What Will Healthcare Cost In Retirement?

What Will Healthcare Cost in Retirement?

Planning for retirement takes careful preparation and a decent idea of what your budget will be once you stop working.  This can be a pretty scary process with so many unknown variables.  How much will groceries, travel, and utilities cost in 15-20 years?  How long will you live, exactly?  What if you get hurt or need help with everyday activities like getting dressed or paying the bills?

Arguably the biggest variable when we talk about retirement is the cost of healthcare.  It’s no secret that the cost of coverage and prescription drugs is increasing at an uncomfortable pace.  This post will cover the current research on what healthcare will cost in retirement, as well as the best way to put money aside for it now.

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401(k) Auto Rollovers: A Convenient Safe Harbor for Small Business Retirement Plans

401(k) Auto Rollovers: A Convenient Safe Harbor for Small Business Retirement Plans

OK – with a new year upon us it’s time to clean up that rusty old 401(k) plan at your small business….right?  Let’s say that you work in or own a small business, and are responsible for operating the company’s 401(k) plan.  To put it lightly, it’s probably a massive nuisance.

401(k) plans can be a wonderful benefit to your employees AND a great opportunity for you to put more money away for retirement in a tax deferred account.  But as you may now, operating a plan can be a real bear.

I’ll be covering the finer points of operating small business retirement plans throughout the year.  Today’s post will focus on what to do with departed employees.  Employees will come and go to and from your business over time (hopefully not too often), and it’s not uncommon for them to leave money they’ve accumulated in your company’s qualified retirement plan.

 

ERISA & Fiduciary Responsibility

As you probably know, departed employees always have the opportunity to pull their money from your plan after they leave, either directly or via a trustee to trustee rollover.  But many employees neglect to do so.  Whether it’s because they don’t know how, don’t care, or are simply lazy, it’s very common for departed employees to “accumulate” in your 401(k) plan, long after leaving the company for greener pastures.

As you also know, as the sponsor of a qualified retirement plan you have certain fiduciary responsibilities when it comes to managing the plan on behalf of your participants.  It’s for this reason – fear of repercussion – that many sponsors feel stuck when it comes to managing assets of employees who long ago left the company.

Fortunately for you, ERISA was not written with the sole intention of making your life hell.  There are six safe harbors written into the law that free you from fiduciary responsibility if you follow a few step by step instructions.  And one of them conveniently covers departed employees.

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Turbotax vs Accountant: When Should You Hire a CPA?

Turbotax vs. Accountant: When Should You Hire a CPA?

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of most tax preparation software.  Taxes are a cost in and of themselves.  Any way to automate the prep and filing process in a compliant and inexpensive way is A-OK in my book.

But even though they’re easy to use, Turbotax and others are still software programs that have limitations just like any other robot.  When your financial picture becomes sufficiently complicated, spending the extra cash to hire a professional can actually save you money in the long run.  Here’s my take on when you should ditch the software for an experienced professional.

 

What You Should Know About Tax Prep Software

When people talk about tax in general, there are really two sides to the conversation: tax planning and tax compliance.

Tax planning is essentially planning transactions before they happen, and making thoughtful decisions that will minimize the total amount of tax you owe.  Tax compliance, on the other hand, has to do with preparing your return, filling out forms, and reporting on transactions that have already occurred.

While tax prep software is great and all, it’s really only useful for tax compliance.  The more complicated your financial profile becomes, the more decisions you’ll have to make, and the more important tax planning will become.

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What's the Optimal Portfolio Rebalancing Frequency-

What’s the Optimal Portfolio Rebalancing Frequency?

If you’ve read the blog for very long, you probably know that I’m a big proponent of thoughtful and customized asset allocation.  The percentage of your portfolio invested in stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate should vary based on your personal financial objectives and tolerance for risk.

In fact there are plenty of studies contending that asset allocation determines the vast majority of your portfolio’s return.  In other words, it doesn’t matter as much which stock or bond you choose to invest in.  It matters far more how much of your portfolio is invested in stocks or bonds in the aggregate.

 

The Importance of Portfolio Rebalancing

If you’ve ever managed your portfolio (or anyone else’s for that matter) you also know that over time your portfolio’s asset allocation will change as the market fluctuates.  If you start with 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds, you might find your portfolio weighted 70% in stocks and only 30% in bonds after an appreciation in the stock market – especially since bonds tend to fall when stocks rise.

