Blog

Do You Really Need Life Insurance?

Too many Americans have no life insurance. Their loved ones may pay dearly for that choice.

  

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

September is National Life Insurance Awareness Month – a good time to think about the value and importance of insuring yourself.

 

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 42% of Americans have no life insurance at all. They may not know that life insurance coverage has become much more affordable than it once was.1

 

Many people ask if life insurance is really worth the cost; maybe you are among them. The simple answer to that question is yes. It can be stunningly cheap: a healthy, non-smoking man in his thirties may pay less than $45 a month for a $1 million 20-year term policy. Permanent life insurance costs more than term life insurance, but permanent life policies can build cash value over time; term policies cannot.2

 

Life insurance is about managing risk, and if other people rely on you financially, you need to have it in place in case your passing puts them at financial risk. When a spouse or parent dies, there are financial matters to address: a sudden lack of income for a household, bills and mortgages or rent to pay, final expenses such as funeral or cremation costs, and the cost of children’s education. Without adequate life insurance coverage, a household is hard-pressed to meet these immediate, financially draining challenges.

 

Many growing families have inadequate life insurance coverage. The Bankrate survey discovered that 37% of parents with children under age 18 had no policy at all. Some younger families find coverage through group plans, but perhaps not enough: 32% of the survey respondents raising minor children said that the death benefits on their life insurance contracts were $100,000 or less.1

 

The problem of inadequate coverage seems to plague households of all ages. A five-figure life insurance payout can pay for a funeral, but it will not offer much economic insulation to a family after a wage earner dies. Bankrate found that 47% of the Americans who have life insurance have policies with coverage amounts of $100,000 or lower. Twenty-one percent of Americans have policies with death benefits of $25,000 or lower.1

 

How much coverage is adequate for you? Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 15 times your income. If you are considering a term life policy, the term should not end before your envisioned retirement age.2

 

Life insurance can also be valuable while you are alive. A policy with cash value components may grow over time. After a while, you may be able to borrow against the cash value. Sometimes the payout amount on these types of policies can be adjusted as well as the size of the premiums. Of course, you must keep paying the premiums to keep any kind of permanent life or term life policy in force.3

 

While you may decide you prefer one kind of policy over another, the important thing is to have coverage in place – not just to reassure yourself, but those you love. Life insurance can help a spouse or a family maintain financial equilibrium at a time when it is most needed.

 

Michael R Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

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 Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed Insurance Agency. (not licensed in all states)

  

Citations.

1 – bankrate.com/finance/insurance/money-pulse-0715.aspx [7/8/15]

2 – forbes.com/sites/timmaurer/2016/01/05/10-things-you-absolutely-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/ [1/5/16]

3 – nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/should-you-consider-cash-value-life-insurance/ [5/6/15]

 

Retirees, Check Your Withholding

 

It may need to be adjusted due to the 2017 federal tax reforms.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

The Internal Revenue Service has a message for you. You may need to adjust the amount withheld from your paycheck or the size of your estimated tax payments because the agency is using new withholding tables this year. Should you underpay your taxes for 2018, you could be hit with a tax penalty in 2019.1

 

If you are retired or about to retire, you should take note of this announcement. While it may seem aimed at salaried employees and small business owners, the changes to the withholding tables also impact you.

 

Many retirees work in the gig economy. They walk dogs, drive for ridesharing companies, serve as home health aides, and act as management, marketing, legal, and health care consultants. The common thread here is self-employment. Self-employment means making estimated tax payments. This is a new experience for some baby boomers.2

 

If you have started freelancing or started a part-time business, you must join their ranks. You must file like a business owner even if you have an informal business venture that has lost money; if there is a profit motive, the I.R.S. considers that self-employment.2,3

  

Double-check your withholding even if you do not work part time. Paying estimated taxes is normal after you retire, whether you work or not; an employer no longer files a Form W-4 for you. Your retirement income probably comes from multiple sources and includes Social Security benefits, mandatory annual retirement account withdrawals, and maybe pension income from a past employer or a pension-like income arranged through a private contract.4

  

Part of your Social Security income can be subject to federal income taxes if your “combined income” exceeds a certain level. “Combined income” = adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of your Social Security benefits. If you are single and your combined income falls between $25,000-$34,000, you may see up to 50% of your benefits taxed; the limit is 85% when your combined income tops $34,000. If you and your spouse file jointly and have a combined income between $32,000-$44,000, as much as 50% of your benefits may be taxable; above $44,000, the ceiling is 85%. Some states also tax Social Security benefits.4,5

 

Given all this, Form W-4V may be handy. You can file it to withhold a flat percentage from each Social Security payment: 7%, 10%, 12%, or even 22%.4,5

 

Do you receive a pension or pension-style income? Then you may want to file Form W-4P, which withholds taxes from those payments (you can indicate the number of allowances you wish to claim; the more you claim, the less money you withhold).4

