Freeman's Blog

Archive

June 18th, 2020 by

After losing ground in 2018, U.S. stocks had a banner year in 2019, with the S&P 500 gaining almost 29% — the highest annual increase since 2013.1 It’s too early to know how 2020 will turn out, but you can count on market swings to challenge your patience as an investor.

The trend was steadily upward last year, but there were downturns along the way, including a single-day drop of almost 3% on August 14. That plunge began with bad economic news from Germany and China that triggered a flight to the relative safety of U.S. Treasury securities, driving the yield on the 10-year Treasury note below the 2-year note for the first time since 2007. A yield curve inversion has been a reliable predictor of past recessions and spooked the stock market.2 By the following day, however, the market was back on the rise.3

It’s possible that a yield curve inversion may no longer be a precursor to a recession. Still, larger concerns about the economy are ongoing, and this incident illustrates the pitfalls of overreacting to economic news. If you were also spooked on August 14, 2019, and sold some or all of your stock positions, you might have missed out on more than 13% equity market growth over the rest of the year.4

Tune Out the Noise

The media generates news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and presents it through television, radio, print, and the Internet. You can check the market and access the news at work, in your car, and anywhere you carry a mobile device.

This barrage of information might make you feel that you should buy or sell investments in response to the latest news, whether it’s a market drop or an unexpected geopolitical event. This is a natural response, but it’s not wise to react emotionally to market swings or to news that you think might affect the market.

Stay the Course

Consider this advice from John Bogle, famed investor and mutual fund industry pioneer: “Stay the course. Regardless of what happens to the markets, stick to your investment program. Changing your strategy at the wrong time can be the single most devastating mistake you can make as an investor.”5

This doesn’t mean you should never buy or sell investments. However, the investments you buy and sell should be based on a sound strategy appropriate for your risk tolerance, financial goals, and time frame. And a sound investment strategy should carry you through market ups and downs.

It can be tough to keep cool when you see the market dropping or to control your exuberance when you see it shooting upward. But overreacting to market movements or trying to “time the market” by guessing at future direction may create an additional risk that could negatively affect your long-term portfolio performance.

Sources:
1) S&P Dow Jones Indices, 2020
2) The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2019
3–4) Yahoo! Finance (S&P 500 index for the period 8/14/2019 to 12/31/2019)
5) MarketWatch, June 6, 2017

June 9th, 2020 by

On April 20, 2020, the price of a futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude — the benchmark for U.S. oil prices — fell below zero for the first time in history, dropping more than 306% in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and ending the day at –$37.63 per barrel.1 Essentially, this meant that investors who would soon be obligated to take possession of a barrel of oil were willing to pay someone else to take it instead.

This unprecedented price collapse was for contracts scheduled to expire the following day and require delivery in May. June futures dropped 18% to about $20 a barrel, and the May contract clawed its way back to about $10 on April 21.2–3 But the dramatic plunge below zero highlighted a fundamental problem for the oil industry in the face of evaporating demand due to COVID-19. There is too much oil, and the industry is running out of places to put it.

Supply Without Demand

The International Energy Agency estimates that global demand for oil dropped by 29% in April 2020 compared with 12 months earlier and will drop by an average of 23% for the second quarter — equivalent to losing all of the oil consumption in the United States and Canada.4–5 The historic agreement by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and their allies (OPEC+) to reduce production beginning May 1 — equivalent to about 10% of global production — will help, but won’t be soon enough or large enough to stop the continuing expansion of supply, and storage facilities are filling up fast around the globe.6

The pressure is especially acute on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude and other U.S. oil stored for delivery in tanks at Cushing, Oklahoma. Under normal circumstances, oil passes through Cushing to refineries, but with diminished demand, the Cushing tanks are expected to be full sometime in May. Land-locked oil like WTI has nowhere else to go, which is one reason why traders were willing to pay to avoid taking delivery.7

A large exchange-traded fund (ETF) holding crude oil commodity futures contracts also played a major role in the rush below zero. ETFs hold futures strictly as paper investments with no intention or capability of taking delivery of oil — there are no storage tanks on Wall Street; they typically roll each month’s futures contract to the following month. But with no one willing to buy the May contract and accept actual delivery of oil, the ETF was forced to pay to get rid of the contracts. With storage problems likely to continue, June futures may face the same extreme price pressure as May.8

