How to Turn a $350,000 IRA into $600,000 for Your Heirs!

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Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

IRS mandated withdrawals from retirement accounts – required minimum distributions (RMDs) – must begin by April following the year people turn 70-1/2.   

But, if you wait until the year following that birthday, you will be required to take a double-distribution that year – two RMDs (be sure to talk to your tax-advisor).  Here’s an RMD strategy you might like!

Many people, however don’t need their RMDs and don’t want them – they have to pay taxes on the distributions.  They simply plan to pass the money on to their kids or grand kids.

Fred and Wilma have been retired in Bedrock for some time now.  He’s 69 years old and has $350,000 in an IRA he plans to leave to his children, Pebbles and Bam-Bam.

The problem, of course – as usual, is Uncle Sam.   Uncle Sam will force Fred to begin taking money from his IRA in the form of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).

Because they both have pensions and other sources of income, this is money they never intended to spend or use.  What’s more, because the IRS uses a ‘withdrawal factor’ that changes as they age,  the RMDs are calculated to deplete his IRA, thus guaranteeing the government they’ll get their cut, by the end of his life expectancy.

To summarize:  Fred gets older, the IRA money is distributed by force, and the longer he lives, the greater the chances there will be little, if any, IRA left for the kids or grand kids.

The government is going to get their money – I guess we can all let that go – the only question is when, but that’s another story.  The fact is, if Fred’s in the 28% tax bracket, only 72% of the money he sees on his statement is actually his.  Uncle Sam is a 28% partner for the rest, unless he decides to change his percentage.

Fred could invest the after-tax withdrawal money and the kids could take advantage of the “stretch” option for the IRA, which requires non-spouse beneficiaries to take distributions over the course of the person’s life expectancy, keeping the money for the kids working for a longer period of time.   Of course, as noted, there may not be much left if he’s in good health and lives a long life.

The RMD

The IRS withdrawal factor for Fred at his age is 27.4 (you can find yours on the IRS website).

This means his first year RMD will be $12,773 and, of course, he’ll have to pay income taxes.  At his 28% tax bracket, that would leave him with $9,196 after taxes on his first RMD.

If he invested that $9,196 every year and earned 5%, he’d have $217,554 for his children and grandchildren if he passed away at age 85.  If he passed away at age 90, he’d leave $328,474 to his heirs, plus whatever pretax dollars might be left in the IRA – a balance that will likely be declining each year because the IRS withdrawal factor is based on life expectancy and computed on the balance of all IRAs a the end of the previous year.

There might be a better option[1].

Fred’s in good health.  Since he doesn’t need the money, he decides to pursue a little more sophisticated strategy.

He decides to leave the IRA where it is and use the required minimum distributions to purchase a permanent life insurance policy (since Fred can’t predict his date of death, his outliving a term policy would mean all the premiums he had paid would be lost forever with nothing to show for them).

For our example, we’ll use a no-lapse guaranteed individual universal life policy.  We’ll also assume the same numbers cited above and a 28% tax bracket.

Since Fred’s a non-smoker and in good health,  his $12,773 RMD, after his 28% income tax payment, means he might leverage his  $9,196 after-tax withdrawal into an immediate $334,936 death benefit, which generally would pass tax-free to his heirs.[2]  

The IRA money will still have embedded taxes, of course, and the amount of death benefit this annual premium might buy will vary by company, policy, and design.  For illustration, though, this is close enough to make the point.

As you can see from our table[3], when added to the remaining after-tax IRA assets, the net total to the beneficiaries can be substantial, regardless of when it happens.  I’ve highlighted two ages (85 and 95) to show what that $350.000 IRA could really mean if the RMDs are used for this strategy and Fred’s death should occur at those ages.

End of   Tax-Free End of Year Less Tax on Net IRA Value Total Value
Year Age Life Ins. Benefit IRA Value4 Beneficiaries (30%) to Beneficiaries To Beneficiaries
5 74 $334,936 $387,852 $116,356 $271,496 $606,432
10 79 $334,936 $392,978 $117,893 $275,085 $610,021
16 85 $334,936 $369,468 $110,840 $258,628 $593,564
21 90 $334,936 $318,786 $95,636 $223,150 $558,086
26 95 $334,936 $241,227 $72,368 $168,859 $503,795

 

All of this, of course, depends on Fred’s qualifying for a permanent policy.  Since Fred isn’t dealing with any ‘high risk’ conditions, he should have no issues getting approved.

Not a bad strategy for the use of $9,196 he otherwise didn’t need during a time he’d be drawing down on his $350,000 IRA.

This was a generic hypothetical.  In reality, RMDs do not remain constant; so, having a strategy properly designed can make a significant difference in outcomes.

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.

Interested in Charitable Giving? You May Want a Wealth Replacement Trust!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Charitable giving is a way you can truly leave a legacy beyond our own family; However, believe it or not, few among what many would call the ‘mass affluent’ ever give much thought to charitable giving.  Often, they simply feel they don’t have enough money; however, many of these same people are often sitting on highly appreciated assets such as real estate.

What many fail to realize is there can be significant tax advantages in charitable giving.  When money is tied up in real estate and securities, having a tax-advantaged exit strategy can be helpful.

If you were to sell an appreciated asset, the gain would be subject to capital gains tax. By donating the appreciated asset to a charity, however, you can receive an income tax deduction equal to the fair market value of the asset and pay no capital gains tax on the increased value.

Example:   Alfred purchased $25,000 of publicly-traded stock several years ago. That stock is now worth $100,000. If he sells the stock, he must pay capital gains tax on the $75,000 gain.   But, Alfred can donate the stock to a qualified charity and, in turn, receive a $100,000 charitable income tax deduction.  When the charity then sells the stock, no capital gains tax is due on the appreciation.  How good is that?

But what happens to Alfred’s family who will be deprived of those assets that they might otherwise have received.

A popular solution:  Life Insurance.  Why is this popular?  How do you do it?  Read on…

In order to replace the value of the assets transferred to a charity, the donor establishes a second trust – an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) – and the trustee acquires life insurance on the donor’s life in an amount equal to the value of the charitable gift.

Premium payments can come from the charitable deduction income tax savings and any annual cash flow from a charitable trust or charitable gift annuity.  Alfred simply makes gifts to the irrevocable life insurance trust that are then used to pay the life insurance policy premiums.   At Alfred’s death, the life insurance proceeds generally pass to the donor’s heirs free of income tax and estate tax, replacing the value of the assets that were given to the charity.

Not a bad deal!

Life Insurance has a number of uses; but, before shopping, it pays to know what you’re actually shopping for!  To help understand life insurance design, you need to understand your priorities.  You might find this simple tool helpful.

What’s Your Focus Life Insurance Priorities Tool

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

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.

How Will Rising Interest Rates Affect Stocks?

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Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

… and what do rising interest rates (and inflation) mean to your long-term success?

Maybe less than you think… or is it maybe more than you think.

We don’t really know, do we?   Planning isn’t about what we know; if it were, we’d all just go with our guts and get rich!  Planning is about what we don’t know.

But we do have indicators.   Past performance is no guarantee the future will repeat – we know that; but, maybe – just maybe – it can provide a little idea of how markets have reacted to rising interest rates in the past.  Here’s a chart from Bloomberg; I apologize for the fuzziness.

As you can see (I hope) since March of 1971, there have been 21 periods of rising interest rates.  Of those 21 periods, the S&P declined only 5 times and the largest decline was around 5.5%.   Comforting?  Well, good reading  anyway.

The problem, of course, is we’re dealing with real money and real people’s lives.

It pays to have a ‘back-up’ in your financial plan that can help ensure there’s a ‘late life income’ even if everything else falls victim to the incompetency of elected officials who’ve become self-anointed economic experts.

For that reason, I thought you might enjoy a report I’ve put together about how to create a ‘late life income’ by adding another component to your investment diversification strategy.

I think you might enjoy it -it’s based on an actual case study.  You can access your Late Life Income report here.

Enjoy!

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

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.

Why Do Individual Investors Seem to Always Lag Behind Market Returns?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

A recent study by Morningstar, a leading mutual fund research firm, compared mutual fund returns with the gains individual investors actually received. The study found that investor returns typically lagged fund returns.  The reason: Investors tended to move cash in and out as markets would rise and fall, often buying high and selling low.[1]

The study covered 10 years through the end of 2012, and found that funds posted an average annualized return of 7.05%, compared with a 6.1% average return realized by investors. (The returns factor in all stock and bond funds that Morningstar tracks. Investor returns are weighted based on asset owes into and out of all share classes of open-end mutual funds tracked by Morningstar.  [To learn more on why many individual investors have trouble reaching goals, see your report, Why Most Financial Planning Will Probably Fail.

Although a gap of a single percentage point may not seem like a big difference, it can make a significant impact over the long term, thanks to compounding. In fact, a hypothetical $10,000 investment returning an average of 7.05% annually would produce a total of $19,856 over 10 years compared with $18,078 for an average annual return of 6.1% over the same period. Over 30 years, the gap becomes even wider: $78,286 for the 7.05% return vs. $59,082 for the 6.1% return.[2]

The findings in the Morningstar study are apparently no fluke.  Similar findings were discovered in a study by Dalbar back in 2010 (see graph).

What’s the reason for this?  While I have admittedly not conducted a back-tested analysis on this, I do have what could be considered an informed opinion.   It’s investor behavior – to be sure not a ground-breaking epiphany.

When investors buy in good markets and sell in bad ones, they generally lose – no news there.  What is worth consideration is something Warren Buffett said years ago:  If you think investing is fun, you’re doing something wrong.  Real investing is boring; what you see on tv is financial porn.   However, if you’re investing properly, you will virtually always be buying low and selling high.

Why?  It’s as simple as having a properly constructed portfolio, designed to implement your formal financial plan, and adhering to a disciplined rebalancing process.  Not all financial plans are sound, however.  See our report.

Rebalancing is key.  Regardless of your rebalancing schedule,[3] it helps ensure you will be selling high and buying low.  Important:  Rebalancing does not guarantee gains nor does it guarantee against loss; but, it sure beats trying to ‘call’ markets.

Let’s use a simple hypothetical example using a simple stock and bond portfolio.   If your financial plan indicates the best balance for you is 60% bond and 40% stocks and your investment portfolio is valued at $500,000, you’d be allocating $300,000 to bonds and $200,000 to stocks.

Using easy to grasp numbers, let’s assume that when it’s time to rebalance, based on a schedule you and your advisor have chosen, your bonds have lost 10% in value, due to rising interest rates while your stocks have gained 20%.

Your bonds are now valued at $270,000 (down by $30,000) and your stocks are now valued at $240,000 (up by $40,000).  Your total portfolio is now valued at $510,000.  Not bad, but our schedule says it’s time to rebalance and we do believe in investment discipline.

40% of $510,000 would indicate a stock allocation of $204,000; but the current value of that portfolio is $240,000 due to the run-up.  That means trimming our stock exposure by $36,000 – we’re automatically “selling high”.

Our bond portfolio, now valued at $270,000 is down $30,000 due to rising interest rates.  At a 60% allocation, we should have $306,000 (60% of $510,000) in bonds.  Obviously, that’s where the $36,000 from our stock sales will go.  We’re “buying low” into a rising interest rate market.

In the real world, portfolios aren’t quite so elementary.  There are investment styles within each asset class and there are sectors within each style.  It can get rather sophisticated, but technology helps.

You may have heard it a thousand times; it still bears repeating:  It begins with a plan.  If you don’t have one, you’re lost – and if you think you have your plan in your head, your heirs will be helpless, even if you aren’t already.

[1] Russel Kinnel, “Mind the Gap: Why Investors Lag Funds,” Morningstar, February 4, 2013.

[2] Results are for illustrative purposes only and in no way represent the actual results of a specific investment.

[3] Transaction costs and tax implications should not be ignored.

As I noted earlier, many plans will likely fail.  See our report.  Hope you find this helpful.

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.

Should You Buy TERM Insurance and INVEST the Difference?

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Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

BUY TERM INSURANCE!  INVEST THE DIFFERENCE!   That’s the mantra that’s been preached (mostly by tv gurus selling their DVDs) since the 1970 (they were selling tape cassettes back then) and even before.

It seems logical:  You buy term insurance and get pure protection with insurance dollars while you invest remaining dollars for retirement or other needs.

It even sounds catchy:  Buy term insurance and invest the difference.  That’s what your dad did, and grandpa before him.   Of course, they may not have majored in economics or finance.

Does the old “buy term” maxim they’ve been preaching really hold up under real number-crunching analysis?

Well, here’s an analysis using numbers you might find interesting.  While not exhaustive, it certainly will shed some worthwhile light worthy of discussion.   You can access it here.

Hope you find this helpful.

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.