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.

The Top 5 Myths of Retirement Planning

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

I came across this video on the Five Myths of Retirement – It’s by Northwestern Mutual.  I have no relationship with them; however, it’s an excellent educational video and I thought you might find it interesting.

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 another 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.

ROLLOVER DECISIONS – THE BEST AND THE WORST

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

 

Bad decisions = bad consequences = big costs!

As you may have seen or heard me say many times, it’s not wise to act first and plan later; yet, that’s exactly what I’ve seen people do time and again over the last twenty-five years.  As you can imagine, I’ve seen a few mistakes.   That applies to rollover decisions, as well as other decisions regarding 401(k) and other retirement account assets.

You might enjoy seeing a short video on one big mistake many people make – and you can also get access to some additional resources and a rollover checklist I think you’ll find useful.  You can find it all here.

There’s a right way and wrong way to do a rollover, if you should do one at all.   Let’s quickly capsulize – there’s more to know, so you should consult with appropriate tax and legal advisors before acting.   Here are the six best and worst rollover decisions people make:

The Best

  1. Leave money in the qualified plan if retiring between ages 55 and 59½ and distributions are required.Since there is no penalty on withdrawals from a qualified plan after attainment of age 55 and separation from service (age 50 for qualified public safety employees), distributions are more liberal than if funds are rolled to an IRA. Once funds are rolled to an IRA, there is generally a penalty for withdrawals prior to age 59½. Therefore, it’s best for people who need money from their retirement account in this age bracket to leave the money as is, in their company retirement plan.Often, people who have already completed their rollover are younger than age 59½ and need a distribution.  In these cases, they can use rule 72(t) to avoid penalties.  When they do this, it’s best to split the IRA into pieces for maximum benefit.Each IRA stands on its own, which means that taking 72(t) distributions from one account has no effect on the others.  Therefore, if one IRA produces more income than is needed when placed on 72(t) distributions, you could split the IRA into more than one account, and use one of the smaller accounts to make your withdrawals.  I am not a CPA or an attorney; so, check with the appropriate advisors.And in the future, if you need more income, you could begin equal distributions from another account as well. This could provide greater flexibility in meeting your immediate and future income requirements if under age 59½.
  2. Make optimal use of creditor protectionSome IRA owners and financial advisors think that the recent changes to the federal bankruptcy rules automatically protect IRAs.  That is not true.  For creditor protection purposes, an individual would be wise to leave his funds in his qualified plan because ERISA gives complete creditor protection to qualified plans (note that one person qualified plans do not receive the protection—there needs to be at least one “real” employee in the plan).   If the individual does roll over his qualified plan into an IRA, it is optimal to leave these funds in a separate rollover IRA, because the protection that the funds had under ERISA will follow the funds into the rollover IRA.
  3. Re-Check Your BeneficiariesA company retirement plan (a qualified plan) is governed by the ERISA rules.  And those rules state that you must name your spouse as a beneficiary or get spousal consent to name another person.  The same rules do not apply to IRAs.Remember this all important rule—whoever you name as beneficiaries on your IRA account will inherit your IRA. Your will or living trust has no control over your IRA, so make sure your IRA beneficiaries are exactly as you desire.

The Worst

  1. Get a check from the companyOf course, this is just foolish. The company must withhold 20% from the payment, so that a person with a $100,000 account will have $20,000 withheld, and will receive a check for $80,000. In order to complete a tax-free rollover, the taxpayer must deposit that $80,000 in an IRA plus $20,000 from their pocket to complete a tax-free $100,000 rollover.The taxpayer may eventually get the $20,000 withheld as a tax refund the following year, but that will not help their cash flow, as they need to complete their IRA rollover within 60 days of receiving the check from their qualified plan.The bottom line is that people should never touch their qualified funds. The only sensible way to move funds is a direct transfer from the qualified plan to the IRA custodian and avoid withholding.
  2. Rollover company stockShares of employer stock get special tax treatment, and in many cases, it may be fine to ignore this special status and roll the shares to an IRA. This would be true when the amount of employer stock is small, or the basis of the shares is high relative to the current market value.However, if you have large amounts of shares or low basis, it might be a very costly mistake not to use the Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) Rules.[1]  If your company retirement account includes highly appreciated company stock, one option is to withdraw the stock, pay tax on it now, and roll the balance of the plan assets to an IRA.  This way you will pay no current tax on the Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA), or on the amount rolled over to the IRA.  The only tax you pay now would be on the cost of the stock (the basis) when acquired by the plan.By the way, if you withdraw the stock and are under 55 years old, you have to pay a 10% penalty (the penalty is applied only to the amount that is taxable).For more information on NUA, get our complete report on the Six Best and Worst IRA Rollover Decisions.  You can do that here.
    Click here for your report!
    [1] IRS Publication 575
  3. Rollover after-tax dollarsSometimes, qualified plan accounts contain after-tax dollars.  At the time of rollover, it is preferable to remove these after-tax dollars, and not roll them to an IRA.  That way, if the account owner chooses to use the after-tax dollars, he will have total liquidity to do so.You can take out all of the after-tax contributions, tax-free, before rolling the qualified plan dollars to an IRA. You also have the option to rollover pre-tax and after-tax funds from a qualified plan to an IRA and allow all the money to continue to grow tax-deferred.The big question is, “will you need the money soon?” If so, it probably will not pay to rollover the after-tax money to an IRA, because once you roll over after-tax money to an IRA, you cannot withdraw it tax-free. The after-tax funds become part of the IRA, and any withdrawals from the IRA are subject to the “Pro Rata Rule.”

