Retirement Planning Tips

Are you beginning to think about retirement planning? Finishing work and entering retirement is your chance to enjoy your golden years and unwind from the hustle and bustle of life. However, one of the most common questions we are asked is ‘how much do I need to retire?’ so, to help you, we have put together seven retirement planning tips to help secure your retirement.

 

  1. Understand your spending

When it comes to retirement planning, the first thing you need to understand is spending. This doesn’t mean your current salary, but what you bring home each month after you have taken out your savings and bills. You should exclude any bills, such as your mortgage, which might have been paid off by the time you retire.

 

By understanding exactly what you need to spend each month, you will be able to begin creating a much clearer plan for retirement.

 

  1. Break down your expenses

You should break down your expenses into three core areas, your essential needs, your wants, and then your giveaway money. Your essentials will cover things such as your and your grocery shop, everything you need to stay alive and happy. Your wants will then be those things to help you maximize your retirement fun, from holidays and golf members to spending time with your family and treating the grandkids. Finally, the giveaway money is the amount you want to donate to charity or leave behind.

 

  1. List your guaranteed income

Your guaranteed income refers to the money that you will still be receiving after retirement. This can be from things such as your pensions, annuity, or social security. This money should help you cover those essential expenses you listed earlier.

 

  1. Don’t rely on the 4% rule

The 4% rule for retirement is the idea that you live off 4% of your assets each year. While in theory, this can be an effective strategy for retirement planning; in reality, we believe it is a flawed method as it does not take into account the volatility of the market.

 

We recommend a different approach for you to secure your retirement by creating a clear plan that allows you to weather whatever the future might have in store.

 

  1. List your accounts by type

Another important retirement planning tip is to make a list of all of your accounts by type. This means things such as your 401K, a traditional IRA, brokerage account, and savings account. Each of these will be taxed differently, so this list will help you work out what you need.

 

  1. Consider your investments

When it comes to investing for retirement, many of us opt for a more aggressive strategy when we are younger. This high-risk option can yield more significant results, but you should start to reconsider the level of risk exposure you are willing to face as you get older. It is important you understand your risk tolerance and what you could potentially lose.

 

  1. Don’t worry if you have ‘enough’

Don’t worry about if you have enough for retirement. We work with clients with vastly different levels of savings, but what is most important is your retirement plan. If you end up spending more money each month than your savings can afford, then no matter how big your initial amount is, it will soon diminish.

 

You should focus on generating a spending plan that matches your lifestyle, not how much you have saved.

 

 

 

Looking to take your retirement planning to the next level?

Are you looking to cement your future? When it comes to retirement planning, there are a lot of moving parts that can make things seem complex, but our ‘4 Steps to Secure Your Retirement’ mini-series will take you through the process to a brighter retirement. Want to find out more? Get started today.

How to Get Guaranteed Income with a Fixed Indexed Annuity

If your Social Security benefit or pension won’t provide you with enough guaranteed monthly income to keep you comfortable in retirement, an annuity can help.

You can watch the video on this topic further down, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

 

There are often limited resources for securing guaranteed income in retirement, but if you have or are considering opening an annuity, you may be able to access an “income rider”. An income rider is an additional annuity feature designed to guarantee income for the rest of your life.

 

In this post, we continue our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them series by diving into how a fixed index annuity provides guaranteed income using the income rider.

 

Our annuities series is a comprehensive guide to this complex product. If you want to learn more about annuities, we encourage you to read the posts on our blog, listen to the episodes on the Secure Your Retirement podcast, or follow the links below to watch them on our YouTube channel:

 

Why choose a fixed index annuity? A quick summary

We believe there are three reasons why you would want to add a fixed index annuity to your portfolio. The first is good accumulation. Fixed index annuities accumulate similar to a bond, but with the added benefit of no downside risk. The second is the death benefit, and the third is guaranteed income.

 

Before we discuss how to get guaranteed income from your annuity, here is some high-level information to help you understand how annuities work, the different types, and why we recommend a fixed index annuity.

 

  • Deferred annuities are either fixed or variable.
  • Variable annuities are linked to market investment through buying mutual funds. The rates are often high for variable annuities, and they come with risk. To make a decent return on your variable annuity, you have to overcome these fees and more.
  • Fixed annuities have guaranteed principals, meaning you cannot make a loss, which is why we prefer them.
  • There are two types of fixed annuity, traditional and indexed – both guarantee your principal.
  • The traditional annuity is similar to a CD (certificate of deposit). You give your principal to an insurance company, and they provide a return based on a fixed rate for a number of years.
  • With an indexed annuity, your return is linked to an index such as the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ. Even though indexes can fall, your principal is guaranteed, so the worst a fixed index annuity can earn in a year is zero.
  • The crediting methods for fixed annuities are based on a point-to-point annual reset. For example, if you open an annuity on January 1st, 2021, you’ll earn your interest on January 1st, 2022.
  • If you have a fixed index annuity, your interest will be calculated depending on what strategy you use. This could be a cap or participation strategy. To learn more about caps and participation rates, read our blog post, Fixed Index Annuities: How They Work and Things to Consider, or watch the podcast episode.

Our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them series covers many of these points in much greater depth, so if you have any questions about how annuities work, please visit the other articles on our blog.

 

A fixed index annuity is our recommended option, especially for retirees who need access to a higher guaranteed income.

 

Why guaranteed income is important in retirement

When planning for your retirement, you want to ensure that you have enough guaranteed income to cover all of your essential income needs. Your income needs fall into one of three categories:

  • Essential: anything you need to pay for, e.g., your water bill
  • Wants: anything that isn’t necessary but gives you a better quality of life, e.g., vacations
  • Giveaway money: for gifting to your children or a charity

We believe that at least your essential outgoings should be covered by your guaranteed income.

 

Most retirees have two guaranteed income sources, their pension and Social Security. Beyond this, there are limited options to secure guaranteed income. One option is to add an income rider to your fixed index annuity.

