When Is Flexible Estate Planning with Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan the Best Solution?

Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan:
When is Flexible Estate Planning the Best Solution?

Hi all!  As we edge closer to Halloween, I want to talk a bit more about something that TRULY TERRIFIES me: bad estate planning.  In our scary tale, the villain: Concrete Contract, is trying to trap your beneficiaries into decisions made today—decades prior to your death—based on information and circumstances that will likely be completely different when the time comes to put the estate plan into motion. The devil is in the details, and you don’t want the devil involved!

Luckily, our flexible friend, Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan comes to the rescue! He provides the peace of mind that your beneficiaries will be able to make the best decisions with the facts at hand when the time comes.  Once again, flexible estate planning protects the innocent and saves the day!

Ok… Ok… I know that was a little silly.  But it is still true. Since the mid-1990s, Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan has been saving beneficiaries from being trapped by decisions made decades in the past when an estate plan was drafted. In my opinion, there is no better option for your estate planning, particularly if your family is not a blended family—more traditional, so to speak.  In the accompanying video, I am going to explain my reasons for using this flexible estate plan and describe how it can provide optimal solutions under many circumstances.

As I have touched on before, the biggest problem in estate planning is that we don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  We don’t know when we are going to die.  We don’t know how much money we’re going to have.  We can’t anticipate the future needs of our surviving spouse.  We can’t know the needs of the children and grandchildren—or even whether there will be grandchildren.  We don’t know what the tax laws are going to be.  In point-of-fact, we don’t know what the tax laws are going to be next year much less a couple of decades from now!

A previous blog and video series addressed possible changes in the tax laws regarding retirement plans… and I said then, what I will say now.  The best thing that you can do to protect your family from those changes—not knowing what the future holds—is to make sure you have a flexible estate plan.  If we lose the ability to stretch an IRA, if inherited IRAs are taxed at an accelerated rate, if tax rates become more unfavorable for your family, then they will need flexibility to make financially sound decisions. Managing the tax impact on your legacy is critical.

What do you need to have Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan work for your family?  Trust.  For this plan to work well, you absolutely must trust your spouse. This is really important, because after you die, your spouse will have the power to make a lot of critical decisions—hopefully in conjunction with other trusted family members and a trusted advisor, and armed with your wishes too.

Estate planning with cascading beneficiaries is not a new concept, but I put my twist on it making it work particularly well for IRA and retirement plan owners with traditional families. Then, I started calling it Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan.  After decades of use, I’ve seen this plan serve my clients very well.

The video goes over the details of how this plan should be set up and how to name beneficiaries. I think it is really critical to get this right, and I want to make sure all my readers do get it right. Flexible estate planning has never been more critical as we stand in the shadow of the Death of the Stretch IRA. Good planning could save your family a lot of worry and a lot of money.

Stop back soon for more on Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan.

Jim

P.S. If you want to do a little advanced study on this topic before the next post and video, go to http://paytaxeslater.com/estate-planning/.

Why Flexible Estate Planning Matters, Especially for IRA and Retirement Plan Owners

Why Do We Need Flexible Estate Planning?

Welcome back, Friends! This is the second post in my new video series on Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan—the best estate plan for traditionally married couples, or what I like to call “leave it to beaver couples,” in contrast to blended families where more variables come into play for estate planning.

Why do we need flexible estate planning? Why is it so valuable for IRA and retirement plan owners?  Well, to get there we must think about the unique tax features of IRAs and what happens to an IRA when you die…

Most contributions to IRAs and retirement plans are tax deferred. We will ignore Roths for now. Their status as tax-deferred investments is valuable to you and to your heirs. Under the current law, you can take advantage of a great estate planning tool referred to as “the stretch IRA.” Stretching the IRA means keeping as much money as possible in the tax-deferred environment for as long as possible. We want to    allow as much of the principal in an inherited IRA to grow tax-deferred for as long as possible—currently a child or even a grandchild can stretch distributions from an inherited IRA over his or her lifetime. But, we are looking at a possible change in the laws regulating retirement plans that could really ruin that opportunity.  Having flexibility in your estate planning allows you to roll with the changes, and make good decisions under the new rules. But let’s take a little closer look at how the stretch works.

Bob Smith is a married 69-year-old retiree with a million dollars in his IRA.  On April 1 of the year after he turns 70 ½, Bob must begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from his retirement plan.  You see, the government has been letting Bob defer income taxes on his IRA contributions for many years.  But eventually, they want their share! RMDs are calculated using numbers found in IRS Publication 590. Publication 590 gives us a divisor that is based on the joint life expectancy of Bob and someone who is 10 years younger than Bob.  We see that at age 69, Publication 590 says that Bob’s divisor is 27.4 (very nearly 4%).  So, when you do the math, this first year Bob must take out close to $38,000.  So, for the rest of his life Publication 590 is used to determine how much of a distribution Bob is required to take annually.

Now, when Bob dies, the ownership of that IRA is transferred to his wife, Jane Smith. Conveniently in this example, she is the same age as Bob so she begins taking her required minimum distributions exactly as Bob did.  As time goes on, her life expectancy decreases, and the distributions get larger. When Jane dies, however, what’s left in the IRA will go to their children as an Inherited IRA. This is when things can get interesting.

Let’s assume for discussions sake that their child, Sally, is now in her sixties.  Sally will be required to take minimum distributions as well. The difference is that her distributions will be calculated based on her life expectancy. Which, obviously, is much longer than her mother’s was at the end.  So, the dollar value of the distributions drops, and the bulk of the account continues to grow tax deferred for a long time—and Sally benefits from the power of compounding.

You all know that I am a big fan of paying taxes later.  So, if you have done flexible estate planning, like Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan, and if you can afford it, here is an even more dramatic possibility. Since the flexible estate plan allows Sally to disclaim the Inherited IRA (she doesn’t need the money), she can pass it directly to her son, Phillip (her parents’ grandchild). Now, Phillip is in his thirties and his required minimum distribution is even lower.  Think of how long that deferral can run!

And, if you REALLY want to think of something incredible, imagine that this retirement plan is a Roth rather than a traditional IRA.  Now, all those distributions are tax free and we are really talking about building generational wealth.  The video with this post goes into detail about how IRAs are treated after death, and provides examples using specialized software that show how family wealth can grow using inherited IRAs and Roth IRAs—with the caveat is that this is how things work under the current law.

Unfortunately, we still believe that the death of the stretch IRA will pass in 2017 or 2018.  What is going to happen, subject to exception, is that the non-spouse beneficiary will no longer be permitted to stretch distributions of an Inherited IRAs over his or her lifetime. Any amount over $450,000 will be required to be disbursed within 5 years of the IRA owners’ death. Potentially devastating! There are some work-arounds that we have devised in anticipation of the law changing but this is precisely why flexible estate planning is so critical. Enjoy the video.

See you next week!

-Jim

P.S. If you want to do a little advanced study on this topic before the next post and video, go to http://paytaxeslater.com/estate-planning/.

The Aftermath of Brexit

The Aftermath of Brexit

Pros and Cons: What Options Do Individual Investors Have?

The Aftermath of Brexit Pay Taxes Later Blog

What should you do about your own retirement plan in the aftermath of Brexit? Find out why now could be a great time to do a Roth conversion!

On June 23, 2016, a majority of British citizens voted to leave the 28-member European Union – an action referred to as the “Brexit”. The following day, Americans awoke to learn that global stock markets had not reacted well to the news. Our major domestic indices followed suit, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average declining more than 600 points in one day. Trillions of dollars in wealth were estimated to have been wiped out overnight, and more is likely to follow as the world adjusts to the news.

Prior to the historic Brexit vote, I watched with interest as the pollsters interviewed people on the streets and then confidently predicted that Britons would vote to stay in the union. The British pound made gains, and even the lethargic US stock markets seemed cheered at the news. Life, it seemed, would be good as long as the union remained intact. Investors throughout the world thought that the good citizens of Great Britain would never upset the apple cart, and placed their bets accordingly. And guess what? They bet wrong!

Time will tell, but I suspect that much of this market chaos is happening because the investors who relied on the pollsters got caught with their pants down. Plans were made and fund managers structured their portfolios assuming that the citizens of Great Britain would vote to stay – and they didn’t. Now these investors find themselves having to scramble to put their Plan B – assuming they even have one – in place. What does their mistake mean for you?

If you’re clients of ours, you know that we have always advocated using a balanced approach to money management. And we never advocate making changes to your portfolio based solely on what the market is doing. However, for many of you, now would be a great time for you to take that trip to London that you’ve always wanted to do. The US dollar strengthened on the news of the Brexit, and will stretch much further now than it would have a week ago. Or, consider establishing Roth IRAs or college tuition accounts for your grandchildren. If they have ten or more years to wait out a market recovery, you can fund those accounts with equities purchased at prices much lower than they were last week at this time.

What should you do about your own retirement plan in the aftermath of Brexit? If you hold any global funds in your IRA, now could be a great time to do a Roth conversion. By converting when the market value of the fund is low, you pay less in federal income tax than you would when the fund value is high. And if the market continues to drop even further, you can always recharacterize your conversion. I’ll be talking about some of these points on my next radio show on 1410 KQV. You can call in and ask questions during the live broadcast on Wednesday, July 6th, from 7:00 – 800 p.m., or catch the rebroadcast on Sunday, July 10th at 9:00 a.m. You can also read more about Roth conversions by clicking this link on my website: http://www.paytaxeslater.com/roth_ira/

Please call our office soon if you have been thinking about doing a Roth conversion, and we will run the numbers to see if it makes sense for you. And if you do go to London, send me a postcard!

Jim

Save

Save

Save

4 Reasons Why We’re Excited that Retire Secure! is Interactive on the Web!

If you haven’t made your way to www.langeretirementbook.com yet, now is the time!

Here at the Lange Financial Group, LLC, we are very excited to bring you an interactive version of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting the Most Out of What You’ve Got.

Reason #1 – The entire book is on this website. Yes, all 420 pages of the book, including the front and back covers, all about the best strategies for retirement and estate planning.

Lange-Retirement-Book-Wesbite1

Reason #2 – The book is divided into chapters for ease of reading. Meaning, you don’t have to flip through 400-some pages to get to Chapter 11 – The Best Ways to Transfer Wealth and Cut Taxes for the Next Generation.

Lange-Retirement-Book-Wesbite-2

Reason #3 – We honestly haven’t seen anything like this before. Granted, I’ve read magazines on viewers where you can flip the pages as you read. But not a website for a book that includes a viewer, as well as a forum where readers can engage with each other.

The comments are moderated by the Lange Financial Group, LLC staff and myself. One of us will reply to your comment as soon as we can. To leave a comment, all you need to do is connect with your Amazon, Facebook, or LinkedIn account. This measure is for your protection, as well as ours. We don’t want spammers posting comments or incorrect information about such an important topic.

Lange-Retirement-Book-Wesbite-3

Reason #4 – We are hoping this interactive website encourages you to purchase the book! Retire Secure! is available from Amazon and JamesLange.com. Once you’ve read the book, feel free to return to LangeRetirementBook.com to ask questions, as well as Amazon and Goodreads to review the book for the benefit of others.

Save

Trusts as Beneficiaries of Retirement Plans: A Possible Alternative to the Stretch IRA?

trusts james langeIf you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that much of the new edition of Retire Secure! addresses the ramifications of the legislation that, if passed, will kill the Stretch IRA. If this potential change is a concern for your family, then Chapter 17 is a “must-read” for you because it offers a possible alternative that will allow them to continue the tax deferral of your retirement plan for many years.

Trusts may be appropriate in many situations. We use them for young beneficiaries who, by law, cannot inherit money, and for older beneficiaries who can’t be trusted with money. Trusts can also be used to help minimize taxes at death (although this is not as common as in previous years). With more frequency, though, our office is using trusts to replace the benefits of the Stretch IRA. This application started when all of these campaigns to kill the Stretch IRA began, and we began to seek alternatives for our clients. Chapter 17 compares the value of an IRA assuming that the non-spouse beneficiary must withdraw the proceeds within 5 years, to the value of an IRA when it is protected by a specific type of trust. I think you will find the results very surprising.

The rules governing trusts are very complex, and, if you are interested in incorporating them in to your own estate plan, you will need the assistance of a competent professional.

Do you donate to charity? If so, my next post will cover the changes in the laws that affect charitable contributions.

All the best,

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Save

The Ideal Beneficiary for your IRA or Retirement Plan

beneficiary-designation-retirement-plan-james-langeGive Your Heirs as Much Flexibility as Possible

I gave serious thought to changing the title of Chapter 15, which discusses the ideal beneficiary for your retirement plan, to “My Pet Peeve”. This is because of how annoying I find it to see people spend thousands of dollars to create elaborate wills and trusts, only to render them useless because they carelessly listed the wrong beneficiary on their retirement plan. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common mistake.

What follows here is one of the most, if not THE most, important concepts in the book. Your will and trust documents do not control the distribution of your IRA or retirement plans. Any account that has a specific beneficiary designation will be distributed to the individuals listed on that beneficiary form, regardless of what your will or trust says. Why is this important? Well, I’ll tell you about a situation I became aware of recently. A gentleman who had been married and divorced twice prepared a will that left all of his assets to his children from his first marriage. Most of his wealth was in his retirement plan, though.   He died unexpectedly, before he could get around to changing the beneficiary designation of that plan from his second ex-wife to his children. After his death, the second ex-wife (who had since remarried) received the very large retirement plan, and his children received the non-retirement assets, which were worth far less than the retirement plan. To add insult to injury, the second ex-wife made sure that his children knew that she had used her inheritance to buy herself and her new spouse very expensive cars – even going so far as to post photos on social media websites as proof! So your beneficiary designations are very, very important – so important that, in fact, if you’re my client I won’t even let you fill them out by yourself!

I like to give my clients as many options as I can. The beneficiary designation that I usually recommend gives your heirs as much flexibility as possible. It allows both your surviving spouse and your adult child, assuming that the child is the contingent beneficiary, to disclaim or refuse the inheritance to his or her own children (your children and/or grandchildren). Under current laws, this allows the children and grandchildren to take minimum distributions based on their own life expectancy. Will I still do this if the law changes? More than likely, yes, but the financial benefits will not be as significant as they were in previous years. If this topic interests you, then you’ll probably want to read Chapter 15 to learn about all the changes.

My next post will continue on the topic of beneficiary designations, and why they are important if your estate plan includes trusts. Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Save

Save

Save

Disclaimers: Who on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

inheritance stretch ira james lange the roth revolution blogWho on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

Plenty of people!

The concept of disclaiming, which means that you refuse to accept an inheritance, is often surprisingly difficult for clients to accept. Who on earth would refuse to accept an inheritance? When I get this question, I have to laugh because the obvious assumption is that the beneficiary is turning away a rare opportunity to increase his or her wealth with little or no effort. So let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose your rich uncle wrote his will twenty years before he died, and the will provided that, at his death, you would inherit a small apartment building that he owned. In the twenty years since his will was written, though, your uncle’s health declined and he did no maintenance at all on the building. The angry tenants moved out long ago, and the building has been vacant for ten years. Vandals broke the windows and stripped the building of its plumbing and wiring. The city has condemned it because it is a nuisance, and the owner is going to have to pay to have it demolished. Do you still want your inheritance now?

Beneficiaries always have the right to disclaim (or refuse) all or part of an inheritance. This idea has traditionally been a cornerstone when planning for the multi-generational benefits of a Stretch IRA. Under the current law, if the named beneficiary chooses to disclaim an IRA or retirement plan, the contingent beneficiary is able to use his or her own life expectancy to determine the Required Minimum Distribution from that account. In a case where a surviving spouse disclaims to children, this allows the IRA to be “stretched”, allowing maximum growth as well as income tax savings.

If the Stretch IRA is eventually eliminated, disclaimers will likely play less of a role in estate settlements. There is, however, a rapidly growing group of attorneys (including me) who use and will continue to use at least some form of disclaimer in the estate plans of most clients. I have used them in my practice for years, and have found that they can give families a lot of flexibility during what is usually a very stressful time.

One final note about disclaimers: beneficiaries who are on Medicaid may be disqualified from their benefits if they receive an inheritance. They may be able to refuse the inheritance and keep those benefits, but this depends on the laws of the state that they live in and the terms of the grantors will.

These ideas are presented in Chapter 14.

My next post will continue to expand on the concept of the Stretch IRA, but will specifically address the ramifications of choosing one beneficiary over another. Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Life Insurance: Is It Right for Your Estate Plan?

Insurance salesmen are often maligned and are frequently the butt of some pretty bad jokes. At the risk of being categorized with those poor men and women, I’ll tell you that I don’t hesitate to recommend life insurance to many of my own clients after evaluating their estate planning needs. Why? Because when it is appropriate and structured properly, life insurance has a number of benefits that make it an excellent and possibly the best wealth transfer strategy.

If you read the earlier chapters, you learned that legislative changes since 2009 mean that federal estate tax is an issue for far fewer taxpayers than in the past. The IRS wasn’t feeling guilty about charging estate tax on your assets, they just gave more people a reason to worry about a completely different problem called federal income tax. Chapter 12 of Retire Secure! delves into some techniques that show how life insurance can be used to help minimize the damage to the estate caused by income taxes at death. It also discusses how life insurance can be used to provide liquidity for a number of estate settlement needs, and also how it can be used to benefit the estate if there is a disabled beneficiary. While life insurance can be extremely beneficial it is important to remember that in situations where taxes and other estate needs aren’t a concern, the cost of the life insurance – especially for a senior citizen – might not be worth it.
Life Insurance, Retire Secure, James Lange

In earlier chapters, there are several references to the possibility that Congress may eliminate the benefits of the Stretch IRA. Chapter 12 introduces some new ideas regarding the inclusion of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) in certain estate plans. How do you think your children would react if you named a charitable trust as the sole beneficiary of your retirement plan? They might react very favorably when they find out that, in the long run, they could end up with a lot more money.

This is a very complicated estate planning technique that is not appropriate for everyone. Under the right set of circumstances, though, life insurance can be a very effective addition to an estate plan – especially if the owner of the IRA has always supported charities. Would you like to endow a chair at your local university or symphony orchestra, or perhaps provide financial support for your favorite hospital or religious organization long after your death? Read Chapter 12 to learn the basics of this strategy, and how life insurance can play a key role.

Stop back soon for an update on some really big news about the possible death of the Stretch IRA.

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Save

Tax Free Roth IRAs: Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Tax Free Roth IRA, Don't Believe Everything You Read, James Lange, The Lange Financial GroupMy wife recently told me that she didn’t think that there was anything that could keep me from blogging about my upcoming book, Retire Secure!  While she was joking, she was also right, I thought. But then, an article that was published in US News and World Report yesterday (April 20, 2015) was inaccurate on so many points that I could not let it go without commenting on it. I submitted a comment to the article and asked that the article be retracted. I can only hope that the magazine will publish a retraction, and quickly, before an unsuspecting reader takes the writer’s recommendations to heart.

The writer is a certified financial planner and registered investment advisor, as well as a published author, from Virginia. He begins by telling readers about Roth IRAs. He says that you can contribute $5,000 to a Roth IRA – that limit was increased $5,500 in 2013. If you have a Roth account in your 401(k), he claims you can add $6,000 to it if you are over 50 years old. (If you are over 50, you can add $24,000 to a Roth 401(k) in 2015this is made up of the $18,000 basic contribution limit plus a $6,000 “catch-up” contribution limit.) He claims that, if you contribute to a Roth, “the money you invest will be taxed”. (Everyone knows that, if you follow the rules, Roth accounts aren’t taxable, right? I sincerely hope that what he was trying to say was that there is no tax deduction for Roth contributions!) