Monthly Archives

August 2018

When Should I Seek Financial Advice?

By | Financial Advice, Financial Planning | No Comments

Here are some life milestones and events that mark when you should make the call to a financial advisor.

  1. When there’s a new baby in the family.

Parents, grandparents, siblings—everyone is affected when the new baby comes along. Now is the time to plan for what this tiny family member will grow to need in the future—especially college funds. And now is also the time to make sure that you have the right insurance and protections in place to see the child through to adulthood should something unexpectedly happen to you.

  1. When you get married.

Two people joined together in holy matrimony are also going to need to bring their finances together, for better or worse. And if there are any children from a previous marriage involved, it’s doubly important to find and hire a financial advisor that you both like and respect.

A comprehensive financial plan—which includes your mutual goals, time horizon to retirement, and desires for wealth transfer to family members—is a very important way to get started on your life journey together.

  1. When you win the lottery, or inherit.

We all dream of receiving a big financial windfall someday, but when you actually land a large amount of money at one time, studies show that many people squander it away. In fact, nearly a third of lottery winners actually end up declaring bankruptcy, becoming worse off than before they won.

If you receive money, call a financial advisor first, because no matter what the amount, it is actually less than it seems. You need qualified financial advice to ensure you don’t lose 30-90% to the IRS by not understanding tax laws. Financial advisors work as a team with your tax professionals to help you navigate inheritance, winnings, and gift taxes, as well as qualified money (like an inherited IRA account) tax rules so that you can actually end up ahead of the game.

  1. When you start working.

Your first job is an exciting time in your life. Even if you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, don’t miss the chance to achieve your life goals by harnessing the power of compound interest. Putting away even a very small amount each month can snowball through the years. A financial advisor can help you lay a plan to get ahead and reach your goals over the long term.

  1. When you start a new business, or want to sell one.

Small businesses offer many different options for retirement plans for their owners depending on the company structure. Call a financial advisor to help you set up a financial and retirement plan for your business in order to have the best chance of achieving your goals. And don’t forget about an exit strategy. Whether you want to leave your business to a family member or sell it, planning for your own departure from the company is essential to your ultimate financial success.

  1. When you’re starting to get close to retirement.

You should start to save for retirement as early as possible, but as you get closer to your actual retirement day, having a written plan in place to guide you becomes critical. How will you transform that nest egg you’ve saved into monthly income after you’re no longer getting a paycheck—without running out of money? How much money will you need? How will you take money out? Which accounts should you withdraw from first? What kind of taxes will you have to pay? How does Social Security work? How will you live, what will you do? Should you pay off your house first?

There are so many issues and retirement risks to address that retirement planning is absolutely essential. Ideally, you should have a plan in place by age 50—55. If you don’t, call your advisor as soon as possible.

  1. When you’re creating estate planning documents or establishing a trust.

Estate attorneys can create the documents you need, but they may not know about all the ins and outs of investments and insurance that can reduce taxation while helping ensure your final wishes are carried out. Call your financial advisor to get that important piece of the estate and tax planning equation.

  1. If you lose your job midlife, or are getting divorced with a lot of assets.

An adverse life event can hit anyone. If you’ve lost a job or are getting divorced, your financial advisor can help determine your best options for putting an immediate action plan in place.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, your financial advisor may be able help you position assets in order to be able retire early, or help you draw from certain accounts to get you through until you land your next job.

If you are getting divorced, be sure to get advice from a financial advisor as well as your divorce attorney. They can help you analyze the assets that will most benefit you based on your future goals in order to reach the best settlement split. They can help you see things you might not be able to see clearly, and that divorce attorneys may not know. Like what kind of burden versus advantage keeping the family home might be.

  1. In the final quarter of every year.

Once you do have a financial or retirement plan in place, you should absolutely review it every year. (Most likely you’ll just need to answer the call, since most advisors will reach out to conduct annual reviews with you.) The annual review will allow your advisor adjust the plan as well as make changes to account beneficiaries as your family changes through time.

 

There are three different advisory disciplines you should seek out—tax professionals, legal professionals (like estate attorneys), and financial advisors. We can help you with the financial advice part of the equation. We can help you get set up with a tax professional and estate attorney from our network of contacts, or work as a team with yours.

Call SF Financial in Colorado Springs at (719) 597-2179.

 

7 Things You Should Know About Medicare Before You Retire

By | Retirement | No Comments

It’s important to understand the facts about Medicare before heading into retirement. Here is a basic overview of seven things you should be aware of when it comes to this important federal health insurance benefit. But keep in mind that certain parts of the Medicare program vary by state, so you will want to get more in-depth information before you turn 65 based on your primary retirement residence.

