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.

Fotilla Images

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.

Will My Annuity Income Really Increase?

piecing-retirement-puzzle-pathJim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Annuities can play a valuable role in a retirement portfolio; but, often they’re somewhat oversold.

Should equity-indexed annuities serve as a substitute for stocks?

Short answer: No.  And, when making historical performance comparisons, you’d be better off comparing them to CDs and traditional fixed annuities.  An equity-indexed annuity is nothing more than an interest-bearing IOU from an insurance company paying an unpredictable interest rate each year… anywhere from 0% up to the “cap”, which these days can be around 4-5%.   So, do the math:  if you get the maximum cap in two out of three years – let’s assume 5% – and zero in every third year, you’re averaging 3.33%.  It’s up to you to decide whether that’s a good return.  It is tax-deferred until withdrawn, but you also have a liquidity issue.

As I said, in some cases, they can make sense for a portion of a bond portfolio because of downside guarantees from the insurance company; but, you should also see if another alternative might make more sense.

 “My annuity Living Benefit is guaranteed to return 5-10% each year!”

Not likely (translation: No).  Too often, people look at the ‘income benefit base’ in the paperwork and assume (because they see a dollar sign in front of the number) they’re looking at real money.  Not so.

Think of the income benefit base as “sky miles” – it’s a number that’s used to calculate the amount of income that will be generated and has nothing – zero – to do with the return on the policy itself.

Technically, many, if not most, annuity offerings state that if the account value ever exceeds the income benefit base, the purchaser will receive a ‘step-up’ in income.  Realistically, however, it’s not likely (translate: won’t happen) these days, considering the spreads and cap rates the insurance companies are using.  As long as living benefit income is calculated on the income base vs. the account value, you shouldn’t expect anything beyond what’s guaranteed on the first day of the policy.

If you’re considering purchasing an annuity, there are seven things you should consider ahead of time.  You might find this short report worthwhile.

Enjoy!

Jim

Planning to Roll Your 401(k) to Your Own IRA?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Getting ready to retire?  Planning to roll your 401(k) into your own IRA?  It will pay to do your homework first.

To help you get started, you might find our 401(k) Rollover Review helpful.  It contains information on changing jobs, retiring, methods, rollover taxation issues, and more.

i303a_ira-rollover-review_overview-report_vsa_001Click Here for your 401(k) Rollover Review!

 

Will Your Retirement Money last? Maybe – with the right ‘Late Life Income’ strategy.

iStock Images

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

This past Monday, I retweeted a Fox Business post, Why Your Retirement Savings May Be a Pipedream.

A number of my clients, deciding to help ensure their late-life income needs will be met, have  in the past elected to execute a “late life income” strategy – however, they wanted one that would not lock them in to the low rates and liquidity issues that come with annuities.

I created a hypothetical – translate fictitiousLate Life Income “case study” of what such a strategy might look like for the right candidate couple (this may not be right for everyone).  You can learn more by getting it here.

Enjoy,

Jim

————

Resized CFP_Logo_GoldJim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients providing retirement planning and wealth management services 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.6a017c332c5ecb970b01a51174cbb0970c-120wi

How Middle-Income Boomers Are Planning For Retirement

Conceptual one way signs on Life

Conceptual one way signs on Life

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

According to a survey conducted by Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, middle income boomers aren’t paying much attention to planning for their old age.

Here are some of the results:

While 61% have taken at least one step in retirement planning, about only 1% have taken all the steps.

Only 25% have calculated a monthly retirement goal – no information on what method they used – but only 12% have translated that into an account balance goal.

Only 9% have developed a formal, written plan (how this happened with only 1% having completed all the steps, noted above) is a little interesting.

Nevertheless, they still have some work to do, it appears.   Maybe a good first step might be attending our retirement planning webinar this coming Saturday.  They can learn more and register here.


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients providing retirement planning and wealth management services since 1991. Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only 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 Webinar Announcement: This Saturday, October 1st

iStock Images

iStock Images

I’ll be conducting a retirement webinar this coming Saturday, October 1st.

Who would benefit:  “Baby Boomers” planning for or nearing retirement and desiring to put a plan in place.

You can learn more about the webinar and register here.

When you register, you’ll automatically be signed-up to receive our weekly ezine and, as a bonus, you’ll also receive a retirement income planning tool you can use to help get your own ‘ducks lined up’.  I think you’ll find it quite useful.

Jim


Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients providing retirement planning and wealth management services since 1991. Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only 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.

Optimizing Retirement Income: Combine Actuarial Science with Investments.

6a017c332c5ecb970b017c384ba1fa970b-320wiYou’ve probably heard about “The 4% Rule” – it’s been an ‘accepted’ rule-of-thumb for years that a retiree could withdraw 4% of his or her initial retirement portfolio value each year (increasing for inflation only, not market returns) and could reasonably expect his or her retirement nest-egg to last.

