lifetime.2,3

You must also begin taking annual RMDs from SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, pension and profit-sharing plans and 401(k), 403(b) and 457 retirement plans annually past age 70½. If you are still employed, you may be able to delay taking RMDs from a profit-sharing plan, a pension plan, or a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan until you retire. The exception: you must take RMDs from these types of accounts after you turn 70½ if you own 5% or more of a business sponsoring such a retirement plan.2,3

The annual RMD deadline is December 31, right? Yes, with one notable exception. The IRS gives you 15 months instead of 12 to take your first RMD. Your first one must be taken in the calendar year after you turn 70½. So if you turned 70½ in 2013, you can take your initial RMD any time before April 1, 2014. However, if you put off your first RMD until next year you will still need to take your second RMD by December 31, 2014.3

Calculating RMDs can be complicated. You probably have more than one retirement savings account. You may have several. So this gets rather intricate.

Multiple IRAs. Should you own more than one traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRA, annual RMDs for these accounts must be calculated separately. The IRS does give you some leeway about how to withdraw the money. You can withdraw 100% of your total yearly RMD amounts from just one IRA, or you can withdraw equal or unequal portions from each of the IRAs you own.3

401(k)s & other qualified retirement plans. A separate RMD must be calculated for each qualified retirement plan to which you have contributed. An exception: if you have multiple 403(b) TSAs, you can optionally withdraw the sum of all of the RMDs for them from one 403(b) TSA. RMDs for qualified retirement plans must be paid out separately from the RMD(s) for your IRA(s).3

This is why you should talk to your financial or tax advisor about your RMDs. It is really important to have your advisor review all of your retirement accounts to make sure you fulfill your RMD obligation. If you skip an RMD or withdraw less than what you should have, the IRS will find out and hit you with a stiff penalty – you will have to pay 50% of the amount not withdrawn.2

Are RMDs taxable? Yes, the withdrawn amounts are characterized as taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code. Should you be wondering, excess RMD amounts can’t be forwarded to apply toward next year’s RMDs.3,4

What if you don’t need the money? If you are wealthy, you may view RMDs as an annual financial nuisance – but the withdrawal amounts may be redirected toward opportunities. While putting the money into a savings account or a CD is the usual route, there are other options with potentially better yields or objectives. That RMD amount could be used to…

*Make a charitable gift. (With enough lead time, a charitable IRA rollover may be arranged; the IRA distribution meets the RMD requirement and isn’t counted as taxable income).

*Start a grandchild’s education fund.

*Fund a long term care insurance policy.

*Leverage your estate using life insurance.

*Diversify your portfolio through investment into stock market alternatives.1,4

There are all kinds of things you could do with the money. The withdrawn funds could be linked to a new purpose.

So to recap, be vigilant and timely when it comes to calculating and making your RMD. Have a tax or financial professional help you, and have a conversation about the destiny of that money.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – jklasser.com/articles/taking-your-required-minimum-distributions/ [3/19/13]

2 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Retirement-Topics—Required-Minimum-Distributions-%28RMDs%29 [9/4/13]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/RMD-Comparison-Chart-%28IRAs-vs.-Defined-Contribution-Plans%29 [4/16/13]

4 – foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/03/23/meeting-ira-withdrawal-rules/ [3/23/11]

In 1994, a financial advisor named Bill Bengen published research articulating the “4% rule”, which became a landmark of retirement planning. The 4% rule postulates that a retirement nest egg can last 30 years if a retiree withdraws 4% of it per year (incrementally adjusted for inflation), given a portfolio of 50% stocks and 50% bonds. Bengen studied numerous 30-year stock market time spans to arrive at his theory, which many retirement planners took as a guideline.1

Lately, the 4% rule has taken quite a bit of flak. At age 20, it looks less and less valid. Why? Two factors leap to mind.

The return of significant volatility. Bengen came up with the 4% rule during the 1982-2000 bull market, the greatest extended rally Wall Street has ever seen. Across that period, the S&P 500 rose 1153.94% (and 2041.47% with dividends reinvested). The S&P’s annual total return averaged 19.02% in that time frame. Back then, retirees and retirement planners harbored assumptions of double-digit annual returns, and withdrawing 4% a year from retirement savings seemed conservative.2

The bear markets of the 2000s were a rude awakening. Someone who retired in 1979 with a 50/50 mix of stocks and bonds in their portfolio would have enjoyed an average annual total return of 13.75% for the next 20 years – but a portfolio equally divided between stocks and bonds would have returned less than 4% in recent years, even in this current bull market. That brings us to the second factor.1

Low yields from fixed-income investments. In 1990, the 10-year Treasury returned better than 8%. In 2012, it yielded around 2%. Many fixed-income investments have yielded less than that in recent years. If you are withdrawing 4% a year from your retirement savings and less than half your retirement portfolio is invested in equities, you are staring at a problem.3

No retirement planner would urge retirees to put all their money in stocks – the volatility risk is just too great. Assigning half (or more) of a retirement portfolio to debt instruments, however, presents an undeniable opportunity cost. Consumer prices are rising only slightly, but interest rates remain in the vicinity of historic lows; retirees who want to keep ahead of inflation aren’t making much progress by investing substantially in bonds, and inflation may subtly erode their spending power.

The 1990s are gone, along with the old retirement planning assumptions. Even Bengen is revisiting the 4% rule today. He retired in 2013, and conceded in Barron’s that “we could have low returns for a long time … we’re in uncharted territory. It’s very hard to predict what will happen.” Recently, some respected voices in the financial services industry – including analysts at T. Rowe Price and American College professor Wade Pfau – have argued that retirees may be better off withdrawing roughly 3% of their savings each year.1

The era of “set it and forget it” has passed. Determining a retirement withdrawal rate today means considering plenty of variables, including changing market conditions and emerging economic trends.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424053111903747504579177903984944392.html#articleTabs_article%3D1 [11/9/13] 

2 – financialsense.com/contributors/james-j-puplava/how-to-give-yourself-an-annual-pay-raise-part-1 [4/23/12]

3 – frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2013/july/cause-decline-long-term-us-government-bond-yields/ [7/13]

 

 

 

 

Our parents & grandparents saved much more than we do. Most people who have read up on the economy for any length of time have heard of the personal saving rate (PSAVERT), which the Commerce Department calculates as the ratio of personal saving to disposable personal income. The January personal spending report released by the Commerce Department in early March showed the PSAVERT at 4.3%.

As recently as January 2013, households were saving just 2.3% of their disposable incomes – so this can be labeled a short-term improvement. It still pales in comparison to the way Americans used to save.2

The “greatest generation” had a culture of saving. Its thrift was reinforced further by hard times and a call for personal sacrifices as the economy endured the Great Depression and stateside rationing during WWII. The Commerce Department began measuring household saving in 1959, and as unbelievable as it may seem today, households saved 10% or more of their disposable incomes through nearly all of the Sixties. In May 1975, the personal savings rate reached a historic peak of 14.60%.1,2

From 1959 to the present, the PSAVERT average has been 6.84 percent – but the 21st century shows evidence of a significant decline. The savings rate fell into the 1-3% range, dropping to a record low of 0.8% in April 2005.2

To some analysts, a declining personal savings rate signals a stronger economy. It implies more spending, and consumer spending has the biggest impact on GDP. You can’t have it all, however; more spending means less saving, and Americans are plagued by insufficient retirement reserves.