  1. It’s not free.

Even though studies have shown that Medicare is cheaper than most health plans offered by private insurers, it still does not cover all health costs when a person retires. In some cases, Medicare is one of the largest expenses for retired individuals. A retired couple aged 65 in 2018 may need an average of $280,000 to cover Medicare expenses (not including over-the-counter medications, most dental services, or long-term care) according to Fidelity Investments.1

  1. There is no out-of-pocket annual or lifetime limit.

When it comes to Medicare, there is no yearly or lifetime out-of-pocket maximum. In addition to deductibles, for Medicare Part B retirees usually pay at least 20% coinsurance for approved costs, regardless of how high the costs may be.

  1. The four parts of Medicare.

The “alphabet soup” of Medicare consists of four separate parts: A, B, C, and D.

Part A: This part is sometimes called “original” Medicare, and is basically hospitalization insurance. It covers inpatient care, short stays at skilled nursing facilities, hospice stays, lab tests, surgery, doctor visits and home health care related to a hospital stay. Part A is usually free.

Part B: Part B is the medical insurance portion of “original” Medicare coverage. It covers outpatient care, doctor’s office visits, lab work, preventative services, ambulance services, and medical equipment. The standard premium for 2018 is $134 per person, per month, but premiums are higher for people in higher income brackets.

Part C: This optional part refers to Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage is not a separate benefit, but is used for private health insurers that provide Medicare benefits. Part C plans replace Parts A and B, and usually replace Part D (optional).

Medigap: Sometimes called Medicare supplement insurance, Medigap is not a Part C plan. Medigap policies do not replace Parts A and B, in fact, Parts A and B are required in order to have it. Medigap is private insurance that helps supplement or pay some of the costs not covered by Parts A and B, which may include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. There are many rules which apply to Medigap, and plans are standardized by state.

Part D: This optional part provides prescription drug coverage. A person is eligible for Part D if they are enrolled in Part A and B, or Part C replacement coverage (which may include Part D coverage.) Part D coverage varies by plan and types of prescription drugs.

  1. Medicare does not cover everything.

The question in regard to Medicare is not what is covered, but what is not covered. Parts A and B of Medicare do not cover the following:

  • Amounts not covered by deductibles and coinsurance (20%), with no limits
  • Care outside of the U.S.
  • Eye exams (except for diabetics), vision care or eyeglasses
  • Hearing exams or hearing aids
  • Most dental care services or dentures
  • Routine foot care (except for diabetics)
  • Limited physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology services
  • Long-term care (LTC) or custodial care

Some Part C or Medigap plans may offer some coverage for these, depending on the policy or plan.

  1. Medicare is mandatory.

Once you are 65 and receive Social Security there is no way to opt out of Medicare.

  1. When to sign up for Medicare.

An individual must sign up for Medicare within three months after they turn 65 years old, unless they are covered by an employer plan (subject to certain rules.) If a person is already receiving Social Security benefits when they turn 65, they will automatically be enrolled in the original Medicare plan Parts A and B.

  1. How Medicare is deducted.

Medicare Parts A and B are automatically deducted from a Social Security check if the individual is 65 and receiving Social Security benefits. Coverage begins the first month that an individual turns 65-years-old. Medicare Part B premiums must be deducted from Social Security if the monthly benefit amount covers the deduction. If deduction exceeds the benefit amount then the individual will be billed quarterly. Optional plans like Part C, Medigap or Part D may have other payment options, or may also be deducted from Social Security.

 

For more information about Medicare, as well as many other retirement issues, please call SF Financial in Colorado Springs at (719) 597-2179.

Be sure to request your free copy of our Medicare whitepaper, which goes into more detail about the Medicare program.

 

Sources:
This overview has been compiled from information sourced from the official Medicare website, https://www.medicare.gov/. Please visit the site for more information.
1 Fidelity Investments, “How to plan for rising health care costs,” April 18, 2018. Fidelity.com. https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs (accessed August 7, 2018).

 

Top 5 Things You Could Spend Less On In Retirement

By | Retirement, Uncategorized | No Comments

In retirement it’s not always about the money you have, it’s about how much you are spending.  As you prepare or revise your retirement plan, one of the most important steps that you can take is to ensure that your projected future budget is accurate. Any oversights or poor estimations can unfortunately lead to financial shortage in retirement. However, the flip side of this is that overestimating expenses may lead to unnecessary financial anxiety. It could cause you to scale back your lifestyle so dramatically now that you cannot maintain a comfortable lifestyle. In some cases, it could cause you to work for several additional years than you actually need to.

When you read retirement planning books and articles, you will commonly see advice that tells you estimate future financial needs at 80 percent of your current monthly expenses. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that actual retirees spend approximately 25 percent less than they did in their working years. This five percent difference may not sound like much, but it can result in a significant reduction in the amount of money that you need to save for retirement. These are some of the major expenses that may decrease after you retire.