Brent Crude and Floating Storage

Whereas WTI contracts require accepting delivery of oil, contracts for Brent crude — the global benchmark — are settled in cash and unlikely to go negative. However, the physical price of Brent, which is pumped out of the North Sea, is already low and may go lower as storage tanks on the shore fill up, waiting for the oil to be loaded onto tankers. Like WTI, Brent is a high-quality oil, and other grades are typically sold at a discount to the benchmark. If Brent drops to $10, for example, oil from Saudi Arabia or Iraq could be priced below $0.9

The oil glut has created a record imbalance between near-term and long-term oil contracts, as traders anticipate increased consumption in the future. The disparity is great enough that some trading companies are buying cheap oil now and storing it on huge tankers that can carry 2 million barrels of oil.10 It’s estimated that a third of the world’s tanker fleet may be used for storage instead of transportation if the crisis continues.11

Not Worth Pumping

Oil prices are often volatile, but the dramatic drop in 2020 has been extraordinary, driven by the global pandemic shutdown and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. On April 28, after the subzero dive had come and gone, the spot price for WTI — the price actually paid on delivery in Cushing — was $12.40 per barrel, down 80% for the year. The spot price for Brent was $15.60 per barrel, down 77%.12

At these price levels, it is no longer profitable for many producers to pump oil, especially for the more expensive shale-oil production methods used in the United States. In the four-week period ending April 17, U.S. oil production dropped by 900,000 barrels per day, about 7% of production and the largest one-month drop since the Great Recession. Some analysts expect an additional drop of 2 million barrels per day by year-end.13

Layoffs and rig closures have begun and are expected to expand quickly. Although large companies are likely to weather the storm, some smaller producers may be forced into bankruptcy. The U.S. Department of Energy has opened 30 million barrels of storage in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for lease to private companies — equivalent to about 2.5 days of U.S. production — and plans to accept another 47 million barrels to fill the reserve to capacity; as of late April, no funding to purchase oil was available. Other forms of government support are being considered.14–16

Signs of a recovery in demand for oil in China have sparked some optimism, but the tension between supply and demand will continue to evolve, and extreme price volatility can be expected until the market finds balance through production cuts and/or rising demand.17

For now, keep in mind that oil prices are only one of many factors influencing the markets and the global economy. It’s important to maintain a long-term perspective and continue to focus on your own investment goals.

Sources:
1–3) MarketWatch, April 20 & 24, 2020
4) International Energy Agency, April 2020
5, 12, 16) U.S. Energy Information Administration, April 2020
6–7) The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2020
8–9) Bloomberg, April 20 & 22, 2020
10) The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2020
11) OilPrice.com, April 22, 2020
13) CNBC, April 22, 2020
14) CNN, April 21, 2020
15) U.S. Department of Energy, April 2, 2020
17) The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2020

June 3rd, 2020 by

An annuity is an insurance contract that offers an income stream in return for one or more premium payments. Income payments continue for the duration of the contract, which may be for life or a specific number of years.

A fixed annuity offers a set rate of return for the life of the contract. A variable annuity is riskier but offers the potential for growth because a portion of the premium is invested in the financial markets; the annuity’s future value and income payments are largely determined by the performance of the investment subaccounts selected by the account owner.

Guaranteed living benefits are optional riders that can be attached to annuities for an additional cost. Here’s how living benefits might help you address two important retirement risks.

1. Outliving Your Savings

You can receive a lifetime income stream from an annuity in one of two ways: annuitization or withdrawals. When a contract is annuitized, the cash value is converted into a series of periodic income payments based primarily on current interest rates (or market-based returns) and your life expectancy. Control of the account transfers to the insurance company, so you no longer have access to the investment principal.

guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB) is an optional lifetime income rider that can be attached to a variable annuity. It guarantees that you can withdraw a minimum amount of income from a variable annuity for life without having to annuitize, even if the original account value is depleted. If the markets perform well, the income amount could increase, but it typically cannot decrease unless you take a withdrawal that exceeds the guaranteed withdrawal amount. The remaining account value may be available for other purposes and inherited by your designated beneficiaries after death.