 

The cost of a fixed index annuity income rider

Adding an income rider to your annuity gives you a lifetime income benefit. This is a powerful tool to help you take care of your essential income needs and grant you continued access to your principal. But, if you’re aiming for your highest guaranteed income, you’re going to have a fee.

 

There can be two different types of fees with an income rider. The first is a clear-cut fee, where the insurance company will charge you a percentage of your principal. This is usually around 1%. The second is a built-in fee, where you won’t be charged directly, but you will see a reduction in return.

 

 

How a fixed index annuity income rider works

A fixed income annuity already accumulates money for a death benefit. The income rider income generation is separate from this. Bear in mind that this income value is not lump sum money. If an insurance agent tells you that their annuity can give you 6% growth, this rate is for income purposes and isn’t available as a lump sum.

 

Let’s use an example to demonstrate. If you have $100,000 in a fixed index annuity with an income benefit growing at 6%, in roughly ten years, your annuity will be worth around $200,000. You cannot take this as a lump sum – this figure is a calculation based on how much income the annuity generated. That 6% growth-rate of $200,000 equates to $12,000 a year of guaranteed income. That’s $1,000 a month guaranteed income for the rest of your life, generated by the fixed index annuity income rider alone.

 

Suppose you’ve calculated your essential income needs at $4,000 per month, but your Social Security will only give you $3,000. In that case, we can work out how much you should put in a fixed index annuity with an income rider to guarantee that extra $1,000.

 

The income rider creates, in essence, a pension that you cannot outlive. Even if your annuity account’s value decreased to zero, you would continue to receive payments through the income rider.

 

 

Why an income rider could suit your future

If you’re married, you may want the guaranteed income to last for the entirety of both yours and your partner’s lives. You can choose to have survivorship, but this will decrease your monthly income, similar to a pension.

 

You do not have to decide whether your annuity income rider is dual or single life until you start taking income. This is a plus point for annuity income riders as it offers flexibility for the future. If you set up an income rider today but won’t need your income for the next five or ten years, you won’t have to choose dual or single income until you’re ready to take it.

 

In most cases, you can start taking income from your annuity after a year. But, just like a Social Security benefit or pension, the longer you wait, the higher your income will be.

 

How could an income rider increase your guaranteed income?

We understand that annuities are a complex and often confusing product and visualizing how they suit your situation can be difficult. If you’d like to see how an annuity could benefit your specific retirement plan, we can help.

 

 

Our advisors can show you how an income rider could impact your guaranteed income when you book a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation. On the call, we can discuss how an annuity would work for you and how it could help you meet your essential income needs. If you want to speak to a team member, book your call today.

Long-Term Care Insurance: Traditional vs. Hybrid

Which long-term care insurance plan is right for you?

 

If you want to protect against the financial strain of future healthcare challenges, you might be considering buying a long-term care insurance plan.

 

There are many different types of long-term care insurance policies. They vary from how much your premium is, to the benefit they provide, so it’s important to understand which plan best suits your financial situation.

 

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

In this post, we share a high-level overview of traditional long-term care insurance, the differences between the traditional and hybrid models, and how you can adjust the options to fit your needs.

What is long-term care?

 

Long-term care is when you need continuing assistance in your daily life. This includes help with getting around, bathing, and other requirements within your home or assisted living facility. It also covers full-time medical care, such as a nursing home.

 

If you’re paying for long-term care insurance, both traditional and hybrid models have the same qualifier. A doctor would need to verify that you need help with two out of the six Activities of Daily Living for your insurance policy to start paying out. The six activities are bathing, dressing, eating, transferring, toileting, and continence.

 

Regular health insurance and Medicare don’t cover long-term care, so insurance could be a good idea if you want to protect your assets.

 

Buying long-term care insurance

 

Insurance for long-term care is similar to any other insurance. It’s a personal decision to transfer risk from yourself to an insurance company so that they can cover any unexpected costs.

 

Think about your car insurance, home insurance, or life insurance. You buy it to protect yourself in case something happens – but you may never use it. Long-term care insurance works in the same way.

 

There are two different types of long-term care insurance plans: traditional and hybrid. They both transfer risk from yourself to an insurance company and have the same qualifiers but have very different costs and benefits.

 

Understanding traditional long-term care insurance

 

Traditional long-term care insurance is a standalone policy, and it includes customizable options to better suit your needs.

 

Like any other insurance, you can pay monthly or annually to keep your insurance plan in force (active). You’ll also have to make decisions on the following items to ensure that your long-term care plan is right for you.

1. Your benefit

 

If you need long-term care, you can decide whether to take your benefit on a monthly or daily basis. Typically, your benefit can range from around $3,000 to $12,000 a month. Depending on how much benefit you want, your premium will change. If you want less benefit, your premium will be lower, and it will be higher if you want more.

 

2. Your benefit period

 

Your benefit period is how long your insurance will cover your long-term care needs. You can choose to have your policy cover your bills for a set number of years or cover you for the rest of your life.

 

3. Your inflation rate

 

It’s vital to keep up with the rising cost of care, so inflation is crucial to bear in mind when choosing a long-term care insurance policy. Many traditional policies have inflation protection built-in, and you can choose from a 3, 4, or 5% compound inflation rate.

 

If you qualify for a policy that covers $3,000 a month, for example, but you don’t need long-term care for another 10, 20, or 30 years, your policy may no longer cover your needs without inflation protection.

 

However, if you have inflation protection at a 5% compound rate and need long-term care next year, the insurance company will cover around $3,150, versus the original $3,000 you signed up for.

 

4. Your waiting period

If you need long-term care and have been approved to receive your insurance money, you’ll need to cover your expenses for a certain period. This is called the ‘waiting period’ and is typically 30, 60, or 90 days.

