If you were going to drive across the country, you wouldn’t just get into your car and start driving, would you? Of course not. You’d map out your trip and spend time packing and preparing. Nevertheless, a remarkable number of people don’t take the time to map out the 30 years or more that it can realistically take to achieve their retirement goals.
Many people assume that they have to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits as soon as they retire and stop working. But that’s not the case. Retiring and claiming Social Security benefits are different. You have options, and we can help you make a well-informed decision about when to start receiving your benefits.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
An individual retirement account (IRA) is a personal savings vehicle that offers specific tax benefits. Even if you're contributing to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should consider an IRA as well.
There are two types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Both allow you to contribute up to $5,500 in 2016. Individuals age 50 and older can also make additional "catch-up" contributions. These folks can put $6,500 into their IRAs for 2016. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but your total annual contribution can’t exceed these limits. Contribution limits are tied to the cost of living, and may increase in the future.
Both traditional and Roth IRAs feature tax advantages. And, both give you a wide range of investment choices. However, there are important differences between these two types of IRAs, including the specific tax benefits and the qualifications to contribute. You must understand these differences before you can choose the type of IRA that's best for you.
Practically anyone can open and contribute to a traditional IRA. The only requirements are that you have taxable compensation and are under age 70½. The question is whether or not you can deduct your contribution.
Not everyone can contribute to a Roth IRA. Roth IRA contributions are phased out for individuals with higher incomes--whether you can make a full contribution, a partial contribution, or no contribution depends on your modified adjusted gross income and your income tax filing status. Unlike a traditional IRA, all contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars – you don’t get a deduction for your contributions.
According to the IRS, most pre-retirement payments you receive from a retirement plan or IRA can be “rolled over” by depositing the payment in another retirement plan or IRA within 60 days. You can also have your financial institution or plan directly transfer the payment to another plan or IRA.
**Before deciding whether to retain assets in an employer sponsored plan or roll over to an IRA an investor should consider various factors including, but not limited to: investment options, fees and expenses, services, withdrawal penalties, protection from creditors and legal judgments, required minimum distributions and possession of employer stock.
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We all know the benefits of a college education--the ability to compete in today’s competitive job market, increased earning power, and expanded horizons. But, if you’re like most parents, there are a lot of demands competing for your hard-earned dollars: the costs associated with a new baby or growing children, monthly mortgage or rent payments, monthly car payments, contributions to your retirement plans, your own student loans, and maybe even a nice vacation now and then.
Add in the costs of bills and unforeseen emergencies, and it’s hard to imagine how you might fit in saving for college, too. And yet, it’s imperative that you start your child’s college fund as soon as you can.
What is a 529 plan? A 529 plan, or qualified tuition program, is a college savings vehicle that offers federal, and sometimes state, tax advantages. 529 plans are sponsored by states, and less commonly colleges, but they must follow federal law. Specifically, they must abide by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, hence the name “529” plan.
Section 529 plans were first authorized by Congress in 1996, and since that time they have revolutionized the way parents save for college, much like 401(k) plans revolutionized the world of retirement savings.
There are actually two types of 529 plans, and they are very different college savings vehicles. The first type of 529 plan is called a college savings plan. The second type of 529 plan is called a prepaid tuition plan. With either type of plan, you are the account owner and control the account, your child is the beneficiary, and your contributions grow tax deferred, which means that you don’t pay income tax on your earnings each year. You don’t need to be a parent to open a 529 plan account; a grandparent, relative, or friend may open an account and contribute money on behalf of your child. So, how do these plans work?
College Savings Plan >
- College savings plans are offered by states; prepaid tuition plans are offered either by states (on behalf of public colleges) or by private colleges.
- College savings plans are the more popular type of 529 plan--nearly all states offer at least one college savings plan. By contrast, fewer states offer prepaid tuition plans and currently, there is just one college-sponsored prepaid tuition plan in existence.
- Typically, you can join any state’s college savings plan, no matter which state you live in. However, you’re usually limited to your own state’s prepaid tuition plan (though the one active college-sponsored prepaid plan is open to residents of any state).
- With a college savings plan, you contribute money to one or more of the plan’s pre-established investment portfolios that you choose when you open your account. Most plan portfolios typically range from conservative too aggressive in their amount of risk, similar to 401(k) plan offerings. Returns aren’t guaranteed.
Prepaid Tuition Plan >
- With a prepaid tuition plan, your contributions are pooled with those of others and invested solely by the plan. Typically, you are guaranteed a certain rate of return, which means that the plan agrees to cover a certain amount of tuition costs for your child in the future based on how much you contribute today. In effect, you are “prepaying” your child’s tuition.
***There are fees associated with 529 savings plans. Investments in 529s involve investment risks. You should consider your financial needs, goals, and risk tolerance prior to investing. More information about 529 plans can be found in the issuer’s official statement or plan disclosure document which should be read carefully prior to investing. Most 529 plans are sponsored and administered by states. State tax benefits vary among the states and some offer residents additional tax benefits if they invest in their own state plan. Consult a qualified tax professional for more information.