No RMDs for 2020!

But, you may want to take IRA withdrawals anyway. The reason is simple: Taxes are On Sale!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been eliminated for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; but, you just might want to consider taking a distribution anyway.   Why?

Taxes are on sale!  

The dirty little secret is that all that money in your IRA isn’t yours, unless you have so many deductions or credits that you can zero out all your income – not likely.   We have a tendency to look at our statement’s IRA balance and think all that money is ours.  It isn’t .  At some point, Uncle Sam will take a chunk of it.  It will happen when you begin withdrawing it.  So, the only question is at what rate?

Few people are aware that the current tax laws is set to expire – it ‘sunsets’ – on December 31,2025, about 5 years from now (that allows for tax increases without anyone in Congress having to vote for it, though many would happily do it earlier anyway).

So, you can take your IRA money now at ‘sale prices’ or take it later at higher prices.  Why would you want to do that (besides the obvious)?

The SECURE Act has eliminated the stretch IRA.  This means your heirs could have a big problem when you and your spouse pass away.  Odds are it will happen when your kids are in their peak earning years; want to guess what taxes might look like then?  When they inherit your IRA(s), they will be required fully liquidate those IRAs by the end of the 10th year – ouch!  Big tax bite.

What can you do?  Begin withdrawing your IRA money while taxes are on sale over the next five years and do a Roth conversion on the money each year.   You’ll pay taxes now at ‘sale prices’ and the money will grow inside the Roth IRAs tax-free.   Now, there’s no RMDs.   And, when the time comes, your kids will have to liquidate by the end of the 10th year – but the money will be tax free!

There’s a hidden benefit for you, too:  Taxable income is used to determine what percentage of your Social Security is deemed taxable; it’s also used to determine Medicare premiums.   The less money you have in your traditional IRAs, the less the RMDs – and the less taxable income you have.   Hmmm.

If you have a comprehensive financial plan, a Roth conversion analysis should be a normal part of your planning process.   The savings over the life of your plan, and to your kids, could be substantial.   There are a number of issues to be considered, age, possible penalties, etc., so be sure to talk with your financial advisor.  Don’t have one?  See below!

 

Is there a subject you would like to learn more about?  Let me know in just 1 minute!  You can do it here.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  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.

Three Tips for Building Family Wealth

There is more you can do, of course; but, these will get you on your way: 

Getty Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Most people work long hours for 30+ years trying to build wealth for themselves and their families  –  okay, it’s really for the vacation home and a nicer car, but the first part sounds better.

The truth is building family – inter-generational wealth – really isn’t that hard to do.  If you REALLY want to do that, these simple steps will get you started.

  1. Choose your beneficiaries wisely when allocating inheritance money.   Leave tax-deferred accounts (IRAs and non-qualified annuities, for example) to younger family members.  They’re likely in a lower tax bracket and have longer life expectancies for taking the required minimum distributions, which means the distributions will be smaller, as well.    Highly appreciated assets are best left to beneficiaries in higher tax brackets as long as the cost-basis can be stepped up to the current price levels.  This means wealthier recipients can sell the asset with little or no tax consequences.  The high-income beneficiaries would most benefit from the tax-free benefits from life insurance policies.   Life insurance is the most overlooked, yet one of the most valuable tools in the toolbox.   Where else could you create an estate with the stroke of a pen?

  2. Don’t be too eager to drop older life insurance policies.  Some may wonder why keep the policy if they no longer need it.  Those older policies may be paying an attractive interest rate, which is accumulating tax-deferred.  Secondly, those small premiums may well be worth the much larger tax-free payoff down the road.   How to tell?  Start by dividing the premium into the death benefit.  Got the answer?  If you think you’ll pass away before that number (in years), you probably should keep paying.   Remember, death benefits generally pass tax-free!

  3. Convert Grandpa’s IRA to a Roth IRA.    When grandpa passes away, his IRA assets will likely be passed down to children and grandchildren, which means they’ll have to begin taking taxable required minimum distributions (RMDs) – which means they’ll probably be taxed at a higher rate than grandpa would have paid on his own withdrawals (when grandpa passes away, the grandkids are probably in their peak earning years, paying higher taxes anyway.  Why force them into a higher bracket still?).  If grandpa converted some or all of his traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs while alive, this problem wouldn’t happen.  Smart kids might want to encourage this and even offer to pay the tax bill on the conversion now!