 

This is very similar to the deductible on your car insurance. For example, you may have to pay the first $500 for any damages to your car, and then your car insurance will pay for anything above that. The waiting period is when you have to use your own assets to cover a set amount of time before your insurance company will pay.

 

It’s important to consider how much risk you want to cover, as costs can mount quickly in your waiting period.

 

The pros and cons of a traditional long-term care insurance policy

 

One of the main positives of a traditional long-term care insurance policy is that you can manipulate each of these four factors to build the policy you want. However, they all affect your premium.

 

But a drawback to the traditional plan is that there is no cash value. Like car insurance, you pay to stay in force, but you don’t build up any cash reserves. So, if you start your policy in your early 50s and never need long-term care, you could pay thousands of dollars for peace of mind alone.

 

Some insurance companies will allow you to pay part of the premiums upfront, but the majority are paid on an annual basis and continue for as long as you’re using the policy. Once you’ve been approved for a policy, companies can’t reject or turn-off your insurance, so long as you continue to pay your premiums.

 

However, premiums can rise. In the past, they’ve risen every 3-5 years, and this may eventually put a strain on your cash flow. If this happens, and you want to adjust your premium, you can reduce your service based on the four factors above. Otherwise, you can cancel your policy and cover any long-term care costs that may arise using your own assets.

 

Understanding hybrid long-term care insurance

 

Hybrid long-term care insurance is designed for those who feel unsure about paying for insurance premiums when they may never need long-term care. These policies allow you access to your money and provide other benefits alongside covering long-term care.

 

In this post, we’ll detail two of the hybrid long-term care insurance models.

 

Long-term care annuity hybrid

The long-term care annuity hybrid combines an annuity and long-term care benefit. With this hybrid, your cash grows in an annuity with the added benefit of long-term care insurance. You also have an interest rate, and you can access those funds whenever you need to.

Let’s use an example. If you put $100,000 into your long-term care annuity hybrid, that $100,000 is still your money and accessible to you. You can earn interest on this money and grow your cash as if it’s in a regular annuity.

 

Depending on your age and your situation, the long-term care side will determine how much of your annuity can be used for long-term care. For example, you might be able to use three times the amount you put into the annuity. In this example, that’s $300,000 of long-term care benefit.

 

If you don’t need long-term care, then your $100,000 will continue to grow through the interest rate. You can also add it to your estate plan and distribute it to your beneficiaries at the end of your life.

With the annuity hybrid, you won’t have to worry about rate increases on long-term care insurance, and your money always stays accessible to you.

 

Triple hybrid – long-term care, cash value, and life insurance

 

If you’re unsure about what cover you might need in the future but want to keep your cash flow options open, then a triple hybrid insurance policy provides comprehensive cover and has a cash value.

The triple hybrid is similar to the long-term care annuity hybrid but offers life insurance as an extra.

Let’s use another example. If you put $100,000 into a triple hybrid insurance plan, you could have:

  • $300,000 for long-term care
  • $250,000 instantly of death benefit which can go to your heirs tax-free
  • Cash value close to $100,000, accessible to you

An advantage of both hybrid policies is that your beneficiaries can receive their benefits if you don’t need long-term care. Also, you won’t need to worry about rate increases as insurance premiums on hybrid policies are fixed.

Hybrid long-term care insurance is often favored over the traditional plan, but there’s lots to think about before deciding which plan is right for you. You may opt not to buy an insurance plan at all and instead finance any long-term care using your own assets.

If you want to talk to an expert about which long-term care insurance plan is right for you, our team can help. Book a complimentary 15-minute call with us, and we can explore what insurance solutions suit your unique situation and answer your questions about long-term care.

How Fixed Index Annuities Grow Your Money With Low Risk

Money accumulation is paramount as you approach retirement. However, high-risk, high-reward strategies may no longer suit your approach, as many retirees become increasingly risk-averse.

If you have savings that you want to grow risk-free, there are some options available to you. CDs, bonds, and money markets are safe, low-return ways to increase your savings over time. But fixed index annuities could provide a much greater return and are entirely risk-free.

In this post, we share the benefits of a fixed index annuity and explain how insurance companies avoid risk while growing your money.

Annuities are complex; however, they can be beneficial to a retirement portfolio if you understand them. That’s why we’ve created our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series, to answer all the common questions about the pros and cons of annuities.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

 

This post is the fourth installment in the series, so we encourage you to listen to the first three episodes to learn more about annuities. Find them on our Secure Your Retirement podcast, read the posts on our blog, or follow the links below to watch the episodes on our YouTube channel:

1. Annuity types – a quick recap

As we dive into the details of how annuities work, it can be useful to have a foundational knowledge of different annuity products. For a quick, high-level overview, here are the main types of annuities and their key characteristics:

  • Immediate annuity: is a quick and simple way to get an immediate income stream. You give money to an insurance company, which redistributes it back to you as income. For example, if you bought a $100,000 immediate annuity, the insurance company could begin giving you $500 a month for the rest of your life.
  • Deferred annuity: is tax-deferred with some surrender penalties. Deferred annuities can be either variable or fixed and must be committed to for a certain period.
  • Variable annuity: you can use a variable annuity to invest in the stock market. Typically, variable annuities are used to buy mutual funds. There are fees, and a lot of risk involved as the market can fluctuate and so can your annuity’s value.
  • Fixed annuity: is tax-deferred with a principal guarantee, so unlike a variable annuity, you cannot lose any money. However, your money can still grow. Fixed annuities can be broken down into two types, traditional and index.
  • Traditional fixed annuity: similar to a CD, you lock your money in a traditional fixed annuity for a set period at a fixed interest rate. It’s a risk-free way to grow your money.
  • Fixed index annuity: this grows your money using market links. You may be tied to an index like the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ. You’ll receive a portion based on the index’s performance over an annual point to point reset. This means if you start your annuity on January 1st 2021, how the index performs between January 1st 2021 and January 1st 2022 will determine what interest will be credited to your annuity.