2. Paying for Long-Term Care

Adding a long-term care (LTC) rider to a fixed or variable annuity might help prevent your savings from being depleted by escalating costs. Benefits are typically triggered if you are diagnosed with dementia or are unable to perform two or more activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, and dressing. If care is needed, the payout is increased for a specified period of time or until the account value reaches zero. And if you never need care, you can continue to earn a return on your money. Medical underwriting requirements tend to be more lenient with an LTC rider than with a standalone policy, and you don’t have to worry about future rate increases or the issuer canceling the policy.

Any annuity guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. They are not deposits of, nor are they guaranteed or endorsed by, any bank or savings association. Annuities typically have contract limitations, fees, and charges, which can include mortality and expense charges, account fees, investment management fees, administrative fees, charges for optional benefits, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the contract in force.

A variable annuity is a long-term investment product designed for retirement purposes. Variable annuities that come with living benefits tend to have more limited investment options. The investment return and principal value of the investment options are not guaranteed and may fluctuate with changes in market conditions. When the annuity is surrendered or annuitized, the principal may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.

May 27th, 2020 by

Widespread smartphone use, loosening regulations, and employers seeking health cost savings are three trends that were driving the rapid expansion of telemedicine. And that was before social distancing guidelines to help control the spread of COVID-19 made the availability of remote medical care more vital than anyone anticipated. 

Telemedicine offers a way for patients to interact with doctors or nurses through a website or mobile app using secure audio or video connection. Patients have immediate access to advice and treatment at any time of the day or night while avoiding unnecessary and costly emergency room visits. And health providers have the ability to bill for consultations and other services provided from a distance.

Telemedicine can be used to treat minor health problems such as allergies and rashes, or for an urgent condition such as a high fever. It also makes it easier to access therapy for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. In other cases, doctors can monitor the vital signs of health patients with chronic conditions remotely, or follow up with patients after a hospital discharge. Telemedicine can also fill gaps in the availability of specialty care, especially in rural areas.

In 2019, nearly nine out of 10 large employers (with 500 or more employees) offered telemedicine programs in their benefit packages, but many workers had not tried them out. Only 9% of eligible employees utilized telemedicine services in 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available), even though virtual consultations often have lower copays and are generally less expensive than in-person office visits, especially for those with high deductibles.1

If your health plan includes telemedicine services, you might take a closer look at the details, download the app, and/or register for an online account. This way, you’ll be ready to log in quickly the next time your family faces a medical problem.

1) Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 2019

January 16th, 2020 by

If you receive a distribution from a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k), you need to consider whether to pay taxes now or to roll over the account to another tax-deferred plan. A correctly implemented rollover avoids current taxes and allows the funds to continue accumulating tax-deferred.

MOST TAX-EFFICIENT WAY TO TAKE A DISTRIBUTION FROM A RETIREMENT PLAN

PAYING CURRENT TAXES WITH A LUMP-SUM DISTRIBUTION

If you decide to take a lump-sum distribution, income taxes are due on the total amount of the distribution (except for any after-tax contributions you’ve made) and are due in the year in which you cash out. Employers are required to withhold 20% automatically from the check and apply it toward federal income taxes, so you will receive only 80% of your total vested value in the plan. (Special rules apply to Roth accounts.)

The advantage of a lump-sum distribution is that you can spend or invest the balance as you wish. The problem with this approach is parting with all those tax dollars. Income taxes on the total distribution are taxed at your marginal income tax rate. If the distribution is large, it could easily move you into a higher tax bracket. Distributions taken prior to age 59½ are subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. (Special rules may apply if you were born before 1936.)

DEFERRING TAXES WITH A ROLLOVER

If you don’t qualify for the above options or don’t want to pay current taxes on your lump-sum distribution, you can roll the money into a traditional IRA.

If you choose a rollover from a tax-deferred plan to a Roth IRA, you must pay income taxes on the total amount converted in that tax year. However, future withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA are free of federal income tax after age 59½ as long as the five-tax year holding requirement has been met. Even if you are not 59½, your distribution may be tax-free if you are disabled or a first-time home purchaser ($10,000 lifetime maximum), as long as you satisfy the five-year holding period.

If you elect to use an IRA rollover, you can avoid potential tax and penalty problems by electing a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer; in other words, the money never passes through your hands. IRA rollovers must be completed within 60 days of the distribution to avoid current taxes and penalties.

An IRA rollover allows your retirement nest egg to continue compounding tax-deferred. Remember that you must generally begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from tax-deferred retirement plans after you turn 70½ (the first distribution must be taken no later than April 1 of the year after the year in which you reach age 70½). Failure to take an RMD subjects the funds that should have been withdrawn to a 50% federal income tax penalty.