Of course, that’s when the markets seemed to be going up all the time.  In recent years, due to low interest rates and increased market volatility introducing everyone to sequence-of-returns risk, many advisors have dialed back the 4% withdrawal rate to 3.5%

It’s also lead to some back-testing within the industry to determine just what retirees can expect.

Testing with annuities

An FPA Journal paper back in December 2001 by Mark Warshawsky and co-authors John Ameriks and Bob Veres introduced the use of immediate annuities into the retirement discussion.  In his current contribution, Warschawsky  examines  the use of immediate annuities combined with a fixed withdrawal percentage from a total-return portfolio.  The conclusions [1] were:

  • The 4% rule tends to fail when utilized for extended periods, i.e., 30 years, whereas immediate annuities provide continual cash flow, regardless of market or economic
  • A 3.5% or less is often more appropriate than 4% (for obvious reasons).
  • When incorporating an immediate annuity at age 70, the annual payout almost always exceeds the 4% rule and does not risk full income or running out of money – in essence it’s purchasing an unending cash flow that, testing shows, exceeds the 4% rate.

Immediate annuities offer many advantages, but they likely not suitable for those with impaired longevity, liquidity needs, and adequate pension income.  For those who face longevity risk with no pension income, creating a “floor” may make some sense, after all.

Testing with insurance

Industry thought-leader Wade Pfau, in a paper commissioned by OneAmerica, addresses this issue in three scenarios:

  1. Investments combined with term life insurance
  2. Investments, joint and 100% survivor annuity, and term insurance
  3. Investments, single life annuity, and whole life insurance[2]

He compared these three approaches for 35 year-old and 50 year-old couples.  Without getting into the weeds, I just say his study found a “substantive evidence that an integrated approach with investments, whole life insurance, and income annuities provide more efficient retirement outcomes than relying on investments alone.”  It’s not an either/or decision.

Withdrawal strategies vary  beyond what’s  been discussed here, of course, which is why professional help can be very important and the difference of even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are some things you should consider before purchasing an annuity.  You can access my report here.    Also, inflation is also an issue worth considering.

It pays to do your homework and have a good guide.  If I can be of help, feel fee to get in touch!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

—————————————-

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.  Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the opinions of IFG any IFG affiliate or associated entity.The Independent Financial Group is a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.  He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. Jim can be reached at 805.265.5416 or (from outside California) at 800.257.6659. 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.  

Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone-tag?  You can easily schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

[1] Journal of Financial Planning, January 2016

2 ibid

The 401K Failure

Fotilla Images

Fotilla Images

Are we in the midst of a 401(k) failure?  Some time ago, PBS aired an excellent program on retirement and how the various generation, including baby boomers, are being affected by their planning – or failure to plan.

It’s an hour-long program entitled, When I’m 65.  The program addresses savings rates, withdrawal rates, investment pitfalls, issues to address, pitfalls to avoid, and even the difference between advisors, including the fiduciary standard – what it means and why it’s different from the ‘suitability’ standard adopted by product sellers.  It also discusses the recent legislation affecting the advisory industry and consumers and even addresses annuities –  insurance-based products widely misunderstood by much of the general public who tend to see things through an ‘either-or’ lens (for additional information on income annuities, you can access a ‘primer’ here).

This PBS program is well worth watching. You may even want to forward it to someone who you think can benefit. You can see it here – scroll down to the video.

There have been questions about the failure of the 401(k) system that have been discussed in the media from time to time since the 2008-9 market meltdown.   This topic was addressed in a Frontline program some time ago and also well worth watching:

I addressed this issue myself in a webinar I recorded last year.  It’s also about an hour long; so, for those of you who aren’t faint of heart, you can access it here.  I think you might find it interesting, as well.

Hope you find all of this worthwhile and helpful.

Jim

 

The Road to Retirement = 4 Simple Steps

iStock Images

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

When I was young, my father once advised, “Jim, just save 10-cents out of every dollar you ever earn and you’ll never have to worry about money the rest of your life.”

He always was smarter than I’ll ever be.  He was also right.  But, while I listened, I didn’t follow his advice, which puts me right with most of America.

Behavioral finance is a young science that uses psychology to understand irrational thinking.  DALBAR has been studying investor behavior for over thirty years and concludes that investors can be their own worst enemy.  They usually make bad decisions at critical points.  Example:  During October, 2008, equity investors lost 24.21% while the S&P Index lost 16.8%. [Source: Investment Advisor, June 2016]

Behavioral finance suggests investors remember losses more vividly than gains, even if the gains are greater!

Last March was the seventh anniversary of the bull market – the third longest rally in history.  Yet many have failed to realize much of the rebound due to their of buying back when the market was low.   Many may also believe that we’re in a Fed-fueled market, anyway; but, that’s another discussion.

