Financial Planning: The Sequence of Returns

A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.

What exactly is the “sequence of returns”? The phrase simply describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?

The answer: no impact at all.

Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have a major effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.

During the accumulation phase, the sequence of returns is ultimately inconsequential. Yearly returns may vary greatly or minimally; in the end, the variance from the mean hardly matters. (Think of “the end” as the moment the investor retires: the time when the emphasis on accumulating assets gives way to the need to withdraw assets.)

An analysis from BlackRock bears this out. The asset manager compares three model investing scenarios: three investors start portfolios with lump sums of $1 million, and each of the three portfolios averages a 7% annual return across 25 years. In two of these scenarios, annual returns vary from -7% to +22%. In the third scenario, the return is simply 7% every year. In all three scenarios, each investor accumulates $5,434,372 after 25 years – because the average annual return is 7% in each case.1

Here is another way to look at it. The average annual return of your portfolio is dynamic; it changes, year-to-year. You have no idea what the average annual return of your portfolio will be when “it is all said and done,” just like a baseball player has no idea what his lifetime batting average will be four seasons into a 13-year playing career. As you save and invest, the sequence of annual portfolio returns influences your average yearly return, but the deviations from the mean will not impact the portfolio’s final value. It will be what it will be.1

When you shift from asset accumulation to asset distribution, the story changes. You must try to protect your invested assets against sequence of returns risk.

This is the risk of your retirement coinciding with a bear market (or something close). Even if your portfolio performs well across the duration of your retirement, a bad year or two at the beginning could heighten concerns about outliving your money.

For a classic illustration of the damage done by sequence of returns risk, consider the awful 2007-2009 bear market. Picture a couple at the start of 2008 with a $1 million portfolio, held 60% in equities and 40% in fixed-income investments. They arrange to retire at the end of the year. This will prove a costly decision. The bond market (in shorthand, the S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) gains 5.7% in 2008, but the stock market (in shorthand, the S&P 500) dives 37.0%. As a result, their $1 million portfolio declines to $800,800 in just one year.2

If you are about to retire, do not dismiss this risk. If you are far from retirement, keep saving and investing knowing that the sequence of returns will have its greatest implications as you make your retirement transition.

Citations.
1 – blackrock.com/pt/literature/investor-education/sequence-of-returns-one-pager-va-us.pdf [6/18]
2 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C032-S014-is-your-retirement-income-in-peril-of-this-risk.html [7/3/18]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Financial Planning: Guarding Against Identity Theft

Take steps so criminals won’t take vital information from you.

America is enduring a data breach epidemic. The latest annual study of the problem from Javelin Strategy & Research, a leading financial analytics research firm, says that 16.7 million people across the nation were impacted by I.D. theft in 2017 – an all-time high.1

The problem is getting worse – much worse. Last year, 30% of U.S. consumers were alerted about data breaches by firms holding their personal information. In 2016, just 12% of consumers were so affected.1

Social Security numbers were compromised in 35% of I.D. crimes last year; credit card numbers, in 30% of breaches. Account takeovers tripled in 2017. About 1 million smartphone and computer users had phony intermediary accounts established for them at Amazon, PayPal, and other commerce websites.

Tax time is prime time for identity thieves. They would love to get their hands on your 1040 form, and they would also love to claim a phony refund using your personal information. In 2016, the I.R.S. had spotted 1 million bogus returns; in 2017, the number dropped to 900,000. This spring, initial data suggested even fewer cases of fraud would be identified, but the numbers are still too large.2

E-filing of tax returns is smart; just make sure you use a secure Internet connection. When you e-file, you aren’t putting your Social Security number, address, and income information through the mail. You aren’t leaving Form 1040 on your desk at home (or work) while you get up and get some coffee or go out for a walk. If somehow you just can’t bring yourself to e-file, then think about sending your returns via Certified Mail. Those rough drafts of your returns where you ran the numbers and checked your work? Shred them.