Of course, there is also the possibility that you may be able to keep the funds in your former employer’s plan or move it to your new employer’s plan if allowed by the plans. (Make sure you understand the pros and cons of rolling funds from an employer plan to an IRA before you take any action.)

Before you decide which method to take for distributions from a qualified retirement plan, it would be prudent to consult with a professional tax advisor.

Let me guide you through your retirement planning decisions. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. 

Contact me TEL: 1-833-313-7233.

Retirement Specialist Freeman Owen, Jr.
June 21st, 2018 by

four financial numbers

Daily life is full of numbers, and some matter more than others. Here are four financial numbers that could help you understand and potentially improve your financial situation.

1. Retirement Plan Contribution Rate

What percentage of your salary are you contributing to a retirement plan? Making automatic contributions through an employer-sponsored plan is a convenient way to save for retirement, but this out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach may result in a disparity between what you need to save and what you are actually saving. There is no magic number, but one common guideline is to save 10% to 15% of your salary. If you start late, you may need to save even more.

If that seems like too much, you should at least contribute enough to receive the full company match (if any) that your employer offers. Some plans let you sign up for automatic increases each year, which is a simple way to bump up the percentage you’re saving over time.

2. Credit Score

This is the second of the four financial numbers you should know. When you apply for credit, such as a mortgage, a car loan, or a credit card, your credit score will likely factor into the approval decision and affect the terms and the interest rate you’ll pay.

The most common credit score is a FICO® Score, a three-digit number that ranges from 300 to 850. At one time, you had to pay to check your score, but many credit-card companies now offer this as a free service to customers. You should also regularly check your credit report, which contains the information used to calculate your score. You’re entitled to one free copy every 12 months from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies. To request a free report, visit annualcreditreport.com.

3. Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is another number that lenders may use when deciding whether to offer you credit. A DTI that is too high might mean that you are overextended. Your DTI is calculated by adding up your major monthly expenses and dividing that figure by your gross monthly income. The result is expressed as a percentage. If your monthly expenses total $2,000 and your gross monthly income is $6,000, your DTI is 33.3%.h

Lenders decide what DTIs are acceptable, based on the type of credit. For example, a ratio of 43% or less is standard for many types of mortgages, but the percentage might be more or less depending on the specific situation.1

Once you know your DTI, you can take steps to reduce it if necessary. You may be able to pay off a low-balance loan to remove it from the calculation and/or avoid taking on new debt that might negatively affect your DTI. Check with your lender if you have questions about acceptable DTIs.

4. Net Worth

Your net worth provides a snapshot of where you stand financially. To calculate your net worth, add up your assets (what you own) and subtract your liabilities (what you owe). Ideally, your net worth will grow over time as you save more and pay down debt, at least until retirement.

If your net worth is stagnant or even declining, then it might be time to make some adjustments to target your financial goals, such as trimming expenses or rethinking your investment strategy.
Sources:
1) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017

Knowing your four financial numbers is crucial to your retirement plan.

Have you got multiple 403(b) accounts from different employers? We can consolidate them & look at your overall retirement plan. So, contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me  1-833-313-7233.

Freeman2017-blog2

 

April 30th, 2018 by

Stashing money away for retirement is complicated, so it’s not surprising that fundamental retirement guidelines have become popular over the years. Here are four that you might have come across in reading, researching, or just talking with friends. Like most guidelines, they offer helpful starting points but need to be examined critically and adjusted for your specific situation.

1. Save 10% of your pay for retirement.

This is a good beginning, but new retirement guidelines suggest putting away 15% of your salary. If you started late, you may need to save more. At the very least, save enough to receive any matching funds offered by your employer. Consider this: If you save just 6% of your salary and your employer offers a full 6% match, you are already putting away 12%!

new retirement

2. The percentage of stock in your portfolio should equal 100 minus your age.

This reflects fundamental retirement guidelines that younger people can take on more risk, while older people approaching retirement should protect their principal by converting some volatile growth-oriented stocks into more stable fixed-income securities.

