You Want to Retire. But Retire to What?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Picture the scene: My wife has a group of friends visiting. I come home from work, greet everyone, and have a glass of wine to be sociable. At some point I announce that I’ll retire to my study for the evening. What does that verb mean – to retire? It means to go away or apart; to withdraw; to be in a place of privacy or shelter. It can also simply mean that I’m going to bed for the night. It isn’t until about three generations ago that the definition expanded to mean cessation of paying work.

Retirement, as we currently think of it, is a relatively new concept.

Up until WWII people simply worked until they could no longer do so. Retirement, as we currently think of it, is a relatively new concept. When extended families lived together on the farm, everyone worked and contributed in some way. When the same families moved to the cities at the beginning of the last century, it was the same way. So how did our current concept...

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The Ins and Outs of Traditional IRAs

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

In this blog post I want to go just a little bit beyond the basics of traditional IRAs and how they work. 

What are Traditional IRAs?

An IRA is an individual retirement account by definition, with the emphasis on individual. One IRA means one owner, so there can be no joint titling. In order to contribute to an IRA you must have earned income. That is, income from compensation defined as wages, salaries, tips, alimony, and separate maintenance payments. These are all earned income. Income from capital gains, dividends, and interest is not considered earned income by the IRS – they classify it as investment income.

How Much Can I Invest?

Your contribution limit is $6000 per year (2020). If you’re over 50 an additional $1000 catch up contribution is allowed, so the limit becomes $7000.  Age limits on contributions have been repealed in the 2020 CARES Act, so as long as you have earned income you can contribute.

What’s the...

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A Guide to 403b Retirement Accounts

 

By Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Most people are familiar with the 401k, but what’s a 403b? Basically a 403b is a retirement plan that is sponsored by a 501c3 organization, meaning a not-for-profit employer. A local school board or hospital are good examples. The employee invests in mutual funds or annuity contracts – the only choices available. If annuity contracts are the only investment choice, the plan is likely administered by an insurance company, and can also be known as a TSA, or tax-sheltered annuity.

Money can go into your account from two sources: deferrals from your paycheck (money that you could have taken in cash) and your employer can also make contributions. The employer’s contributions can be discretionary or according to a match formula. Say the employer will offer you 50 cents on the dollar of whatever you contribute, up to 6% of your earnings. That’s a fairly typical formula. We’ve seen some out there more generous, and some not...

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This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’ve been pondering this.

This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

It sort of hit me one day after having noticed This Page is Intentionally Left Blank in clients’ brokerage account statements.

Seems to me that if there’s printing on the page, it is not blank, is it?  Brokerage statements go on for pages and pages.  Who formats these things?  Why not print on it and save a tree?

Sometimes business written communication makes me crazy.  Why not say use instead of utilize? Or even worse, why not say complete instead of effectualize? Seems the more jargon the better.  Or how about our deliverables?  Deliverables indeed!  We sell deliverables? I though we sold planning and investment management.  

Personally, I’d rather eschew obfuscation. (That’s a joke.)

Ok, I'm ranting.  I guess we should close the flight plan on this.  (Really? Why not simply conclude?)

Just...

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Taxation of Social Security Benefits

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

This blog post is the second of a trilogy having to do with Social Security.  The first is about Social Security Benefits; the third is, Will Social Security will be There When I Retire?  

Oh yes. Many new Social Security retirees get a big surprise when they learn about the taxation of Social Security benefits. This started during the Clinton administration. That administration added a formula to the tax code to determine how much, if any, of your Social Security benefit is subject to tax. Previously Social Security benefits did not count as taxable income at all.

Provisional Income

The formula used to determine how much of your benefit is taxable is the provisional income formula. It boils down to this: add all of your income together – wages, business earnings, tax-free bond income (yes – non-taxable income is included in this formula), IRA distributions – everything – plus ½ of your Social Security...

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The Thrift Savings Plan for Federal Employees

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

The Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, is the equivalent of the 401k for federal government employees. My intention here is to cover the main highlights of this fantastic retirement benefit. Much more detail is found on the TSP website.

As in a 401k, you contribute pre-tax money into a Thrift Savings Plan. Earnings in the account are tax-deferred. You are taxed only when you withdraw funds in retirement. If you work long enough, consistently contribute to your plan, and invest appropriately, you can potentially retire comfortably.

Thrift Savings Plan: Military and Non-Military Accounts

This post is for non-military TSP retirement participants. The TSP offered to those in the military is different. Elsewhere I discuss the benefits of a Thrift Savings Plan retirement account as a High-3 and as a BRS (blended retirement system) participant.

FERS – the Federal Employment Retirement System

If you are a federal civilian employee and began employment after...

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What Happens When My Mother Runs Out of Money?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Increasingly as we work with people of retirement age, we’re hearing a new concern: What happens when my mother runs out of money? This is something relatively new. Those in their middle ages used to be called the sandwich generation, because they were in the middle, caring for both their children and their parents. But this is something new . . . we’re speaking of people in their 60’s and 70’s caring for parents in their 80’s and 90’s.

By the time we hit our latter 60’s, most of us hope that the retirement nest egg is firmly in place, children are married off, and grandchildren are a joy. But since we’re all living so much longer, caring for one’s very elderly parents is now a large financial planning topic.

Medical Issues are a Primary Cause for Concern

Too often we see a client who is concerned about his parents outliving their assets. A parent with a long and debilitating illness is a common...

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Asset Bubbles

By Glenn J. Downing, CFP®

(Note to the reader:  I originally posted this piece in mid-March of 2020.  Now I'm reviewing it at the end of April 2020.  Hit the nail on the head, didn't I?)

I’m sure you’ve heard the term before:  asset bubble.  Sounds ominous, because a bubble is generally something that’s going to pop.  On the other hand, I think of bubbles with champagne.  So there are two images, both conjuring up a party that has to end at some time. 

What does the term refer to in terms of market valuations?  It means simply that at some point assets will be trading at a price that’s too high, and that the price will come down – maybe gradually, or maybe by a pop.  Why is there so much in the financial literature today about asset bubbles?  Because there appears to be a big asset bubble in the making.

Correction vs. Recession

Before I go on, let me define two terms: 

  • A market correction...
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Don’t Get Distracted by Financial Headlines – Stick to Your Financial Plan

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

We’ve all seen the financial headlines:

“Sell everything and buy gold!”

“Time to take profits off the table!”

“The market is poised for a big upswing – get in now!”

“Make 16% guaranteed with tax lien certificates!”

“Buy my real estate flipping system and control your own rental empire!”

…I’m getting an Excedrin headache.

The Trap of Financial Headlines

If you’re like many people, reading the financial headlines every day can make you crazy. Yet you continue to watch in order to stay informed. You want to be in the know about financial markets so you follow CNBC, Money Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and others. Some outlets are better than others. There is so much economic uncertainty in the air, so you invest time and energy reading, or listening, to these “experts” to get a sense of what you need to do with your money.

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You Are Generous. Give Creatively.

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Charitable Giving

As a financial adviser, I am privileged to work with many wonderful people who give generously. These are people who want to leave a legacy. These are clients who want to leave money behind which will continue to accomplish the good works the donor did during his or her lifetime. You may see or hear the names of prominent donors – sponsors of a university building or underwriters of Masterpiece Theatre – and think, Well, yes; I’d love to endow this or that organization or charity, but I’m simply not in that league.

Leave a Legacy

Even if you don’t have a lot of spare cash kicking around, you may still be able to leave a legacy. One of the best ways to do this is with life insurance. For a manageable annual premium, you may be able to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars to your favorite organization. It works like this:

Decide which non-profit you’d like to see flourish.

Typically, this is a...

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