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]

 

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]

 

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

 

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

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

A 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.

 

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 assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as 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 – 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]

 

Retirement Income and The Sequence of Returns

 

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

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

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.

 

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. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as 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 – 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]