Latest COVID-19 Stimulus Does Not Extend CRDs

There was a lot of fuss around the most recent COVID-19 stimulus bill, which President Trump signed into law shortly after Christmas. While most of what is in the bill is clear at this point–it has been about three weeks since it was signed–one area that seemed to produce at least a little confusion was whether the bill extends tax breaks from Coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) from retirement accounts. I have written about CRDs in past blogposts over the past year. As you may recall, CRDs allowed you to take a aggregate distribution of up to $100,000 from your retirement accounts in you were directly impacted by COVID-19 (i.e. you were diagnosed and had to quarantine or you were laid off due to Coronavirus restrictions) and that the distribution was not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty and you have three years to pay back the distribution. CRDs were designed to help those in financial distress as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and was most likely a lifeline for many struggling Americans in 2020. Back to the latest Stimulus package. It was reported by at least one news source that the new stimulus package extended CRDs into 2021. I want to be clear here that such information is incorrect and that the new legislation did not carry CRDs into 2021. This is important because if you planned on taking a CRD in 2021, you can’t and also as a reminder to do some research and read up on any Coronavirus-related relief legislation to see how it might impact you. Now, I don’t know what the future holds and depending on how this pandemic continues to play out, the next administration might put CRDs back on the table, but I have heard no definite inklings about that, I’m just saying anything is a possibility at this point. If you took a CRD in 2020 and want to figure out how to pay it back or find yourself in further Coronavirus-related financial hardships in 2021, you will want to speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager to figure out what the best moves might be best for you.

What Are Your Financial Plans for 2021?

Welcome back, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful, safe, and relaxing holiday season. Now that we are a few days into 2021, it’s a good time to start putting your financial plans for 2021 into action. What are your goals for the next 361 days? It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. It could be something as big as purchasing a home or making a push to finish paying off a mortgage or car loan. Or maybe it’s something smaller like saving up a certain amount of money or cutting back on certain expenditures. Or maybe you just want to get better with your budgeting over the next 12 months. Whatever your goals/plans are, you’ll find it easier to reach them if you get started early. If you are looking to pay something off or save up a certain amount, then you may want get started by looking at what you will need to pay or save monthly to meet your goals and then determine what spending habits need to change to meet those goals. If you want to do something like budgeting, starting on Google and seeing what advice regarding budgeting it out there is a great place to begin. Of course, if you want further help or already have an existing relationship with one, you can also always speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager to get the advice you need/want. So, what are your financial goals for the next year?

More Retirement Legislation Could Be Around the Corner

I’ve written about the SECURE Act a number of times over the past 11 months or so since it was signed into law. As you may well know, that legislation brought about some big changes, including raising the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) up to age 72, allowed traditional IRA contributions past age 70 1/2, and eliminating the stretch IRA. Now, there could be even more changes coming to the retirement planning world in America. Recent bipartisan legislation introduced last week, and referred to as Secure Act 2, could take some of the parts of the original Secure Act even farther. Some of the key points of the legislation are the expansion of automatic enrollment to include 401(k), 403(b), and SIMPLE plans, raising of the RMD age to 75, increasing catch-up limits, and matching employer contributions for employees making student loan payments. That last part is interesting as it would potentially allow employers to make matching contributions under a 401(k), 403(b), or SIMPLE IRA for employees making “qualified student loan payments.” The legislation also includes a number of other somewhat minor changes to retirement plans and planning. While it’s still in the early stages, this legislation could have a major impact regarding how people save and when they start spending their nest egg. Obviously, things still have way to go, but I wanted to make you aware of potential changes that could be coming down the pike. It’s worth at least keeping an eye on.