We’re going to focus on fixed index annuities in this post. We’ll break down how insurance companies can guarantee your principal even when your annuity is linked to market performance and explain why it’s a win-win for you and insurance companies.

 

2. How to earn interest on fixed index annuities

There are two ways to earn interest on a fixed index annuity, either through a cap or a participation rate.

A cap prevents your principal from reducing due to market volatility. So, if you set a cap at 5%, and your annuity’s index earns 10%, then your annuity will only grow up to 5% in that year. However, if the market falls, you cannot earn a negative rate of return, meaning that your money will not decrease below your guaranteed principle or any increases from previous years.

Participation rates are similar, but instead of using a cap, they increase your principal by a percentage of how the index performs. For example, if your index earns 10% and your participation rate is 50%, then you’ll earn a 5% rate of return.

We dedicated an entire podcast episode to explaining how caps and participation rates work in detail. To learn more about earning interest on fixed index annuities, please watch the episode.

 

3. How insurance companies guarantee your principal risk-free

Caps, participation rates, and a guaranteed principal mean that fixed index annuities can look almost too good to be true, and you may question how they benefit the insurance company.

Some of the most popular questions we get about fixed index annuities are, “If the index drops 20%, does the insurance company have to me back the equivalent of my loss? or “If my cap is 5%, and the index earns 10%, then does the insurance company keep the extra 5%?”

The answer to both questions is no. So how do insurance companies guarantee a rate of return on your principle without putting themselves at risk?

Here’s an example. You have $100,000 to put into an annuity with an insurance company. The insurance company manages billions of dollars and earns 3% on its total assets. They want more people to invest with them, so they try to attract new policyholders with a return rate of 2.5%. This might not be the most attractive rate to all potential investors, so they take the 2.5% and create a futures contract.

A futures contract is a legal agreement to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price in the future. For example, if you wanted to buy a company’s share at $100, but the current price is $150, you could set up a futures contract to only buy a share when the price hits $100.

In the case of an index fund annuity, the insurance company takes the 2.5% and puts it into a futures contract related to your index. This futures contract might state that if the index increases, then the insurance company will participate. So, if the index goes up, then the insurance company can provide you with your agreed participation rate. However, if the index is down, then that 2.5% is lost, but it has no negative impact on your principal.

Caps work in a very similar way. If your cap is 5%, then the futures contract will expire at 5%. This will give your annuity a 5% rate of return, and the insurance company will not participate above 5%, meaning that they won’t be pocketing any extra money if the index continues increasing.

If the index is down in either case, then neither you nor the insurance company will lose anything, but you won’t earn a rate of return that year. The worst an index fund annuity can do is earn a zero rate of return, but there’s potential to earn a much greater amount, risk-free.

 

4. Why we recommend fixed index annuities for retirees  

Compared to bonds, CDs, and money markets, fixed index annuities are a good alternative to safely accumulate your money. They have no-risk and are much safer than investing in the stock market, but they have more earning potential than lower-rate products or accounts.

We highly recommend adding a fixed index annuity to your retirement portfolio, but only if you understand how they work.

 

We appreciate that annuities are complex and can be difficult to fully understand. If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We can discuss how annuities can work for your individual retirement plan and answer any further questions you may have. Start by booking a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team today.

How Are You Going to Stay on Top of Your Finances in 2021?

How are you going to stay on top of your finances in 2021?

Financially planning for retirement can feel like a lot of work, especially if you have multiple moving parts to your money. Dealing with 401Ks, IRAs, Social Security, and RMDs can become overwhelming as the year gets busier, so we recommend taking stock of your finances early and planning ahead.

The beginning of the year is a great time to review your finances but knowing where to start is challenging. So, we’ve created our retirement and financial planning checklist.

Read on to discover the nine key areas you should consider for the upcoming year. We also point out some key changes and information for 2021, so you can start this year as securely as possible.

1. Review your 401K, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and HSA contributions

If you’re earning income, you should review your accounts and plan how much you want to contribute to each one this year. Do you have a goal for each? How much will you need to contribute to get you there?

Bear in mind that contributions may be limited, so you might need to adjust your plans and payroll accordingly. For example, the contribution limit for 401Ks in 2021 is $19,500. However, if you’re over 50 years of age, you can qualify for the ‘catch-up contribution’, increasing the $19,500 limit by an additional $6,500. This also applies to 403Bs and 457 plans.

Roth IRA accounts have a much lower contribution limit of $6,000, with an additional $1,000 for those over 50.

We’ve detailed the difference between Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs before, but to recap, the main differences are:

  • A Roth IRA is tax-free assets: contributed to after you’ve paid tax on the money – these have income limitations, so if you earn over a certain amount, you will not be able to contribute
  • A traditional IRA is pre-tax assets: contributed to before you’ve paid tax on the money – no income limitations

To learn more about the pros and cons of Roth IRAs vs traditional IRAs, read this post.

Once you are aware of your accounts’ limitations, we advise you plan your contributions for the year. This way, you can ensure you’re on track to achieving your long-term money goals without having to continually review your accounts’ statuses.

2. Update your beneficiaries

Life sometimes moves so fast that it can be hard to keep up. New grandchildren, marriages, or other life changes may affect who you want as a beneficiary.

It’s important to stay on top of your different accounts and which beneficiaries are associated with them. Your accounts and associated beneficiaries should align with your overall estate plan and life insurance to avoid confusion.

Updating beneficiaries can be easily done online or with a signature on a form. It should only take a few minutes and is something we highly recommend putting in order while you have the time.

3. Consolidate your accounts

If you’ve previously changed employment, you may well have more than one 401K plan open. We often speak to clients who have two, three, or four 401Ks with past employers, that they’ve completely forgotten about – and that have substantial balances in them!