The I.R.S. doesn’t use unsolicited emails to request information from taxpayers. If you get an email claiming to be from the I.R.S. asking for your personal or financial information, report it to your email provider as spam.3

Use secure Wi-Fi. Avoid “coffee housing” your personal information away – never risk disclosing financial information over a public Wi-Fi network. (Broadband is susceptible, too.) It takes little sophistication to do this – just a little freeware.

Sure, a public Wi-Fi network at an airport or coffee house is password-protected – but if the password is posted on a wall or readily disclosed, how protected is it? A favorite hacker trick is to sit idly at a coffee house, library, or airport and set up a Wi-Fi hotspot with a name similar to the legitimate one. Inevitably, people will fall for the ruse, log on, and get hacked.

Look for the “https” & the padlock icon when you visit a website. Not just http, https. When you see that added “s” at the start of the website address, you are looking at a website with active SSL encryption, and you want that. A padlock icon in the address bar confirms an active SSL connection. For really solid security when you browse, you could opt for a VPN (virtual private network) service which encrypts 100% of your browsing traffic.4,5

Check your credit report. Remember, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the big three agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Historically, asking these bureaus to freeze your credit file in case of suspicious activity has cost a fee. Beginning in fall 2018, you will be able to request a freeze from all three at no charge, thanks to a change in federal law.6

Don’t talk to strangers. Broadly speaking, that is very good advice in this era of identity theft. If you get a call or email from someone you don’t recognize – it could tell you that you’ve won a prize; it could claim to be someone from the county clerk’s office, a pension fund, or a public utility – be skeptical. Financially, you could be doing yourself a great favor.

Citations.
1 – cbsnews.com/news/identity-theft-hits-record-high/ [2/6/18]
2 – nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2018/04/irs-stopping-fewer-fraudulent-returns-and-s-good-thing/147305/ [4/9/18]
3 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/03/22/irs-warns-on-dirty-dozen-tax-scams/ [3/22/18]
4 – nytimes.com/2018/05/04/technology/personaltech/staying-safer-on-public-networks.html [5/4/18]
5 – cntraveler.com/story/how-to-keep-your-data-safe-while-traveling [6/7/18]
6 – nbcnews.com/business/consumer/credit-freezes-will-soon-be-free-everyone-n883146 [6/14/18]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Why Having a Financial Professional Matters

A good professional provides important guidance and insight through the years.

financial advisor,financial consultant, investment advisor, registered investment advisor, personal financial advisor, financial advisor near me, independent financial advisors, certified financial advisor, best financial advisors, money manager, wealth management, investment management, asset management, managed funds, private wealth management, wealth management firms, wealth management services, investment management firms, retirement planning, retirement investment, retirement investment plan, 401k planning, financial planning, retirement savings, retirement accounts, saving for retirement, pension plan, retirement fund, best retirement investments, retirement advice, 401k plan, retirement investment optionsWhat kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor? The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long lasting.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncounseled investor may make self-defeating decisions.

Some investors never turn to a financial professional. They concede that there might be some value in maintaining such a relationship, but they ultimately decide to go it alone. That may be a mistake.

No investor is infallible. Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. In long bull markets, investors risk becoming overconfident. The big-picture narrative of Wall Street can be forgotten, along with the reality that the market has occasional bad years.

This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden market shock may lead an investor into other irrational behaviors. Perhaps stocks sink rapidly, and an investor realizes (too late) that a portfolio is overweighted in equities. Or, perhaps an investor panics during a correction, selling low only to buy high after the market rebounds.

Often, investors grow impatient and try to time the market. Poor market timing may explain this divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, the S&P 500 returned an average of 8.91% annually across the 20 years ending on December 31, 2015, while the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.67% per year.1

The other risk is that of financial nearsightedness. When an investor flies solo, chasing yield and “making money” too often become the top pursuits. The thinking is short term.

A good financial professional helps a committed investor and retirement saver stay on track. He or she helps the investor set a course for the long term, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount.

As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward. Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life.

