An annuity is a complex financial animal. It can be used as a tool to accumulate funds on a tax-advantaged basis. It can also be used efficiently to distribute funds in later years. Here in Part I I’m focusing on the accumulation phase. In Part II I’ll cover distribution and tax issues.
An annuity, in its strictest sense, is a stream of payments that one cannot outlive. The term annuity is often used synonymously with the word pension. A stream of payments describes a distribution of principal, however. How do I get the annuity in the first place?
You can purchase this stream of income just as you’d purchase a new suit or a car. It pays to shop around, because different annuity companies (i.e. life insurance companies; they are one and the same) use different mortality tables and interest rate assumptions which affect the payments they offer to you.
Q: I’m in financial trouble. Should I take out a 401k withdrawal?
This is a tough question, and the answer is generally, Not unless you truly need it. A direct withdrawal from a 401(K) before age 59 ½ is a last-resort option, with a big taxable event.
I want to distinguish clearly between 401K loans and 401K withdrawals. In this piece I’m discussing withdrawals. You can read about loans here.
Think about what happens in the 401(K). The IRS “lets” you defer salary into your account without taxation. Your employer may make matching or discretionary contributions to the account on your behalf, which he deducts from his income. Lots of tax advantages here, and the IRS wants you to keep the funds invested for their purpose: funding your retirement. Consequently, if you need to put your hands on some fast cash, the IRS doesn’t...
Q: I have a lot of high interest credit card debt. Should I take out a 401k loan?
This is a question we come across not uncommonly. There is a lot to like about doing this, but a big potential tax trap as well.
I want to distinguish clearly between 401K loans and 401K withdrawals. In this piece I’m discussion the loans; you can read about withdrawals here.
First of all, your 401k plan has to have loan provisions in place. No loan provisions, no loan. An employer can always go to his third-party administrator to have the plan documents amended if he would like to make loans available to the employees.
The loaned amount can be 50% of the vested account balance up to $50,000. A special rule allows participants with smaller balances to borrow up to $10,000 without the percentage restriction.
From what we’ve seen, plan...
The SIMPLE IRA is the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. The SIMPLE allows for both employer contributions and employee deferrals. The plan is deal for employers who want to contribute something – but not a lot – to employee retirement accounts.
The is the second in a two-part series about retirement plans for the small business. The first was about the SEP IRA.
The SIMPLE is for an employer with fewer than 100 employees who earned less than $5000 in the previous year. The employer cannot have any other retirement plan – only the SIMPLE. Any employee who earned $5000 in any of the previous two years and expects to do so in the current year is eligible to participate. The plan must be established before October 1st for the current year. After Oct. 1st it will become effective for the following year.
A big part of retirement plan design has to do with...
If this sounds too obvious, I’ll say it again for reinforcement – are you maintaining a budget? Seriously. Miami is one of the flashiest cities in the world. If you don’t have a budget I’ll put it another way — Estas loco? It has been proven that our propensity to spend money in Miami is directly proportional to our physical proximity to Brickell/Downtown Miami and South Beach. A budget is by far the best way to keep track of your money. If you have a budget, you’re already way ahead.
Pay your bills on time. In other words, “Do what you say you’re going to do, Miami.” Your payment history comprises 35% of your credit score. By contrast, your length of credit history accounts for only 15% of your overall score.
Spend extra time with the people you care for most in life. This is easier said than done...
Congratulations! You've read Your First Home Purchase Part I and Part II and taken the advice to heart. Now you’re a first-time home owner in Miami, FL and you’re settling into your new place. The first year of home ownership brings many changes – new commute to work, new paint on the walls, and perhaps some remodeling. It’s an exciting season as you make your house a home, and start a new chapter in life while building personal equity.
But one thing that can get lost in the excitement is remembering to file for your Florida Homestead Exemption! Not filing for a the exemption will likely cost you money.
A Homestead Exemption accomplishes three main things — it reduces your property tax bill, protects you from creditors, and protects a surviving spouse when the other home owner dies.
Reduce your taxes with a Homestead Exemption
Florida allows up to $50,000 in Homestead...
A first home purchase is a big financial commitment. Not only are you taking on a mortgage, but you often need to deplete cash reserves to come up with the down payment. But what if you don’t have enough socked away for a down payment? or what if you prefer not to use all your cash reserves, leaving some cushion in your savings account? Normally the Internal Revenue Service levies a 10% penalty on distributions from a Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) before age 59 1/2. They make an exception on distributions up to $10,000 for a first home purchase.
To qualify, it’s important to know how the IRS defines a first time homebuyer. According to IRS Publication 590-B, a first time homebuyer is defined in the following way:
Generally, you are a first time homebuyer if you had no present interest in a main home during the 2-year period ending on the date of acquisition of the...
With this blog post I’m beginning a two-part series about retirement savings plans available to the small business owner. Earlier Jonathan wrote about the Traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. In this piece I’m going to explain the Simplified Employee Pension, or SEP IRA. It is best used in a small shop, with few (or no) employees. It can be established by an individual proprietor, filing a Schedule C, or by a corporation, LLC, or partnership.
The SEP is designed for the business owner with few employees. Money goes into the SEP from employer contributions only. All contributions are tax-deductible to the employer. There is no opportunity for employee deferrals. A SEP IRA account is opened for each participant, and all funds contributed are immediately vested. (There is an older version, called a SARSEP, or salary reduction SEP. Although many are still out there, they cannot be opened after...
Last year (2019) I watched the entire Upstairs Downstairs series on Britbox. Easily sixty episodes in all. My viewing interests are usually limited to either WWII or British crime stories, so this was a bit of a departure for me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. As the name suggests, it is sort of a Downtown Abbey Lite. The time spanned goes from before WWI to the New York Stock exchange crash. It is the story of all the residents of 165 Eaton Place in London – the home of a member of Parliament who married a titled lady (the upstairs folks) and their household staff (the downstairs folks).
Richard Bellamy, MP, had two children – a married daughter in New York, and a son at home – James Bellamy. James was up at Cambridge, though no mention of a degree. He worked at a job he hated because it was, well, work, and then joined his regiment as an officer during the Great War. This is a fellow whose newspapers and shoelaces were ironed for...
When I originally wrote this, the Carolinas were experiencing the worst of Hurricane Florence. As a native Floridian I've ridden out half a dozen hurricanes myself . The aftermath of a hurricane is not only about the damage to life and property, but for many it can take a serious personal financial toll. As you stock up on canned food, batteries, and bottled water, don’t neglect to address these top 6 financial priorities before a storm makes landfall.
Odds are your home is your most valuable asset. Why roll the dice on this? Not having homeowners insurance coverage is a mistake. Having a homeowners policy with little hurricane windstorm coverage could become a catastrophe. Typically, your policy will have a windstorm deductible for hurricane damage claims in addition to your All Other Perils deductible for everything else. The deductible for hurricane damage can...