Moving existing 401Ks into a traditional IRA is a fantastic way to consolidate your accounts. It’s completely tax-free, with no risk, penalties, and typically no fees. If you hold multiple traditional IRAs, we also advise consolidating these into just one account.

By reducing the number of unnecessary accounts, managing your money will become more straightforward and less stressful.

4. Assess your mortgage rate

It’s very unlikely that mortgage rates will reduce further, so we recommend taking advantage of them while you can. Now is a great time to refinance your house or any investment properties you have a loan on. An advantageous rate could lower your payments, giving you greater monthly cash flow, or help you pay off the loan faster.

We spoke to a Loan Officer with 15 years’ experience about the benefits of refinancing in our podcast episode ‘Tammi Rowe – Planning Your Mortgage and Retirement’. To find out more about what refinancing could do for you, listen to the episode.

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5. Plan for emergencies

You might be faced with a financial opportunity, for example, paying off your mortgage, but it’ll leave you with less cash in the bank than you’d like. Should you do it? Or should you build up your ‘emergency fund’ first?

Having cash reserves in case of emergencies is necessary. But you don’t always have to choose between keeping lots of cash in the bank or paying off a substantial loan.

One tip we give our clients is to open an equity line of credit. There can be a minimal fee to open it, but there’s no interest if you don’t have any balance. This means that if you spend your cash reserves on something like paying off a mortgage, you have easy access to cash, as an equity line of credit comes with either a debit card, a checkbook, or both.

An equity line of credit is only available to those still working, so if you want an emergency fund for the future, we urge you to set one up while you still qualify. You won’t need to make any payments, and it won’t gain any interest, so long as the balance is zero.

6. Consider how and when you’ll take your RMDs

If you’re turning 72 in 2021, pay close attention. RMDs or Required Minimum Distributions were optional in 2020, however, the rules are changing for 2021, and if you turn 72 this year, you will have to take your RMDs this year and every year going forward.

Your individual RMDs are based on your IRAs’ combined balance, so there isn’t one set figure for everyone. You can spend your RMDs, or you can reinvest them into another brokerage account, but they must leave your IRA and cannot go into another IRA.

Bear in mind that money in a traditional IRA is pre-tax. So, when it leaves the IRA as an RMD, it’s treated as income and will be taxed.

There is no rule when you should take your RMDs, but you must start taking them before December 31st from the year you turn 72. Some people choose to take it monthly, like a paycheck, and others take it as a lump sum at the beginning or end of the year.

If you don’t need to take your RMD and don’t want to pay tax on the money you don’t need, you can make a qualified charitable deduction once you’re aged 70 and a half. This is where you direct your RMD straight from your IRA to a charity of your choice. This way, your RMD leaves the IRA but isn’t claimed as income, making it tax-free.

You can also do this with a portion of your RMD. For example, if your RMD is $10,000, and you want to instruct $5,000 to a charity and keep $5,000 for yourself, you only have to pay tax on the $5,000 you keep.

7. Apply for Social Security

If you’re planning on taking Social Security in 2021, it can be a long process. Right now, there are thousands of people applying every single day, so we advise applying two to three months ahead of when you want to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

You can apply as early as three months before the date that you want to start receiving them, so if you’ve already decided it’s part of your financial plan for 2021, don’t wait. Plan ahead, make the phone calls, and fill out the paperwork as soon as you can so that you can receive your benefits when you need them.

8. Research your Medicare options

Health insurance has never been more vital, so putting a plan in place as soon as possible is recommended. There’s a lot to think about with Medicare, from how your income affects your premiums to when the open enrollment periods are. If you’re turning 65 or going to be receiving Medicare, we encourage you to research your options.

We spoke to Medicare Specialist, Lorraine Bowen, on our podcast, and she answered all of our Medicare questions, including what it covers and how to find out if you’re entitled to it. To learn more about Medicare, listen to this episode.

9. Understand your income plan

When you stop working, you might find it more challenging to keep track of your income. There can be many moving parts in retirement with different income streams and RMDs, and it could leave you with an unnecessarily high tax bill or with fewer cash reserves than you’d like.

Now is the perfect time to adjust your income to ensure that you’re not taking too much or too little. We use a couple of different software programs that help us automatically track income on a month-by-month basis to find a monthly income figure that’s best suited to you. If you want to learn more about how we do this, reach out to us.

Those are our nine key points for preparing your finances for retirement in 2021. By completing this checklist, you’ll be giving yourself peace of mind that you’re on track to achieving your financial goals throughout the year.

We’re going to delve deeper into more of these topics as the year progresses, but if you have any urgent questions about any of the subjects we discussed in this post, please get in touch. You can contact us, or if you want to discuss your retirement goals with a member of our team, we invite you to schedule a 15-minute complimentary call with us.

Fixed Index Annuities: How They Work and Things to Consider

You may never have considered a fixed index annuity, but is it something you should look at for your retirement plan?

Many people think annuities are too complicated. That’s why throughout our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series, we’ve tried to answer the questions which may have led you to dismiss them in the past.

In this post, we’re focusing on fixed index annuities, specifically how interest is credited on them. We’ll also recap some general advice on annuities, so you can stay informed about how they work and what they can offer.

What are annuities? A quick recap

If you’re unsure what annuities are, how they work and the benefits they offer, be sure to go back to part one and two of our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series. It’s worth understanding the basics before we launch into the more complex areas of deferred fixed index annuities, which we’ll cover in this post.

As a quick recap, here are some key points to be aware of:

  • Annuities are generally used for one of two reasons: as a safe money alternative or as a fixed source of income in retirement.
  • There are two main types of annuities: immediate and deferred.
  • Immediate annuities are when an insurance company sets up an income stream based on your retirement assets.
  • A deferred annuity is used as both a safe money alternative and an income stream.
  • Deferred annuities have two types: fixed and variable. We wouldn’t recommend variable, as there’s a risk you could lose money.
  • Instead, we always suggest declared rate or fixed index deferred annuities.
  • A declared rate annuity offers a fixed rate of return over a set period; it’s often compared to a bond or a certificate of deposit (CD).
  • A fixed index annuity is when the rate of interest you earn varies in line with an index, such as the SMP500. This is a great option because you can benefit from upswings in the market without the risk of losing money.