Are credit cards the problem? We borrow greatly, but there are other factors in play. You may have heard about America’s “shrinking middle class.” That is no exaggeration.

The most recent Census Bureau data shows the median U.S. household income for 2012 at $51,017. By comparison, median U.S. household income in 1989 – when adjusted for inflation – would work out to $51,681 today. From 1989-2012, annualized consumer inflation was mostly in the 2-4% range. All this illustrates a slow but notable erosion of purchasing power.3,4

During the same time frame, the cost of college went up dramatically, health care costs increased, and real estate values fluctuated. People saved less and borrowed more, and not simply on impulse; they wound up borrowing more to maintain a middle-class standard of living.

Real incomes aside, we are often lured into unnecessary spending. Advertising can convince us that we have unmet needs and desires, and that we must respond to them by buying goods and services. Urges, emotions, ennui, living without a budget – these can all lead us to spend more than we really should, especially given how much money we will need to adequately retire.

Our parents and grandparents really knew how to pay themselves first – and while economic pressures make it harder for many of us to do so today, that doesn’t make it any less of a priority.

It might be useful to think about future money when you think about making a discretionary purchase. Are those dollars you are spending at a mall or restaurant today better off saved or invested for tomorrow?

Think about your big dreams and goals, the ones you have looked forward to realizing for years. How many dollars are you putting toward them? Is your spending aligned with them, or in conflict with them? Could you spend less here and there and devote more money to those priorities?

Sometimes we have to borrow and spend more than we would like, but often we have a choice – and the choice we make may affect our ability to retire sooner or later.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PSAVERT/ [3/3/14] 

2 – tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-savings [3/6/14]

3 – billmoyers.com/2013/09/20/by-the-numbers-the-incredibly-shrinking-american-middle-class/ [9/20/13]

4 – tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi [3/7/14] 

 

Now or later? When it comes to the question of Social Security income, the choice looms large. Should you apply now to get earlier payments? Or wait for a few years to get larger checks?

Consider what you know (and don’t know). You know how much retirement money you have; you may have a clear projection of retirement income from other potential sources. Other factors aren’t as foreseeable. You don’t know exactly how long you will live, so you can’t predict your lifetime Social Security payout. You may even end up returning to work again.

When are you eligible to receive full benefits? The answer may be found online at socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.

How much smaller will your check be if you apply at 62? The answer varies. As an example, let’s take someone born in 1952. For this baby boomer, the full retirement age is 66. If that baby boomer decides to retire in 2014 at 62, his/her monthly Social Security benefit will be reduced 25%. That boomer’s spouse would see a 30% reduction in monthly benefits.1

Should that boomer elect to work past full retirement age, his/her benefit checks will increase by 8.0% for every additional full year spent in the workforce. (To be precise, his/her benefits will increase by .67% for every month worked past full retirement age.) So it really may pay to work longer.2

Remember the earnings limit. Let’s put our hypothetical baby boomer through another example. Our boomer decides to apply for Social Security at age 62 in 2014, yet stays in the workforce. If he/she earns more than $15,480 in 2014, the Social Security Administration will withhold $1 of every $2 earned over that amount.3

How does the SSA define “income”? If you work for yourself, the SSA considers your net earnings from self-employment to be your income. If you work for an employer, your wages equal your earned income. (Different rules apply for those who get Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income checks.)4

Please note that the SSA does not count investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains toward the current $15,480 earnings limit.4

Some fine print worth noticing. If you reach full retirement age in 2014, then the SSA will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $41,400 in the months preceding the month you reach full retirement age. So if you hit full retirement age early in 2014, you are less likely to be hit with this withholding.4

Did you know that the SSA may define you as retired even if you aren’t? This actually amounts to the SSA giving you a break. In 2014 – assuming you are eligible for Social Security benefits – the SSA will consider you “retired” if a) you are under full retirement age for the entire year and b) your monthly earnings are $1,290 or less. If you are self-employed, eligible to receive benefits and under full retirement age for the entire year, the SSA generally considers you “retired” if you work less than 15 hours a month at your business.2,4

Here’s the upside of all that: if you meet the tests mentioned in the preceding paragraph, you are eligible to receive a full Social Security check for any whole month of 2014 in which you are “retired” under these definitions. You can receive that check no matter what your earnings come to for all of 2014.

Learn more at socialsecurity.gov. The SSA website is packed with information and user-friendly. One last little reminder: if you don’t sign up for Social Security at full retirement age, make sure that you at least sign up for Medicare at age 65.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm [2/26/14] 

2 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/delayret.htm [2/26/14]

3 – socialsecurity.gov/cola/ [2/26/14]

4 – http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf [2/26/14] 

 

Stocks rise, fall … and rise again. Volatility certainly came back to Wall Street during the first several weeks of 2014 in the form of a 7.2% descent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 5.9% retreat for the NASDAQ. The declines gave investors pause: was a correction underway? Would bulls be held back for 2014?1

As it turned out, no. On February 27, the S&P 500 settled at a new all-time peak of 1,854.30, with dovish remarks from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen providing lift. On the same market day, the DJIA closed at 16,272.71 and the NASDAQ at 4,318.93.2

Ups and downs are givens when you invest in equities. Still, the skid stocks took in 2008-09 has made everyone from millennials to members of the Greatest Generation anxious about any string of down days for the big indices. If the benchmarks lose a couple of percentage points in a week, or more in a month, headlines and news alerts emerge and encourage collective fears of a stock bubble.

Be patient; be prepared. We don’t really know what will happen tomorrow, and therefore we don’t really know what will happen on Wall Street tomorrow (though we can make educated guesses in both respects).  Because of that, it is wise to diversify your portfolio across different asset classes and rebalance it from time to time.

Would you rather have a portfolio that might perform at least decently in varied stock market climates, or a mix of investments that only makes sense in a bull run? We recognize that diversification is wise, especially for the long run … and yet, when things go really well or really poorly on the Street, impatience and anxiety readily lure us away from the age-old wisdom.

The S&P 500 rose 29.6% in 2013, 31.9% with dividends included. Rationally, investors realize that such phenomenal stock gains won’t happen every year. Even so, the temptation to go full-bore into U.S. stocks and stock funds was pretty strong at the end of 2013 … comparable to the call to invest in gold or bear-market funds back in 2008-09.4

If an investor relied on impulse rather than diversification across these past few years, he or she might be poorer and/or awfully frustrated today. Gold is in a bear market now, and according to Morningstar, the average bear market fund has lost 33% annually since 2008. Stocks are firmly in a bull market now, but an investor hypothetically going “all in” on domestic stocks at the end of 2013 (i.e., buying high) would have faced a market decline early in 2014 and might have impatiently sold their shares.3

Strategies like dynamic asset allocation attempt to leverage better-performing sectors of the market while shifting portfolio assets away from underperforming sectors. Such tactical moves may lead to improved portfolio performance. Of course, the strategy also seeks to foster intelligent diversification across asset classes.

Dynamic asset allocation is a strategy best left to professionals, even teams of them. Most retail investors would be hard pressed to even attempt it, even at a basic level. This is why the buy-and-hold approach (buy low, sit back, ride it out, sell high years later) is so often suggested to those saving for retirement and other long-term objectives.

