Managing Retirement Income Decisions During Retirement

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Managing retirement income has never been easy.  Those who retired in the early 1970s saw interest rates rise dramatically, then fall the same way – all within about a 15-year period.   When interest rates were going up, it made them feel good; but, few paid attention to inflation or tax implications.   During one period, interest rates were in the double-digits, but so was inflation, which meant their “increased” income wasn’t really increasing at all.    Money is worth only what it buys at the checkout counter.

So, the retiree who felt great about a 15% interest rate during 15% inflation (yes, it really happened and could happen again, blindsiding people who didn’t live through it before), weren’t really getting a raise at all – and that was before taxes!

The real problem, of course, came when interest rates began to fall.  During the period that interest rates (and inflation) dropped to 12% from 15%, retirees were seeing their incomes drop by 20% (a 3% drop in rates from 15%) while still seeing prices rise by 12%.

How do you manage income in retirement?  It ain’t easy.

Naturally, you could consider a basic withdrawal sequence using a straightforward strategy to take money in the following order:

  1. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs, 401(k), or other qualified retirement accounts.
  2. Taxable accounts, such as brokerage and bank accounts.
  3. Tax-deferred traditional IRAs, 401(k), and other similar accounts
  4. Tax-free money – from Roth IRAs for example

This sequence can provide an order of withdrawals; but, other than the RMDs, it doesn’t tell you how much!

But wait! (as they say on tv).

How much?  And, how can you be sure you won’t run out of money?

RMD can provide a clue!

The RMD calculations can provide sound guidance for your entire portfolio!  Using the IRS formulas, Craig Iraelson, executive-in-residence in the financial planning program at Utah Valley University, did some back-testing with hypothetical portfolios invested in different investment allocations with RMD withdrawals starting in 1970 (the beginning of a relatively flat ten-year stock market).   Using beginning values, and even with a portfolio invested in 100% cash, there was still $850,000 left after 25 years!   And, a portfolio that was 25% stocks had $2 million left.

RMDs appear to address longevity risk pretty well; but, there’s another question.   Is the income level provided by the RMDs enough to preserve the pre-retirement lifestyle – or anything close?

There’s the rub.  In the back-tested portfolios, the initial RMD was 3.65% of assets… and that falls within the widely-accepted 4% rule…  but, that’s only $36,500 of pre-tax income.  Even if the retiree family has an additional $30,000 from Social Security, that’s still just $66,500 before taxes; and, for many successful individuals, that isn’t enough.

So, there’s the trade-off:  Sacrifice income for longevity, or accept longevity risk in order to take increased income.

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Maybe there’s another way.    How can a couple have more freedom to take greater income early while still addressing the risk of running out of “late-life income”?

My “Late Life Income” report shows how many couples have addressed this issue.   You can access it here!

By the way, when you get my report, you’ll also receive a subscription to my ezine.    If you decide you don’t want the ezine when you receive it, you’ll be able to unsubscribe immediately with a single click and, of course, your email is never shared with anyone.

Enjoy the report!  Hope you find it helpful.

 

Enjoy!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

A Guaranteed Income for Life?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

In a previous post I talked about how everyone now has to be his/her own actuary, if they want to create a guaranteed income for life.

I’ve even provided a 20-minute educational video on how it’s possible to actually create a guaranteed income for life.  I think you’ll find it helpful; grab a cup of coffee and you can register to take a look.

While I’m at it, here’s a link to a report that takes a deeper look at a a ‘hybrid’ scenario many investors might find attractive.  I think you’ll find the report interesting, if not eye-opening.  You can access it here.

How does one GUARANTEE an income for life?  Well, there’s only ONE way to guarantee that outcome:  An annuity.  NO OTHER FINANCIAL TOOL WILL DO THIS.

Oh, yes, they do get bad press (what doesn’t?).  The real problem, though is the confusion around the different types of annuities that exists.

  1. Variable annuities
  2. Equity-indexed annuities
  3. Fixed annuities – can be either immediate or deferred

Options #1 and 2 can be problematic.  They are often loaded with excess costs, moving parts, and restrictions.

Option #3 is generally more straightforward.  It’s more of an I.O.U. with the insurance company.  You pay them; they pay you.

Here are some sample payout examples.  Take the first one:  the payout represents a 6.54% payout; and as you can see, the payouts do increase with age.

There’s a trade-off, however, the money is not just illiquid – it’s gone!  You are essentially buying an income stream for life!   You’re paying cash for a secure retirement.

So, should you do that with all your money?  Probably not.  It should not be an ‘all or nothing’ strategy.  That’s why I think you’ll find this report on a hybrid strategy helpful.

If you would like help, of course, we can always visit by phone.  Just pick a time convenient for you.

Enjoy!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

The Provisional Income Trap

 

… and what it means to your retirement income – particularly your Social Security taxation in retirement.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Most people believe that municipal bond interest is tax-free and won’t affect taxation on their retirement income.   Well, it is, I guess; but, there are tax ramifications few people have heard about.   It’s called “provisional income”.

