12 Mistakes to Avoid Making With Your IRA

Mistakes to Avoid with IRA

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are critical in securing financial independence in retirement. Because of this, Brian and Bo took the opportunity to discuss what mistakes they see clients make — and how you can avoid them. This episode was inspired by an article published by Morningstar back in February called 20 IRA Mistakes to Avoid.

These mistakes are also applicable to other retirement plans as well! If you’re contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b), you’ll want to listen in and understand the 12 mistakes the Money Guys say you must avoid making.

Here’s a quick rundown of the errors Brian and Bo cover in this podcast:

Procrastinating on Making Contributions

The Morningstar article cites the fact that if you’re investing later rather than sooner, you could be losing out on growth thanks to compound interest.

Many people also think they can take their time if they’re getting an extension on their taxes. That doesn’t apply to traditional and Roth IRAs — those contributions need to be in by April 15th.

Not Understanding Tax Bracket Implications

Do you understand the retirement account options you have and the impact each can have on your taxable income? Brian and Bo explain when you should invest in a Roth IRA over a traditional IRA, and which retirement vehicles you should prioritize.

Not Understanding Roth Conversions

If you’re looking to retire early, you’ll be able to plan your tax strategy in advance. Once you retire, you don’t have any earned income, and converting to a Roth IRA might prove to be a good decision as there are no required minimum distributions.

Being Retirement Rich and Liquidity Poor

Having a 7-figure portfolio and nothing in reserves won’t do you any good in the present should something go wrong. Plus, if you retire early and can’t start withdrawing until you’re 59 ½ years old, you’ll need money to tide you over.

Ignoring Spousal Contributions

If you or your spouse work while the other doesn’t, you can still take advantage of spousal contributions. The non-working spouse can use the other spouse’s earned income to make contributions for themselves.

Buying an Annuity

Purchasing an annuity within a retirement plan is usually a bad idea as you’re doubling up on tax shelters. Make sure buying an annuity actually makes sense for your situation.

Treating Your IRA as a Piggy Bank

Say you do leave your job – that technically means you have a distributable event. That doesn’t mean you should make the most of it and buy a new pool or TV. Ignore the temptation to withdraw funds and roll your money over.

Not Updating Beneficiary Designations

Have you divorced or remarried? Then you should update your beneficiary designations – you wouldn’t want your ex-spouse inheriting your money, would you?

Want to grab more tips and understand the mistakes you need to avoid with your IRA? Be sure to tune in to this episode of The Money Guy Show for advice on how to better manage your IRA!

5 Habits of 401(k) Millionaires

401(k) Millionaire

Today on the show, Brian and Bo are discussing an article from Fidelity on the 5 habits of 401(k) millionaires. It’s an important topic to talk about, as the responsibility of securing a financially stable retirement is largely in the hands of employees these days. Knowing what habits can help you save is crucial.

Many people don’t think it’s possible to become a millionaire, especially when you’re making less than $150,000. Brian and Bo go through each habit and state how it is possible to achieve millionaire status if you follow these 5 guidelines.

The Parameters of Fidelity’s Study

The average age of the millionaire in Fidelity’s sample pool was 59. They had been working for over 30 years, and they had earned less than $150,000. Fidelity looked at their accounts from 2000-2012.

1. Save Early On

We all know the importance of compound interest. It can’t be stated enough. If you contribute to your 401(k) steadily for 30-40 years, you’ll amass a nice nest egg to retire on.

The counterpoint? Most people aren’t staying at the same company for 30 to 40 years. But while it’s unlikely most people will stay with a company that long, as long as you have a steady, lengthy career and always make it a point to contribute, you can get there.

2. Contribute a Minimum of 10-15%

Fidelity found that the average employer contribution was 5%, and that millionaires deferred 14% of their salary on average ($13,300 annually). The employee contribution + the deferred salary = an annual 19% savings rate.

The counterpoint argued a 19% savings rate is completely unrealistic for most people. That may be true if you struggle to identify your financial needs and separate them from luxuries and wants. Saving 20% — or even more — of your salary is necessary if you want to have enough saved up to retire on.

3. Meet Your Employer Match

This is common advice and for good reason. Any time you’re not contributing up to the amount your employer will match, you’re leaving free money on the table.

Fidelity found that of the millionaires they studied, 96% were in a plan that offered an employer contribution, but not all employees opted in. If you want to reach millionaire status, rethink that: 28% of contributions in the average millionaire’s account came from an employer.

And again, the argument against this point: people can’t control if their employer offers a 401(k) match. While true, it’s something you need to take into consideration when figuring out whether or not you want to work for a certain company. Your retirement benefits are part of the total compensation package.

4. Consider Mutual Funds that Invest in Stocks

The average 401(k) millionaire had 75% of their assets invested in company stock and mutual funds. They were able to get a 4.8% annualized return.

The counterpoint said the 4.8% return required these millionaires to have outperformed the stock market by a factor of 3, given there were two market crashes during the 2000-2012 period. Brian and Bo disagree, and offer a sample portfolio that could achieve the same results.

5. Don’t Cash Out When Changing Jobs

Fidelity admits the average employee tenure of their millionaires was 34 years, so they didn’t encounter the issue of people cashing out retirement plans when they experienced a job change. If you do change jobs, it’s important to figure out alternative solutions for your funds.

It’s also common advice to not borrow from your 401(k) at all, to which the counterpoint was — it’s not that easy. Some people need the money.

(And this is why it’s critical to develop an emergency fund during good financial times, so you can rely on that first when things get tough.)

As you can tell, becoming a 401(k) millionaire is easy in theory, but many people aren’t willing to commit to the work it takes to build such wealth. What will your path look like? Will you commit to what is necessary to reach millionaire status?

Retirement Savings Plans for Entrepreneurs

Retirement Savings for Entrepreneurs

Running your own business as an entrepreneur provides you with worlds of opportunity to create a meaningful life and grow real wealth.

But self-employment comes with a lot of responsibility, too. You’re the boss, you have to keep track of your expenses and income, you have a greater tax burden, and you have to figure out how to fund your retirement.

According to a survey from TD Ameritrade, 70% of entrepreneurs aren’t contributing to a retirement plan. 40% of self-employed individuals aren’t saving regularly, and 28% aren’t saving at all.

Those are some frightening statistics, but you don’t have to be a part of them.

If you’re behind on saving for retirement, consider these 5 different retirement account options for the self-employed, so you can start saving as soon as possible.

Traditional and Roth IRAs

We’ll start off with Traditional and Roth IRAs. Anyone can open one of these accounts — self-employed or otherwise — and they’re a great starting point when looking to fund your retirement.

The contribution limit for each of these accounts as of the 2015 tax year is $5,500 for those under 50 and $6,500 for those over 50.

What’s the difference between the Traditional and Roth IRA? With a Traditional IRA, your taxes are deferred so you’ll get a tax break while you’re contributing. Your withdrawals will be taxed later on.

With a Roth IRA, the opposite happens. You pay taxes on your contributions on an ongoing basis, but you can withdraw your money tax-free in retirement.

Which should you choose? It depends on your personal situation. The general rule of thumb tends to recommend Roth IRAs for younger individuals who think they’ll be in a higher tax bracket when retiring.

Solo 401(k)

A Solo 401(k) is simply a traditional 401(k) for business owners with no employees (but your spouse can contribute if they earn an income from your business). It follows the same requirements as a traditional 401(k) as well.

As a result, you can contribute as both an employer and employee. As an employee, your annual contribution limit is $18,000 in 2015 ($24,000 if you’re over 50), and as an employer, you can also contribute up to 25% of your compensation.

The maximum total contribution limit (excluding catch-up contributions) for 2015 is $53,000.

Depending on your plan, the Solo 401(k) can be offered as a traditional or Roth, and it functions the same as the IRAs (with traditional growing tax-deferred and Roth growing tax-free).

SEP IRAs

The Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) is similar to a Traditional IRA . You can claim a tax break in the year you make contributions, which means you can potentially save more as self-employed individuals tend to pay taxes at a higher rate than regular employees.

The SEP IRA also offers a sizeable contribution limit: you can contribute the lesser of 25% of your earnings, or up to $53,000 for the 2015 tax year.

Another bonus is you can contribute to a SEP IRA even if you’re self employed only part time, and you can still contribute to a 401(k) offered by your employer.

However, there isn’t a “catch-up” contribution policy in place for those over 50.

Simple IRA

You can take two routes with a SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA: you can open one if you’re the only employee of your business, or you can open one if you have fewer than 100 employees.

If you choose the latter, you either have to make a mandatory 2% retirement account contribution for every employee, or you can make an optional matching contribution of 3%.

Annual contributions are limited to $12,500 for the 2015 tax year, with catch-up contributions of $3,000 available to those over 50.

If you’re the only employee, a Simple IRA is a good choice if your income isn’t substantial – otherwise, a SEP IRA is the better option.

Other Plans

There are two other defined contribution plans available to self-employed individuals, and you can also contribute to a defined benefit plan:

  • Profit-Sharing Plan: This plan lets you decide how much you want to contribute on an annual basis. The limit is up to 25% of compensation (not including contributions for yourself), or $53,000 in 2015.
  • Money Purchase Plan: This plan requires a fixed percentage of your income to be contributed every year, also with a limit of up to 25% of compensation (not including contributions for yourself). The fixed percentage is determined by a formula stated in the plan.
  • Defined Benefit Plans: This is a traditional pension plan, which means the focus is on the payout you’ll get come retirement, not on annual contributions. You decide how much you want to be paid (the maximum annual benefit you can receive in retirement is up to $215,000 as of 2015), and an actuary must calculate the minimum funding levels you’ll need to reach each year to make that possible.

Start Focusing on Retirement

Self-employed individuals have it harder when it comes to money management, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to get behind with saving. Your future is important, and if you can’t save for something like an emergency fund, what do you expect to live off of in retirement? Prioritize saving in your budget and make retirement a possibility.

The amount of options can get overwhelming for entrepreneurs, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional to help you. You let a CPA handle your business taxes because they’re the experts and taxes are complicated. In the same way, a financial advisor can handle the planning side of the equation to ensure you’re creating a strong financial future for yourself.

5 Investment Mistakes Couples Make

Investment Mistakes Couples Make

Have you talked with your spouse about your investment strategy, or what the purpose is for your investments? Investing can be tricky enough alone, but it’s extremely important to include your other half in investment decisions so that you’re on the same page about how your money is being put to work.

If you haven’t yet discussed investing with your partner, you should read on to be aware of the common investment mistakes couples make so that you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Only One Spouse Has Contact with a Financial Advisor

It doesn’t matter if one of you is more comfortable with the idea of investing. Both of you should be attending meetings and calls with your financial advisor because you’re in this together. You both have an equal stake in how your portfolio performs.

In the event that something happens to the spouse handling investments, the other will be lost when it comes to picking things back up. Avoid this burden by working as a team.

Mistake #2: Not Being Clear on Common Goals

You should be investing with a goal in mind — whether you’re aiming for early retirement, funding your children’s college expenses, or saving up for a down payment on a house in five years.

Are you and your spouse in agreement on your investment goals? If you haven’t talked about investing beyond “it’s the right thing to do”, then you should. Otherwise, you might face an issue down the road where one spouse wants to withdraw money early from a retirement account for an expense that was never discussed.

Mistake #3: Investing Without Being Informed

Just because your investments might be managed by someone else doesn’t mean you should blindly follow their advice. You should absolutely know what you’re investing in and be a part of the decision process.

Never be afraid to ask your advisor questions. They should be able to answer them honestly, and they should want you to understand the reasons behind their investment decisions.

Mistake #4: Not Taking Advantage of Employer Matching Contributions

Do you and your spouse have a 401(k) retirement plan offered through your employer? Are you contributing enough to receive the amount your employer will match?

If you don’t know the answers or aren’t sure, you need to look into this. You could be leaving free money on the table. You should be able to ask your HR department about the details of your retirement plan.

If you’re not sure what matching contributions are, here’s an example of how they work: If your gross annual salary is $75,000 and your employer matches contributions up to 6%, then that means you have to contribute 6% ($4,500) of your salary for them to match that contribution.

If you only contribute $3,000, then you’re missing out on $1,500 from your employer. Likewise, anything above $4,500 won’t be matched, but you’ll still be funding your retirement.

Mistake #5: Being Unaware of How Your Advisor is Paid

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is hiring an advisor without knowing how they get paid. Are they fee only, do they get paid a commission, or a hybrid of both?

This is important because you want to ensure there’s no conflict of interest when your advisor recommends certain products to you. If they make a commission off of sales, then they might not be looking out for your best interests.

You should also check to see if your advisor is a fiduciary. If they are, then there’s no doubt they’ll be acting in your best interests, as financial fiduciaries are required to do so upon taking an oath.

To avoid these common investment mistakes couples make, remember that investing requires teamwork. Neither of you should be working alone when it comes to financial matters.

If you don’t have confidence in your knowledge of investing, you can always learn from the many resources available to you online. Building wealth through investing will ensure a successful financial future, and it’s not a matter to take a backseat on.