Hang on when turbulence affects the markets. Staying in the market can prove the right move even when the news seems cataclysmic – look at how stocks have rebounded, and hit new highs, since the precipitous fall the S&P took in the recession. Sticking with principles of diversification can prove wise in both challenging and record-setting markets

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/the-markets-in-for-a-wild-but-clearly-bullish-ride-2014-02-27 [2/27/14] 

2 – thestreet.com/story/marketstory.html [2/27/14]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/dont-try-to-time-the-market-2014-02-21 [2/21/14]

4 – tinyurl.com/k9ul3af [12/31/13] 

 

Isn’t 65 the traditional retirement age? Perhaps, but baby boomers are modifying the definition of a traditional retirement (if not redefining it altogether). The Social Security Administration has subtly revised its definition of the traditional retirement age as well.

If you glance at the SSA website, the “full” retirement age for Americans born from 1943-1954 is 66, and it is 67 for those born in 1960 and later. (The “full” retirement age increases gradually from 66 to 67 for those born during the years 1955-1959.)1

When Social Security started, the national retirement age was set at 65. In 1940, a 21-year-old American man had a 54% chance of living another 44 years (according to the federal government’s actuarial estimates). By 1990, that chance had improved to 72%. For 21-year-old women, the probability of reaching age 65 increased from 61% to 84% in that same time frame. Americans also began living longer after 65. Increased longevity led to financial dilemmas for Social Security and the necessary redefinition of “traditional” retirement age.

What do you lose by retiring at 65? The financial opportunity cost is considerable, and maybe greater than some baby boomers realize. If your full retirement age is 67, you’ll reduce your monthly Social Security income by around 13.3% if you start taking benefits at age 65. Moreover, for every year that you refrain from claiming Social Security until age 70, your Social Security benefits will rise by 8%.1,3

In addition to trimming your long-term retirement benefits, you may also forfeit some salary. If you are still working at age 65, you might be at or near your peak earnings level, and if that is the case, Social Security income may pale in comparison.

Think of life after 65 as your “third act” that needs funding. Do you think of 65 as late middle age? It may be. As the SSA website notes, about 25% of today’s 65-year-olds should live to age 90. About 10% of them should reach age 95. Even if that doesn’t happen for you, you should know that the average 65-year-old today can expect to live into his or her mid-eighties.4

Let those statistics serve as a flashing red light, illuminating two new truths of seniority. The first truth: for many Americans, “retirement” will represent 10, 20 or even 30 years of activity and opportunities. The second truth: to stay active and pursue those opportunities, retirees will need 10, 20 or 30 years of financial stability.

Most Americans haven’t amassed the equivalent 10, 20 or 30 years of retirement savings. Many want to “stay in the game” a little longer: a 2013 Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans expect to retire after age 65, compared with 14% in 1995.5

How many Americans can work full-time until age 65? The bad news is that according to the same Gallup poll, the average retirement age in America is 61. The good news is that it was 57 in 1991. Assuming we keep living longer and healthier, it seems plausible that the average age of retirement might hit 65 – if not for the boomers, then for Gen Xers.5

Regardless of when baby boomers retire, growth investing will continue to have merit. Even moderate inflation erodes purchasing power over time, and its effects can be felt in less than a decade. Who knows: the portfolios held by 65- and 70-year-olds in 2035 might look more like the ones they hold now instead of those held by their parents generations before.

When should you retire? If that question is on your mind to any degree, consider an evaluation of your retirement readiness – a review of what you have, an estimation of what you need and a clear look at the possibilities before you. It should be time well spent.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Citations.

1 – ssa.gov/retire2/retirechart.htm [2/20/14] 

2 – ssa.gov/history/lifeexpect.html tml [2/20/14]

3 – money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2013/10/18/why-65-is-too-young-to-retire [10/18/13]

4 – ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.htm [2/20/14] 

5 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2013/06/10/the-ideal-retirement-age [6/10/13]

 

Location, location, location … It matters when it comes to real estate, and it also matters when it comes to the way you hold and invest your retirement savings.

You can’t control what happens with the tax code, but you can control how your savings are held. As various types of investments are taxed at varying rates, some investments are better held in taxable accounts and others in tax-deferred accounts.

*Funds that trade frequently (such as bond funds and money market funds) are better off in tax-deferred accounts, as much of their yields represent taxable income.

*Traditional IRAs are tax-inefficient (relatively speaking), and by holding a traditional IRA within a tax-deferred account, you can delay paying tax on those IRA assets until you withdraw them in retirement (when you will presumably be in a lower tax bracket than you are now).

*What kinds of investments are usually better off in taxable accounts? Think index funds, growth funds, tax-managed funds and ETFs that tend to generate capital gains (growth funds especially are prone to reinvesting profits). In light of long-term capital gains rates, keeping these types of investments in taxable accounts makes sense.1,2

Timing isn’t everything, but … The timing of withdrawals from retirement accounts can have a major impact on your income taxes – and the longevity of your savings.

You don’t want to outlive your money, and you want your income taxes to be as minimal as possible once you are retired. To that end, you want to withdraw from your retirement accounts in a tax-efficient way.

By drawing down taxable accounts first, you’ll face the capital gains tax rate instead of the ordinary income tax rate. Most retirees will see long-term capital gains taxed at 15%; for others, the long-term capital gains tax rate will be 0%.3 In taking money out of the taxable accounts to start, you are not only giving yourself a de facto tax break but also giving the retirement funds in the tax-advantaged accounts more time to grow and compound (and even a year or two of compounding and growth can be significant if you have held a tax-advantaged account for decades). Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts – such as traditional IRAs and 401(k)s and 403(b)s – can follow, and then lastly withdrawals from Roth accounts.3

Following these asset location and distribution approaches may leave you with more retirement income – in fact, Morningstar estimates that in tandem, they can boost a retiree’s income by about 8%.1

Tax loss harvesting can also help. Selling losers during a given year (i.e., stocks or mutual funds you have held for a year or more that are worth less than what you originally paid for them) will give you capital losses. These can directly lower your taxable income. As much as $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from taxable income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years. Additionally, whenever you sell stocks or funds with capital gains, strive to sell shares or units having the highest basis to reduce the gain.4

If you receive a lump-sum payout, don’t put it in the bank. If you take direct control of that money, you are triggering a taxable event and your income taxes for that year could be staggering. An alternative outcome: make a direct rollover of the lump-sum payout (qualified distribution) into a traditional IRA. That move will exclude that money from your total taxable income for the year, and put you in position to take taxable annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMD), with the taxable RMDs being smaller than the taxable lump sum. (Alternately, you could directly roll the lump sum payout into a Roth IRA, which would leave you paying taxes on the conversion but set you up for tax-free withdrawals in retirement if Roth IRA rules and regulations have been followed).5,6

Incidentally, it is often more advantageous to take an in-kind distribution of company stock rather than rolling shares over to an IRA. The question is whether you want to pay ordinary income tax or capital gains tax. If a lump-sum distribution is taken off the shares, the investor pays income tax on the original cost basis of the stock. If the distribution is in-kind (i.e., the  payout is in securities, not cash), the net unrealized appreciation (NUA) remains tax-deferred until the securities are sold. At their sale, the NUA is taxed as a long-term capital gain.5

Lastly, consider living in a state where taxes bite a little less. Not everyone can afford to move, but in the long run, living in Florida, Nevada, Washington, Texas or other states that are relatively tax-friendly for retirees can help. Even moving to another town within your current state might result in some tax savings.6,7

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Citations.