Sometimes, the value of an advisor is in saving the client more than his or her fee on the downside.  After all, much of what investors need to do is more related to behavior than investment prowess.

4 Simple Steps Post_001Like my dad’s advice, the steps to a successful retirement aren’t simplistic; but, they are simple.

I created a short report, 4 Simple Steps to a Comfortable Retirement.  It’s not earth-shaking, but for many I’m sure it will be well worth reading.

I hope you’ll find it both informative and helpful.

You can access it 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.

 

RMD’s: A Quick 4-Tip Checklist for Baby Boomers

6a017c332c5ecb970b019104599445970c-320wi

James Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Remember the 1990s?  That was when every business channel had multiple programs with business gurus picking and ranking mutual funds.  It was a time when many mutual fund managers were becoming the ‘rock stars’ of financial meda.  Everyone wanted to know what Peter Lynch, Bill Gross, and others were buying, selling, and saying.

If you were one of those following all those shows back then, you were no doubt thinking about your financial future.  And, if you were born in the years following 1946, chances are you’re a ‘baby boomer’ – a term we’re all familiar with by now.

I read somewhere that there are 65,000 boomers turning age 65 every year!  And, those turning 70-1/2 have hit a big landmark:  It’s the year – actually it’s up until April 1st of the following year – Uncle Sam begins sticking his hand into your retirement account – after all, he is your partner; and, depending on your combined state and federal tax-bracket, his ownership share can be pretty significant, depending on the state you live in.  Yes, that’s when you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs).

6a017c332c5ecb970b0192ac851ba2970d-320wiBy the way, if you do wait until April 1st of the following year, you’ll have to take TWO distributions in that year – one for the year you turned 70-1/2 and one for the current year.  Naturally, taking two distributions could put you in a higher tax bracket; but, Uncle Sam won’t complain about that.

So, now that you’ve been advised of one trap that’s easy to fall into, what are some of the others?  You might want to give these concerns some thought – worth discussing with your tax advisor, as well as your financial advisor.

  1. Not all retirement accounts are alike.
    • IRA withdrawals, other than Roth IRAs, must be taken by December 31st of each year – and it doesn’t matter if you’re working or not (don’t forget, there is a first year exemption as noted earlier).
    • 401(k) and 403(b) withdrawals can be deferred past age 70-1/2 provided you’re still working, you don’t own more than 5% of the company, and your employer’s plan allows this.
    • As noted, Roth IRAs have no RMD requirements.  Important:  If you’re in a Roth 401(k), those accounts are treated the same as other non-Roth accounts.  The key here is to roll that balance into a Roth IRA where there will be no RMDs or taxation on withdrawals.
  2. Get the amount right!The amount of your total RMD is based on the total value of all of your IRA balances requiring an RMD as of December 31st of the prior year. You can take your RMD from one account or split it any or all of the others.  Important:  This doesn’t apply to 401(k)s or other defined contribution (DC) plans… they have to be calculated separately and the appropriate withdrawals taken separately.

 

  1. Remember: It’s not all yours!

You have a business partner in your 401(k), IRA, and/or any other tax-deferred plan:  Uncle Sam owns part of your withdrawal.  How much depends on your tax bracket – and he can change the rules without your consent any time he wants.  Some partner.   Chances are you will face either a full or partial tax, depending on how your IRA was funded – deductible or non-deductible contributions.  Important:  The onus is on you, not the IRS or your IRA custodian, to keep track of those numbers.  Chances are your plan at work was funded with pretax money, making the entire RMD taxable at whatever your current rate is; and, as mentioned earlier, it’s possible your RMDs could put you in a higher tax bracket.

Fotilla Images

Fotilla Images

It’s all about provisional income and what sources of income are counted.  The amount that’s above the threshold for your standard deduction and personal exemptions are counted.  By the way – here’s something few people think about:  While municipal bond interest may be tax-free, it IS counted as provisional income, which could raise your overall taxes, including how much tax you will pay on Social Security income.  I have a LifeGuide about Retirement and Social Security available here.   Also, be sure to talk to your tax advisor.

  1. Watch the calendar.If you fail to take it by December 31st of each year – even if you make a miscalculation on the amount and withdraw too little – the IRS may hit you with an excise tax of up to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn!  Oh, yes, you still have to take the distribution and pay tax on it, too!   There have been occasions when the IRS has waived this penalty – floods, pestilence, bad advice, etc.

Remember to talk with your tax advisor. I am not a CPA or an attorney; but, of course, these are issues that come up in retirement planning and wealth management quite often, so this can serve as a starting point in your discussions.

Jim

 

RESOURCES:

LifeGuide download:  Retirement and Social Security

Thinking About Retirement + Retirement Priority Review > Download page

————–

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients’ wealth management needs since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a Registered Investment Advisor providing retirement planning and investment advisory services on a fee-only basis.   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 appropriately licensed professional.  All images used in this communication are in  public domain unless otherwise noted.