We appreciate that’s a lot of information to take in. If you’re at all confused by how different types of annuities work, we’d encourage you to read parts one and two of the “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series.

Alternatively, listen to episode 26 and episode 30 of the Securement Your Retirement podcast, where we cover these topics in detail. They’re available on your usual podcast app or on YouTube.

What is an index cap and how does it affect a fixed index annuity?

Now we’ve covered what you need to know about annuities, let’s continue our conversation about how interest is credited on a fixed index annuity.

In part two of “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them,” we talked about the annual reset and how it relates to the interest you earn. Think of this as a reset point for the interest-earning period; it varies depending on the terms of your contract but usually happens every 12 months.

The beauty of a fixed index annuity is that any interest you earn is guaranteed and will be credited to your account on the annual reset. This then becomes the starting point for the new interest-earning period.

However, there are a couple of other things to note about interest crediting on a fixed index annuity, including the “index cap”.

The index cap is the maximum amount of interest you can earn in an interest-earning period, as a percentage sum. It’s set by the insurance company who controls your annuity and is based on a range of factors, including the overall financial outlook.

To help you understand how an index cap works on a fixed index annuity, here’s a simple example:

  1. You put $100,000 into a fixed index annuity
  2. The insurance company sets a 5% index cap
  3. The index performs well over your interest-earning period and is up 15%
  4. The index cap means you’ll make 5% interest
  5. The interest is credited during the annual reset
  6. You now have $105,000, which is guaranteed and will never fall

This is just a simple example to show you how the index cap dictates the interest you earn on a fixed index annuity. Whether it’s the SMP500 or the NASDAQ; no matter how strongly an index performs, you’ll only earn interest up to the index cap.

It’s worth remembering that you can’t lose money on this type of annuity, even if the index performs poorly or goes negative. Any interest made is guaranteed, so whatever you earn is yours to keep – making a fixed index annuity a powerful way to grow your retirement fund.

What is the participation rate and why does it matter?

Something else that affects the interest you can earn is what we call the “participation rate”. This is a percentage sum, set by the insurance company, which essentially decides how much money you should make from an index. 

To show you how the participation rate works and how it affects the interest you’ll earn on a fixed index annuity, here’s a basic example.

Let’s say you pay $100,000 into a fixed index annuity with a 50% participation rate. This means you’ll earn 50% of what your index makes.

So, if an index made 10%, you’d get 5%. If it made 12.5%, you’d make a 6.25% return.

Participation rates vary widely and are one of the first things we look for when finding the most lucrative fixed index annuity deals. Insurers offer lots of different rates, with the majority falling in the 80-90% range, though they can be higher or lower based on a range of factors.

Do you want to put your money in a fixed index annuity? We can help

The world of fixed index annuities can be complicated, with lots of options and things to consider. But if you think this sounds like the right direction to take with your retirement plan, we’re here to help.

Our experts have years of experience in helping people set up and manage a fixed index annuity. And with the potential to boost your retirement assets by a considerable amount, taking advantage of our knowledge and expertise is certain to be worth your while.

We’d also like to reiterate that while annuities may sound complicated, they have been around for a long time, with billions of dollars passing through them each year. Through our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them”series, we want to get you thinking differently about these products, so you can make an informed decision on where to put your retirement assets.

Are you ready to take the next step on your retirement plan? Book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss your retirement goals today.

The Stretch IRA is Gone: What Next for Your Inheritance?

The stretch IRA is dead, so what options do you have when it comes to inheritance planning?

At the start of 2020, new rules were introduced on how individual retirement account (IRA) holders can use the “stretch” IRA to manage their inheritance. With changes to the way beneficiaries access inheritance assets, you may have questions about what the rules mean for you and your loved ones.

In this post, we look at what happened to the stretch IRA and how it could affect your inheritance planning. We also cover some of the alternatives to stretch IRAs, including life insurance and Roth conversions.

What happened to the stretch IRA?

On January 1, 2020, the Secure Act was passed and with it came to the end of the stretch IRA. For years, this estate planning strategy was a tax-advantageous way to leave an IRA to a non-spouse beneficiary, but now it’s no longer an option.

So, which new rules were introduced under the Secure Act 2020? And what effect have they had on how IRAs work?

The biggest change concerns how a beneficiary can access an IRA after they’ve inherited it. Previously, a stretch IRA allowed non-spouse beneficiaries unlimited time to withdraw funds from their inheritance. Now, the money must be out of the IRA within 10 years after the date of death, so beneficiaries can no longer access them over their lifetime.

Say, for example, you want to leave $40,000 to your grandchild, who is 30 years old. The Secure Act now means they must withdraw all of the assets within 10 years, either as a lump sum or as annual distribution payments. If they don’t, they’ll have to pay tax all at once, which could significantly reduce their inheritance pot.

Thankfully, the introduction of the Secure Act isn’t all bad news for those with an IRA. There are two other rule changes which many will see as a benefit:

  • The age at which you must withdraw required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRA has risen from 70 to 72. This means you’ll have two more years to pay into your retirement account before you need to start drawing money from it.
  • The Secure Act has removed the upper age limit of paying into an IRA. Now, so long as you’re still earning income, you can continue paying into your retirement account indefinitely.

What to consider when withdrawing from an IRA inheritance fund

Now that beneficiaries have just 10 years to withdraw assets from an IRA, they must think about how and when to access their inheritance. Remember, a beneficiary can withdraw funds either as a lump sum or as regular distributions, affecting how much they pay in tax.