Although the strategy is sound, the math may no longer be appropriate considering long life spans and low yields on fixed-income financial instruments. For example, if you followed this rule at age 40, 60% (100 less 40) of your portfolio would consist of stock, and at age 60, the percentage of stock would be 40%. Depending on your situation and risk tolerance, you may require a higher percentage of stock at either of these ages to meet your retirement goals.

3. You need 80% of your pre-retirement income during retirement.

New retirement guidelines suggest that you need 80% of your pre-retirement income during retirement. But, in fact, there is no magic number, and you may be better off focusing on your actual expenses today. Then, think about whether they’ll stay the same, increase, decrease, or even disappear by the time you retire.

While some expenses might disappear, like a mortgage or costs for transportation to and from work, new expenses may arise, such as travel, help with home maintenance, and medical costs. A typical 65-year-old couple who retires in 2017 might spend $275,000 on medical care in retirement, even with Medicare.1 Calculate how much you may need to pay for your expenses in retirement and add a cushion for “the unexpected”.

4. A “safe” withdrawal rate is 4%.

The “4% rule” suggests that you make annual withdrawals from your retirement nest egg equal to 4% of the total when you retire, with annual adjustments for inflation. This model was developed in the 1990s for a 30-year retirement with a portfolio that included 50% large-cap stocks.2Although this may be part of many retirement guidelines, some experts suggest a lower rate. Factors to consider include the amount of income you anticipate needing, your life expectancy, the rate of return you expect from your financial products, inflation, taxes, and whether you’re single or married.

Sources:
1) CNBC, October 5, 2017
2) The Balance, August 18, 2017

It’s your retirement. Plan it perfectly for you!

Retirement guidelines are helpful, but they are not exactly the same for everyone. Let me show you how to get the most from your retirement planning. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

Freeman2017-blog2

 

March 28th, 2018 by

There are a number of good reasons why you may want to work part-time during retirement. Obviously, you would be earning money and relying less on your retirement savings. You may also have access to better health-care benefits. Finally, many retirees work for personal fulfillment. They enjoy staying mentally and physically active. Plus, they enjoy the social benefits of working in retirement. Some retirees just want to try their hand at something new & they aren’t ready to retire.

Others who are thinking about retirement aren’t’ ready to give up their day jobs just yet. In 2013, a phased retirement plan was introduced in some workplaces to help potential retirees ease into retirement more easily. It’s when a company allows an aging employee to “officially retire”, but keeps the employee on the payroll with the ability to scale back their number of work hours or become more selective on which projects they take on.

Earning a paycheck may enable you to postpone claiming Social Security until a later date. For each year you delay taking your Social Security benefits (from full retirement age to age 70), the annual benefit grows automatically by 8%.

Here are two more ways working in retirement could affect your Social Security benefits.

1. The Retirement Earnings Test

If you are working in retirement and receiving Social Security benefits prior to reaching full retirement age (FRA), $1 in benefits will be deducted for every $2 you earn above the annual limit ($17,040 in 2018). During the calendar year in which you reach FRA, $1 will be deducted for every $3 you earn above a higher annual limit ($45,360 in 2018), but only until the month you reach full retirement age. Fortunately, you won’t lose these benefits forever. Once you reach FRA, your lifetime benefit will increase to account for the loss amount.

2. Taxes on Benefits

If you have substantial income (such as wages or other taxable income), a portion of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. You may owe federal income tax on up to 50% of your benefits if your combined income exceeds a “base amount” of $25,000 ($32,000 for joint filers). And if your combined income exceeds a higher base amount of $34,000 ($44,000 for joint filers), you may owe tax on up to 85% of your Social Security benefits.

One size DOES NOT fit all.

Your retirement options should be in under your control. Let me show you how to get the most from your retirement planning. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

Freeman2017-blog2

 

March 12th, 2018 by

Contributing to a Roth IRA or a designated Roth account in an employer retirement plan do not reduce current income, but qualified withdrawals are generally free of federal income tax as long as they meet certain conditions. Moreover, withdrawals from a Roth IRA can tax-free and penalty-free at any time, for any reason.