 

Regarding the Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) you must take annually from traditional IRAs and other qualified retirement accounts after age 70½, you have an interesting option if you are wealthy enough not to need 100% of the money. You can tell the custodian of your IRA (or other retirement account) that you want taxes withheld from the RMD, effectively taking care of the quarterly estimated tax payments you would otherwise make on the RMD amount.4

  

To help with all this, the I.R.S. offers an online withholding calculator. This is a feature of its Paycheck Checkup campaign. You can find it at irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator.1

     

Be sure to consult a tax professional about your withholding. Fine print may need to be studied. For example, not all income is subject to withholding; some forms of self-employment income, income derived from rental activities, and income from jobs in the sharing economy may be exempt. Have this conversation before 2019 arrives.1

 

Michael R Snow* may be reached at316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

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 or accounting 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 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 Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

    

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/newsroom/avoid-penalty-for-underpayment-of-taxes-irs-says-check-withholding-make-estimated-payments [9/6/18]

2 – irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/self-employed-individuals-tax-center [12/14/17]

3 – irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/business-activities [4/23/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/09/12/the-irs-is-warning-retirees-of-this-impending-surprise-tax.html [9/12/18]

5 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C000-S004-retiree-tax-tip-tally-taxes-on-social-security.html [9/5/18]

 

The IRA and the 401(k)

 

Comparing their features, merits, and demerits.

 

Provide by Michael Snow

 

How do you save for retirement? Two options probably come to mind right away: the IRA and the 401(k). Both offer you relatively easy ways to build a retirement fund. Here is a look at the features, merits, and demerits of each account, starting with what they have in common.

 

Taxes are deferred on money held within IRAs and 401(k)s. That opens the door for tax-free compounding of those invested dollars – a major plus for any retirement saver.1

 

IRAs and 401(k)s also offer you another big tax break. It varies depending on whether the account is traditional or Roth in nature. When you have a traditional IRA or 401(k), your account contributions are tax deductible, but when you eventually withdraw the money for retirement, it will be taxed as regular income. When you have a Roth IRA or 401(k), your account contributions are not tax deductible, but if you follow Internal Revenue Service rules, your withdrawals from the account in retirement are tax free.1

 

Generally, the I.R.S. penalizes withdrawals from these accounts before age 59½. Distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s prior to that age usually trigger a 10% federal tax penalty, on top of income tax on the withdrawn amount. Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s allow you to withdraw a sum equivalent to your account contributions at any time without taxes or penalties, but early distributions of the account earnings are taxable and may also be hit with the 10% early withdrawal penalty.1 

 

You must make annual withdrawals from 401(k)s and traditional IRAs after age 70½. Annual withdrawals from a Roth IRA are not required during the owner’s lifetime, only after his or her death. Even Roth 401(k)s require annual withdrawals after age 70½.2

 

Now, on to the major differences.

   

Annual contribution limits for IRAs and 401(k)s differ greatly. You may direct up to $18,500 into a 401(k) in 2018; $24,500, if you are 50 or older. In contrast, the maximum 2018 IRA contribution is $5,500; $6,500, if you are 50 or older.1

 

Your employer may provide you with matching 401(k) contributions. This is free money coming your way. The match is usually partial, but certainly nothing to disregard – it might be a portion of the dollars you contribute up to 6% of your annual salary, for example. Do these employer contributions count toward your personal yearly 401(k) contribution limit? No, they do not. Contribute enough to get the match if your company offers you one.1

 

An IRA permits a wide variety of investments, in contrast to a 401(k). The typical 401(k) offers only about 20 investment options, and you have no control over what investments are chosen. With an IRA, you have a vast range of potential investment choices.1,3

 

You can contribute to a 401(k) no matter how much you earn. Your income may limit your eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA; at certain income levels, you may be prohibited from contributing the full amount, or any amount.1

 

If you leave your job, you cannot take your 401(k) with you. It stays in the hands of the retirement plan administrator that your employer has selected. The money remains invested, but you may have less control over it than you once did. You do have choices: you can withdraw the money from the old 401(k), which will likely result in a tax penalty; you can leave it where it is; you can possibly transfer it to a 401(k) at your new job; or, you can roll it over into an IRA.4,5

 

You cannot control 401(k) fees. Some 401(k)s have high annual account and administrative fees that effectively eat into their annual investment returns. The plan administrator sets such costs. The annual fees on your IRA may not nearly be so expensive.1

 

All this said, contributing to an IRA or a 401(k) is an excellent idea. In fact, many pre-retirees contribute to both 401(k)s and IRAs at once. Today, investing in these accounts seems all but necessary to pursue retirement savings and income goals.

 

Michael Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

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 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 Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

    

Citations.

