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Retirement, investments, financial planning for every stage of life—learn about it all here at Invested,
a blog from your Wealth Management Advisors at Kirtland Financial Services.

All Posts > Estate Planning

Investments Retirement Estate Planning

Investment planning during retirement is not the same as investing for retirement and, in many ways, is more complicated.

Your working years are your saving years. With luck, your income increases from year to year as you receive promotions and/or pay raises; those increases offer some protection against rising costs caused by inflation. While you're working, your retirement objective generally is to grow retirement savings as much as possible, and investments that offer higher potential reward in exchange for greater potential for volatility and/or loss are often the focus for those retirement savings.

When you retire, on the other hand, spending rather than saving becomes your focus. Your sources of income may include Social Security, employer pensions, personal savings and assets, and perhaps some income from working part-time. Typically, a retiree's objective is to derive sufficient income to maintain a chosen lifestyle and to make assets last as long as necessary.

This can be a tricky balancing act. Uncertainty abounds--you don't know how long you'll live or whether rates of return will meet your expectations. If your income is fixed, inflation could erode its purchasing power over time, which may cause you to invade principal to meet day-to-day expenses. Or, your retirement plan may require that you make minimum withdrawals in excess of your needs, depleting your resources and triggering taxes unnecessarily. Further, your ability to tolerate risk is lessened--you have less time to recover from losses, and you may feel less secure about your finances in general.

How, then, should you manage your investments during retirement given the above complications? The answer is different for everyone. You should tailor your plans to your own unique circumstances, and you may want to consult a financial planning professional for advice.

The following discusses two important factors you should consider: (1) withdrawing income from retirement assets, and (2) balancing safety with growth.
 

Choosing a sustainable withdrawal rate

A key factor that determines whether your assets will last for your entire lifetime is the rate at which you withdraw funds. The more you withdraw, the greater the likelihood you'll exhaust your resources too soon. On the other hand, if you withdraw too little, you may have to struggle to meet expenses; also, you could end up with assets in your estate, part of which may go to the government in taxes. It is vital that you estimate an appropriate withdrawal rate for your circumstances, and determine whether you should adjust your lifestyle and/or estate plan.

Your withdrawal rate is typically expressed as a percentage of your overall assets, even though withdrawals may represent earnings, principal, or some combination of the two. For example, if you have $700,000 in assets and decide a 4 percent withdrawal rate is appropriate, the portfolio would need to earn $28,000 a year if you intend to withdraw only earnings; alternatively, you might set it up to earn $14,000 in interest and take the remaining $14,000 from the principal. An appropriate and sustainable withdrawal rate depends on many factors including the value of your current assets, your expected rate of return, your life expectancy, your risk tolerance, whether you adjust for inflation, how much your expenses are expected to be, and whether you want some assets left over for your heirs.

Fortunately, you don't have to make a wild guess. Studies have tackled this issue, resulting in the creation of tables and calculators that can provide you with a range of rates that have some probability of success. However, you'll probably need some expert help to ensure that this important decision is made carefully.
 

Withdrawing first from taxable, tax-deferred, or tax-free accounts

Many retirees have assets in various types of accounts--taxable, tax-deferred (e.g., traditional IRAs), and tax-free (e.g., Roth IRAs). Given a choice, which type of account should you withdraw from first? The answer--it depends.

Caution: Roth IRA earnings are generally free from federal income tax if certain conditions are met but may not be free from state income tax.

 

Retirees who will not have an estate

For retirees who do not intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the answer is simple in theory: Withdraw money from a taxable account first, then a tax-deferred account, and lastly, a tax-free account. This will provide for the greatest growth potential due to the power of compounding.

In practice, however, your choices, to some extent, may be directed by tax rules. Retirement accounts, other than Roth IRAs, have minimum withdrawal requirements. In general, you must begin withdrawing from these accounts by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 72. Failure to do so can result in a 50 percent excise tax imposed on the amount by which the required minimum distribution exceeds the distribution you actually take.


Retirees who will have an estate

For retirees who intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the analysis is more complicated. You need to coordinate your retirement plan with your estate plan.

If you have appreciated or rapidly appreciating assets, it may be more advantageous for you to withdraw from tax-deferred and tax-free accounts first. This is because these accounts will not receive a step-up in basis at your death, as many of your other assets will, and your heirs could face a larger than necessary tax liability.