Transportation Expense

Your current transportation expense may include two car loan payments, auto insurance on two vehicles and gas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that fuel expense may decrease by more than 30 percent annually after you retire. In addition, many married couples are able to downsize from a two-car household to a one-car household. This eliminates a substantial amount of money on car loan payments and auto insurance premiums.

Food

Working adults may go out to eat more frequently than retired adults. For example, it may be convenient to drop by a fast food restaurant on your lunch break at work or to pick up a pre-made meal on your way home in the evening. When you are retired, you may have more time to make thoughtful grocery store purchases and to prepare affordable meals at home. In fact, you may expect to spend up to 25 percent less on food after you retire.

Housing

The primary housing expenses for older adults are a mortgage payment, property taxes and home insurance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that almost 62 percent of retirees have paid off their mortgage, and this number increases as seniors continue to get older. While property taxes and home insurance premiums remain, the elimination of a mortgage payment can result in significant savings in your budget.

Insurance

Insurance costs fluctuate in retirement. After all, as you get older, you may pay more on medications and related expenses regardless of the insurance plan that you have. However, you may qualify for auto and home insurance discounts. You also may no longer have the financial need to maintain life insurance, and you may be able to eliminate this premium from your budget.

Entertainment

As you prepare for retirement, you may believe that your entertainment expense would increase dramatically because you seemingly will have more time to spend golfing or watching movies at the theater. However, as you get older, your energy level for participating in these types of activities can decline, and you may feel more content to simply spend time at home or in the company of family and good friends. You may expect to spend a decreasing amount of money on entertainment as you continue to advance in age.

As you can see, you could actually spend considerably less in retirement in many areas than you currently do. This information can help you to create a more realistic budget based on your projected lifestyle. Remember to review your retirement budget periodically going forward so that it remains as realistic as possible.  Yes, we are here to help create your budget and plan with you.

One Basket, All Eggs. Risky!

By | Retirement | No Comments

Achieving a high income and net worth is half the battle in the quest for financial security. The other half is trying to keep and grow your assets once you have them. While this latter half is perhaps a nice problem to have, it has been the cause of many a headache.

One problem some people make is the proverbial “putting all of their eggs in one basket.”  In the investing world, even just putting too many eggs in too few baskets can be enough to sink a financial battleship. Too often, people make this mistake in a misguided effort to go all in on chasing maximum returns.

Conventional wisdom does indeed hold that you have to accept higher risk in order to get higher returns and, accordingly, have to accept lower returns in order to lower your risk. However, there are a couple of quite serious problems with this logic, common though it may be. For starters, it is almost impossible to predict with certainty which investments will flourish in the future and which ones will tank.

It is not as though anyone ever sets out to have their financial goals torpedoed by a bad investment, but, no matter how sound a plan may seem at the outset, there is always at least some chance that it could go awry. If a particular investment makes up even as little as 20 percent of your portfolio and crashes, it can take your financial goals and security down with it. Fortunately enough, this reality does not have to doom investors to rolling the Wall Street dice as best they can and then sweating out results over numerous sleepless nights.

The concept of financial diversification is actually old enough to have been referenced in a Shakespeare play, “The Merchant of Venice,” four centuries ago. In the 1950s, Harry Markowitz, an academic researcher, articulated modern portfolio theory. His research uncovered the insight that putting together a portfolio of investments that did not all correlate with each other had the effect of reducing the variability (risk) of the portfolio without giving up returns.

In other words, as long as all of your investments do not tend to rise and fall in value at the same time, your portfolio could be effectively insulated from catastrophic losses while still set up for strong long-term gains. Accordingly, diversifying your investments across numerous (thousands) of companies prevents you from having to worry about whether one or even several of them will collapse. Even though it could happen, it could be on a small enough scale that it will not hurt you.

Undoubtedly, these realizations explain much about why it is so difficult for even professional investors to beat the returns of broad indexes like the S&P 500.  Diversification is sometimes described as the only free lunch in finance.  Accordingly, as simple as it sounds, the best approach, by far, that you can take once you have otherwise reached a high income or net worth is to put your investment money in broadly diversified funds and leave the anxiety to those prone to over-thinking things.

Allow us to take a look at your retirement plan and assess the amount of risk you currently have.  You should be confident in your plan to help you make it through any potentially volatile years to come.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/27/diversification-the-oldest-trick-in-the-investment-book.html

Procrastinating; The Cost To Your Retirement

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If you are like many other hardworking adults, you may find yourself periodically dreaming about what life will be like after you leave the workforce and enter retirement. Regardless of whether you plan to simply kick back and relax close to home or you have grand dreams of traveling frequently in retirement, you will need to have enough cash on hand to live on. Unfortunately, a report released by Financial Engines indicates that almost one in seven adults who are at least 55 years old have stated that they procrastinated on saving for retirement.