Review your financial plan with your advisor?  Don’t have an advisor or a plan?   Hmmmm.  See below.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  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 Investment Model And It’s Amazing Hidden Powers.

Few understand the power of the investment allocation model, even in – especially in – times of crisis; but the power can be great when tied to a long-range financial plan.

Power of the Model

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

I can almost guarantee that not many people fully realize the power of an investment model as a means to fulfill a long-range financial plan, even in – or especially in – times of crisis.

The chances of a V-shaped recovery appear to be slim; not just because of the chances of a new spike in the pandemic due to possible premature reopening of the economy, it’s more about how market recoveries generally occur; yet, the power of the investment model remains unknown to many.

Many people intuitively believe that a 20% loss can be recaptured with a 20% gain; but, of course it’s not true.   If you start out with $100, a 20% loss takes you down to $80.   But, to get back to $100, you need to see your $80 grow by 25% ($20 ÷ $80).  So, knowing that it takes a 25% gain to buy back a 20% loss, it’s easy to see why recoveries generally take longer than the original decline.

When we suffer declines in the market, it can be tempting for some people to sell on the way down in an attempt to cut their losses.  The problem, of course is that calling the ‘bottom’ is difficult, because recoveries seldom occur in a straight line.  Next thing they know, the recovery happened and they missed the rebound forcing them to buy back in at a new high.  As you can see from this chart, a simple buy-and-hold philosophy would have been much easier without forcing them to become a market genius.  After all, if Warren Buffett can’t time markets – and he says he can’t – than, why should we try?

Market Timing

That’s where the power of the investment allocation model comes in.

Those who’ve been smart enough to build their financial future with a blueprint tend to have a framework for fulfilling their long-range strategic plan.  On the investment side of their planning, the foundation is an customized asset allocation.  What few realize is that that allocation has an automatic buy low/sell high mechanism that comes built-in!

Let’s look at a simplified example:

Since we talking about stocks more than bonds, let’s use an example of a simple growth-oriented allocation that’s comprised of 70% stocks and 30% bonds, with the majority of the stocks in the domestic U.S. market (represented here using the S&P index) and a lesser amount in foreign stocks (represented here using a Europe, Asia, and Far East index).

Sample Allocation

Let’s assume our hypothetical investor has $500,000 invested.  To make it simple, basic stock-bond allocation would look like this:

Stocks:  $350,000   =  70%
Bonds:   $150,000   =  30%
Total:     $500,000   =  100%

Now, let’s suppose stocks drop by 20% (we’ll pretend bonds stay the same).  Our new allocation would look something like this:

Stocks:  $280,000  =  65%
Bonds:   $150,000  =  35%
Total:     $430,000  = 100%

Stocks are now underweighted by 5% and bonds are now overweighted 5%.  The great thing about models is that they can, and usually are, rebalanced on some type of schedule or according to some built-in protocol.  To get back to our original allocation, money will have to be reallocated from bonds into stocks – the rebalancing ensures that we’re now buying low.

In order to get stocks back to their 70% weighting, we’ll need to bring the stock total to $301,000 ($430,000 x 70%).  That will require moving $21,000 from bonds ($301,000 – $280,000).  So, our rebalanced allocation is now:

Stocks:  $301,000 = 70%
Bonds:   $129,000 = 30%
Total:     $430,000 = 100%

Now, over time, the stock market finally recovers the 25% needed to get back to where it was.  That 25% gain in stocks adds $75,250 to stock value:

Stocks:  $376,250  =  74%
Bonds:  $129,000  =  26%
Total:    $505,250  = 100%

Notice, we didn’t just get back to where we were before, we actually made money!  We ‘beat the market’?  How did that happen?  The market returned to where it was but we ended-up ahead!  

Rebalancing the investment model allowed us to buy low and sell high without being a market genius!

Now, of course, this is a over-simplified hypothetical (you can’t buy an index and I’ve ignored things like the time-frame involved, taxes, inflation, and a lot of other stuff), but, the concept is no less valid.