If a beneficiary is 60-65 and within 10 years of retirement, it could be worth waiting until they retire before withdrawing money from the IRA. That’s because retirement means a smaller income, so they’ll be in a lower tax bracket and pay less tax on the total inheritance amount.

For younger beneficiaries, withdrawing from an IRA over the 10-year period may be more advantageous – especially if they expect their income to increase as they get older.

Through these examples, you can see why it’s important for beneficiaries to think about the best time to withdraw funds from an IRA. We’d always recommend discussing these options with your beneficiaries so that they can make the most of their inheritance after you’ve gone.

How to manage your inheritance now that the stretch IRA is gone

Now that the stretch IRA is a thing of the past, what other options can help you make the most of your inheritance?

With advanced IRA planning, you can make sure your beneficiaries don’t face a heavy tax burden on their inheritance. There are a few different options that provide good alternatives to the stretch IRA, including Roth conversions and life insurance.

Roth conversions

A Roth conversion is the process of switching your pre-tax IRA assets into tax-free ‘Roth’ assets. This means that you pay the tax on your beneficiary’s inheritance so that all the money they receive is tax-free.

The beauty of Roth assets is that, while the 10-year Secure Act rule still applies, there’s no tax to worry about for both lump sum and annual withdrawals. What’s more, as Roth assets earn interest, it’s well worth letting the inheritance grow over the 10-year period.

A Roth conversion does mean you’ll have to settle the tax bill yourself, passing this benefit to your beneficiary. If that’s important to you, it could be a great option.

Life insurance

The second option we’d recommend as an alternative to the stretch IRA is life insurance. Although slightly more complicated than a Roth conversion, taking out life insurance guarantees tax-free inheritance for your beneficiaries after you’ve gone.

A key thing to note about the life insurance option is that you have to go through underwriting, meaning you first have to qualify. Some people may be concerned that their age will bar them from taking out life insurance, but you may be surprised at the rates and options available.

Life insurance is a great way to ensure your non-spousal beneficiaries can enjoy their inheritance without worrying about tax. What’s more, there’s no 10-year rule on when an inheritor has to withdraw the funds from a life insurance plan, making it a beneficial long-term inheritance option.

So, if you have money set aside as inheritance, life insurance could be the best way to guarantee a tax-free benefit for your loved ones.

Do you need help with your inheritance planning?

We understand that planning your inheritance can be complicated, especially given the recent rule changes introduced by the Secure Act. So, if you need help understanding the different options available, our experts can provide impartial advice on the best way to pass your retirement assets on to your loved ones.

Whatever you’re planning for your inheritance and however big the sum you’ve set aside for your beneficiaries, we can help make the process simpler to manage. Book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss your retirement goals today.

What Are Annuities and How Do They Work?

When it comes to your retirement plan, you may have dismissed fixed annuities as overly complicated. But with major benefits to be had, we think investing in an annuity is a conversation worth having.

In this post, we’re taking an in-depth look at fixed annuities, including what they are, how they work, and the different options available. We’ll also walk you through an example, so you can see how this type of annuity could benefit your retirement fund.

Annuities – a quick refresher

In part one of our Annuities – Why Ever Use Them’ series we covered the basic what, why, and how of annuities. If you missed it, here’s a quick refresher:

  • An annuity provides income in retirement, either as a stable income stream or as a place to earn interest on your money
  • People take out annuities for one of two major reasons: income planning in retirement and as a safe place to store money
  • There are two major types of annuities: immediate and deferred
  • An immediate annuity is when you give a lump sum to an insurance company, which then distributes it back to you through income-for-life payments
  • A deferred annuity is a place to invest and store money for your retirement. You can earn interest on the money you’ve invested before withdrawing it as a lump sum or setting up an income stream
  • There are two major types of deferred annuities: fixed and variable

We always recommend the fixed-rate option, so that’s what we’ll focus on in this post.

If you’d like more information on the basics of how annuities work, be sure to watch part 1 or listen to our podcast episode.

What are the main types of deferred fixed annuities?

If you’re looking for somewhere to store your savings and make money, a deferred fixed annuity could be a good option. This is when you give a lump sum to an insurance company to earn interest on your retirement fund.

There are a couple of benefits to fixed annuities which make them more attractive than immediate annuities. Firstly, the money you give to the insurance company isn’t locked away, so you can access your savings for big purchases, like vacations or home improvements.

Secondly, you’ll earn interest on your investment, giving your retirement pot a significant boost without fear of losing your principal investment.

The amount of interest you earn will depend on the fixed annuity you invest in, with the two main types being declared rate and fixed index. Let’s take a closer look at how these annuities work and what they offer.

Declared rate annuities

A declared rate annuity provides a fixed rate of return over a set period. Think of them like a certificate of deposit (CD), wherein you consistently earn interest in a safe, stable way.

Declared rate annuities are a popular option for those who want to boost their retirement pot with a reliable source of interest. At the end of the plan, you can withdraw your money and walk away or set up an income stream for your retirement years.

Of course, the downside to declared rate annuities is that the amount of interest is fixed, so you’ll never make more than the declared amount. While this does mean reliable earnings, it takes away the opportunity to make money when the markets are up, so you’ll miss out on a potentially higher rate.

Fixed index annuities

Fixed index annuities bridge the gap between fixed-rate and variable annuities, allowing you to benefit from market upswings without fear of losing your principal investment. With this type of annuity, the interest you earn is based on an index, be it the SMP500 or the NASDAQ.

Having your retirement assets linked to the stock market might sound alarming, but the beauty of this type of annuity is that your investment is guaranteed. That means you can take advantage of higher interest rates when the market climbs, without fear of losing money should it fall.

The drawback to fixed index annuities is that when the market is negative, you could make little to no interest over a 12-month period. However, if this is a risk you’re willing to take, the interest you earn when the index goes up will more than likely outstrip that of a declared rate plan.

How is interest credited on a fixed index annuity?

So, how does the interest you earn through an index make its way to your retirement fund? To answer that, we’ll set out a basic example of a fixed index annuity, so you can get an idea of the numbers and timeframe.

Let’s say you invested $100,000 in a fixed index annuity on January 1, 2020. Over the next 12 months, you’ll earn interest based on how the index performs.

On January 1, 2021, the annual reset occurs, and you’ll receive your first statement. This tells you how much interest you’ve earned from the index as a percentage sum.

So, if you made 5% interest, your investment would now be worth $105,000. This is the amount that you start the new earning period with, and it’s guaranteed money that you can’t lose, even if the market declines.

Say, for example, the index performed poorly for the next 12 months; you wouldn’t make any money, but you wouldn’t lose any either. That’s why fixed index annuities can be a powerful way to boost your retirement fund and guarantee a good rate of return over the earnings period.

We understand that the annuities world can be complicated. That’s why we plan to continue this series, walking you through the ins and outs of the different options available.

Remember, if you need any advice or expertise in setting up an annuity for your retirement, our financial specialists are here to help. Book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss your retirement goals today.

Roth Conversion – When and How to Plan

If you have a traditional IRA, you may be considering a Roth conversion. There are many reasons why a Roth might suit your money better than a traditional IRA, however, knowing the differences between the two and the long-term results of moving your money can help you decide which IRA to choose.

Roth IRAs and conversions are a popular topic for those approaching retirement, so in this post, we explain why a Roth IRA might be beneficial to you, when to do a Roth conversion, and what’s involved in the process. 

The differences between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA

An IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, allows you to save for your retirement through tax-free growth or on a tax-deferred basis. There are several different types of IRA, but the two most common we see compared are Roth and traditional accounts.

If you have a traditional IRA, you typically receive an immediate tax benefit after you’ve contributed. You put your money in pre-tax, and it will grow tax-deferred. This means that when you begin withdrawing money from the IRA, it’s treated as income and is taxable.

If you have a Roth IRA, you don’t get any immediate tax benefits after contributing. You put your money in after-tax, however, it grows tax-free within the Roth account and remains tax-free after you withdraw it.

So, if you’re looking at making substantial or long-term contributions to an IRA, a Roth account could be a better option for you. This way, you’ll pay less tax in the long run, as you won’t have to pay any tax on your savings growth.

But if you’d prefer immediate tax benefits, then a traditional IRA could be the better choice. So which IRA is best for you depends on whether you’d like your tax benefits now or in the future.

How RMDs affect traditional IRAs 

One thing to bear in mind with traditional IRAs is that you have to take an RMD (required minimum distribution) from the age of 72 and every year after.

This is the deal you make with traditional IRAs. While you receive immediate tax benefits when you make contributions, RMDs are the government’s way of ensuring that they still receive tax revenue. RMDs are not optional, and you have to take them every year even if you don’t need the money.

RMDs are also taxed at future tax rates. If you believe that tax rates will be lower in the future, then a traditional IRA may make more sense for you. However, if you think that they will be higher, you might want to consider a Roth IRA.

A Roth IRA has no RMDs. You can withdraw as much or as little as you like, and you won’t be taxed on any withdrawals. 

Why contribution limitations can lead to conversions

There are contribution limits to both Roth and traditional IRAs, but for Roth IRAs there are also income limitations. If you earn too much, then you cannot make a direct contribution to your Roth IRA.

This is where a Roth conversion can help.

A Roth conversion is where you transfer money from your traditional IRA into your Roth IRA. One important thing to remember when you do this is that you have to pay tax on that asset. As the money will have gone into your traditional IRA pre-tax, you must pay tax on it before you can put it into your Roth IRA.

Once your money is in the Roth account, it can continue to grow tax-free for however long it’s in there. There are no requirements for when you should start taking money out or how much you should take out annually.

If you are taking RMDs from your traditional IRA, it’s important to know that you cannot convert them into a Roth account. The only way to move your RMDs into a Roth account is to combine it with an additional amount first. For example, if your RMD is $15,000 and you want to move this into your Roth account, you’ll have to take out more from your traditional IRA, say an extra $15,000, and move both amounts into the Roth account.

You can contribute to your IRA account when you file your taxes. For most people this is usually around April. But conversions must be done by the end of the year. The deadline for Roth conversions is December 31st.

Why should you do a Roth conversion

Roth conversions make a lot of financial sense when you’re temporarily in a low tax bracket or receiving very little taxable income. If you’re in a situation where you’re expecting your tax bracket to rise or your taxable income to increase, then it’s best to do a Roth conversion as soon as possible.

Converting at a time when you pay less tax has the best long-term benefits for your money as it will continue to grow tax-free and you’ll never have to pay tax on it again. This is the number one reason that many people do a Roth conversion.

The second reason is that you want to avoid RMDs. If you’re planning long term, then you could aim to convert all of your money from your traditional IRA before you turn 72. This way you won’t have to take RMDs and pay tax on them. Even if it’s not possible to convert all of your money before then, by moving some money into a Roth account, your RMDs could decrease and you’ll pay less tax overall.

The step-by-step process of a Roth conversion

If you’re thinking about doing a Roth conversion, the first step is to speak to a financial advisor. We can help you look at the whole picture and gauge whether it makes sense for your money.

We take a look at your current tax bracket, what future tax brackets we can expect, and if it’s the best year to make this type of conversion. We also involve CPAs who can help us decide how much to convert and navigate tax brackets.

Speaking to a financial advisor will also help you determine what your goals are for your money. We’ll help you understand why a Roth conversion may or may not help you reach those goals, and then once you’re happy, the process is as simple as moving money from one account to another.

So, if you’re considering a Roth conversion or have any questions about IRAs and what they can do for you, then reach out to us. You can book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss which avenue is right for you. Book your call today to get started!