However, this may not always be the best strategy. For example, if you intend to leave your entire estate to your spouse, it may be better to withdraw from taxable accounts first. This is because spouses are given preferential tax treatment with regard to retirement plans. As a beneficiary of a traditional IRA or retirement plan, a surviving spouse can roll over retirement plan funds to his or her own IRA or retirement plan, or, in some cases, may continue the deceased spouse's plan as his or her own. The funds in the plan continue to grow tax deferred, and distributions need not begin until the spouse's own required beginning date.

For retirees who have a "stretch" IRA, you may want to take advantage of your ability to defer taxes over a number of generations.

Tip: Retirees in this situation should consult a qualified estate planning attorney who has some expertise with regard to retirement plan assets.
 

Balancing safety and growth

When you retire, you generally stop receiving income from wages, a salary, or other work-related activity and start relying on your assets for income. To ensure a consistent and reliable flow of income for your lifetime, you must provide some stability for your principal. This is why retirees typically shift at least a portion of their investment portfolio to more stable income-producing investments, and this makes a great deal of sense.

Unfortunately, stability comes with a price-reduced growth potential and erosion of value due to inflation. Stability at the expense of growth can be a critical mistake for some retirees. On the other hand, if you invest too heavily in growth investments, your risk is heightened, and you may be forced to sell during a downturn in the market should you need more income. Retirees must find a way to strike a reasonable balance between stability and growth.

One solution may be the "two bucket" approach. To implement this, you would determine your sustainable withdrawal rate (see above), and then reallocate a portion of your portfolio to fixed income investments (e.g., certificates of deposit and bonds) that will provide you with sufficient income for a predetermined number of years. You would then reallocate the balance of your portfolio to growth investments (e.g., stocks) that you can use to replenish that income "bucket" over time.

The fixed income portion of your portfolio should be able to provide you with enough income (together with any other income you may receive, such as Social Security and required minimum distributions from retirement plans) to meet your expenses so you won't have to liquidate investments in the growth portion of your portfolio at a time when they may be down. This can help you ride out fluctuations in the market, and sell only when you think a sale is advantageous.

Be sure that your fixed income investments will provide you with income when you'll need it. One way to accomplish this is by laddering. For example, if you're investing in bonds, instead of investing the entire amount in one issue that matures on a certain date, spread your investment over several issues with staggered maturity dates (e.g., one year, two years, three years). As each bond matures, reinvest the principal to maintain the pattern.

As for the growth portion of your investment portfolio, common investing principles still apply:
  • Diversify your holdings
  • Invest on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis if possible
  • Monitor your portfolio and reallocate assets when appropriate

Caution: For retirees investing in bonds, don't assume that individual bonds and bond funds are the same type of investment. Bond funds do not offer the two key characteristics offered by bonds: (1) income from bond funds is not fixed--dividends change depending on the bonds the funds has bought and sold as well as the prevailing interest rate, and (2) a bond fund does not have an obligation to return principal to you when bonds within the fund mature. Additionally, the risk associated with bond funds varies depending on the bonds held within the fund at any given time, whereas the risk associated with individual bonds generally decreases over time as a bond nears its maturity date (assuming the issuer's financial situation doesn't deteriorate). Finally, fees and charges associated with bond funds reduce returns. Even so, you may still find bond funds attractive because of their convenience. Just be sure you understand the differences between bond funds and individual bonds before you invest.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!


 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Estate Planning

When developing your estate plan, you can do well by doing good. Leaving money to charity rewards you in many ways. It gives you a sense of personal satisfaction, and it can save you money in estate taxes.
 

A few words about transfer taxes

The federal government taxes transfers of wealth you make to others, both during your life and at your death. In 2020, generally, the federal gift and estate tax is imposed on transfers in excess of $11,580,000 and at a top rate of 40 percent. There is also a separate generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax that is imposed on transfers made to grandchildren and lower generations. For 2020, there is a $11,580,000 exemption and the top rate is 40 percent.

Note: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December 2017, doubled the gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount and the GST tax exemption to $11,180,000 in 2018. After 2025, they are scheduled to revert to their pre-2018 levels and cut by about one-half.

You may also be subject to state transfer taxes.

Careful planning is needed to minimize transfer taxes, and charitable giving can play an important role in your estate plan. By leaving money to charity the full amount of your charitable gift may be deducted from the value of your gift or taxable estate.
 

Make an outright bequest in your will

The easiest and most direct way to make a charitable gift is by an outright bequest of cash in your will. Making an outright bequest requires only a short paragraph in your will that names the charitable beneficiary and states the amount of your gift. The outright bequest is especially appropriate when the amount of your gift is relatively small, or when you want the funds to go to the charity without strings attached.
 

Make a charity the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan

If you have funds in an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan, you can name your favorite charity as a beneficiary. Naming a charity as beneficiary can provide double tax savings. First, the charitable gift will be deductible for estate tax purposes. Second, the charity will not have to pay any income tax on the funds it receives. This double benefit can save combined taxes that otherwise could eat up a substantial portion of your retirement account.
 

Use a charitable trust

Another way for you to make charitable gifts is to create a charitable trust. There are many types of charitable trusts, the most common of which include the charitable lead trust and the charitable remainder trust.

A charitable lead trust pays income to your chosen charity for a certain period of years after your death. Once that period is up, the trust principal passes to your family members or other heirs. The trust is known as a charitable lead trust because the charity gets the first, or lead, interest.

A charitable remainder trust is the mirror image of the charitable lead trust. Trust income is payable to your family members or other heirs for a period of years after your death or for the lifetime of one or more beneficiaries. Then, the principal goes to your favorite charity. The trust is known as a charitable remainder trust because the charity gets the remainder interest. Depending on which type of trust you use, the dollar value of the lead (income) interest or the remainder interest produces the estate tax charitable deduction.

Note: There are costs and expenses associated with the creation of these legal instruments.
 

Why use a charitable lead trust?

The charitable lead trust is an excellent estate planning vehicle if you are optimistic about the future performance of the investments in the trust. If created properly, a charitable lead trust allows you to keep an asset in the family while being an effective tax-minimization device.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable lead trust. The trust provides for fixed annual payments of $80,000 (or 8 percent of the initial $1 million value of the trust) to ABC Charity for 25 years. At the end of the 25-year period, the entire trust principal goes outright to your beneficiaries. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the 25-year income interest going to ABC Charity. To do this, you use IRS tables. Based on these tables, the value of the income interest can be high — for example, $900,000. This means that your estate gets a $900,000 charitable deduction when you die, and only $100,000 of the $1 million gift is subject to estate tax.
 

Why use a charitable remainder trust?

A charitable remainder trust takes advantage of the fact that lifetime charitable giving generally results in tax savings when compared to testamentary charitable giving. A donation to a charitable remainder trust has the same estate tax effect as a bequest because, at your death, the donated asset has been removed from your estate. Be aware, however, that a portion of the donation is brought back into your estate through the charitable income tax deduction.

Also, a charitable remainder trust can be beneficial because it provides your family members with a stream of current income — a desirable feature if your family members won't have enough income from other sources.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable remainder trust. The trust provides that a fixed annual payment be paid to your beneficiaries for a period not to exceed 20 years. At the end of that period, the entire trust principal goes outright to ABC Charity. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the remainder interest going to ABC Charity, using IRS tables. This is a complicated numbers game. Trial computations are needed to see what combination of the annual payment amount and the duration of annual payments will produce the desired charitable deduction and income stream to the family.

Charitable giving is important to many and how it’s handled can have an effect on your financial goals. Take a look at your charitable contributions as part of a comprehensive look at your financial plan. Kirtland Financial Services specializes in comprehensive financial planning—the whole picture!

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!

 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Estate Planning

When you hear the word “estate”, does it conjure up images of Downton Abbey, Wayne Manor or one of J. Paul Getty’s many residences? At first glance, it may seem like estate planning is something quite grand and only for the super-rich. However, it’s really just common terminology encompassing smart financial planning strategies that everyone should consider.
 
Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about end-of-life planning on a daily basis. But you may have loved ones who will soon face these issues. While it’s not pleasant to think about, you may be the one who ends up having to sort out their affairs. And, the reality is, there will come a time when you need to think about yourself and your own family. Knowing the basics can help you feel more prepared when that time comes.
 
Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets and handle your responsibilities after your death or incapacitation. One of the goals is to make sure your beneficiaries receive these things in the most cost-effective way possible.
 
Estate planning can help establish a platform you can fine-tune as your personal and financial situations change. The key question to ask yourself is: how do you want your assets distributed if you die or are incapacitated?
 

Six Things To Know About Estate Planning

When it comes to estate planning, the whole process can seem quite overwhelming and complex. To help keep it simple, here are six essential things you need to know (or consider doing) to help jumpstart your estate planning.
 
1. Be Aware of Probate  
The first step in implementing an estate planning strategy is to understand the role courts play in the process, and how probate impacts even the smallest of estates. Probate is a term used to describe the process the court uses in settling the deceased’s estate. The time it takes to complete the estate distribution and the associated fees will vary by state, but probate expenses may add up, depending on your unique situation and which state you live in. The costs, along with the time and headache associated with settling an estate, means any step that will help navigate the probate process — or better still avoid it altogether — is worth exploring.

2. Create a Will  
A valid will does not avoid the probate process, but it will make things much easier. A will serves as a guide to your final wishes for the courts and the executor (the person chosen to act on your behalf). When it comes to the courts, anything that speeds up the process of physical asset distribution will minimize fees and make things easier for everyone involved. It can also eliminate any potential family disputes over who gets which assets. But a will is only a roadmap. It’s best to make sure that all of your financial assets and valuable possessions (like a home or a car) have beneficiaries named in other documents besides the will.

3. Decide on the Beneficiaries of Your Financial Assets 
Financial assets can have beneficiaries named so that the institution holding them knows who to turn the funds over to in the case of an account holder’s death. If an asset has a named beneficiary, it avoids probate (if probate is applicable in your situation). A retirement plan or life insurance policy are the most common instances, since these all ask the owners to name a beneficiary. To make things even simpler, you should know that in addition to an insurance policy and retirement plan, a lot of everyday assets allow for beneficiaries. Checking, savings and brokerage accounts are a few of the more common examples that are often neglected. 

4. Consider Creating a Revocable Trust 
For assets that don’t typically allow for a named beneficiary – often larger physical assets like a home or car – a revocable trust may be a solution to consider. Most anything placed in a revocable trust (also called a living trust) will avoid the probate process. The set of people involved in a trust — that is, the person or people who set up the trust, and the beneficiaries named in the trust — are called trustees. Revocable trusts allow the trustee(s) to retain control and will help transfer ownership of the asset in question to the living trustees upon the trust owner’s death. The trust itself (think of it as a separate entity) technically owns the assets, so transition of ownership can go more smoothly. 

5. Consider Having a Power of Attorney Drawn Up 
There are two Powers of Attorney (POA) worth exploring to accomplish some basic estate planning objectives. 
 
  • Durable Power Of Attorney 
It’s important to draft a durable power of attorney (POA) so an agent or a person you assign will act on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. Absent a power of attorney, a court may be left to decide what happens to your assets if you are found to be mentally incompetent, and the court’s decision may not be what you wanted. This document can give your agent the power to transact real estate, enter into financial transactions, and make other legal decisions as if he or she were you. This type of POA is revocable by the principal at a time of their choosing, typically a time when the principal is deemed to be physically able, or mentally competent, or upon death. In many families, it makes sense for spouses to set up reciprocal powers of attorney. However, in some cases, it might make more sense to have another family member, friend, or a trusted advisor act as the agent. 
 
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney 
A healthcare power of attorney (HCPA) designates another individual (typically a spouse or family member) to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity. If you are considering executing such a document, you should pick someone you trust, who shares your views, and who would likely recommend a course of action you would agree with. After all, this person could literally have your life in his or her hands. Finally, a backup agent should also be identified, in case your initial pick is unavailable or unable to act at the time needed.
 

6. Have the Talk 
Obviously, death is a really tough topic. And if you are younger, it may seem like something that can be dealt with much later. However, no one ever knows just when you will need to deal with it and the potential obstacles that may result.
 
Perhaps the most important part of the estate planning process requires no paperwork or expense: discussing your relatives’ wishes (such as aging parents). Nothing will make that conversation easy, but a clear understanding of your family’s wishes can help avoid tough conversations at a time when loved ones need to rely on each other to get through a difficult time.
 
The team at Kirtland Financial Services helps people—in every stage of life—begin to think about and plan for their end-of-life financial matters. Make an appointment today to begin this important planning for your family. To assist, Kirtland Financial Services offers a complimentary Life Notes estate planner to qualifying members! Life Notes is a convenient, comprehensive guide to gathering all the information a family will need to take care of end-of-life matters for a loved one. No matter how young or old you are, getting your business affairs and records organized is an essential part of financial planning. However, there can be many accounts, policies, documents, and other information to organize. Just thinking about what you need to put together can quickly become overwhelming. Use Life Notes to start organizing your personal information and important documents into a master file. You’ll feel good about completing the task — and your family will thank you for it! It’s all in the Life Notes estate planning guide.

Come meet the Kirtland Financial Services team and get started today.


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This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

Investments Retirement Estate Planning

Where are all your important documents? Are they centralized and organized so you (or your family) could easily find needed information. Now is the time to get it together!

Before retirement begins, gather what you need. Put as much documentation as you can in one place, for you and those you love. It could be a password-protected online vault; it could be a file cabinet; it could be a file folder. Regardless of your method, by centralizing the location of important papers you are saving yourself from disorganization and headaches in the future.
 
What should go in the vault, cabinet or folder(s)? Crucial financial information and more. You will want to include:

  • Those quarterly/annual statements. Recent performance paperwork for IRAs, 401(k)s, funds, brokerage accounts and so forth. Include the statements from the latest quarter and the statements from the end of the previous calendar year (that is, the last Q4 statement you received). You no longer get paper statements? Print out the equivalent, or if you really want to minimize clutter, just print out the links to the online statements. (Someone is going to need your passwords, of course.) These documents can also become handy in figuring out a retirement income distribution strategy.

  • Healthcare benefit info. Are you enrolled in Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? Are you in a group health plan? Do you pay for your own health coverage? Own a long-term care policy? Gather the policies together in your new retirement command center and include related literature so you can study their benefit summaries, coverage options, and rules and regulations. Contact info for insurers, HMOs, your doctor(s) and the insurance agent who sold you a particular policy should also go in here.

  • Life insurance info. Do you have a straight term insurance policy with no potential for cash value whatsoever? Keep a record of when the level premiums end. If you have a whole life policy, you need paperwork communicating the death benefit, the present cash value in the policy and the required monthly premiums.

  • Beneficiary designation forms. Few pre-retirees realize that beneficiary designations often take priority over requests made in a will when it comes to 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. Hopefully, you have retained copies of these forms. If not, you can request them from the account custodians and review the choices you have made. Are they choices you would still make today? By reviewing them in the company of a retirement planner or an attorney, you can gauge the tax efficiency of the eventual transfer of assets.1

  • Social Security basics. If you have not claimed benefits yet, put your Social Security card, your W-2 form from last year, certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license or divorce papers in one place, and military discharge paperwork and a copy of your W-2 form for last year (or Schedule SE and Schedule C plus 1040 form, if you work for yourself), and military discharge papers or proof of citizenship, if applicable. Take a look at your Social Security statement that tracks your accrued benefits (online or hard copy) and make a screengrab of it or print it out.2

  • Pension matters. Will you receive a bona fide pension in retirement? If so, you want to collect any special letters or bulletins from your employer. You want your Individual Benefit Statement telling you about the benefits you have earned and for which you may become eligible; you also want the Summary Plan Description and contact info for someone at the employee benefits department where you worked.

  • Real estate documents. Gather up your deed, mortgage docs, property tax statements and homeowner insurance policy. Also, make a list of the contents of your home and their estimated value – you may be away from your home more in retirement, so those items may be more vulnerable as a consequence.

  • Estate planning paperwork. Put copies of your estate plan and any trust paperwork within the collection, and of course a will. In case of a crisis of mind or body, your loved ones may need to find a durable power of attorney or health care directive, so include those documents if you have them and let them know where to find them.

  • Tax returns. Should you only keep your 1040 and state return from the previous year? How about those for the past seven years? Or have you kept every one since 1982 or 1974? At the very least, you should have a copy of returns from the prior year in this collection.

  • A list of your digital assets. We all have them now, and they are far from trivial—the contents of a cloud, a photo library, or a Facebook page may be vital to your image or your business. Passwords must be compiled too, of course. 

This will take a little work, but you will be glad you did it someday. Consider this a Saturday morning or weekend project. It may lead to some discoveries and possibly prompt some alterations to your financial picture as you prepare for retirement.

Come talk to the Wealth Management Advisors at Kirtland Financial Services for a retirement check-up and make sure you’re on track!


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This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations:
1 - fpanet.org/ToolsResources/ArticlesBooksChecklists/Articles/Retirement/10EssentialDocumentsforRetirement/ [9/12/11]
2 - cbsnews.com/news/planning-for-retirement-take-inventory/ [3/18/13] )

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