1 – money.cnn.com/2013/02/11/pf/expert/retirement-tax-plans.moneymag/ [2/11/13]

2 – biz.yahoo.com/edu/mf/vra.html [2/13/14]

3 – tinyurl.com/l6lkrfu [2/12/14]

4 – bankrate.com/finance/money-guides/capital-losses-can-help-cut-your-tax-bill-1.aspx [9/19/13] 

5 – raymondjames.com/making_right_distribution.htm [2/13/14]

6 – wife.org/minimizing-tax-burden-in-retirement.htm [2/13/14]

7 – money.msn.com/tax-planning/retired-how-to-cut-your-taxes-mark-koba [2/6/12]

 

A little phrase that may mean a big difference. When you read about investing and other financial topics, you occasionally see the phrase “tax efficiency” or a reference to a “tax-sensitive” way of investing. What does that really mean?

* The after-tax return vs. the pre-tax return. Everyone wants their investment portfolio to perform well. But it is your after-tax return that really matters. If your portfolio earns you double-digit returns, those returns really aren’t so great if you end up losing 20% or 30% of them to taxes. In periods when the return on your investments is low, tax efficiency takes on even greater importance.

* Tax-sensitive tactics. Some methods have emerged that are designed to improve after-tax returns. Money managers commonly consider these strategies when determining whether assets should be bought or sold.

* Holding onto assets. One possible method for realizing greater tax efficiency is simply to minimize buying and selling to reduce capital gains taxes. The idea is to pursue long-term gains, instead of seeking short-term gains through a series of steady transactions.

* Tax-loss harvesting. This means selling certain securities at a loss to counterbalance capital gains. In this scenario, the capital losses you incur are applied against your capital gains to lower your personal tax liability. Basically, you’re making lemonade out of the lemons in your portfolio.

* Assigning investments selectively to tax-deferred and taxable accounts. Here’s a rather basic tactic intended to work over the long run: tax-efficient investments are placed in taxable accounts, and less tax-efficient investments are held in tax-advantaged accounts. Of course, if you have 100% of your investment money in tax-deferred accounts, then this isn’t a consideration.

* How tax-efficient is your portfolio? It’s an excellent question, one you should consider. But this brief article shouldn’t be interpreted as tax or investment advice. If you’d like to find out more about tax-sensitive ways to invest, be sure to talk with a qualified financial advisor who can help you explore your options today. What you learn could be eye-opening.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Is a tax refund coming your way? If you have already received your refund for the 2013 tax year or are about to receive it, you might want to think about the destiny of that money. Here are some possibilities.

Start (or add to) an emergency fund. Many people don’t have a dedicated rainy day fund, only the presumption that they might have enough cash in case of a financial tight spot.

Invest in yourself. You could put the money toward education, career training, personal improvement, or some sort of personal experience with the potential to enhance your life.

Use it for a down payment on a car or truck or real property. Real property represents the better financial choice, but updating your vehicle may have merit – cars do wear out, and while a truck also ages, it can help you make money.

Put it into an IRA or workplace retirement account. If you haven’t maxed out your IRA this year or have a chance to get an employer match, why not?

Help your child open up a Roth IRA. If your under-18 son or daughter will earn income this year, he or she can open a Roth IRA. Your child’s contribution limit is $5,500 or the amount of his or her earned income for 2014 (whichever is lower). You can actually make this Roth IRA contribution with your own money if your child has spent his or her earnings.1,2  

Buy some warehouse memberships. If you have a large family or own a small service business, why not sign up to save regularly?

Pay down debt. Always a smart choice.

Establish a financial strategy. Some financial professionals work on a fee-only basis. If your tax refund is substantial, it could pay some or all the fee that might be charged for a review of your current financial situation and a plan for the future, with no further obligation to you.

Pay for that trip in advance. Instead of racking up a bigger credit card bill, consider pre-paying some costs or taking an all-inclusive trip (some are not as pricey as you might think).

Get your home ready for the market. A four-figure refund may give you the cash to spruce up the yard and/or exterior of your residence. Or, it could help you pay a professional who can assist you with staging it.

Improve your home with energy-saving appliances. Or windows, or weatherstripping, or solar panels – just to name a few options.

Create your own food bank. What if a hurricane or an earthquake hits? Where would your food and water come from? Worth thinking about.

Write a proper will. Your refund could pay the attorney fee, and the will you create might end up more ironclad.

See a doctor, optometrist, dentist or physical therapist. If you haven’t been able to see these professionals due to your insurance situation or your personal cash flow, the refund might provide a way.

Give yourself a de facto raise. Adjust your withholding to boost your take-home pay.

Pick up some more insurance coverage for cheap. More and more affordable options exist for insuring yourself, your business and your property.

Pay it forward. Your refund could turn into a charitable contribution (deductible on your 2012 federal tax return if you itemize deductions).

Last year, the average federal tax refund was $2,744. That’s a nice chunk of change – and it could be used to bring some positive change to your financial life and the lives of others.3

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  1660 West 2nd Street, Suite 850 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies.

 

Citations:

1 – wellsfargoadvantagefunds.com/wfweb/wf/retirement/ira/faq.jsp [2/11/14]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/saving/T046-C001-S003-often-overlooked-opportunities-to-save-in-a-roth-i.html [1/28/14]

3 – blog.seattlepi.com/irs/2014/02/04/irs-kicks-off-2014-tax-season-check-your-eitc-eligibility/ [2/4/14]

 

 

How many 401(k)s have more than $100k in them? According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the average 401(k) balance at the end of 2012 was $63,929. Even with stocks rising last year, the average balance likely remains underwhelming.1

Is this enough money to retire on? No – and this is only part of America’s retirement dilemma. There is inequity in retirement savings – some households have steadily contributed to retirement accounts, others have not. Additionally, IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s can suffer when stocks plunge, with the most invested potentially having the most to lose. 

Why do some people let their potential for lifetime wealth slip away? Some people are better off economically at 30 or 40 than they are at 50 or 60. In some cases, fate deals them a bad hand. In other cases, bad decisions and inaction are to blame.

They buy depreciating assets, instead of allowing assets to appreciate. In 2012, a Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances noted that only 52% of American households earn more money than they spend. They rack up debt and live on margin. What are they spending so much on? It isn’t just consumer staples – it’s not unusual for a family to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy the latest nonessential items.1

Contrary to the bumper sticker, he who dies with the most toys does not necessarily win, and he may leave a pile of debt and little savings behind. Today’s hottest cars, clothes, flat-screens, phones and tablets may be tomorrow’s discards.

They never contribute to an IRA or qualified retirement plan. For all the flak directed recently at workplace retirement plans and IRAs, they still provide a tremendous opportunity to save and invest. They are tax-advantaged, which contributes to greater compounding of the assets within them. With a Roth IRA, qualified withdrawals are tax-free for the original owner.2

They never build up an emergency fund. Financial challenges will arise, and a rainy-day fund can help you meet them. Even the wealthy need cash reserves.  Striving to save for that rainy day also helps to promote good lifelong saving habits.

They never seek to own. Who gets rich by renting? Ownership of real property or a business comes with its headaches, but it may also leave a middle class or working class individual much wealthier over time.

They invest without a strategy. Chasing the return at any cost, impulsive stock picking and market timing – these are behaviors that may lead to frustration instead of financial freedom. Clichés become clichés because they are true, and the financial cliché of “get rich slowly” has proved true for many. Instant wealth seldom comes from picking a hot stock or fund; indeed, that wealth may be fleeting. These truths don’t stop people from “putting it all on black” – hazardously assigning an excessive portion of their assets to one investment or market sector.

They accept a “forever middle class” mindset. Some people define themselves as middle class and accept that definition all their lives. The danger is that this can amount to a kind of psychological barrier, a sense that “this is it” and that “getting rich” is for others.

With all the dire articles out there about the diminishing middle class in America, the fact is that upward mobility is much more common here than in many other nations. Yet in this land of opportunity, people have some intriguing perceptions about the middle class.

Last year, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll of 2,508 American adults which had some interesting results. Only 48% of those earning at least $100,000 identified as upper class or upper-middle class. Amazingly, 6% of respondents at that income level actually felt that they were lower class or at least lower-middle class. Additionally, 18% of those with incomes from $50,000-99,000 identified themselves as lower class or lower-middle class, though 65% (correctly) believed they were middle class.3

The poll also asked how much money a family of four would need to live a middle class lifestyle. Answers to that question varied by income bracket: while the median response across the poll was a reasonable $70,000, respondents with family incomes of at least $100,000 gave a median response of $100,000, while families earning less than $30,000 said $40,000 would do.3

Behavior & belief may count as much as effort. It takes some initiative to create lifetime wealth from present-day affluence, but a person’s outlook on money (and view of the purpose of money) can influence that effort – for better or worse.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  1660 West 2nd Street, Suite 850 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies.

 

Citations.

1 – business.time.com/2012/10/23/is-the-u-s-waging-a-war-on-savers/ [10/23/12]

2 – schwab.com/public/schwab/resource_center/expert_insight/retirement_strategies/planning/saving_for_retirement_ira_vs_401k.html [10/10/12]

3 – economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/who-counts-as-middle-class/ [8/23/12]

 

Many are the stories of family wealth lost. In the late 19th century, industrial tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt amassed the equivalent of $100 billion in today’s dollars – but when 120 of his descendants met at a family gathering in 1973, there were no millionaires among them.1
Barbara Woolworth Hutton – daughter of the founder of E.F. Hutton & Company, heiress to the Woolworth’s five-and-dime empire – inherited $900 million in inflation-adjusted dollars but passed away nearly penniless (her reputed net worth at death was $3,500).1,2
Why do stories like these happen? Why, as the Wall Street Journal notes, does an average of  70% of family wealth erode in the hands of the next generation, and an average of 90% of it in the hands of the generation thereafter? And why, as the Family Business Institute notes, do only 3% of family businesses survive past the third generation?1,3
Lost family wealth can be linked to economic, medical and psychological factors, even changes in an industry or simple fate. Yet inherited wealth may slip away due to a far less dramatic reason.
What’s more valuable, money or knowledge? Having money is one thing; knowing how to make and keep it is another. Business owners naturally value control, but at times they make the mistake of valuing it too much – being in control becomes more of a priority than sharing practical knowledge, ideas or a financial stake with the next generation. Or, maybe there simply isn’t enough time in a business owner’s 60-hour workweek to convey the know-how or determine an outcome that makes sense for two generations.  A good succession planner can help a family business deal with these concerns.
As a long-term direction is set for the family business, one should also be set for family money. Much has been written about baby boomers being on the receiving end of the greatest generational wealth transfer in history – a total of roughly $7.6 trillion, according to the Wall Street Journal – but so far, young boomers are only saving about $0.50 of each $1 they inherit. If adult children grow up with a lot of money, they may also easily slip into a habit if spending beyond their means, or acting on entrepreneurial whims without the knowledge or boots-on-the-ground business acumen of mom and dad. According to online legal service Rocket Lawyer, 41% of baby boomers (Americans now aged 50-68) have no will. Wills are a necessity, and trusts are useful as well, especially when wealth stands a chance of going to minors.1,4
Vision matters. When family members agree about the value and purpose of family wealth – what wealth means to them, what it should accomplish, how it should be maintained and grown for the future – that shared vision can be expressed in a coherent legacy plan, which can serve as a kind of compass.
After all, estate planning encompasses much more than strategies for wealth transfer, tax deferral and legal tax avoidance. It is also about conveying knowledge – and values. In the long run, nothing may help family wealth more.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  1660 West 2nd Street, Suite 850 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies.

Citations.
1 – tinyurl.com/qblyk6v [3/8/13]
2 – investorplace.com/2013/08/woolworths-heiress-outspent-a-near-billion-dollar-fortune-died-penniless/#.Us8-D7SLXs8 [8/2/13]
3 – fa-mag.com/news/why-wealth-disappears-8227.html [9/7/11]
4 – forbes.com/sites/lawrencelight/2013/11/22/how-to-inherit-wealth-without-screwing-up/ [11/22/13]

Some people start saving for retirement at 20, 25, or 30. Others start later, and while their accumulated assets will have fewer years of compounding to benefit from, that shouldn’t discourage them to the point of doing nothing.
If you need to play catch-up, here are some retirement savings principles to keep in mind. First of all, keep a positive outlook. Believe in the validity of your effort. Know that you are doing something good for yourself and your future, and keep at it.

Little things matter. When planning for retirement, people naturally think about the big things – arranging sufficient income, amassing enough savings, investing so that you don’t outlive your money, managing forms of risk. All of this is essential. Still, there are also little financial adjustments you can make at mid-life that may pay off significantly for you down the road.

Before retirement begins, gather what you need. Put as much documentation as you can in one place, for you and those you love. It could be a password-protected online vault; it could be a file cabinet; it could be a file folder. Regardless of what it is, by centralizing the location of important papers you are saving yourself from disorganization and headaches in the future.

What should go in the vault, cabinet or folder(s)? Crucial financial information and more. You will want to include…

Those quarterly/annual statements. Recent performance paperwork for IRAs, 401(k)s, funds, brokerage accounts and so forth. Include the statements from the latest quarter and the statements from the end of the previous calendar year (that is, the last Q4 statement you received). You don’t get paper statements anymore? Print out the equivalent, or if you really want to minimize clutter, just print out the links to the online statements. (Someone is going to need your passwords, of course.) These documents can also become handy in figuring out a retirement income distribution strategy.

Healthcare benefit info. Are you enrolled in Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? Are you in a group health plan? Do you pay for your own health coverage? Own a long term care policy? Gather the policies together in your new retirement command center and include related literature so you can study their benefit summaries, coverage options, and rules and regulations. Contact info for insurers, HMOs, your doctor(s) and the insurance agent who sold you a particular policy should also go in here.

Life insurance info. Do you have a straight term insurance policy, no potential for cash value whatsoever? Keep a record of when the level premiums end. If you have a whole life policy, you want to keep paperwork communicating the death benefit, the present cash value in the policy and the required monthly premiums in your file.