This is why it’s important to rebalance your portfolio over time.  The whole point of building a customized asset allocation is to match the risk in your portfolio to your personal risk tolerance.  As your individual investments fluctuate in value, selling some of the appreciated positions and replacing them with some of the depreciated positions brings your portfolio back to its intended allocation.

For example, if a 60/40 portfolio became 70/30 after the markets moved, you’d want to sell stocks that represent 10% of your portfolio and use the cash to purchase bonds – returning to your original 60/40 allocation.  Without rebalancing, your portfolio would continue to stray over time, ensuring a level of portfolio risk that’s higher or lower than you’d like.

 

 

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Mutual Funds Capital Gains Distributions: What They Are & How to Avoid the Tax Hit

Mutual Fund Capital Gains Distributions: What They Are & How to Avoid the Tax Hit

If you’ve ever invested in a mutual fund, you may know that they’re required to distribute at least 95% of their capital gains to investors each year.  You may also know from experience that these gains are not always welcome since they come with a tax liability attached.

More often than not these capital gains are not large enough to cause investors to stir.  But every year there are a few funds that pass massive unwanted gains on to investors, leaving them with a big, stinky tax bill.

This post may be slightly tardy given that some mutual fund families have already distributed their year end capital gains.  Nevertheless, it’s an important topic that you should be aware of and keep an eye out for.

If your objective is to minimize your tax bill (hint: it probably should be) you’ll want to know about upcoming distributions at the end of each year, and avoid them when it makes sense.  This post will cover exactly what capital gains distributions are, why mutual funds distribute them, and when and how you might want to avoid them.

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The Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Planning for Retirement

The Top 7 Mistakes People Make when Planning for Retirement

Hello ATC Readers!

This post is to announce that I’ll be hosting a free retirement webinar in a few weeks.  I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently to the effect of “what am I doing wrong?” when it comes to retirement planning.

As you may know, we’re often our own worst enemy when it comes to retirement planning.  As human beings we tend to get emotional when it comes to our finances.  Rather than remaining logical, balanced, and objective, we often make poor decisions because our emotions get in the way.

I wanted to cover this issue in more detail than a traditional post, so I decided to focus a 60 minute webinar on the topic:

The Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Planning for Retirement

Presented by Grant Bledsoe, CFA, CFP®

In this live webinar we’ll cover some of the most pressing issues retirees face today:

  • The top retirement mistakes made today and how to avoid them
  • How to understand the fees you’re paying your advisor
  • How your emotions can affect decision making & how to overcome them to make consistently smart investment choices
  • The 5 components all effective retirement plans must have
  • How to tell whether your retirement savings are enough for you to stop working

There are two separate dates you can attend:

  • Tuesday, December 6th from 10:00AM – 11:00AM PST
  • Wednesday, December 7th from 1:00PM – 2:00PM PST

Even if you can’t attend at these times, make sure to register anyway.  After the webinar is over I’ll email you a replay copy you can watch at your own convenience (for a limited time).

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401(k)s, IRAs & Tax Deferred vs. Tax Exempt Investing

401(k)’s, IRAs & Tax Deferred vs. Tax Exempt Investing

Should I contribute to a traditional or a Roth IRA?

This is a big question I get asked fairly frequently.  And really, the conversation expands beyond individual retirement accounts.  The decision whether to invest on a tax deferred or tax exempt basis is one you’ll likely make many times over your investing career.  Some people prefer a exempt account to “get taxes out of the way”, while others prefer to defer taxes as long as possible in order to “let their money work for them”.

In this post we’ll explore the topic and discuss which situations may be best for either strategy.  But first, let’s review exactly what tax deferred and tax exempt investing actually are.

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Case Study Retiring with $1,000,000

Case Study: Retiring With $1,000,000

Those of you who know me know that I’m a massive baseball fan.  And when it comes famous baseball quotes, most come from one player: Yogi Berra.

Yogi Berra was a long time catcher for the Yankees, and had an incredible hall of fame career.  He was equally known for his head-scratching quotes, which the world has affectionately termed “Yogi-isms.”

Yogi didn’t comment often on financial topics, but when I think about retirement planning one of his famous quotes stands out:

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

When we think about retirement planning, $1,000,000 is often considered a kind of “golden threshold.”  Many people think of a million dollars as the minimum nest egg they’ll need in order to retire comfortably.  But as Yogi pointed out, being a millionaire doesn’t amount to what it used to.