1 – nerdwallet.com/article/ira-vs-401k-retirement-accounts [4/30/18]

2 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-required-minimum-distributions [5/30/18]

3 – tinyurl.com/y77cjtfz [10/31/17]

4 – finance.zacks.com/tax-penalty-moving-401k-ira-3585.html [9/6/18]

5 – cnbc.com/2018/04/26/what-to-do-with-your-401k-when-you-change-jobs.html [4/26/18]

 

What People Overlook When Shopping for Life Insurance

 

A few realities that must be acknowledged.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

  

Shopping for life insurance means paying attention to detail. In scrutinizing these details, however, some fundamental, big-picture truths may be ignored.

 

If you want to renew or upgrade coverage later in life, the terms could be less than ideal. You may be healthier than most of your peers, you may have the constitution of someone half your age, but insurers base policy premiums and terms of coverage on actuarial norms, not exceptions. Purchase a term life policy at age 50, and your premiums may be considerably more expensive than if you had bought the same coverage at age 30. This is the way of the insurance business.1

 

Have you had a serious illness? Have you been diagnosed with a medical condition, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, or high blood pressure? You are looking at higher life insurance premiums, and insurers may limit the amount of life insurance coverage you can buy.2

 

A guaranteed acceptance life insurance policy may be the answer, but even with one of these policies, you may have to live a certain number of years after buying the coverage for your heirs to receive a death benefit. Many times, if the insured dies within 2-3 years of the policy purchase, the named beneficiaries only receive an amount equivalent to the premiums that have been paid, plus interest.2

 

Your beneficiaries need to know that you own life insurance. Roughly $1 billion in life insurance payouts sit unclaimed in America. Why? The beneficiaries are unaware of them. Also, sometimes beneficiary designations are hazy; a “husband” is named as a primary beneficiary on a policy, but the insured has married more than once, so an ex-spouse contests the beneficiary form. Such legal challenges may generate court costs offsetting the financial value of the death benefit.3

    

While it seems obvious to inform heirs about a life insurance policy, some people never do – and this simple oversight continues to obstruct life insurance payouts.

 

You need to name a beneficiary in the first place. Some consumers fail to, however, and that can create problems. If you do not designate a beneficiary for your life insurance policy, its death benefit could be included in your estate, exposed to probate and creditors.4

 

You must also recognize that you could live much longer than you expect. Years ago, most life insurance policies were sold with the assumption that the insured party would die by age 100. If the policyholder lived beyond that maturity date, the insurer would simply pay out the cash value of the policy (or something similar) to the insured person at that time.5

 

Today, maturity dates on life insurance policies are often set at age 121, but not all are. There is still a possibility that you could outlive a maturity date and money could be paid out to you instead of your named beneficiaries. This possibility must be acknowledged.5

 

As you shop for life insurance coverage, keep all this in mind. Some policyholders (and their heirs) tend to lose sight of these realities.

 

Michael R Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

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 or accounting services. If legal or accounting 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 Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp. (not registered in all states), a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed insurance agency (not licensed in all states).

 

Citations.

1 – investopedia.com/articles/investing/102914/7-factors-affect-your-life-insurance-quote.asp [6/28/18]

2 – nasdaq.com/article/4-errors-to-avoid-with-your-life-insurance-cm868133 [10/30/17]

3 – baltimoresun.com/health/blog/bs-md-insurance-deceased-database-20170111-story.html [1/11/17]

4 – thebalance.com/must-life-insurance-be-used-to-pay-a-decedent-s-bills-3505232 [5/12/18]

5 – lifeinsurance.org/blog/does-life-insurance-expire-at-a-certain-age [6/28/18]

5 Retirement Concerns Too Often Overlooked

 

Baby boomers entering their “second acts” should think about these matters.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

Retirement is undeniably a major life and financial transition. Even so, baby boomers can run the risk of growing nonchalant about some of the financial challenges that retirement poses, for not all are immediately obvious. In looking forward to their “second acts,” boomers may overlook a few matters that a thorough retirement strategy needs to address.

 

RMDs. The Internal Revenue Service directs seniors to withdraw money from qualified retirement accounts after age 70½. This class of accounts includes traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans. These drawdowns are officially termed Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).1

 

Taxes. Speaking of RMDs, the income from an RMD is fully taxable and cannot be rolled over into a Roth IRA. The income is certainly a plus, but it may also send a retiree into a higher income tax bracket for the year.1

 

Retirement does not necessarily imply reduced taxes. While people may earn less in retirement than they once did, many forms of income are taxable: RMDs; investment income and dividends; most pensions; even a portion of Social Security income depending on a taxpayer’s total income and filing status. Of course, once a mortgage is paid off, a retiree loses the chance to take the significant mortgage interest deduction.2

 

