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  Age limits on contributions have been repealed in the 2020 CARES Act, so as long as you have earned income you can contribute.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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The Surgeon Who Lost His Fingers

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Nobody plans for a disability. In our experience, people are more willing to incorporate life insurance into their financial plan than disability insurance. Why is this? Let’s first get into the differences between disability and life insurance.

Disability Insurance vs. Life Insurance

Here are a few key differences between these two types of insurance:

  • With a life insurance a policy claim, your insurance company pays others at your death. A disability income claim pays you, maintaining your family’s financial well-being during an illness or injury.
  • Death is a certainty, so your beneficiaries will get paid the life insurance death benefit. A disability benefit pays only when you have a covered injury or illness, insuring against the loss of earned income.
  • Traditionally, a life insurance death benefit pays beneficiaries in a lump sum. A disability policy typically pays a monthly income to the policyholder up until age 65.
  • Many life...
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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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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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Paying Off Student Loans

 

by  Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Student loans are often top of mind for many people in the early stages of a professional career. You’ve made an investment in yourself by getting a great education, and now you’ve got to make enough money to build a life, but also to repay those loans.  The main piece of advice we give most of our clients with student loans is not about numbers. It’s about overcoming the feeling that this debt is very heavy burden. So if you’re in that camp, we have some thought to share:

Own it – These Student Loans are Your Responsibility!

Taking out these loans was ultimately your choice, so own it. You DID in fact have other options – you could have gone to a cheaper school, or stretched your education out as you worked your way through. Whatever the case, ultimately it is your signature on the loan form. Take responsibility.

Don’t Let Student Loans Tyrannize You – Make a Plan and Enjoy Life

Student loan...

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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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The FRS Investment Option

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

FRS participants have a choice among two retirement plan options:


The investment option, which is a defined contribution plan (DC)
The pension option, which is a defined benefit plan (DB)
In previous posts, I covered both the FRS Pension Option and the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program). In this post, I’m presenting the FRS Investment Option.

The salient feature of any DC plan is the amount of contributions that can go into an individual’s account. On the other hand, with a defined benefit plan (also known as a pension plan) there is a pension formula. The inputs are usually based on years of service and average or final compensation. The formula calculates a pension amount that is guaranteed over the pensioner’s lifetime or lifetimes of the pensioner plus spouse. Here, though, I’m focusing in on the FRS investment option, which is the FRS defined contribution plan.

How Much Money Goes In?

ERISA statues define...

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