Beneficiary designation forms. Few pre-retirees realize that beneficiary designations often take priority over requests made in a will when it comes to 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. Hopefully, you have retained copies of these forms. If not, you can request them from the account custodians and review the choices you have made. Are they choices you would still make today? By reviewing them in the company of a retirement planner or an attorney, you can gauge the tax efficiency of the eventual transfer of assets.1

Social Security basics. If you haven’t claimed benefits yet, put your Social Security card, last year’s W-2 form, certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license or divorce papers in one place, and military discharge paperwork or and a copy of your W-2 form for last year (or Schedule SE and Schedule C plus 1040 form, if you work for yourself), and military discharge papers or proof of citizenship if applicable. Social Security no longer mails people paper statements tracking their accrued benefits, but e-statements are available via its website. Take a look at yours and print it out.2

Pension matters. Will you receive a bona fide pension in retirement? If so, you want to collect any special letters or bulletins from your employer. You want your Individual Benefit Statement telling you about the benefits you have earned and for which you may become eligible; you also want the Summary Plan Description and contact info for someone at the employee benefits department where you worked.

Real estate documents. Gather up your deed, mortgage docs, property tax statements and homeowner insurance policy. Also, make a list of the contents of your home and their estimated value – you may be away from your home more in retirement, so those items may be more vulnerable as a consequence.

Estate planning paperwork. Put copies of your estate plan and any trust paperwork within the collection, and of course a will. In case of a crisis of mind or body, your loved ones may need to find a durable power of attorney or health care directive, so include those documents if you have them and let them know where to find them.

Tax returns. Should you only keep last year’s 1040 and state return? How about those for the past 7 years? At the very least, you should have a copy of last year’s returns in this collection.

A list of your digital assets. We all have them now, and they are far from trivial – the contents of a cloud, a photo library, or a Facebook page may be vital to your image or your business. Passwords must be compiled too, of course.

This will take a little work, but you will be glad you did it someday. Consider this a Saturday morning or weekend project. It may lead to some discoveries and possibly prompt some alterations to your financial picture as you prepare for retirement.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com.  www.permefinancialgroup.com

[hr]

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  1660 West 2nd Street, Suite 850 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. CRN201511-178013

Citations:
1 – fpanet.org/ToolsResources/ArticlesBooksChecklists/Articles/Retirement/10EssentialDocumentsforRetirement/ [9/12/11]
2 – cbsnews.com/8301-505146_162-57573910/planning-for-retirement-take-inventory/ [3/18/13][hr] [related_posts limit="5" image="0"]

In times like these, good decisions matter. And when you have a need for life insurance, you should consider whole life and its flexibility. To begin with, of course, there’s the guaranteed death benefit, which can help give you peace of mind by assuring a legacy for your heirs. But there are other benefits as well.
For example, the build-up of a policy’s cash value is also guaranteed, and can help to give you a reliable source of supplemental retirement income regardless of market conditions.1 And with all the volatility in investment markets and the economy, whole life can help make your retirement more secure. You can depend on your policy’s guaranteed cash value growing to a specified amount over time.
And you can customize your whole life policy to fit your needs with optional riders that provide even more features and benefits,2 and even increase your whole life insurance coverage with evidence of good health.3
To make sure you get the right solution for your needs, it’s a good idea to work with a trusted financial professional.
© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company 01111-0001
1Access to cash values through borrowing or partial surrenders will reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, increase the chance the policy will lapse, and may result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured.  2. Riders are available at an additional cost.
3.  If you own a MassMutual term life insurance policy or certain riders, you may be able to convert your term coverage to whole life coverage without evidence of good health.
CRN201312-153935

What is the sign of a good decision?®
It’s managing health care costs and your retirement outlook.
Health care costs rank as one of retirees’ biggest financial concerns. But the sooner you plan for this cost, the better you’ll feel about your retirement security. Keep in mind, too, that the chances of those costs being offset by retiree health care insurance grow slimmer each year – as fewer and fewer employers extend health care benefits to retirees.

What is the sign of a good decision?®
It’s educating yourself and your children regarding finances to prepare for future financial needs.
In today’s economy, families are facing increasing pressure to provide for their every day needs. It is important for parents to teach children in a way that gives them a chance for a better future than many parents feel they have today. Parents may want to talk about finances so their children feel confident with financial decisions later in life.
A 2011 study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and conducted by Forbes Consulting Group as part of the State of the American Family series studied family financial decision makers with responsibility for at least one child.

In times like these, good decisions matter. And when it comes to protecting a portion of your income from disability risks, it’s important to base your decision on the facts. In the case of disability, some of those facts might surprise you.

For example, more than one-quarter of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1 And if you are covered by a group disability income policy through your employer, you might not know about the likely gap between your policy’s benefits and your family’s actual needs.

In times like these, good decisions matter. And when it comes to protecting a portion of your income from disability risks, it’s important to base your decision on the facts. In the case of disability, some of those facts might surprise you.

For example, more than one-quarter of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1 And if you are covered by a group disability income policy through your employer, you might not know about the likely gap between your policy’s benefits and your family’s actual needs.

To start with, the typical group plan only covers 50-70% of income. And benefits are often taxable, have maximum limits, and don’t cover bonuses, commissions or 401(k) contributions. In some cases, worker’s compensation helps bridge the gap, but less than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work related. 2

If you run a business, your insurance protection should help cover its operating costs, possibly provide the funds for a partnership buyout, and protect a portion of lost earnings – either yours or your employees’.

The most common way to close the gap between existing coverage and actual needs is to obtain a supplemental individual disability income insurance policy. Because you own it, you can take it with you throughout your career.

And the best way to make a good decision about that policy is to work with a trusted, trained financial professional. No surprise there..

© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA.

 

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s putting what’s important to you first.

Did you realize that your assets owned at death are generally subject to federal and state taxes?

A significant percentage of your estate may go towards tax liabilities. Unless you plan ahead, your legacy becomes open to public scrutiny through the probate process.

There are steps you can take to help make sure that your loved ones, possessions and passions are taken care of in the manner you wish, and that your affairs remain confidential.

Plan ahead

When thinking about the future, consider how family will be cared for, who will inherit property, and how assets will be distributed.

• What happens to your property after you pass away?

• How will loved ones maintain their standard of living?

• How will your estate pay final expenses and taxes?

• Can your taxable estate be reduced with lifetime gifting strategies?

• How may the transfer of your assets be impacted by federal gift and estate tax guidelines?

A well-designed plan can provide you a way to accumulate, conserve and protect your assets during your lifetime. At the heart of many estate and tax plans, is a versatile tool called a “Trust.”

A “Trust Agreement” is a legal document that establishes a Trust and enables it to hold property for the benefit of a third party.

A common technique to minimize estate taxes involves an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT).

A properly structured and administered ILIT may keep your life insurance policy’s death benefit out of your estate, so proceeds will benefit the people and places you care about most.

Address concerns

Trusts can help you address your most important concerns. You may be able to provide income for the people and places that matter the most, while minimizing estate taxes and providing funds for estate settlement costs. In addition, you may be able to shelter assets from creditors, and continue to maintain influence over distribution of your assets after death. By avoiding probate, you can keep your financial matters private.

Create “Trust”

Trusts are legal entities involving three parties: grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. As the grantor, you craft the trust document with help from experienced trust specialists, and provide the assets.

You also determine the beneficiaries or the individuals or groups (such as church, charities or colleges) who will be recipients of benefits.

You then choose a trustee to manage the assets in the interests of the beneficiaries you name.