Don’t forget the video, resources and checklist, which you can access here.  And, don’t forget the report!

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


Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

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.

MONEY OR INCOME: Which is most important to you?- Part 3

Rising Inflation ScreenJim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

 

A lifetime retirement income strategy is what most people want – but are they willing to do what’s required?

For most, if not many, the idea of ‘bucketing’ money into categories – current needs, emergency needs, and future needs – is intuitive.

We don’t want to take money from one to fund another unless we’re absolutely FORCED to, which we seldom are – yet, that’s what a lifetime retirement income strategy demands.

This likely explains why people generally hate the idea of annuitization, even though retirees routinely say their biggest fear is running out of assets  –  aha!  Assets!  Not income?

I’ve known people who’re retired with generous pensions (with cost-of-living adjustments) from the federal government and lived amazing retirements, living on Florida waterfront property with boats outside their back doors, even though they had only a couple hundred thousand dollars in savings… and loving it.  You couldn’t get them to trade those pensions for anything!   It was predictable – it would never stop – and they had COLAs built-in!

But, the rest of society seemingly isn’t willing to make the liquidity trade.  Research seems to back this up, finding that the size of liquid holdings is directly related to their sense of well-being and satisfaction.  Apparently if they can’t achieve their need for future income until they meet their need for current assets, they feel cash-strapped – or they’ll choose retirement solutions that are inferior but psychologically more satisfying..

Mental bucketing comes in two forms:

  • Time segmentation:  Cash, bonds, and stocks are segmented according to time frames.  Cash funding near term, laddering bonds for intermediate term and interest-rate risk, and stocks for long-term inflation-hedges.
  • Spending segmentation:  Using financial tools to put predictability into outlays – Using Social Security and immediate annuities to create an ‘income floor’ for meeting essential expenses, and using portfolio withdrawals throughout the entire retirement period to provide for discretionary expenses.

For many, however, the delineation between essential and discretionary expenses can be fuzzy.   When people prioritize their goals, some will classify travel and cable tv as a need, while others will find few needs beyond food, shelter, transportation, medical expenses, etc.   And, many neglect to think about the biggest outlay they’ll make during their entire retirement – the annual tax payment to the I.R.S.

The most straightforward solution to longevity risk

For most, the biggest risk is outliving their money.  In short, it means running out of income.  The straightforward solution is simple:  Trading a portion of liquidity to pay cash for a lifetime income – and transferring longevity risk to an insurance company in exchange for an immediate annuity.  For many, this is a tough sell because they aren’t willing to give up liquidity of current assets to secure a lifetime income, despite the fact all those retired federal retirees in Florida have been doing it for years – and loving it.  And, also despite the fact that an immediate annuity solution is far superior to that of using a variable annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit.[1]

Not only that, retirees want the potential for an increasing standard of living, as well!  Others may have additional legacy goals!   Inflation-adjusted immediate annuities are available, but haven’t been too popular due to their lower initial payout

The Hybrid Time-Segmentation™ (HTS) solves many of the issues and may appeal to investors who need a greater degree of certainty for their income strategy.

 

The HTS strategy puts an ‘income floor’ under the segments – a floor that’s both predictable and expected to last a lifetime, while still preserving short-term liquidity needs and providing for long-term inflation concerns.  For example, one popular approach is to use a portion of assets to purchase a ten-year deferred income annuity that provides a lifetime retirement income beginning in year #11.  In this way, an additional guaranteed income source is added providing an increased floor as the rest of the portfolio grows for future years.[2]  The entire strategy, of course, should coordinate liquidity, security, inflation-protection, and income needs.

If you’d like to learn more – and it’s worth doing – we have a twenty-minute educational video that explains this lifetime retirement income strategy.  I think you’ll  like it!   Grab some coffee, sit back, and learn more here.

 

Enjoy!

Jim

[1] I must admit my own bias against variable annuities.  To me, using the stock portion of a portfolio to purchase a variable annuity is only turning a potential capital gain into taxable income – something that’s made little sense to me, expenses aside.

[2] Using an ‘investment grade’ insurance company is more important, in my view, than simply grabbing for the best-sounding promise of a slick marketing campaign.

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


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.

MONEY OR INCOME: Which is most important to you?- Part 2

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Last week I asked which was most important to you:

Never running out of money

Never running out of income

Whether you’re building a house or your ‘financial house’, it begins with a plan – that’s common sense.  Yet, I’ve seen more than a few people make major financial decisions BEFORE ever walking through my door for the first time:  Ready, fire, aim.

I’ve seen them retire, make Social Security claiming decisions and even pension decisions… then seek out financial advice – moves that often put them behind the 8-ball before they start.

So, what are the hazards retirees face?

  • Being underfunded.   It’s not uncommon today for people to live thirty years in retirement – one good reason why so many are opting to continue working after their ‘formal’ retirement.  It takes a lot of capital to fund thirty years of income after taxes and inflation – for two lives.  The problem with this hazard is that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an advisor to change at the point of retirement.
  • Bad timing.  This is something we call ‘sequence of returns’ risk.   To illustrate using simple numbers and ignoring taxes, imagine this scenario:  You retire with $1 million and plan to withdraw 4% annually.  That $40,000 combined with Social Security should meet your needs.

If the market goes up 20% and you withdraw 4%, you should have $1,160,000 after the first year.   Allowing for a 3% inflation rate, you can withdraw $40,000 + inflation = $41,200 in your second year, which computes to 3.55% of the second year’s beginning balance.  Not bad.  If the market does that every year forever, you’re fine!

What if the market goes down 20% in the first year as you withdrew your $40,000 (4% of the original balance)?  The market loss was $200,000 and you withdrew $40,000.  At the end of year #1, you’re down $240,000 and your new balance is $760,000 at the beginning of year #2.    And, of course, prices are higher – inflation has driven your living costs up by 3%!  You’ll need to take $41,200 in the second year, just as in the first scenario above, but now it’s coming from a starting balance of $760,000, which means your withdrawals now represent  5.42% of assets.  Another down year could be disasterous.

Diversification can help[1].   Diversification is all about using asset classes that have low correlation in their movements.  Think of pistons in a car:  If they all went up and down and down at the same time, where would they all be if the engine were to shut down?  Oddly enough, you may not want a portfolio that contains investments that all go up – the opposite could happen, too!

  • Withdrawing too much too soon.

Some people may simply not know how much they can, or should, withdraw.  With longevity risk becoming greater with our medical advances, knowing how much we can withdraw presents a problem for many.

How do you know how much you CAN withdraw and never run out of money?  The government has the answer!   They even publish it!  It’s the IRS required minimum distribution rules!  Just plug your numbers into the calculator[2] and that shows how much can be withdrawn!  The RMD rules apply to all qualified plans, but not to Roth IRAs while the owner is alive, and can be used for other accounts as a guide to avoiding longevity risk.

The good news:  RMD math virtually guarantees against running out of money within 45 years if the amount withdrawn is that calculated and no more.   There’s a practical weakness in this method as a guide for annual income, as well:   Remember our sample $1 million portfolio?

Practical:  Withdraw 4% of the original account balance each year, adjusted for inflation, regardless of market returns, i.e., $40,000 base adjusted only for COLAs each year.  Weakness:  Could lead to early depletion of assets if there are continuous market declines.

Not practical:  The RMD calculation is based on a percentage of the account value.  If the market declines, the percentage could result in a declining income for one or more years.

The bad news:  The RMD amount might be less than what’s needed to meet living expenses and, as noted, could even decline!  So, asset allocation, using the RMD rules, does not affect portfolio survival; but it does affect how much the retiree might receive each year – an unpredictable income.

How do we create a sustainable LIFETIME income?

That’s our subject for next time.

[1] You might want to access our report, Understanding the Diversification Puzzle.

