February – March 2015 Newsletter

Points to Consider If Your Retirement Goal Seems Out of Reach

Each year in its annual Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reiterates that goal setting is a key factor influencing overall retirement confidence. But for many, a retirement savings goal that could reach $1 million or more may seem like a daunting, even impossible mountain to climb. What if you’re investing as much as you can, but still feel that you’ll never reach the summit? As with many of life’s toughest challenges, it may help to focus less on the big picture and more on the details.* Start by reviewing the following points.

Retirement goals are based on assumptions
Whether you use a simple online calculator or run a detailed analysis, your retirement savings goal is based on certain assumptions that will, in all likelihood, change. Inflation, rates of return, life expectancies, salary adjustments, retirement expenses, Social Security benefits–all of these factors are estimates. That’s why it’s so important to review your retirement savings goal and its underlying assumptions regularly–at least once per year and when life events occur. This will help ensure that your goal continues to reflect your changing life circumstances as well as market and economic conditions.

Break it down
Instead of viewing your goal as ONE BIG NUMBER, try to break it down into an anticipated monthly income need. That way you can view this monthly need alongside your estimated monthly Social Security benefit, income from your retirement savings, and any pension or other income you expect. This can help the planning process seem less daunting, more realistic, and most important, more manageable. It can be far less  overwhelming to brainstorm ways to close a gap of, say, a few hundred dollars a month than a few hundred thousand dollars over the duration of your retirement.

Make your future self a priority, whenever possible
While every stage of life brings financial challenges, each stage also brings opportunities. Whenever possible–for example, when you pay off a credit card or school loan, receive a tax refund, get a raise or promotion, celebrate your child’s college graduation (and the end of tuition payments), or receive an unexpected windfall–put some of that extra money toward retirement. 

Retirement may be different than you imagine
When people dream about retirement, they often picture images like exotic travel, endless rounds of golf, and fancy restaurants. Yet a recent study found that the older people get, the more they derive happiness from ordinary, everyday experiences such as socializing with friends, reading a good book, taking a scenic drive, or playing board games with grandchildren. (Source: “Happiness from Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences,” Journal of Consumer Research, June 2014) While your dream may include days filled with extravagant leisure activities, your retirement reality may turn out much different–and that actually may be a matter of choice.

The bottom line
Setting a goal is a very important first step in putting together your retirement savings strategy, but don’t let the number scare you. As long as you have an estimate in mind, break it down to a monthly need, review it regularly, and increase your investments whenever possible, you can take heart knowing that you’re doing your best to prepare for whatever the future may bring. *All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

10 Financial Terms Everyone Should Know

Understanding financial matters can be difficult if you don’t understand the jargon. Becoming familiar with these 10 financial terms may help
make things clearer.

1. Time value of money
The time value of money is the concept that money on hand today is worth more than the same amount of money in the future, because the money you have today could be invested to earn interest and increase in value. Why is it important? Understanding that money today is worth more than the same amount in the future can help you evaluate investments that offer different potential rates of return.

2. Inflation
Inflation reflects any overall upward movement in the price of consumer goods and services and is usually associated with the loss of purchasing power over time. Why is it important? Because inflation generally pushes the cost of goods and services higher, any estimate of how much you’ll need in the future–for example, how much you’ll need to save for retirement–should take into account the potential impact of inflation.

3. Volatility
Volatility is a measure of the rate at which the price of a security moves up and down. If the price of a security historically changes rapidly over a short period of time, its volatility is high. Conversely, if the price rarely changes, its volatility is low. Why is it important? Understanding volatility can help you evaluate whether a particular investment is suited to your investing style and risk tolerance.

4. Asset allocation
Asset allocation means spreading investments over a variety of asset categories, such as equities, cash, bonds. Why is it important? How you allocate your assets depends on a number of factors, including your risk tolerance and your desired return. Diversifying your investments among a variety of asset classes can help you manage volatility and investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

5. Net worth
Net worth is what your total holdings are worth after subtracting all of your financial obligations. Why is it important? Your net worth may fund
most of your retirement years. So the faster and higher your net worth grows, the more it may help you in retirement. For retirees, a typical goal is to preserve net worth to last through the retirement years.

6. Five C’s of credit
These are character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions. They’re the primary elements lenders evaluate to determine whether to make you a loan. Why is it important? With a better understanding of how your banker is going to view and assess your creditworthiness, you will be better prepared to qualify for the loan you want and obtain a better interest rate.

7. Sustainable withdrawal rate
Sustainable withdrawal rate is the maximum percentage that you can withdraw from an investment portfolio each year to provide income that will last, with reasonable certainty, as long as you need it. Why is it important? Your retirement lifestyle will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio.

8. Tax deferral
Tax deferral refers to the opportunity to defer current taxes until sometime in the future. Why is it important? Contributions and any earnings produced in tax-deferred vehicles like 401(k)s and IRAs are not taxed until withdrawn. This allows those earnings to compound, further adding to potential investment growth.

9. Risk/return trade-off
This concept holds that you must be willing to accept greater risk in order to achieve a higher potential return. Why is it important? When considering your investments, the goal is to get the greatest return for the level of risk you’re willing to take, or to minimize the risk involved in trying for a given return. All investing involves risk, including the loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investing strategy will be
successful.