The trustee is responsible for following your wishes as expressed in the Trust Agreement. You can name a relative or friend as trustee. Many people select a professional trustee as sole or co-Trustee with a family member. Professional Trustees such as The MassMutual Trust Company,FSB, offer: investment planning, diversification and oversight, tax reporting and preparation, prudent asset management and distribution, fiduciary account management and client reporting, access to investment services for individuals, families and businesses, and bill payment.

Exercise control

Many children may not be mature enough to handle a large inheritance at age 18, or even 25.

With a Trust, you could choose to have distributions made in small amounts over time.

Start planning

Having a better understanding of how a trust can provide tax advantages and help you manage and control the accumulation and distribution of your assets over time, puts you in a good position to start planning for the future. Now might be the right time to think about what’s important to you, and the legacy you want to leave to your family and the people and places you hold most dear.

Call your financial advisor today and start the conversation.

© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA.

 

1. DROPS HAPPEN – Since the S&P 500 bottomed on 3/09/09, the stock index has gained +130.1% through the close of trading last Friday 3/22/13 (change of the raw index not counting the impact of reinvested dividends).  Even though the index has more than doubled there have been 13 different pullbacks of 5% or more since the 3/09/09 bottom.  The average depth of the pullbacks has been 8.7% over an average of 21 days.  The deepest tumble was a 17.2% drop over the 24 days that ended on 8/10/11.  The S&P 500 consists of 500 stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation.  It is a market value weighted index with each stock’s weight in the index proportionate to its market value (source: BTN Research).    

1. LOOKING BACK – Over the 300 months ending 2/28/13 (i.e., the last 25 years), the S&P 500 has been up 64% of the months and down the other 36% of the months.  The period includes the 2000-02 bear market (down 49%) and the 2007-09 bear market (down 57%).  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

 

2. NOT LINEAR – $1 invested in the S&P 500 stock index on 5/31/95 in a tax-deferred account would have nearly quadrupled in value to $3.95 on a total return basis by 2/28/13 or after 17 years, 9 months.  However the original $1 doubled in value to $1.94 by 1/31/98 (i.e., after just 2 years, 8 months) and then it took another 15 years and 1 month for the total to double again to $3.95.  This mathematical calculation ignores the ultimate impact of taxes on the account which are due upon withdrawal, is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to reflect any specific investment.  Actual results will fluctuate with market conditions and will vary (source: BTN Research).

 

3. RECESSIONS AND BEARS – Of the 11 recessions that have occurred in the last 65 years, 8 have occurred in tandem with stock bear markets (i.e., at least a 20% decline in the S&P 500), including the last 4 recessions (source: National Bureau of Economic Research).

 

4. NO TUMBLE – As of 3/18/13 (today), the S&P 500 has gone 531 days (calendar days, not trading days) without experiencing a 10% correction, the 6th longest streak in the last 50 years (source: BTN Research).

 

5. OUT vs. IN – In spite of the fact that the USA had a $540 billion trade deficit in 2012 (imports in excess of exports), we were able to offset that outflow of dollars by attracting $520 billion of foreign capital into our stocks and bonds.  Thus, for every $10 that left the USA because of excessive buying of foreign imports, $9.63 came into the USA as foreigners bought American financial assets (source: Commerce Department, Treasury Department).

 

6. NOT QUITE FREE TRADE – The United States exported more goods and services in 2012 to the countries of Japan and the Netherlands ($110.7 billion of exports to the 2 countries combined) than we exported to China ($110.6 billion).  The population of China (1.32 billion people) is 9 times the size of the combined 145 million person population of Japan and the Netherlands (source: Department of Commerce).

 

7. GETTING OLDER – Life expectancy at birth of Americans has increased by 10.5 years in the last 60 years (i.e., 1950-2010), reaching 78.7 years today.  Thus since 1950, life expectancy at birth has increased by 2 months every year (source: Center for Disease Control).

 

8. GET YOUR OWN – Only 1 in 7 Americans seniors (14%) age 72 and older believe that they owe their children or grandchildren an inheritance (source: Allianz).

 

9. AND BORROW WE DO - The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.76% on 12/31/12.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 3.82% on 12/31/02.  Thus for the same annual cost of money, our government can borrow +117% more money today than we did 10 years ago (source: BTN Research).

 

10. SMALL AMOUNT – An estimated 3,780 decedents in calendar year 2013 (out of 2.4 million projected deaths this year) will generate $14.2 billion of federal estate tax receipts for the US government, just ½ of 1% of our estimated annual tax revenue (source: Tax Policy Center).

 

11. TAX DOLLARS – Tax receipts collected by the US government through 5 months of fiscal year 2013 (through 2/28/13) are up +$117 billion (+13.1%) vs. the same 5 months in fiscal year 2012 (source: Treasury Department).

 

12. A CENTURY AGO – The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on 2/03/1913 (i.e., 100 years ago last month), giving Congress the right to impose individual income taxes on American citizens.  The top marginal tax rate was 7% in 1913 vs. 39.6% in 2013 (source: Internal Revenue Service).

 

13. OVERSPENDING – Our nation’s outstanding debt, $16.433 trillion on 12/31/12, rose to $16.687 trillion as of 2/28/13, an increase of $4.3 billion a day for the first 2 months of 2013 (source: Treasury Department).

 

14. BORROWING – Total consumer credit nationwide (i.e., consumer debts excluding home mortgages and home equity loans) increased by $153 billion over the 12 months ending 1/31/13, equal to $1,333 of debt increase for each of the 114.8 million households in the country (source: Federal Reserve).

 

15. LOTS OF K’s – Sandy Koufax struck out 311 more batters than he walked during the 1965 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers led the majors with 239 strikeouts during the 2012 season (source: Major League Baseball).

 

1. TWO MONTHS – The S&P 500 gained +6.6% (total return) during the first 2 months of 2013, 67% of the average annual total return achieved over the last 50 calendar years.  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

2. ANOTHER YEAR – 7 of the last 10 bull markets for the S&P 500 stock index have reached at least 3 years in length and 5 of the 10 lasted at least 5 years.  The current bull market is the 11th bull for the S&P 500 since 1950 and it will reach 4 years in length as of Saturday 3/09/13 (source: BTN Research).  

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s managing health care costs and your retirement outlook.

Health care costs rank as one of retirees’ biggest financial concerns. But the sooner you plan for this cost, the better you’ll feel about your retirement security. Keep in mind, too, that the chances of those costs being offset by retiree health care insurance grow slimmer each year – as fewer and fewer employers extend health care benefits to retirees.

Recently, fixed mortgages were near their lowest rates in almost 30 years. And if you are one of the many people who took out mortgages in the few years prior to that, you may be wondering if you should look into refinancing.

If your mortgage was taken out within the past five years, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can get financing that is at least one to two points lower than your current interest rate. You should plan on staying in the house long enough to pay off the loan transaction charges (points, title insurance, attorney’s fees, etc.).

Lawsuits have become increasingly common in our society. From 1951 through 2009, the cost of torts (civil suits) rose at more than double the annual rate of general inflation and even surpassed the annual increase in medical expenses (see chart).

Parents generally don’t have to be convinced of the value of a college education for their children. Studies show that college graduates not only earn more but are healthier, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to remain employed during tough economic times.1

Estate taxes. It’s not enough to simply know they exist, and to know strategies to minimize them. When it comes down to it, you need to plan how you and your family will eventuaally pay them.