[2] http://apps.finra.org/calcs/1/retirement

Enjoy!

Jim

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


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.

MONEY OR INCOME: Which is most important to you?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Which goal is most important to you?

–   Never running out of retirement money

–   Never running out of retirement income

–   Both

Sure, you said both.  And, maybe that’s possible!

The problem for many is that not only are substantial assets required to provide a comfortable retirement income – you also have to live a lifestyle below what many would believe you could afford.

I have a client couple who have done just that.  They’ve worked hard, invested responsibly, and lived well within their means allowing them to save at a rate greater than what would appeal to many others.  The result:  They’ve been able to retire in their late ‘50s in a beautiful area  – and doing it at a time their son graduated from college and is now entering grad school.  How many parents could afford to retire with a child entering grad school?   In short, they’re set!  They’ve taken all the right steps to insure their future, even into their 80’s and 90s… and even if everything in “the markets” went south on them.

I’ve also seen others who have amassed ten times that couple’s assets, but are living at a lifestyle that keeps them in perpetual jeopardy.  They’re constantly in danger of running out of money.   Their lives are like a hamster running on the spinning wheel, constantly chasing the cheese.  The lesson:  Even people with $30 million dollars can still be on the edge of disaster.  Think of all the multi-million dollar sports and entertainment figures who’ve ended-up broke, sometimes due to poor management, sometimes due to overspending, sometimes both, virtually always because of ignorance…. either on their part or the part of their ‘managers’, or both.

Choosing the right strategy

What kind of retirement income or wealth management strategy makes sense any given investor?  Naturally, it depends on age, goals, asset level and lifestyle.  It also depends upon what type of strategy the individual is open to considering – most of us have built-in biases based on how we’ve been programmed.

Given the level of financial literacy in America today, it’s a real concern.  Most of what people know about financial instruments they’ve learned from entertainment gurus, their parents, or their friends.  I saw a recent study that revealed more than 31% of Americans didn’t know they could lose money in fixed income investments; and 68%  thought rising interest rates would be good for bonds… all while 60% said they don’t consider themselves knowledgeable regarding fixed income, the market, or economic forces that drive bond pricing.

Generalizations are always dangerous; but hey, you’ve have to start somewhere, right?   So, let’s begin, as a starting point, with this basic admittedly oversimplified outline of what an overall retirement strategy might be:

Retirement Strategy

You might be wondering why those below age 45 aren’t included in my little over-generalized grid.  The answer is simple:  In 25 years’ of practice, only ONCE has someone below age 45 come to my office.  That was almost 20 years ago and I haven’t seen anyone in their 40s come to my office since – they’re still watching Kramer – but, I’ll see them after they turn 50 and finally figured something out they don’t know today.

Back to our grid:

The definitions of “modest” and “substantial” are somewhat squishy.  It’s like trying to define what a ‘middle-market’ company is – you can ask a hundred people and get a hundred different answers.  So, let’s just say the definition is whatever you think it is.

If you’re worried about running out of money, you might consider yourself to be a “constrained investor” – and you probably shouldn’t be trying to ‘make up for lost time’ by making risky bets.

If you’re like the couple who’s sitting pretty and just doesn’t want to blow it, you might be preservation minded – someone who wants to maintain their lifestyle after inflation and taxes and not do anything stupid.   [See my blog post, “Inflation and Stockshere.]

Back to our initial quiz:

Which worries you most:  Running out of money or running out of income?

Long-term plans don’t change just because temporary conditions do.

You can have an income forever; but, it may not be enough to even pay your utility bill if the asset base is too small; and, if you

run out of money, there’s no income.

Navigating it all is much like navigating a ship at sea, surrounded by all sorts of potential hazards.

Too much to cover in a single post, as you might imagine; so, we’ll be covering the issues and strategies you can use in upcoming installments.  I hope you’ll find them helpful.

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.

Business Owners Face Potential Tax Law Changes

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

1954

1986

2017

Guess what those years have in common.   If you guessed those were the years of major tax reform, you’d be right—at least about the first two.  2017 is still a question mark.

While tax law changes can occur quite often, major reforms appear to come around about every thirty years.    Business owners, unlike the rest of America, will have to deal with the impact of any changes on both the personal and business front.

Proposed Changes for Business

Under the proposed tax bill, which still faces much debate, the corporate tax rate would be reduced to 20% – a substantial cut.  S-Corps would see their rate drop to  25%.