Oh, yes, rebalancing again now, getting us back to our original allocation, now means that we’re `selling high’ as the 4% overweighted stock money is now repositioned back to bonds until next time.

Not bad, eh?

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  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.

Would You Build A House Without a Blueprint?

I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t be driving in a strange city without a GPS.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

It looks like the COVID-19 issue is going to be with us for awhile; the U.S. is still seeing over 25,000 new cases each day and some medical experts think we’re in a two-year process, which makes some sense considering the time it takes to get a vaccine into mass distribution, as well as getting the public to embrace it the way they did the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Congress, of course, has been passing relief measures which, among some, are raising concerns about the national debt which now stands around at 100% of GDP while unemployment payments in excess of normal wages are creating a disincentive for some Americans to return to work until August, when those benefits are due to expire.

We’e in, of course, an ‘event-driven’ bear market which some would call a structural bear in that it is the result of a government-induced forced shut-down. Given that about 70% of our economy is driven by the consumer and no one knows when they will feel safe enough to work, shop, travel, and go to sporting events (a $12-billion industry) – not to mention the achievement of mass innoculation; some experts believe that the bear could last as long as 42 months.

Whenever economic crisis occurs – and it has on numerous occasions throughout history – the lesson comes home that building a financial house without a blueprint makes for bad construction and a poor outcome. That blueprint, of course, is a financial plan that serves as the foundation for an investment process – and a process is not a group of transactions. Today, of course, those who’ve done it the right way are seeing the value, and the power, of having a model to follow and stay within.

If you have a plan, make sure you keep it updated. If not, maybe it’s time to begin one.  If you’d like some help, you can begin your process here.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  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.

Are the Markets On Their Way Back?

Markets always do; but strategies in the future will have to be different.

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Maybe. You might think so. 

While the S&P was down 10.5% year-to-date as of Friday, it’s still UP 1.1% for the last 12 months while foreign stocks actually lost 13.1%.  Who’d a thunk it?   And, the real surprise is the NASDAQ index of small stocks, down only 3.3% for the year and actually UP 9.3% for the last 12 months as of Friday’s close[i].  The 10-year Treasury has gained 17.9% as the yield plummeted to just 0.65%[ii].

The core consumer price index (CPI) is holding at 2.1%[iii]; but, as we see huge stimulus spending driving up the debt, the inevitable result may be too much money chasing too few goods and services, thus driving up inflation – an argument to get the economy moving again in order to drive up production while increasing the job numbers and sources of revenue.  Debt as a percentage of the GDP will be the key figure to watch.

A key worry is a debt spiral. Treasury secretary Mnuchin is already trying to fund the growing budget deficit – the $2.2 trillion stimulus package is the largest ever passed.   John Briggs, head of strategy for the Americas at Natwest Markets, thinks the sheer amount of debt coming is really a war-time sort of funding.

The government has been selling short-term debt (Treasury bills that mature in one year or less) virtually as fast as possible – and more is coming.

The fiscal 2020 deficit – a deficit that needs to be funded somehow – will be four times as large as last year’s $3.8 trillion – almost 19% of GDP, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan group.  Few on ‘the hill’ see a need for caution right now, given the threat of the virus, but there is little doubt corrective action will be on the horizon.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Company say GDP will shrink an annualized 40% in the second quarter, according to a feature in Bloomberg News.   That, of course, means a huge amount of debt is coming in the second quarter. 

Having a solid formal financial plan with the right allocation is now more important than ever.  The markets will come back, but because of the CARES Act and the SECURE Act – and added market volatility – the strategies that used to work are now changing.

Jim

[i] Source: MacroBond Financial AB. S&P 500 is represented by the S&P 500 Index, DJIA is represented by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ is represented by the NASDAQ Composite Index, Foreign Stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index and Emerging Markets are represented by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Sectors based on S&P 500 Index sector indexes. You cannot purchase an index.

[ii] Source: MacroBond Financial AB, Morningstar Inc., Bloomberg LP. 10-Yr Treasury is represented by the MacroBond 10-Year Treasury Bond Index.

[iii] Source: MacroBond Financial AB, Federal Reserve (Fed Funds Rate), US Department of Labor (Inflation and Unemployment) and US Bureau of Economic Analysis (GDP).

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  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.

Beware: The COVID-19 Scammers are Loose.

You need to keep safe financially too!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Here are some ways you can “social distance” yourself from these parasites:
 
• Hang up on robocalls, and don’t press any numbers.  You’ll get robo-calls selling fraudulent COVID-19 treatments and work-at-home schemes.  Press a number to be removed from a list and you’ll likely get more calls because they sell the lists and any response simply validates the phone number.
 
• Ignore online offers for vaccinations and unproven home test kits.  You’ll see lots of internet posts pitching success stories – look for CDC clinical trials and hard data.

• Ignore texts and emails about cash from the government. Don’t click on anything.  Stimulus checks will be forthcoming, but, according to the FTC, anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

• Do NOT respond to emails that claim to be from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts that claim they have information about the virus. Government agencies do not email.  For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus, visit the websites of the CDC (my personal choice) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

• Malware and phishing scams are on the uptick.  Legitimate companies will never ask you to verify passwords or usernames via an email. Fraudsters will.  Again: do not click on any links.  Get the proper URLs independently.

• Do you see misspelled words or grammatical mistakes?  That’s a sure sign that the official-looking email originated from a suspicious source.

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

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.

IRS Creates a Coronavirus Site

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

You can find it here.

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

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.

Market Crisis in Perspective

A Picture is worth…. you know.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Is the media overplaying the stock market pullback?

No more than usual.   This has all happened before – just different story lines.  Take a look at the following charts from JP Morgan:

How long do these downturns last?

Last week someone asked me (some people think all advisors are stockbrokers) whether he should be in or out of the market.  

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

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.

What Will “Medicare for All” Really Cost?

Politicians don’t live under the same health care or retirement systems the rest of us do – so promises, for them, are easy to make.

Fotila Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

I’m not sure how many of the candidates who are running on government supported Medicare for everyone majored in economics or finance – it maybe explains the obvious their all-to-obvious failure to address the question directly.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for example, promised that it won’t cost the middle class “one penny” – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any country now offering universal health care.  According to an inciteful Advisor Perspectives article by Rick Kahler, CFP® and registered investment advisor based in Rapid City, S.D., the middle class in those countries pay income taxes of up to 40% and a national sales tax equivalent to 15-25% of income.

While Senator Warren estimates the cost over a decade at $20 trillion in new federal spending – a cost the middle class is somehow to avoid – Estimates from six independent financial organizations put the figure in the $28-36 trillion range.

A Forbes article describes the tax increases aimed at wealthy individuals.  Included are:

  • Eliminating the favorable tax rate on capital gains
  • Increasing the “Obamacare” tax from 3.8% to 14.8% on investment income over $250,000
  • Eliminating the step-up in basis for inheritors
  • Establishing a financial transaction tax of 0.10%

The capital gains tax increase, the step-up in basis, and the financial transaction tax will all affect middle class investors – potentially anyone with a 401(k) or an IRA.  Rick Kahler points out that the American Retirement Association estimates that the financial transaction tax alone will cost the average 401(k) and IRA investor over $1,500 a year.

The 0.10% financial transaction tax, for example, would apply to all securities sold and purchased within a mutual fund or ETF, in addition to any purchases and sales of the funds themselves by investors.  Mr. Kahler estimates these costs can run 0.20% to 0.30% a year to fund investors.   When you consider some index funds charge only 0.10% in total expenses, the increase comes to 200% or more.

Eliminating the step-up in basis and the favorable capital gains treatment will certainly cost middle class investors more than a penny.  A retiree leaving an heir $200,000 with $100,000 in cost basis, could easily cost the middle class inheritor $10,000 to $20,000 or more in taxes.

Candidates can promise – that doesn’t cost anything – but it’s the electorate who needs to do the math.  After all, our elected representatives don’t live in the same health care world the rest of us do.

Jim

 

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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.  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.

 

Getting Ready to Take a RMD? Here’s a 4-Point Checklist.

Jim 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).

By 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. Fotila Images

    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.

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.   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 (and I don’t play one on tv); but, of course, these are issues that come up in retirement planning and wealth management quite often.

Happy retirement!

Jim


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.