This is the value a financial professional brings to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time.

 

Citations.
1 – zacksim.com/heres-investors-underperform-market/ [5/22/17]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Why Do People Put Off Saving for Retirement?

A lack of money is but one answer.

Common wisdom says that you should start saving for retirement as soon as you can. Why do some people wait decades to begin?

financial advisor,financial consultant, investment advisor, registered investment advisor, personal financial advisor, financial advisor near me, independent financial advisors, certified financial advisor, best financial advisors, money manager, wealth management, investment management, asset management, managed funds, private wealth management, wealth management firms, wealth management services, investment management firms, retirement planning, retirement investment, retirement investment plan, 401k planning, financial planning, retirement savings, retirement accounts, saving for retirement, pension plan, retirement fund, best retirement investments, retirement advice, 401k plan, retirement investment optionsNearly everyone can save something. Even small cash savings may be the start of something big if they are invested wisely.

Sometimes, the immediate wins out over the distant. To young adults, retirement can seem so far away. Instead of directing X dollars a month toward some far-off financial objective, why not use it for something here and now, like a payment on a student loan or a car? This is indeed practical, and it may be necessary. Even so, paying yourself first should be as much of a priority as paying today’s bills or paying your creditors.

Some workers fail to enroll in retirement plans because they anticipate leaving. They start a job with an assumption that it may only be short term, so they avoid signing up, even though human resources encourages them. Time passes. Six months turn into six years. Still, they are unenrolled. (Speaking of short-term or transitory work, many people in the gig economy never get such encouragement; they have no access to a workplace retirement plan at all.)

Other young adults feel they have too little to start saving or investing. Maybe when they are further along in their careers, the time will be right – but not now. Currently, they cannot contribute big monthly or quarterly amounts to retirement accounts, so what is the point of starting today?

The point can be expressed in two words: compound interest. Even small retirement account contributions have potential to snowball into much larger sums with time. Suppose a 25-year-old puts just $100 in a retirement plan earning 8% a year. Suppose they keep doing that every month for 35 years. How much money is in the account at age 60? $100 x 12 x 35, or $42,000? No, $217,114, thanks to annual compounded growth. As their salary grows, the monthly contributions can increase, thereby positioning the account to grow even larger. Another important thing to remember is that the longer a sum has been left to compound, the greater the annual compounding becomes. The takeaway here: get an early start.1

Any retirement saver should strive to get an employer match. Some companies will match a percentage of a worker’s retirement plan contribution once it exceeds a certain level. This is literally free money. Who would turn down free money?

Just how many Americans are not yet saving for retirement? Earlier this year, an Edward Jones survey put the figure at 51%. If you are reading this, you are likely in the other 49% and have been for some time. Keep up the good work.2

 

Citations.
1 – bankrate.com/calculators/savings/compound-savings-calculator-tool.aspx [6/21/18]

2 – forbes.com/sites/kateashford/2018/02/28/retirement-3/ [2/28/18]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Why Life Insurance Matters for New Homeowners

It addresses a significant financial risk.

 If you buy a home and you have no life insurance, there is a financial risk. It may not be immediately evident, but it must be acknowledged – and it should be addressed.

financial advisor,financial consultant, investment advisor, registered investment advisor, personal financial advisor, financial advisor near me, independent financial advisors, certified financial advisor, best financial advisors, money manager, wealth management, investment management, asset management, managed funds, private wealth management, wealth management firms, wealth management services, investment management firms, retirement planning, retirement investment, retirement investment plan, 401k planning, financial planning, retirement savings, retirement accounts, saving for retirement, pension plan, retirement fund, best retirement investments, retirement advice, 401k plan, retirement investment optionsWhat if you die, and your spouse or partner is left to pay off the mortgage alone? This possibility may seem remote, and it may be hard for you to contemplate. It deserves consideration regardless.