It All Starts With a Nest

You can’t plan for retirement without first thinking about the money you will be spending in retirement. Thus, your retirement planning–and everything that follows those initial plans–will focus on your nest egg. How you build that nest egg will have a monumental impact on what you can do when you actually most into your post-career life. If you take aggressive steps and keep on top of your nest egg, then you will probably have a good chunk of money ready for when you stop working. On the flip side, if you don’t take steps to properly build up a nest egg or make bad decisions when doing so, then you probably won’t have much flexibility in retirement or may have to work longer than intended to meet your goals. No matter how you slice it, your nest egg is essential to your retirement plans. Now, if your nest egg isn’t quite where you want to it be right now, don’t fret. You can always take steps to get back on track and then determine what’s realistic from there. There is no on-size-fits-all answer for that, but some steps would include re-evaluating your retirement goals, analyzing your portfolio and/or investment decisions, or working with a financial planner or wealth manager to really kick your saving into gear. Each person’s situation is unique regarding how much they need to save for retirement, so some may have a lot of work to do while others may be right on track. What’s key, no matter where you are in your saving journey, is that you never lose track of your nest egg and that you focus on building it up as much as possible. So, how big is your nest egg?

Struggling With Retirement Saving? You’re Not Alone.

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It’s well known within the retirement planning industry that about half of all Americans are having a tough time with their retirement finances. That’s a lot of people. Furthermore, uncertain economic times can push the number of those struggling north of 50%. Considering how many retirees are out there–and it’s impressive due to one of the largest demographics reaching retirement age (*cough* Baby Boomers *cough*) as we speak–that’s a lot of Americans struggling to either save for retirement or stretch out their finances in retirement. With all that said, I want to remind you that you are not alone if you are struggling to either save or make your nest egg last. Many people do and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help in doing so. If you can afford it, a good wealth manager or financial planner can be a huge help. Despite the tone some of my blogposts, I fully understand that saving for retirement is no easy task and it’s been particularly tough over the past 15 years or so. That doesn’t mean you should give up on it, though. In fact, I want to encourage you to save as much as you can and to take steps to maximize your saving, regardless of where you are in your life. Something is better than nothing. So, are you struggling with saving for retirement? You’re not alone, but what are you going to do about it?

An IRA Loan? Yea, Don’t Do That.

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It can be tempting to look at your nest egg and see an untapped source of money, particularly if your nest egg is sizeable and you are nearing retirement. For example, maybe you found your dream retirement home and need money for a down payment. You may look to your IRA for a short-term loan to meet those money requirements. I’m here to tell you that that is a bad idea and to discourage you not to do so. The biggest reason being that you don’t want to tap into your IRA monies until you actually retire and, even then, you will want to have a plan for doing so. You’ve worked hard to save up for your post-work life and you want to make sure that money goes towards your retirement goals (of course, if purchasing a retirement home is part of your plan, then that’s a different discussion). The other risk of viewing your IRA as a loan source is the risk of making a mistake when taking out money. Keep in mind that there are two routes you can go when taking money out of your IRA before reaching retirement age. First off, you can take a distribution, pay the taxes and penalties, and then not have to worry about what you do with the money. The other option is to take out the money and do a 60 day rollover, which will involve paying back the money within that 60 day window. There’s a lot of risk involved with that. I repeat, there is a lot of risk involved with doing this. Mainly, if you take out the money, is there any guarantee that you will recoup it within that 60 day window? Chances are, you are going to be making a large purchase if you need a loan (probably talking thousands of dollars), so what are the chances that you will make that money back in two months? If you are certain that you can do that, then maybe you can consider it. However, if you aren’t so sure that you can complete such a transaction in that timeframe, stay away from this idea. That can lead to a lot of problems if you aren’t able to put the money back within those 60-days. Hint: Don’t open yourself up to the IRS taking more of your money through penalties! If you are in need of money, you should consider other types of loans or selling off other assets before even considering your IRA as a loan source. You may even want to really think about whether you even need to make the purchase at that time and whether you can put it off until you actually have the funds and leave your retirement money alone.