Huh?

There are categories of income which, when added up, determine how much provisional income you’ve received in a given year.  And, during retirement, when you’re likely receiving Social Security income,  the amount of provisional income you receive determines just how much you’ll pay in taxes on your Social Security Income.

As you can see, when adding up your provisional income, it begins with 50% of your Social Security income.  Then they add in all distributions from tax-deferred accounts.  If you’re in retirement, that includes money you’re taking from your 401(k) or IRAs (except distributions from a Roth IRA, which are generally tax-free, and any money you’ve taken from a properly-structured permanent life insurance policy (withdrawals up to your cost-basis and policy loans).  And, as you can see, municipal bond interest is counted.

Once you’ve added up all your provisional income, how much do you owe in taxes?  Well, it depends.  Here are the provisional income thresholds.

If you’re a married couple and your provisional income is below $32,000 for the tax year, you will pay no txes on your Social Security income.  If your income is over $44,000, however, then 85% of your Social Security income will be taxable.  The whole idea was part of a package passed back in the 1980s to save Social Security.  One thing they didn’t do:  index it for inflation.

So, as your 401(k) grows and your assets grow—more importantly, as inflation continues through the years and it will require greater withdrawals for you to live in retirement—the greater the likelihood you’ll be paying taxes on your Social Security.  It doesn’t take much to get past $44,000 in retirement.

Let’s take a quick  look at an example:  Fred and Wilma.  They have $30,000 in combined Social Security income and also take $40,000 annually from their IRAs, giving them a $70,000 income in retirement.

For computing their provisional income, only half of their Social Security income is used.  Added to their IRA distributions, they have $55,000 in provisional income, meaning that 85% of their Social Security income ($25,500) is taxable at their tax rate.  If they’re paying taxes at 30%, their tax bill will be $7,650.

But if they need the entire $70,000 they’ve taken as income, they’ll have to take an additional distribution just to pay the tax bill, and, oh yes, it’s taxable, too.

But, Fred and Wilma have another problem they’re likely completely unaware of.  There’s a ticking time-bomb growing inside their 401(k).  It’s growing.

How can that be bad?  Well, it isn’t, of course, but it might come at a huge price.  If history has taught us anything, it’s that governments exist to get re-elected and they help insure than through spending which never seems to get undone.  Our nation’s huge debt  is growing and the money to pay the bills will have to come from somewhere—and it won’t come from people with no money.   With an ageing demographic bubble moving into the decumulation stage  and wanting more services, particularly health care, the long-term outlook for taxes can’t be too encouraging.    Let’s get back to Fred and Wilma:

If Fred’s 401(k) continues to grow at an 8% average annual rate until he’s 65, he’ll have a balance of over $2 million!  And, at age 71, when he’ll be required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs), his balance will be over $3 million—requiring RMDs of over $115,000 annually.

Fred and Wilma will be paying a lot of taxes.

And, as mentioned earlier, the long-term outlook for taxes isn’t likely very good.  Just take a look at the differences from 2012 to 2017.

How can Fred and Wilma mitigate, and maybe eliminate, their income tax payments in retirement?

Under current tax law, each has a personal exemption of $4,050, so they have $8,100 in combined personal exemptions.  They also have their deductions.  If they’re using the standard deduction, they’ll have $12,700 too, giving them a total of $20,800 in exemptions and deductions.   So, their key is to keep their  taxable income below $20,800.   All income above the standard deduction and personal exemption is subject to tax.

The good news is that  Fred and Wilma are still in their 50s and there’s plenty of time to plan.  Working with their Certified Financial Planner®professional, they can begin “reverse –engineering” the placement of assets in a way they can still grow their nest-egg, but re-arrange their ‘tax buckets’ so Uncle Sam becomes less of a partner—or no partner at all, which would be the ideal making their tax-jockeying a moot issue.  You can get our piece on 4 Steps to a Tax-Free Retirement.  I think you’ll like it.

Enjoy!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Is the 4% Rule Still Valid?

 

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Ever hear about the 4% Rule?  It’s about safe withdrawal rates for retirement income.  If you’ve been following my pontifications over the years, you probably recognize this; but, if the rule is unfamiliar to you, here’s a brief description.

The 4% rule was the result of some back-testing and research by a financial advisor named William Bengen.  The objective was to identify a ‘safe’ withdrawal rate for retirement income that would answer the question, “How much can I safely withdraw from my portfolio without having to worry about running out of money?”

His results were published in 1994 and identified 4% as the withdrawal rate that would provide an 80% success probability over a 30-year period, regardless of market conditions.

Of course, it’s a probability based on back-testing.  The problem investors face is that inflation, which has been historically low for some time now, could rear it’s ugly head and impact withdrawals significantly.  So, we’re still dealing in probabilities.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example:

The ending annual expenses using a 7% inflation rate is 53.8% higher than if inflation remains at 2% for the entire decade.  Is 7% an unreasonable figure?  If you’re old enough be be concerned about outliving your money – or your income – you know it’s very reasonable.  Remember the double-digit inflation of the late 1970s?

What does that do to our probabilities discussion?  GIGO.

Planning is as much about what we don’t know as what we know.  It’s about testing and stress-testing our assumptions.

For many, the real question is not whether money will last – it doesn’t do much good to have some money if that money won’t produce the income you need to maintain your desired lifestyle – it’s whether you will have the inflation-adjusted income you will need.

Key question:  Are you comfortable dealing with probabilities or guarantees?  The strategy that’s right for you will be different depending on your answer.

We know that many retirement expenses are guaranteed; but, how of the income required to meet those expenses is also guaranteed?  If having a guaranteed income floor is important to you, we have an educational video you might enjoy viewing.

If you woretirement income planninguld like to see it, grab a cup of coffee – it’s about 20-minutes long – and you’ll learn about a process for arranging assets that may be eye-opening,  you can do so by clicking here.

Your Roadmap?

This educational video depicts an eye-opening strategy.  The specific financial tools used to implement this strategy will be different for each individual, depending on specific needs and desires; but, it is a strategy that could put retirement on ‘auto-pilot’.  Keep in mind, this is but one strategy for addressing retirement income needs.  There are others.  The one that’s right for you would depend on your plan

The plan comes first.  We don’t do “ready-fire-aim”.

If you would like help, of course, we can always visit by phone.

Enjoy!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Retirement and Income Taxes

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Who better to talk about taxes in retirement and income taxes than a CPA?  You may be familiar with Ed Slott from his frequent appearances on PBS.  One of the very few gurus who actually is the real deal:  A CPA who is recognized even inside the financial profession as an expert – he even teaches CFP Board-approved continuing education classes.

Mr. Slott does have a unique ability to present financial topics in an easy-to-understand, entertaining way.  One of the hot topics right now is protecting retirement income from taxation.  The topic is hot primarily because of two issues:  Longevity risk (outliving our money) and taxation risk (the government debt is huge and the outlook over the next two decades, when we’ll need money the most, is that taxes are bound to rise).

I think you’ll find this video interesting.

If you’d like a report on how you might be able to create a tax-free retirement, you can get it here.

If you would like help, of course, we can always visit by phone.

Enjoy the video and report!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Inflation, Stocks, and Computing Investment Returns

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

People are often either surprised to hear that stocks are probably the best inflation hedge they’ll ever find – or they really don’t understand why.

Those who intuitively believe it believe it’s simply because stock prices tend to rise over time; but, so do prices for other things, generally, including real estate.  After all, as a long-term hedge, most real estate is a good inflation hedge, as well.  It’s only real drawback, most believe, is the lack of liquidity it entails.

When my parents retired, the common practice was to simply “ladder” bond or CD maturities as many counted on rising interest rates to offset inflation.   While inflation had averaged only 2% in te 1950s and 2.3% in the 1960s, all of a sudden climbed to 6.2% in 1973 and by 1974 had reaced 11%.  Bonds, of course, paid higher rates to the holders, but after taxes, the income didn’t keep up with inflation.

From 1973 to 1982, inflation averaged 8.7%!  A little math reveals that the purchasing power of bond income had declined 57% in just one decade; and, as many found out, they were living longer, too!

Enter the 1980s and a newfound interest in stocks, which continued into the 1990s and even into the 2000s.  But why?

The reason lies in a simple, basic premise:   stocks represent shares of ownership in businesses – businesses that sell goods and services in the marketplace.  When you eat breakfast, everything you eat or drink was grown, packaged, distributed, and sold by a business.  Everything we consume was sold by a business.  The largest providers, distributors, and sellers are publicly held – the ownership shares are owned by people like you and me – and often in their 401(k) plans through their ownership of mutual fund shares, which are shares of ownership in investment companies which, in turn, buy shares in publicly held companies.

So, if prices go up, stocks go up.  Is it that simple?   Actually, there’s more to it.

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Take an (admittedly oversimplified) example of a company that generates $1 million in sales and $800,000 in expenses.  Let’s assume the remaining $200,000 is paid out in dividends.

If inflation causes prices to double, sales rise to $2 million and expenses rise to $1.6 million, now creating $400,000 in dividends.  Dividends have doubled, despite the fact that all margins have remained the same.  That’s how stocks become an inflation hedge, with liquidity.

This is exactly what happened throughout the 1980s.  The decade began with the S&P paying out around $7 in dividends, when the index paid out a 5.3% yield as it stood at $133.  By 1990 it was paying out around $12.50 when the index was up to $340, for a 3.7% yield.   As the yield went down, stock prices went up; yet, the investor saw cash flows rise from $7 to $12.50!   This actually did better than inflation, which averaged 4.7% – up 58%.

Of course, dividends are not guaranteed and stocks have both business and market risk – a good reason why people relied on “blue-chip” stocks and a sound asset allocation process.

It’s also important to understand investment returns, including their measures (there’s more than one) and why most individual investors typically don’t do as well as institutional investors.  If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you might want to see our report, which you can access here.

Enjoy!

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.