Imagine your loved one having to handle that 15-year or 30-year debt by themselves. (Or the debt on an adjustable-rate loan or jumbo mortgage.) Additionally, how would that heavy financial burden come to impact your children’s lives? These tragedies do occur and do bring these kinds of emotional and financial challenges. A life insurance payout may provide some help for a homeowner in the event of such a crisis.

When you buy life insurance, the coverage amount should reflect your mortgage debt. You will need enough coverage to help your spouse, partner, or heirs deal with the outstanding home loan balance, should you pass away prematurely.1,2

Term life insurance may meet the need. If you are the typical homeowner, you will stay in your current home for about ten years. (Back in 2006, the average homeowner tenure was just six years.) As you may move up, move to another region with different home values, or even rent in the future, a term policy that lets you renew or modify coverage could suffice.1

On the other hand, permanent life insurance may be more suitable. The reality is that inflation decreases the value of term life coverage over time. Suppose you buy a 20-year term policy offering $250,000 of coverage today. At just 4% annual inflation, that coverage will be worth 56% less in 2038 – and your home may be worth much more in 2038 than it is now.2

Moreover, the cost of term life insurance rises as you age. A term life policy is cheap when you are young, but if you want a new one after your initial term policy sunsets, you may find the premiums dramatically more expensive. In contrast, premiums on a permanent (whole) life policy are locked in, effectively becoming more manageable as time goes by. You may want permanent life for other financial reasons as well, reasons that have nothing to do with your home. A permanent life policy has the potential to accumulate cash value in the future; a term life policy does not.2

A homeowner should carefully consider life insurance coverage options. If you lack coverage today, talk to a qualified insurance professional about your options, so that you can insure yourself for tomorrow.

 

Citations.
1 – themortgagereports.com/26307/homebuyer-tenure-how-long-are-people-staying-in-their-houses [3/17/17]

2 – entrepreneur.com/article/310731 [3/22/18]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Why Regular Rebalancing Makes Sense

Your investment portfolio may be off-kilter, and you may not even know it.

Is 80% of your portfolio held in equities? Perhaps it is without you realizing it. You could invite this risk, and others, if you go too long without rebalancing your portfolio.

financial advisor,financial consultant, investment advisor, registered investment advisor, personal financial advisor, financial advisor near me, independent financial advisors, certified financial advisor, best financial advisors, money manager, wealth management, investment management, asset management, managed funds, private wealth management, wealth management firms, wealth management services, investment management firms, retirement planning, retirement investment, retirement investment plan, 401k planning, financial planning, retirement savings, retirement accounts, saving for retirement, pension plan, retirement fund, best retirement investments, retirement advice, 401k plan, retirement investment optionsSome investors stick with the same asset allocation in their investment portfolios (and retirement accounts) for decades: they “set it and forget it.” The longer the initial (target) asset allocation goes unreviewed, the greater the potential divergence between the target allocation and the actual allocation.

Just how off-kilter can a portfolio become without rebalancing? Some research from the respected financial analytics firm Ibbotson Associates provides an answer. Looking back, a portfolio with a 50/50 split between equities and fixed-income investments in 1926 would have had 96.7% of its assets held in equities and 3.3% in fixed-income vehicles by 2010 without rebalancing. Even a portfolio with only a 10% stake in equities in 1926 would have become 76.3% equities by 2010 with the same inattention.1

While these examples use an 85-year window of time, the lesson is clear. Inattention allows style drift: a shift away from the stated investment policy for the portfolio. (Heavier weighting in equities over time also implies increased volatility for the portfolio.)

What factors should lead you to rebalance? The first factor is the passage of time. You may wish to rebalance your investments every six or twelve months or just as needed in response to changing market climates. The other factor is variance. You may want to rebalance when the percentage of assets held in each asset class varies notably from the target allocation.

What should you rebalance? You can rebalance the percentages of assets held in various asset classe, or your investment choices within an asset class. (You can do both if you wish.)

In a bull market, having a greater percentage of your invested assets in equities than you would ideally intend may work out well. In a flat or down market, it may hurt your return.

Getting away from your defined long-run investment strategy can potentially impact your entire financial and retirement plan. Rebalancing gives you a chance to put your portfolio back on track.

 

Citations.
1 – thebalance.com/rebalancing-your-investment-portfolio-357128 [11/8/17]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Why the U.S. Might Be Less Affected by a Trade War

The nature of our economy could help it withstand the disruption.

trade war 2018, trade sanctions, trading economics, international trade, economic growth, foreign trade, international trade economics, trade policy, economic sanctions, trade embargo, ministry of economy, stock market trading, trading strategies, trade market, investing, swing trading, china trade, regulatory compliance, china trading, world economic news, country economy, international sanctions, china export, international trading, stock market, export complianceA trade war does seem to be getting underway. Investors around the world see headwinds arising from newly enacted and planned tariffs, headwinds that could potentially exert a drag on global growth (and stock markets). How badly could these trade disputes hurt the American economy? Perhaps not as dramatically as some journalists and analysts warn.1,2

Our business sector may be impacted most. Undeniably, tariffs on imported goods raise costs for manufacturers. Costlier imports may reduce business confidence, and less confidence implies less capital investment. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which regularly surveys firms to learn their plans for the next six months, learned in July that businesses anticipate investing less and hiring fewer employees during the second half of the year. The survey’s index for future activity fell in July for the fourth month in a row. (Perhaps the outlook is not quite as negative as the Philadelphia Fed reports: a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey indicates that most companies have relatively stable spending plans for the near term.)1,2  

Fortunately, the U.S. economy is domestically driven. Consumer spending is its anchor: household purchases make up about two-thirds of it. Our economy is fairly “closed” compared to the economies of some of our key trading partners and rivals. Last year, trade accounted for just 27% of our gross domestic product. In contrast, it represented 37% of gross domestic product for China, 64% of growth for Canada, 78% of GDP for Mexico, and 87% of GDP for Germany.3,4

Our stock markets have held up well so far. The trade spat between the U.S. and China cast some gloom over Wall Street during the second-quarter earnings season, yet the S&P 500 neared an all-time peak in early August.5

All this tariff talk has helped the dollar. Between February 7 and August 7, the U.S. Dollar Index rose 5.4%. A stronger greenback does potentially hurt U.S. exports and corporate earnings, and in the past, the impact has been felt notably in the energy, materials, and tech sectors.6,7

As always, the future comes with question marks. No one can predict just how severe the impact from tariffs on our economy and other economies will be or how the narrative will play out. That said, it appears the U.S. may have a bit more economic insulation in the face of a trade war than other nations might have.

 

Citations.
1 – reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/us-weekly-jobless-claims-hit-more-than-48-and-a-half-year-low-idUSKBN1K91R5 [7/19/18]

2 – nytimes.com/2018/07/24/upshot/trade-war-damage-to-us-economy-how-to-tell.html [7/24/18]
3 – money.cnn.com/2018/07/25/news/economy/state-of-the-economy-gdp/index.html [7/25/18]
4 – alliancebernstein.com/library/can-the-us-economy-weather-the-trade-wars.htm [7/17/18]
5 – cnbc.com/2018/08/06/the-sp-500-and-other-indexes-are-again-on-the-verge-of-historic-highs.html [8/6/18]
6 – barchart.com/stocks/quotes/$DXY/performance [8/7/18]
7 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/strongweakdollar.asp [3/16/18]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Can You Get More Income by Reapplying for Social Security?

Most of the loopholes that let retirees do this are gone, but two possibilities remain.

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Once, retirees could hit “reset” on their benefits, years after first receiving them. They could repay the federal government an amount equal to the benefits they had already received, and then reapply for benefits at their current, older age. Basically, they were boosting their monthly incomes after repaying an interest-free loan from Uncle Sam. The Social Security Administration closed this loophole in late 2010. Too many retirees were taking advantage of it, and the SSA’s tolerance had worn thin. Only a limited form of this loophole is still around (see below).1

Until 2016, many married couples could employ two other, savvy strategies. Through the “file and suspend” and “file and restrict” methods, they could try to arrange greater lifetime Social Security income. Under the “file and suspend” method, a higher-earning spouse could apply for benefits, suspend them, and let the lower-earning spouse file for spousal benefits only. This let retiree households receive some spousal benefits, while both spouses waited to receive (what would, eventually, be) larger, individual benefits.2

“File and restrict” (also called “deemed filing”) was a variation on this: a retiree could claim only spousal benefits, while his or her own benefits grew larger with time. The “deemed filing” loophole is rapidly closing. Individuals (who were age 62 on or after January 2, 2016) can no longer get one kind of retirement benefit from Social Security while accumulating credits for delaying another.2,3

Today, individuals can still “file and suspend” their benefits – but now, this choice suspends spousal benefits as well. (This does not apply to Social Security recipients who voluntarily suspended their individual benefits before April 30, 2016.)2,3

There are still two ways to possibly realize larger monthly benefits. An individual who has received Social Security benefits for 12 months or less may be eligible to withdraw his or her application and apply for benefits again at a later date. Social Security lets a person do this only once. Form SSA-521 is the document to use. The reason for withdrawing the application must be clearly stated, and others who get benefits based on the individual’s work history must also give their consent to the decision. The person who withdraws their application must pay back any retirement benefits already received.4

At Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is 66 or 67 in the case of baby boomers, a Social Security recipient can choose to suspend his or her monthly retirement benefit until as late as age 70. (Benefits will automatically restart at that age.) No payback of benefits already received is necessary; the benefits are just suspended until the individual decides to restart them, or turns 70, whichever comes first. The decision, however, has a couple of downsides, however. Any linked, spousal retirement benefits will also be suspended, and the individual will have to pay his or her own Medicare Part B premiums during this time.4

Knowing when to apply for Social Security is crucial. This may be one of the most important financial decisions you make for retirement, and it cannot be made casually. Be sure to consult the financial professional you know and trust before you apply for retirement benefits.

  

Citations.
1 – time.com/money/3592414/social-security-rule-change-benefit-withdrawals/ [12/2/14]
2 – thestreet.com/story/13426147/1/social-security-loopholes-are-closing-here-are-new-strategies-for-maximizing-benefits.html [1/17/16]
3 – ssa.gov/planners/retire/claiming.html [10/12/16]
4 – fool.com/retirement/2016/06/13/how-do-i-withdraw-my-social-security-application.aspx [6/13/16]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

A Look at Fixed Index Annuities

Examining how these insurance products are structured and their potential.

fixed index annuity, nnual index-linked credit, annuity, annuities, equity investments, security investing, long-term investingA fixed index annuity offers you an alternative to a Wall Street investment. It is an insurance product structured with two goals in mind: principal protection and market participation.

Fundamentally, a fixed index annuity is a contract you sign with an insurance company. You buy the annuity (i.e., fund the contract) with a lump sum, which goes into the insurance company’s general fund. The return of the annuity is linked to the performance of a major stock market index (typically the S&P 500).1

The insurer promises you that there will be no downside. It offers you a guarantee that you will not lose any of your principal over the term of the annuity contract.1

There is a tradeoff for this promise: a limit to your upside. The return of the annuity will not match the return of the linked index. The return of the annuity is based on a participation rate – the percentage of the index’s return that the insurer credits to the annuity. If the S&P 500 gains 10% during a particular year, a fixed index annuity with a 70% participation rate returns 7%. Some annuities have hard caps on their returns, limiting your annual index-linked credit to 5% or some other ceiling. (A cap can be instituted at the insurer’s discretion if none exists.)1,2

If you are leery of Wall Street, a fixed index annuity allows you the potential to benefit from stock market gains without getting hurt by stock market losses. On the other hand, there is the risk that its return may be subpar compared to equity investments.