Repositioning Your Retirement Dollars

  • If you have a traditional IRA but prefer the advantages of a Roth, you can open a Roth IRA and make contributions to either or both accounts. However, you are subject to the combined annual contribution limit.
  • You could also convert all or part of your traditional IRA money to a Roth IRA. You can convert contributions to an employer’s retirement plan to a designated Roth account if the plan allows for conversions.
  • Conversions of monies to a Roth account are subject to federal income tax in the year of conversion. Under current tax law and if you meet all conditions, the Roth account will incur no further income tax liability for the rest of your lifetime.
  • The prospect of a substantial tax bill can be daunting, but paying taxes now may be a worthwhile tradeoff for potential tax-free growth and tax-free income in retirement. And because you do not have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a Roth IRA, you have more flexibility when taking withdrawals.
  • To make the tax liability of a Roth conversion more manageable, you could spread out smaller conversions over several years. Recharacterizations should take place by October 15 of the year following the tax year of the conversion.

Contribution and Distribution Rules

  • Eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA phases out at higher income levels. (Income limits also apply for tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA if you’re an active participant in an employer plan.) IRA contributions for 2017 can be made up to the April 2018 tax filing deadline; however, employer-plan contributions and Roth IRA conversions for 2017 must be made by December 31.
  • To qualify for tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals, distributions from a Roth IRA or a Roth employer plan account must meet a five-year holding requirement and take place after age 59½ (with some exceptions).
  • RMDs from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (including Roth accounts) must start in the year you turn 70½.
  • Beneficiaries of all IRAs and employer plans generally must start taking RMDs in the year after the original account owner’s death.

These things get confusing!

With multiple accounts in different places, it can get a bit confusing to know what to do with your monies. Let me show you how to get the most from your retirement planning. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

Freeman2017-blog2

 

March 2, 2018
March 2nd, 2018 by

IRS rules for inheriting retirement accounts are complex, and an uninformed decision could result in unexpected taxes and penalties. Your options depend on your relationship to the original owner and the owner’s age at the time of death.

Beneficiaries of both traditional and Roth IRAs must take required minimum distributions (RMDs), with one exception for spouses (described below). If the original owner died after reaching age 70½ and did not take an RMD for the year of death, you may also have to take the owner’s RMD by the end of the calendar year.

Special Rules for Spouses

A surviving spouse can roll the inherited IRA assets to a new IRA in his or her own name. If the spouse is the sole beneficiary, the inherited IRA can simply be redesignated in the surviving spouse’s name (if allowed by the account trustee). Because the spouse becomes an owner of the account, he or she can make additional contributions, name beneficiaries, and avoid RMDs from a Roth IRA. A surviving spouse must take RMDs from a traditional IRA. However, this only has to start when the surviving spouse reaches age 70½.

Options for Designated Beneficiaries

Nonspouse beneficiaries, as well as a spouse who does not treat an inherited IRA as his or her own, cannot contribute to the IRA and can only name “successor beneficiaries.” In most cases, the funds must be transferred directly to a properly titled beneficiary IRA; for example, “Joe Smith (deceased) for the benefit of Mary Smith (beneficiary).”

All designated beneficiaries typically have four distribution options:

  1. Life expectancy method. A “stretch IRA” typically involves taking RMDs over the life expectancy of the beneficiary. A non-spouse beneficiary must start taking distributions no later than December 31 of the year following the year of the IRA owner’s death. A spouse beneficiary may be able to delay payments until the year the IRA owner would have reached age 70½.
  2. Five-year rule. If the original owner died before reaching age 70½, the beneficiary can satisfy RMD rules by withdrawing all assets — in one or multiple distributions — within the five-year period that ends on December 31 of the fifth year after the IRA owner’s death.
  3. Lump-sum distribution. Regardless of the original owner’s age, the beneficiary can withdraw his or her entire share of the inherited IRA by December 31 of the year following the original owner’s death. This may be appropriate for small accounts, but you should think twice before liquidating a large account.
  4. Disclaim the inherited funds. This may be appropriate if you do not need the funds and prefer that they pass to another beneficiary with greater needs or who would be subject to lower RMDs, allowing more time for the funds to grow. A qualified disclaimer statement must be completed within nine months of the IRA owner’s date of death.

It can cost you a penalty equal to 50% if you fail to withdraw the appropriate RMD amount. Distributions from a traditional IRA are taxable as ordinary income. Distributions of Roth IRA contributions are not taxable, but the account must meet the appropriate five-year Roth holding period for tax-free distributions of earnings.

Avoid Costly Mistakes!

When there are multiple beneficiaries or the IRA goes to an estate or a trust, distribution rules become more complex. Let me show you how to get the most from your retirement planning. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

Freeman2017-blog2