COVID Has Exposed Our Retirement Problem

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It may not be obvious, but we have a retirement problem in this country and the economic crisis created by the efforts to combat COVID have exposed it. Not enough people have enough saved for retirement. The economic conditions that began back in the early Spring have forced many older workers into forced retirements that they were not fully prepared for. For those younger workers who suddenly found themselves on unemployment, there aren’t enough jobs that offer strong retirement benefits or high enough wages to allow them to look beyond the survival necessities (i.e. rent, food, gas, etc.). Demographics and class also play a role in whether people have the opportunities to save for retirement. While there are a lot of tools available today for anyone to save for retirement, the tools are not the issue. The issue is that fewer people have wiggle room financially to save enough for retirement. Most people with hefty retirement accounts either had jobs that paid well or spent years working for big companies that offered strong benefits. For many in the gig economy or working for small businesses, the opportunities to save and the benefits of things like matching contributions or stock ownership plans are just not there. And yes, there are more working in the gig economy or small businesses than many of us realize. So what’s the solution? Well, there was recent legislation passed that makes it much easier for small businesses to band together and offer retirement benefits as well as pushes back the age for requirement minimum distributions (RMDs). However, we may need to have a larger discussion about how we go about saving for retirement after these current economic conditions improve, particularly about pay and the cost of living in this country. There may also need to be further reform of the tools that we have, making them easier to use and understand. We will see what the future brings regarding all this.

Can You Really Save Too Much for Retirement?

Is it possible to save too much for retirement? That may seem like an odd questions. However, the answer is…yes. The answer isn’t so much focused on finances, but rather how saving for the future is impacting your life in the present. Sure, we all want to have that seven-figure nest egg, but what if getting requires forsaking a lot within your current life? I’m not saying you shouldn’t budget and be smart with your money, but don’t get carried away with it. In other words, don’t be afraid to take a vacation from time to time. Or go out to dinner once a week. Or don’t be afraid to buy a reliable, new car to get you through to retirement. What you don’t want to do is enjoy living your current life with your sole focus being on retirement. On the flip side, you also don’t want to live too much in the present and not save enough for the future. However, that is for another blog post. Right now, I want to make sure that you find that nice balance where you are saving for retirement, but also able to enjoy life in the moment. So, yes, you can save too much for retirement, but it’s not so much because you have too much stashed away in your nest egg, but rather because you are not living enough in the present. Remember, saving for retirement isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t consume you or be too much of a burden on your current life. If you need some help with planning for retirement or advice on how best to save, you should speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager.

Boomers and the New Retirement

This Coronavirus pandemic is changing everything. Sure, you can tell yourself it’s only temporary and convince yourself that things will soon return to normal, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen (however, there’s nothing wrong with a little optimism!). For those of you Boomers out there getting ready for retirement, it will be different. First off, of course, is the fact that the economy and markets seem to have taken a turn. Yes, we are in a recession. That’s usually not a good thing, especially if you are planning on your portfolio or investments to keep making you money in retirement. On the flip side, if you are savvy with investing, this may be a chance to set your portfolio for when the markets rebound (not sure of when, though). This down market may lead to slower nest egg growth for Boomers who are still working and starting to think about retirement. This may lead Boomers to work longer, which may be more difficult than intended. It’s not uncommon for Boomers to be the ones forced out in favor of younger workers at companies when times get tough. On top of finances, you goals and desires for retirement may change as well during these times. Luxurious vacations may not be a thing to a while (particularly cruises) and many retirees may place more emphasis on spending time with family. You may even already find yourself re-assessing your retirement needs and desires as you read this. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember, that the vision and expectations of retirement change from generation to generation and it’s currently changing for the Boomer generation. Are you ready for the new retirement?

Help Your Children Get a Let Up in Retirement

Retirement can be a long way off for teenagers, but given how much retirement can cost–and the costs will probably continue to rise throughout future generations–there’s no such thing as getting too early of a head start. No, you teenager might not fully appreciate how much such steps may help in the future, but that shouldn’t be a good enough reason not to at least talk to your teenager about starting to save for retirement as soon as they are able. Of course, you can start off through conversation. However, if you really want to make an impression, you may want to consider setting up a Roth IRA for your teenager once they have a job and earn income. You can teach them the importance of saving for the future by having them make contributions from their income. Now, obviously, it might be hard to get a teenager to part with their money, but you may be able incentivize them by offering something like a matching contribution or a reward for contributions they make. There is a number of things they can do with that money once it’s in a Roth IRA, particularly relating to education expenses or buying a first home. Before you jump right into opening a Roth IRA for your children, you will probably want to speak with a certified financial analyst or wealth manager and possibly even bring your teenager along so that you can hash out a plan for contributions and what the money will be used for. A retirement professional may also be able to better explain what the purpose of a Roth IRA is and be better informed when it comes to helping with such an account–that is if you choose to have a professional oversee it.