Health care costs. Those who retire in reasonably good health may not be inclined to think about health care crises, but they could occur sooner rather than later – and they could be costly. As Forbes notes, five esteemed economists recently published a white paper called The Lifetime Medical Spending of Retirees; their analysis found that between age 70 and death, the average American senior pays $122,000 for medical care, much of it from personal savings. Five percent of this demographic contends with out-of-pocket medical bills exceeding $300,000. Medicines? The “donut hole” in Medicare still exists, and annually, there are retirees who pay thousands of dollars of their own money for needed drugs.3,4

 

Eldercare needs. Those who live longer or face health complications will probably need some long-term care. According to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American who turned 65 in 2015 could end up paying $138,000 in total long-term care costs. Long-term care insurance is expensive, though, and can be difficult to obtain.5

 

One other end-of-life expense many retirees overlook: funeral and burial costs. Pre-planning to address this expense may help surviving spouses and children.

 

Rising consumer prices. Since 1968, consumer inflation has averaged around 4% a year. Does that sound bearable? At a glance, maybe it does. Over time, however, 4% inflation can really do some damage to purchasing power. In 20 years, continued 4% inflation would make today’s dollar worth $0.46. Retirees would be wise to invest in a way that gives them the potential to keep up with increasing consumer costs.4

 

As part of your preparation for retirement, give these matters some thought. Enjoy the here and now, but recognize the potential for these factors to impact your financial future.

   

Michael R Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

 

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 or accounting services. If assistance is needed for legal or accounting services, 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.

    

Citations.

1 – thebalance.com/required-minimum-distributions-2388780 [6/3/18]

2 – kiplinger.com/slideshow/taxes/T064-S003-how-10-types-of-retirement-income-get-taxed/index.html [3/27/18]

3 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/06/28/the-truth-about-health-care-costs-in-retirement/ [6/28/18]

4 – mdmag.com/physicians-money-digest/practice-management/four-big-retirement-threats-and-how-to-protect-yourself [8/2/18]

5 – money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-and-budgeting/articles/2018-04-13/6-ways-to-pay-for-long-term-care-if-you-cant-afford-insurance [4/13/18]

 

Are Changes Ahead for Retirement Accounts?

 

A bill now in Congress proposes to alter some longstanding rules.

 

Provided by Michael R. Snow

 

Most Americans are not saving enough for retirement, despite ongoing encouragement to do so (and recurring warnings about what may happen if they do not). This year, lawmakers are also addressing this problem, with a bill proposing big changes to IRAs and workplace retirement plans.

 

The Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA), introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, would amend the Internal Revenue Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in some significant ways.1

 

Contributions to traditional IRA accounts would be allowed after age 70½. Today, only Roth IRAs permit inflows after the owner reaches this age.2

 

An expanded tax break could lead to more multiple-employer retirement plans. If small employers partner with similar companies or organizations to offer a joint retirement savings program, the RESA would boost the tax credit available to them to offset the cost of starting up a plan. The per-employer tax break would rise from $500 to $5,000. A multiple-employer plan could be attractive to small companies, for it might mean lower plan costs and administrative fees.2

 

Portions of federal tax refunds could even be directed into workplace plans. The RESA would allow employees to preemptively assign some of their refund for this purpose.2

 

Retirement income projections could become a requirement for plans. Not all monthly and quarterly statements for retirement accounts contain them; the RESA would make them mandatory. It would oblige financial firms providing investments to employer-sponsored plans to detail the amount of cash that the current account balance would generate per month in retirement, as if it were fixed pension income. Plans might also be permitted to offer insurance products to retirement savers.2,3

 

A new type of workplace retirement account could emerge if the RESA passes. So far, this account has been described vaguely; the phrase “open-ended” has been used. The key feature? Employees could take loans from it without penalty.2,3

 

Whether the RESA becomes law or not, the good news is that more of us are saving. In the 2016 GoBankingRates Retirement Survey, 33.0% of respondents said that they had saved nothing for retirement; in this year’s edition of the survey, that dropped to 13.7%, possibly reflecting the influence of auto-enrollment programs for workplace plans, the emergence of the (now absent) myRA, and improved economic ability to build a retirement fund. (In the 2018 edition of the survey, the top reason people were refraining from saving for retirement was “I don’t make enough money.”)4

 

Could the RESA pass before Congress takes its summer recess? Good question. Senate and House lawmakers have many other bills to consider and a short window of time to try and further them along. The bill’s proposals may evolve in the coming weeks.

 

Michael R Snow* may be reached 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

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 or accounting services. If assistance is needed for legal or accounting services, 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 Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

Citations.

1 – congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2526 [7/3/18]

2 – fool.com/retirement/2018/07/22/heres-what-the-proposed-retirement-savings-changes.aspx [7/22/18]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/proposed-changes-to-your-401k-retirement-plan-could-be-promising-or-not-2018-07-18 [7/18/18]

4 – gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/why-americans-will-retire-broke/ [3/6/18]