So is it even possible to retire with $1,000,000 these days?

Let’s find out.  In this post we’ll explore a hypothetical couple named John and Jane.  They’ve saved $1,000,000 and want to retire, which is a common situation for many Americans.

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The Doctor's Handbook on Student Loan Forgiveness

The Doctor’s Handbook on Student Loan Forgiveness

It’s no secret that most doctors graduate from medical school with mountains of student loan debt.  $183,000 on average in fact, according to the AAMC.  And while its easy to assume that you’ll make plenty of money to repay student loans once you become an attending physician, there are many forgiveness and repayment assistance options available to help.

This handbook is a comprehensive review of student loan forgiveness options available to doctors.  Even if you expect to have the capacity to repay your loans, forgiveness and repayment assistance can help you get there faster, with less pressure on your bank account.

 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Many doctors these days are pursuing public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).  And for good reason.  By working at a qualified employer for 10 years, PSLF forgives your federal loans – tax free.  Only federal direct loans qualify for PSLF though.  FFEL, Perkins, and private loans do not.  For this reason, if you’re considering PSLF make sure you consolidate any FFEL or Perkins loans right after you graduate, since federal consolidation loans do qualify for the program.  Private loans are simply not an option.

The common misconception about PSLF is that it only applies to teachers or social workers.  It’s actually far wider reaching, and depends only on who you work for – not what type of work you do.  You can qualify for PSLF by working full time (at least 30 hours per week) at:

  • Any government organization at the federal, state, or local level
  • Non-profit organizations that qualify for tax exempt treatment under 501(c)(3)
  • Other types of non-profit organizations that provide certain types of public services

For doctors, this means that work in a tax-exempt hospital or medical school will likely qualify.  To find out, you can submit an Employment Certification Form with the Department of Education.  Rather than working for ten years and hoping your employment qualifies for forgiveness, the DoE will verify your status with this form.  The form requires the signature of someone  familiar with your service record.  Since tracking down the signatures of old bosses can be a major pain, best practices are to submit it every few years or whenever you change employers.

Technically you’ll need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working at a qualified employer in order to receive PSLF.  A qualifying payment is one made under an income driven repayment plan.  The standard 10-year repayment option does qualify for PSLF, but after making 120 payments there wouldn’t be anything left to forgive.

If you’re interested in PSLF, run the numbers on the various income driven repayment options and find the one where you pay the very least out of pocket over the next ten years.  Once you make the 120 qualifying payments, you’ll need to submit a an official PSLF application in order to receive forgiveness.

 

The Doctor’s Loophole

The combination of PSLF and several of the income driven repayment options creates a nice “loophole” for doctors. Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income Based Repayment (IBR) calculate your minimum monthly payments based on a percentage of your discretionary income.  Residents earning around $55,000 per year with $183,000 in debt from med school certainly qualify.

The catch with PAYE and IBR is that there’s cap on monthly payments.  Even though your income will jump significantly as an attending, your monthly payments will never be more than what they would have been under the standard 10-year repayment plan when you entered the program.

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Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Everything You Need to Know About PSLF

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Everything You Need to Know About PSLF

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (or PSLF) program forgives any of your student loans remaining after making 120 qualifying payments while working full time for a qualifying employer.  While the income driven repayment options also offer forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments, forgiveness under these plans is counted as taxable income.  Forgiveness under PSLF is completely tax free.  Win-win!

 

Qualifying Employment

Contrary to popular opinion, employment qualifying for PSLF has nothing to do with what you do.  It only matters who you work for.  If you work full time for any of the following employers (defined as 30 hours per week or more), your employment will qualify for PSLF:

  • Any government organizations.  This includes state, federal, and local governments.
  • Non-profit organizations that qualify for tax exempt treatment under 501(c)(3).
  • Other types of non-profit organizations that provide certain types of public services.

There are a few exceptions too.  Labor unions and political organizations do not qualify for PSLF.  But, qualifying employment reaches much farther than only teachers and social workers.  Anyone working full time for the government or a 501(c)(3) non-profit can qualify:

  • Lawyers working as prosecutors and public defenders
  • Physicians working in teaching hospitals & medical schools
  • Firemen & Police Officers
  • Soldiers

Some estimates count 33 million public service employees who could qualify for PSLF.  As of June, 2015, only 335,520 people were enrolled in the program, or barely more than 1%.

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