The Estate Tax Dilemma

Estate taxes are generally due nine months after the date of death. And they are due in cash. In addition to estate taxes, there may be final expenses, probate costs, administrative fees, and a variety of other costs. How can you be sure the money will be there when it’s needed?

Estate Tax Options

There are four main sources of funds to pay estate taxes. First, your current savings and investments. You or your survivors can use savings and investments to cover the costs of estate taxes, probate fees, and other expenses. This is often a sound alternative. However, sometimes savings and investments may not be sufficient. And if those savings were earmarked for other financial goals, you may need to rethink how you will achieve those goals.

Another option would be to borrow the money. Unfortunately, with this option you not only have to pay the estate taxes, but you or your survivors will be forced to pay interest on the amount borrowed to pay estate taxes. Remember to consider how your family’s credit standing will be affected by a death in the family.

The third option involves liquidation. If estate taxes are larger than the cash available to pay them, you may have to sell valuable assets such as the family home, the family business, or other assets. Hopefully, they will sell for what they’re worth. In many cases, however, they don’t.

The fourth option — one that is often a prudent way to pay estate taxes — is life insurance.

What Can Life Insurance Provide?

Life insurance can provide a timely death benefit, in cash, that can be used to pay estate taxes and other costs. And it will be paid directly to the beneficiary of the policy, without being subject to the time and expense of probate.

Granted, life insurance does require premium payments. However, if appropriate to your situation, life insurance premiums can be looked at as a systematic way of funding future estate taxes. You get guaranteed liquidity and a death benefit that is generally free from federal income taxes. Indeed, the financial protection provided by life insurance can be invaluable to those who have the burden of paying estate taxes — your loved ones.

The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance. Before implementing a strategy involving insurance, it would be prudent to make sure you are insurable. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Any guarantees are contingent on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Before you take any specific action, be sure to seek professional advice.

Coping with estate taxes may be a difficult proposition for you or your survivors. When it comes to paying them, consider life insurance. It may be a strategy worth considering, and overlooking it could be costly.

 

The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2012 Emerald Connect, Inc. 

 

For many people, tax-advantaged investing is an excellent way to reduce their taxes. And while many of the traditional tax-advantaged strategies have been eliminated, there are still alternatives left that can help you reduce your taxes. Some are described below.

Real Estate Partnerships

Two of the most common types of real estate partnerships are low-income housing and historic rehabilitation. The federal government grants tax credits to those who construct or rehabilitate low-income housing or who invest in the rehabilitation or preservation of historic structures.

Participating in a real estate partnership has many advantages. These partnerships may provide opportunities for tax-advantaged income and long-term capital appreciation.

The tax credits generated by these partnerships can be used to offset your income tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This can make them much more valuable than tax deductions, which help reduce your taxable income, not the tax you pay. These credits are subject to certain limitations, and the rehabilitation tax credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) greater than $200,000 ($100,000 if married filing separately) and is completely phased out when AGI reaches $250,000 ($125,000 if married filing separately).

Oil and Gas Partnerships

Energy partnerships can provide shelter through tax deductions taken at the partnership level. These include deductions for intangible drilling costs, depreciation, and depletion.

The deductions may be limited; check with a tax advisor to see whether you could benefit from oil and gas partnerships.

Suitability

There are risks associated with investing in partnerships. Key among these is that they are long-term investments with an indefinite holding period with no, or very limited, liquidity. There is typically no current market for the units/shares, and a future market may or may not be available. If a market becomes available, it may result in a deep discount from the original price. At redemption, the investor may receive back less than the original investment. The investment sponsor is responsible for carrying out the business plan, and thus the success or failure of the venture is dependent on the investment sponsor. There are no assurances that the stated investment objectives will be reached. This type of investment is considered speculative. You want to ensure that the investment is not disproportionate in relation to your overall portfolio and that it is consistent with your investment objectives and overall financial situation. In order to invest, you will need to meet specific income and net worth suitability standards, which vary by state.

These standards, along with the risks and other information concerning the partnership, are set forth in the prospectus which can be obtained from your financial professional. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

The alternative minimum tax is another concern. Make sure to consult a tax advisor to evaluate your exposure to the AMT.

As long as they are suitable for your situation, these tax-advantaged investing strategies can be one way to help reduce your income tax liability. A financial professional can help you determine whether such investments would be an appropriate strategy for you.

Christopher A. Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, Inc. Member SIPC. Supervisory Office: 1660 W. 2nd Street # 850, Cleveland, OH 44113. 216-621-5680.


Taxes are becoming an ever-increasing burden to Americans. Through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Congress reduced or eliminated many of the ways that taxpayers can lower their taxes.

Interest deduction is one of the areas that has been strongly affected by this tax reform legislation. Since tax year 1991, interest on consumer debt has not been deductible for income tax purposes.

People have traditionally seen Social Security benefits as the foundation of their retirement planning programs. The Social Security contributions deducted from your paycheck have, in effect, served as a government-enforced retirement savings plan. However, the Social Security system is under increasing strain. Better health care and longer life spans have resulted in an increasing number of people drawing Social Security benefits. And as the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) approaches retirement, even greater demands will be placed on the system.

For the vast majority of people, it is essential to keep a portion of their assets in liquid form in order to meet monthly commitments. For example, most families have to meet their mortgage or rent payments, grocery, utility, and transportation bills out of their monthly paychecks. There is a host of other expenses that arise from month to month, such as auto insurance, that help keep the pressure on the family cash flow. If people are fortunate enough to have anything left over once all the expenses have been met, then they can worry about saving or investing for the future. The paychecks that you deposit in your checking account, which seem to swiftly disappear as you pay monthly expenses, constitute a portion of your short-term cash. The money is no sooner in your bank account than it flows out again as payment for goods and services. However, because the money that we use to meet our monthly expenses is so liquid, there is a tendency to simply look at it as a method of payment. We often leave more than we need in our checking accounts, gaining little or no interest until we need it for a future expense. By actively managing the short-term cash that passes through your hands, you can provide a means of saving for the future. You can use this money to increase your net worth with little or no additional risk to your principal. Short-term investment instruments, such as Treasury bills, certificates of deposit, and money market mutual funds, can provide you with the liquidity needed to meet expected and unexpected expenses and to increase your short-term investment income. There are numerous alternatives available to enable you to get your short-term cash working for you. The key to successfully managing your short-term cash lies in understanding the alternatives and choosing the one most appropriate to your particular needs and circumstances. Treasury bills are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. Bank CDs are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution in interest and principal. Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in money market funds. Mutual funds are sold only by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Christopher A. Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, Inc. Member SIPC. Supervisory Office: 1660 W. 2nd Street # 850, Cleveland, OH 44113. 216-621-5680.

For investors who seek to defer capital gains on the sale of investment property, one complex yet effective option is a 1031 exchange (also known as a Starker exchange).
Named after Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, 1031 exchanges became more popular and accessible after a key ruling by the IRS in 2002, which for the first time allowed property owners to exchange qualified real estate for fractional-ownership interest in larger investment properties.

If you participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may have concluded that you don’t need a traditional IRA. Many people see the IRA as unnecessary because they don’t exhaust the contribution limits on their employer plans. But don’t be fooled into thinking that an IRA can’t help you reach your retirement saving goals. Chances are actually pretty good that there’s at least one IRA rollover in your future.