10. The Fed
The Federal Reserve, or “the Fed” as it’s commonly called for short, is the central bank of the United States. Why is it important? The Fed has three main objectives: maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed sets U.S. monetary policy to further these objectives, and over the years its duties have expanded to include maintaining the stability of the entire U.S. financial system.

 

The Cost of Waiting

Starting to save early means your money has more time to go to work for you. Even if you can only afford to set aside small amounts, compounding earnings can make them really add up. It’s never too late to begin, but as this illustration shows, the sooner you start, the less you may need to rely solely on your own savings to build your total nest egg.

 

March 2015 Newsletter (No February Newsletter issued)

 

This illustration assumes annual investments made at the end of each year through age 65 and a 6% fixed annual rate of return. The rate of return on your actual investment portfolio will be different, and will vary over time, according to actual market performance. This is particularly true for long-term investments. It is important to note that investments offering the potential for higher rates of return also involve a higher degree of risk to principal. The examples do not take into account the impact of taxes or inflation; if they did, the amounts would have been lower. They are intended as hypothetical illustrations of mathematical principles and should not be considered financial advice. All investing involves risks, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any strategy will be successful. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

 

How much can I contribute to my IRA in 2015?

The combined amount you can contribute to your traditional and Roth IRAs remains at $5,500 for 2015, or $6,500 if you’ll be 50 or older by the end of the year. You can contribute to an IRA in addition to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k). But if you (or your spouse) participate in an employer-sponsored plan, the amount of traditional IRA contributions you can deduct may be reduced or eliminated (phased out), depending on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Your ability to make annual Roth contributions may also be phased out, depending on your MAGI. These income limits (phaseout ranges) have increased for 2015:

Income phaseout range for deductibility of traditional IRA contributions in 2015

1. Covered by an employer-sponsored plan and filing as: 

Single/Head of household $61,000 – $71,000
Married filing jointly $98,000 – $118,000
Married filing separately $0 – $10,000

2. Not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but filing joint return with a spouse who is covered by a plan $183,000 – $193,000
(Income phaseout range for ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in 2015)

Single/Head of household $116,000 – $131,000
Married filing jointly $183,000 – $193,000
Married filing separately $0 – $10,000

Income phaseout range for ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in 2015

Single/Head of household $116,000 – $131,000
Married filing jointly $183,000 – $193,000
Married filing separately $0 – $10,000

 

Is there a new one-rollover-per-year rule for 2015?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Code says that if you receive a distribution from an IRA, you can’t make a tax-free (60-day) rollover into another IRA if you’ve already completed a tax-free rollover within the previous one-year (12-month) period. The long-standing position of the IRS was that this rule applied separately to each IRA someone owns. In 2014, however, the Tax Court held that regardless of how many IRAs he or she owns, a taxpayer may make only one nontaxable 60-day rollover within each 12-month period.

 The IRS announced that it would follow the Tax Court’s decision, but that the revised rule would not apply to any rollover involving an IRA distribution that occurred before January 1, 2015. The IRS recently issued further guidance on how the revised one-rollover-per-year limit is
to be applied. Most importantly, the IRS has clarified that:

• All IRAs, including traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs, are aggregated and treated as one IRA when applying the new rule. For example, if you make a 60-day rollover from a Roth IRA to the same or another Roth IRA, you will be precluded from making a 60-day rollover from any other IRA–including traditional IRAs–within 12 months. The converse is also true–a 60-day rollover from a traditional IRA to the same or another traditional IRA will preclude you from making a 60-day rollover from one Roth IRA to another Roth IRA.

• The exclusion for 2014 distributions is not absolute. While you can generally ignore rollovers of 2014 distributions when determining whether a 2015 rollover violates the new one-rollover-per-year limit, this special transition rule will NOT apply if the 2015 rollover is from the same IRA that either made, or received, the 2014 rollover.  In general, it’s best to avoid 60-day rollovers if possible. Use direct (trustee-to-trustee) transfers–as opposed to 60-day rollovers–between IRAs, as direct transfers aren’t subject to the one-rollover-per-year limit.  The tax consequences of making a mistake can be significant–a failed rollover will be treated as a taxable distribution (with potential early-distribution penalties if you’re not yet 59½) and a potential excess contribution to the receiving IRA.

 

DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a complete description of our investment advisory services or performance. This newsletter is neither a solicitation nor an offer to sell securities or investment advisory services except, where applicable, in states where we are registered or where an exemption or exclusion from such registration exists. Any information contained in this newsletter, whether stock quotes, charts, articles, or any other statement or statements regarding market or other financial information, is obtained from sources which we and our suppliers believe to be reliable. However, we do not warrant or guarantee the timeliness or accuracy of this information. Nothing in this newsletter should be interpreted to state or imply that past results are any indication of future performance. THERE ARE NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, AS TO ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, OR RESULTS OBTAINED FROM ANY  INFORMATION WRITTEN IN THIS OR ANY ‘LINKED’ ARTICLE.