How Will Marriage Impact My Savings for Retirement?

New research from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research has analyzed individuals’ contributions to a 401(k) plan, before and after marriage.

“Millennials marry later than previous generations. Since marriage is a major life milestone that often marks a line between youth and adulthood, a logical question is how this delay affects retirement saving,” the report states.

Think Advisor says in its April article, “Do People Save More in Their 401(k)s After They Marry?” that at age 30, only 41% of millennials were married, compared with 59% for the late baby boomers.

The report looked at data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation linked to W-2 records on defined contribution plan deferrals, to determine the extent to which marriage affects retirement savings.

The results of the analysis show that people increase both their participation in and their contributions to 401(k) plans after marriage.

In terms of participation, men respond a bit more after marriage than women. The research shows that men have lower participation rates than women before marriage, but they wind up at the same level once married.

After marriage, women increase their contribution rate by an average of 0.8%, compared to only 0.3% for men, according to the research.

Following these results, the research then looks at what this means, if the trend toward later marriage continues. To do this, the research looks at how much retirement wealth accrued in 401(k) plans by age 65 would have been impacted, if men and women married later than they do now.

The analysis assumes a five-year delay in marriage, which is based on the approximate increase that occurred between baby boomers and millennials.

The analysis finds that the effect of delay, while statistically significant in the regression, is small—a 3.1% decline in accumulated assets for men and a 3.4% decline for women.

“While the delay in marriage may be problematic for some forms of savings—delaying homeownership for example—it seems unlikely to make a large dent in retirement savings,” the report states.

Reference: Think Advisor (April 23, 2019) “Do People Save More in Their 401(k)s After They Marry?”

How Does a Roth 401(k) Work?

Most Americans have most of their retirement savings in a 401(k) plan or similar employer-sponsored retirement account, which is great. Your contributions to a 401(k) plan can decrease your taxable income today. However, eventually, when you take distributions from the account, you’re going to owe ordinary income taxes.

CNBC’s recent article, “A Roth 401(k) offers tax advantages. Here’s how it works” says that more employers are offering another option for your retirement savings—a Roth 401(k). When you contribute to a Roth 401(k), the contribution won’t lower your taxable income today. However, when you withdraw money in the future, like a Roth IRA, it’s tax-free. A Roth 401(k) lets you save much more than a Roth IRA. You can only contribute $6,000 to a Roth IRA, and if you’re age 50 or older, you can make an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000.

401(k) plans are more liberal with what you can save. The limit is $19,000 a year to a 401(k) in 2019, and Roth 401(k) plans share that limit. If you are over age 50, you can save an additional $6,000. However, the amount you earn also makes a difference. Roth IRAs have an income cap. You can’t contribute to a Roth IRA, if you earn more than $203,000.

The biggest negative with a Roth 401(k) is how contributions might affect your tax liabilities today. If you earn $100,000 a year and save $19,000 to a traditional 401(k), your taxable income would be only $81,000. However, by contrast, if you make the same $19,000 contribution to a Roth 401(k), you’ll still have taxable income of $100,000.

There are no tax consequences when you take money out of a Roth 401(k), when you’re 59½ and you meet the five-year rule. However, if you take a similar distribution from a traditional 401(k) plan, the money you withdraw is subject to ordinary income tax.

There are also required minimum distributions (RMDs). Roth 401(k) account owners have to take the RMD at age 70½. This is not for Roth IRA owners. Therefore, you may want to roll your Roth 401(k) account over to a Roth IRA account before you turn 70½.

If you are interested in learning more about IRA’s and 401 (k)’s click here.

Reference: CNBC (April 23, 2019) “A Roth 401(k) offers tax advantages. Here’s how it works”

What’s The New Top Retirement Destination?

Watch out, Florida, and step aside Arizona. CNBC’s recent article, “Retirees are flocking to these 3 states — and fleeing these 3 states in droves” says that New Mexico is the new top retirement destination.

Those were the results of a survey by United Van Lines of nearly 27,000 of its customers who moved last year, through Nov. 30, 2018. Among those who moved to New Mexico, 42% said they did so because of retirement, making the state a top destination. Good old Florida was second, with 38% of people moving there citing “retirement” as a reason. Then, Arizona followed in third.

On the flip side, retirement is also a main reason why people fled New Jersey, with a third of households citing that as a reason for leaving the Garden State. Maine and Connecticut were the next states people are moving away from for retirement.

There are a number of reasons why people near retirement might want to relocate. One of the biggest is the need to stretch their savings and their Social Security checks. A top reason for leaving California is more favorable income tax rates in other states.

Another consideration is how your destination state treats retirement income. These states tax Social Security: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

In addition, there are other taxes to consider. For example, New Jersey has an effective property tax rate of 2.13%, which is the highest in the country. It also has a top individual income tax rate of 10.75%, which is applied to income exceeding $5 million.

Affordability is an important factor when deciding where to live in retirement. However, there are also other considerations. This includes whether you want to be close to nearby family and friends.

Before you pack up the moving van, take an extended visit in your potential retirement location. Get to know what your destination is like, before you settle down.

In addition, take a hard look at your finances to be sure your move is financially sensible, and ask your estate planning attorney to review your estate plans.

Reference: CNBC (April 17, 2019) “Retirees are flocking to these 3 states — and fleeing these 3 states in droves”

Are You Behind in Your Retirement Saving?

Can you believe that almost half (48%) of American households over the age of 55 still have no retirement savings? Even so, it’s better than previous years, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

CNBC’s article, “These people are on the verge of retiring—and they have nothing saved,” says that the congressional watchdog group based its conclusions on an analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

In 2013, roughly 52% of households over age 55 had zero saved for retirement. While the over-55 crowd may have a big savings shortfall to make up, there are steps they can take. Let’s look at what they need to do.

Catch up on contributions to retirement plans: Workers can defer up to $19,000 in a 401(k) plan at work. Those employees who are over 50, can save an extra $6,000. Older savers can also sock away more money in an IRA, since the contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000 in 2019. people who are 50 and up, can save an additional $1,000.

Increase the funds in your health savings account: If you’re still working and have a high-deductible health plan at work, you most likely have access to a health savings account or HSA. HSA’s have a triple tax advantage: (i) you contribute money on a pretax or tax-deductible basis; (ii) your savings will accumulate tax-free; and (iii) you can take tax-free withdrawals to pay for qualified medical expenses. In 2019, participants with self-only health insurance can contribute $3,500. Those with family plans can save $7,000. Account holders age 55 and older can save an extra $1,000 in an HSA.

However, remember that when you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can no longer contribute to your HSA. However, you can use those funds to cover health-care costs in retirement.

Work a little longer and generate income: You could earn money from a part-time job to increase your income and ramp up your retirement savings.

If you get a raise, throw most of it into your savings account. If you get a raise to your pay at work, save two-thirds of it. Increase your 401(k) deferrals, so that you’re saving more of that pay increase.

Living on less than you make, is something that many people don’t learn until late in life—but as long as you are working, you can save.

Reference: CNBC (April 5, 2019) “These people are on the verge of retiring —and they have nothing saved”

How are Baby Boomers Doing with Their Retirement Planning?
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How are Baby Boomers Doing with Their Retirement Planning?

The baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964, ages 55 to 73—have about half (47%) of their group already in retirement.

CNBC’s recent article, “Baby boomers face retirement crisis—little savings, high health costs and unrealistic expectations,” says that the Insured Retirement Institute’s annual report, Boomer Expectations for Retirement, highlights the fundamental issues of too little savings, underestimating healthcare costs and unrealistic expectations of how much retirement income they’ll actually need.

Too little savings. The three “legs” of the retirement “stool” are Social Security, private pensions and personal savings. These aren’t in great shape, as the average Social Security check is $14,000 a year, and just 23% of boomers ages 56-61 expect to receive income from a private company pension plan, with only 38% of older boomers expecting a pension. Most boomers haven’t saved nearly enough in their personal savings, with 45% of boomers having absolutely nothing saved for retirement.

Underestimating health care costs. Retirees frequently underestimate health expenses, especially long-term care costs. Many people don’t understand the system: half of the survey respondents say they haven’t calculated the cost of long-term care insurance, because they say they’ll rely on Medicare. However, Medicare has no coverage for long-term care. Just eight percent of boomers say they have purchased a long-term care policy.

Underestimating retirement income. The average amount spent by Americans 65-74 is $55,000 annually. However, most baby boomers don’t believe they’ll need near that amount. To that point, about 60% say they will need less than that on which to live. Their backup plan is to downsize, go back to work, or ask their children for help.

Of those who aren’t confident they did an adequate job preparing for retirement, the top two things they wish they’d done differently were to have saved more (63%) and to have started saving earlier (58%).

Reference: CNBC (April 9, 2019) “Baby boomers face retirement crisis — little savings, high health costs and unrealistic expectations”

How Do I Cash in My Life Insurance Policy?

There are some drawbacks to using life insurance to meet immediate cash needs, especially if you’re compromising your long-term goals or your family’s financial future. Investopedia’s recent article “Cashing in Your Life Insurance Policy” says that if other options are not available, life insurance—especially cash-value life insurance—can be a source of needed income.

Cash-value life insurance, like whole life and universal life, builds reserves through excess premiums plus earnings. These deposits are held in a cash-accumulation account within the policy. You can access cash accumulations within the policy through withdrawals, policy loans, or partial or full surrender of the policy. Another alternative is selling your policy for cash, known as a life settlement. Note that although cash from the policy might be useful during stressful financial times, you could face unwanted consequences, depending on the method you use to access the funds.

You can usually withdraw limited cash from a life insurance policy, based on the type of policy you own and the insurance company. The big advantage is that the withdrawals aren’t taxable up to your policy basis, as long as your policy isn’t classified as a modified endowment contract (MEC). However, these can have unexpected or unrealized consequences. Withdrawals that decrease your cash value, could cause a reduction in your death benefits. This is a potential source of funds you or your family might need for income replacement, business purposes or wealth preservation. Cash-value withdrawals also aren’t always tax-free. If you take a withdrawal during the first 15 years of the policy, and the withdrawal causes a reduction in the policy’s death benefit, some or all of the withdrawn cash could be subject to tax. Withdrawals are treated as taxable, to the extent that they exceed your basis in the policy.

Withdrawals that reduce your cash surrender value could mean higher premiums to maintain the same death benefit, or the policy could lapse.

If your policy is determined to be an MEC, withdrawals are taxed, according to the rules applicable to annuities–cash disbursements are considered to be made from interest first and are subject to income tax and possibly a 10% early-withdrawal penalty, if you’re under age 59½ at the time of the withdrawal. Policy loans are treated as distributions, so the amount of the loan up to the earnings in the policy will be taxable and could also be subject to the pre-59½ early-withdrawal penalty.

Surrendering the policy can provide the cash you need, but you’re relinquishing the right to the death-benefit protection. You can sell your life insurance policy to a life settlement company in exchange for cash. The new owner will keep the policy in force (by paying the premiums) and get a return on the investment, by receiving the death benefit when you die.

To qualify for a life settlement, the insured must be at least 65 years old, have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years or less, and usually have a policy death benefit of at least $100,000. However, the taxation of life settlements is complicated. The gain in excess of your basis in the policy is taxed to you as ordinary income. In addition to the tax liability, life settlements usually include up to a 30% in commissions and fees, which reduces the net amount you receive.

If you are interested in learning more about tax planning or how your life insurance policy can affect your estate plan, speak with your local estate planning or elder law attorney.

Reference: Investopedia (January 9, 2019) “Cashing in Your Life Insurance Policy”

When Should I Claim Social Security?

It’s kind of hard to know exactly when you should file for social security—even if you only consider age (which you shouldn’t). You can take your benefits as early as 62. However, the earlier you claim, the less you’ll get. You can delay until 70 and you’ll get 8% more for each year you wait past your full retirement age.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Social Security Timing Should Be Part of Larger Financial Plan,” notes that some people don’t have much choice and claim at 62, because they need the money. In addition, there’s the question of whether Social Security will be solvent, when it’s time for you to start collecting. There are also those who really don’t give it much thought. They’re tired of working and file before their full retirement age.

Most people like to think there’s some magical calculation that will give them their exact “break-even point,” so they don’t claim too soon or wait too late. You can find this by using calculators provided at www.ssa.gov/planners/calculators/ and www.aarp.org/tools/.

There are several factors that can greatly impact what you, as an individual, actually receive. Consider these points to help you make a smarter decision about when to file:

Health and family history. If you’re unhealthy or have a family history of some illness, you may want to retire and take your benefits as early as possible. However, if you’re healthy and/or most of your family members have had a long life, you may want to delay filing and get the maximum benefit to see you through, what could be a decades-long retirement.

Spouse. If you’re married, one of your primary concerns is what will happen to your spouse, if you die first. When one spouse dies, the lower of the two Social Security payments is eliminated. If you have a pension, based on which survivorship option you choose at retirement, he or she also could lose that income. Therefore, it’s critical to maximize the higher earners benefit when possible, especially if Social Security will be a major part of that income. If the higher earner in the family is one with a poor family history of longevity, you should plan early, if delaying is not an option and you have to claim a smaller benefit.

Taxes. The IRS measures your “provisional income” to determine whether you must pay taxes on your benefits. It’s calculated by adding your adjusted gross income, any tax-free interest you received and half of your Social Security benefits. If the sum is more than the designated threshold ($25,000 and up annually for singles, and $32,000 and up for those married filing jointly), based on your filing status, your Social Security benefits could be taxed up to 50% to 85%. If you’re receiving Social Security and withdrawing from your IRA at the same time, you may pay more in taxes. You might want to wait to claim and withdraw from your tax-deferred accounts at a lower rate.

Other assets. Before you decide to delay claiming to save on taxes or to get a higher Social Security payment in the future, be certain you have enough income to cover your current expenses without drawing too much from your retirement savings. You’ll want to leave some money there to keep growing, in case you need it later in retirement.

Your legacy. If leaving behind something for your children is a priority, you could use your Social Security income for that purpose. You could claim your benefits (which they can’t inherit) and leave more in your IRA (which they can). Or, if you are wealthy and don’t need Social Security to support your lifestyle, you could might claim your Social Security benefits and use that money to purchase life insurance.

Remember that your Social Security filing decision should not be made in a vacuum, but should be an important part of an overall financial plan.

Take your time, think it through and get some help from an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 15, 2019) “Social Security Timing Should Be Part of Larger Financial Plan”