Anyone investing in an FIA should understand the commitment involved. The first step is transferring a lump sum of money into the hands of an insurance company, which will hold onto it for the length of the annuity contract. (Some annuities are lifelong.) Fixed index annuities are sometimes described as illiquid, but the fact is that you can usually withdraw up to 10% of their principal in any year. Should you need to withdraw more than that within the first decade of the annuity contract, however, you might have to pay surrender charges and give up some investment gains.1

Fixed index annuities are not considered securities. That means the Securities & Exchange Commission does not regulate or oversee them. Neither does the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Instead, state insurance departments assume that responsibility.2

Investors who want to dial down risk can consider fixed index annuities among their choices. The potential of long-term or lifelong income from an FIA is intriguing, and riders can be added to these investments by insurance companies to address other insurance needs. The annuity holder must realize, though, that a fixed index annuity is a long-term investment.

 

Citations.
1 – aarp.org/money/investing/info-2017/fixed-index-annuities-jbq.html [10/17]
2 – fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/considering-indexed-annuities [9/15/17]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Tax Advantages of Health Savings Accounts

A Look at HSAs
Health Savings Accounts may provide you with remarkable tax advantages.

 Health Savings Accounts,  tax planning,  tax-free contributions, health insurance options, tax savings, Why do higher-income households inquire about Health Savings Accounts? They have heard about what an HSA can potentially offer them: a pool of tax-exempt dollars for health care, a path to tax savings, even a possible source of retirement income after age 65. You may want to look at this option yourself.

About 26 million Americans now have HSAs. You must enroll in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to have one, a health insurance option that is not ideal for everybody. In 2018, this deductible must be $1,350 or higher for individuals or $2,650 or higher for a family. In exchange for accepting the high deductible, you may pay relatively low premiums for the coverage.1,2

You fund an HSA with tax-free contributions. This year, an individual can direct as much as $3,450 into an HSA, while a family can contribute up to $6,900. (These contribution caps are $1,000 higher if you are 55 or older in 2018.) Some employers will even provide a matching contribution on your behalf.1,2

HSAs offer you three potential opportunities for tax savings. Your account contributions are tax free (that is, tax deductible), the earnings in your account grow tax free, and you can withdraw funds from your HSA, tax free, so long as they are used to pay for qualified health care expenses, such as deductibles, co-payments, and hospitalization costs. (HSA funds may not be used to pay health insurance premiums.)1,3

At age 65, you can even turn to your HSA for retirement income. Currently, federal tax law allows an HSA owner 65 or older to withdraw HSA funds for any purpose, tax free. Yes, any purpose. You can use the money to pad your retirement income; you can use it to pay Medicare premiums or long-term care insurance premiums. No Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are ever required of HSA owners. (Prior to age 65, an HSA withdrawal not used for qualified medical expenses is assessed a 20% I.R.S. penalty.)3

Why is an HSA less attractive for some people? Well, the first thing to mention is the related high-deductible health plan. When you enroll in one of these plans, you agree to pay all (or nearly all) of the cost of medicines, hospital stays, and doctor and dentist visits out of your pocket until that high insurance deductible is reached.1

The other hurdle is just saving the money. If you pay for your own health insurance, just meeting the monthly premiums can be a challenge, especially if your household contends with other significant financial pressures. There may not be enough money left over to fund an HSA. Also, if you are a senior (or a younger adult) with a chronic condition or illnesses, you may end up spending all of your annual HSA contribution and reducing your HSA balance to zero year after year. That works against one of the objectives of the HSA – the goal of accumulation, of growing a tax-advantaged health care fund over time.

If you would like to explore opening an HSA, your first step is to consult an insurance professional to see if you can enroll in a qualified HDHP, unless your employer already sponsors such a plan. Finding an HSA provider is next.

 

Citations.
1 – tinyurl.com/y9lbk7s7 [2/2/17]
2 – trustetc.com/resources/investor-awareness/contribution-limits [1/3/18]
3 – thebalance.com/hsa-vs-ira-you-might-be-surprised-2388481 [8/13/17]

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.