Why Adults Procrastinate on Saving for Retirement

You may think that the primary reason why individuals would not save money regularly for their golden years is because of a lack of funds, but this is not the case. In the same report, two out of five procrastinators said they got a late start because they had other priorities for their money. Half indicated that stress played a role in retirement planning and saving. Some of the other more common reasons for procrastination include the belief that it is too difficult, the thought that they may get taken advantage of or a lack of knowledge about retirement planning and saving.

The Impact of Procrastination on Your Retirement Plans

Many adults who procrastinate in this important area have the intention of playing catch-up later in life. However, this may be more challenging than it may seem at first glance. When you procrastinate, you give up your regular contributions. You also give up employer-matching contributions and compounded growth, and these two factors can have a huge impact on the size of your nest egg. Delaying your retirement planning and saving effort essentially means that you must come up with a tremendous amount of additional money to catch up to a balance that you would have had if you started saving regularly in your 20s.

The Urgency to Get Started Today

Regardless of the reasons or age, now is the time to make a bold change. By continuing to procrastinate, you simply dig an even larger hole that is more difficult for you to get out of. Saving may be as easy as foregoing that fancy vacation that you take every year or downsizing the scope of your vacation. It may mean not redecorating your home as frequently or scaling down your holiday gift-giving efforts. There are many ways that you may be able to simply cut back without detracting from your quality of life, and these steps can have a huge impact on your financial status in your retirement years. Of course, making regular monthly contributions is also advisable. Saving at least some money now is better than not saving any.

How to Get Started

There are various types of retirement accounts that you may have access to depending on your circumstances. A good starting point is to maximize an employer-sponsored retirement account if your employer offers matching contributions. These contributions could essentially double your total account contributions and help you to get back on track more quickly and easily. If this is not an option, carefully review the pros and cons of various retirement accounts. Once you decide which type of account you want to open, schedule automated transfers. By automating this aspect of your finances, your balance will grow without additional effort required.

Some people prefer to hire a financial advisor to assist with retirement planning and account management. If you are confused about or intimidated by any aspect of retirement planning, it is best to seek professional guidance rather than to take chances.  Remember, you see a doctor when you have concerns with your health, why not talk to a financial professional when you have concerns about your finances?   We are here to help.

A 1035 Exchange, Know The Facts 

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A common problem faced by insurance and annuity holders relates to a need to upgrade to a better financial option without paying taxes on gains earned on the old policy. There are many legitimate reasons for wanting to upgrade. AAFMAA recommends a 1035 exchange to accomplish this objective. A 1035 exchange has a complicated set of rules established by the tax code that must be followed to qualify this exchange as a nontaxable event. Based on the complexity of the tax code and limitations placed on these exchanges, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a tax professional before moving forward to avoid possible tax complications.

Factors to Consider When Exchanging A Life Insurance Product

The main thing you must remember is that no cash can change hands for this exchange to legally qualify as a tax-free 1035 exchange. A life insurance policy can be traded for another life insurance product. The tax code also allows for the exchange of a life insurance product for an annuity. This type of transaction is referred to as a replacement. In all tax-free exchanges, the policyholder must remain the same.

It is prudent to exercise caution before moving forward with a 1035 exchange. Not all exchanges are tax-free. Remember that in the case of life insurance policies, if you surrender your policy early, you may incur surrender charges and taxes. Before any definite decisions are made, you need to research the marketplace to determine whether you are insurable. Your health status and age will significantly impact the cost and availability of a new life insurance policy.

What to Consider When Upgrading Your Annuity

When making a change from an old annuity to a new one in a 1035 exchange, you won’t have to pay taxes on your earnings. Immediate Annuities
reminds clients that while your taxes can be deferred, it is important to realize that you still may have to pay surrender fees and penalties depending on the terms of your current contract.

After the exchange takes place, then you are free to change ownership. To qualify as a 1035 exchange, an old annuity can only be exchanged for a new one. An annuity product can’t be exchanged for a life insurance product to comply with the strict requirements.

General 1035 Exchange Guidelines

You can exchange multiple old contracts for a single new contract. The IRS code does not limit the number of old contracts that can be traded for a single new contract. This fact opens the door to many possibilities. As mentioned above, the rule about ownership consistency must be followed naming the same owner on all policies. For accounting and tax purposes the adjusted basis of the new contract will be calculated by totaling the adjusted basis amounts of all contracts exchanged.

Conclusion

There is a practical reason 1035 exchanges are so popular. Deferring taxes as long as possible is always a priority. There is no reason to feel trapped in your current life insurance or annuity contracts by tax ramifications. By using a 1035 exchange, you can take advantage of better alternatives while still deferring taxes.

Sources:

https://www.immediateannuities.com/1035-annuity-exchanges/

https://www.aafmaa.com/Decision-Center/Tools-Forms-Resources/1035-Exchange

http://www.finra.org/investors/1035-exchanges