One of the proposed changes, favored by many business owners,  would allow for the expensing of capital expenditures—no doubt in an  effort to spur growth.   However, there could be a fly in the ointment for many business owners in a provision no one’s talking about.

You’ve heard about the  ‘border tax’.  Under this provision, there would be no cost-of-goods deduction on imported goods—a potential problem for many retailers, as well as manufacturers who outsource some or all of their supply chain.

Many businesses that have spent years researching and developing their supply chains may face some formidable challenges.  There would be a deduction for the cost of goods exported.

Finally, there would be no deduction for business loan interest under the proposed plan.  This may not be a big issue now, given today’s low interest rates; but, it could become a major issue if we should ever experience the double-digit interest rates similar to those of the late 1970s.

Business owners are individuals, too.

As if dealing with all a business owner faces isn’t enough, there’s also the personal side.   There are  some potential changes looming on the horizon there worth knowing about.

Individual tax rates would come down and reduced to three brackets.

The elimination of all itemized deductions except for mortgages and charitable contributions is also popular with many, but not everyone.  The proposed change for charitable deductions limits those deductions to $100,000 for a single payer and $200,000 for a married couple.  It may become difficult for a  charity to convince a multi-millionaire to donate that $1 million work of art !

And, while there’s talk of repealing the estate tax, it doesn’t appear to be a complete repeal.  The government still wants that unrealized appreciation taxed!  The talk is about going to a system similar to what they have in Canada.

The idea would be to tax unrealized appreciation over $5 million at a capital gains rate.  Taxes on gifts would correspond to eliminate people using gifting to avoid the estate tax.

Finally, the newest proposal would also do away with deductions for medical expenses—or at least have a very high threshold.

All these are proposed—not passed.  But, it’s good to be aware

Fotilla Images

of what could be on the horizon.

What Should Business Owners Do?

You might discuss these points with your tax advisor—I am not a CPA.  I am a CFP®, AIF®,,,,  EIEIO.

 

Planning Point

If you don’t have an executive bonus plan, you may want to consider starting one and paying the bonus before March 15, 1018.  Same if you do have one.  Your business gets the 2017 deduction while the employee may be paying tax on the bonus received at lower tax rates.   If you’re `grossing up’ the bonus to cover the employee’s  tax payment, that would be under the 2018 rates, as well—remember, talk to your tax advisor.   If you want to learn more about these plans, you can access my special report here.

Planning Point

Don’t neglect what is probably the most versatile financial tool available today:  cash value life insurance—it has tax benefits that no other financial vehicle can provide and is an ideal retirement supplement—especially for high-earning executives and owners who are limited in what they can put away in qualified tax-deferred vehicles.  Quite often, these executives are stunned to find out those limits simply will not allow the account to provide enough capital at retirement for them to preserve their desired lifestyle.

As David McKnight points out in his book, Tax Free Retirement, life insurance is used as a key retirement strategy by more than 85% of Fortune 500 CEOs and many members of Congress.  The book was also endorsed by retirement guru and CPA Ed Slott, as well as David M. Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States.

Sometimes, I will see arguments against this approach in the media – arguments that are little short of idiotic – but, the simple truth is that insurance, including indexed universal life (IUL) in particular, is becoming widely accepted among leading experts in the profession as a true asset class (in addition to cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities), probably as a result of an aging population with changing priorities and increasing economic uncertainty (where the government’s future need for tax revenue is concerned).

  • Your tax advisor can provide the best insight regarding tax strategy;
  • your estate planning attorney can help you make sure your documents are updated and in order; and
  • your financial advisor should be able to help you arrange assets to fit your needs.

Never use a podiatrist for dental advice.

I hope you found this helpful.

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 Income for Life!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Would you like a lifetime retirement income?  There’s a tv commercial sponsored by a mutual fund/insurance complex that asks the question, “Do you know your number?

While it’s a good question, it doesn’t go far enough.  The real question should be, “Do you know your income?”

When you consider that we’re living longer today – that most people need to plan for two lives over 30+ years in retirement – the old adage, ‘don’t touch the principal, just live off the interest’ doesn’t really work.  Just ask anyone who retired in the early-mid 1970’s and saw double-dip inflation even as interest rates were going down, reducing their income each year.

The issue can be framed like this:

Market risk + legislative risk + inflation risk + longevity risk = ???????

Legislative risk?  Our nation’s debt is around $20 trillion as I write this – and that’s the ‘official’ debt…. really only the current year’s outlay on the total.  You can see the current debt here.  Looking out over more than three decades of retirement, knowing the government will need more and more revenue to fund all the promises (they do want to get re-elected, you know), what do YOU think taxes will do?
The Three Big Risks to RetirementThe real question that should be asked is: “What’s my income?”  That’s what retirement security is really all about.

Those at or nearing retirement are well aware of the Three Big Risks that lurk ahead at a time they will likely need their money to last for two lives and maybe three full decades or longer.

If you are a true risk-adverse investor seeking a lifetime retirement income and you’d like to learn more, I invite you to invest twenty minutes to learn how you can transform your life savings into a lifetime of inflation-adjusted income.

If you woretirement income planninguld like to view this educational video, 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’.

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.

There’s More than One Path to Retirement Security

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

People often think investment strategies for retirement security involve a either/or choices, i.e, risky stocks or savings as a zero-sum choice, or active vs. passive investing as an either/or choice; Believe it or not, there’s more than one path to retirement security.  Sometimes (often) they can be blended.

Active vs. Passive

Vanguard on active vs. passive investingFor example, low-cost passive investments are attractive simply because it’s widely believed that active managers can’t beat their relevant indexes’ average return on a consistent basis.

That’s probably true, however the argument often ignores the downside protection active management can offer – something index investing doesn’t provide, and something important to investors for retirement security.

Does that mean there’s only one path to financial security… that active is better?  No – it’s just different.  Sometimes, the extra fee an active manager charges can be worth far more than the alternative downside exposure.   Vanguard has created a client education piece about active and index investing that you might find helpful.  You can download it here.

Active Institutional Management

Investors with smaller accounts often achieve diversification by investing in mutual funds.  While these investors can benefit from the diversification they offer, those with larger accounts can be penalized.  The reason is simple:  Mutual fund costs don’t scale.

For example, if you have $50,000 invested in a mutual fund that carries a 1.25% expense ratio (just to pick a number), you’re paying $625 a year in annual expenses.  Not too bad.  But, suppose your investment is $500,000 and you have a basket of mutual funds and all charge about the same 1.25%.  Your annual expenses would now total $6,250 per year.

Fund expenses don’t go down as the asset level increases.  1.25%, in our example, would stay 1.25%, regardless of how much your account increases in value.  And, those aren’t the only expenses!  You can learn about the other hidden expenses in another report, Understanding Mutual Funds, which you can also download instantly, right here.

Institutional money managers – at least all those I use – have fully disclosed fees; but, furthermore, their fee percentage actually declines as the investor’s asset level grows.  They can also provide tax-managed benefits not available in mutual funds.

Institutional managers seem to do far better than the individual investor.  As you can see from this independent Dalbar study, individual investors didn’t even come close- and the time period for the study included the famous ‘meltdown’ of 2008.

Institutional investors tend to outperform individual investors.

Screening for investment managersThe selection process for institutional managers, of course, is important, if not critical.

If you’d like to see the process I have been using here at IFG, you can get it here.

Of course, it’s not an either/or proposition:  Blending active institutional management with passive indexes can be quite effective.

It begins with a philosophy.

The key to successDo you know your investment philosophy? By the way, “I don’t want to lose money” is not a philosophy; it’s a wish.  A philosophy goes deeper – it’s the roadmap that helps you as you go through the investment/manager selection process.  IFG’s can be accessed immediately here.

Managing the Downside.

There’s a tv commercial sponsored by a mutual fund/insurance complex that asks the question, “Do you know your number?

While it’s a good question, it doesn’t go far enough.  The real question may not be how much you have, but how long it will last!   After all, that’s the key to almost everyone’s definition of retirement security.

Longevity risk – “Will I run out of money?”

This is the key issue for most Americans; even those with $1,000,000+ who want to maintain their standard of living, let alone the vast majority of Americans who have less.

The Three Big Risks to RetirementThe real question that should be asked is: “What’s my income?”  That’s what retirement security is really all about.

Those at or nearing retirement are well aware of the Three Big Risks that lurk ahead at a time they will likely need their money to last for two lives and maybe three full decades or longer.

If you are a true risk-adverse investor and you’d like to learn more, I invite you to invest twenty minutes to learn how you can transform your life savings into a lifetime of inflation-adjusted income.

If you would like to view this video, you’ll learn about a process for arranging assets that may be eye-opening,  you can do so by clicking this tab.
“Income for Life Model”
Your Roadmap?

What’s right for you is likely no one strategy, but a blend of this – and other strategies not even covered here – that best fits your particular needs and desires.

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.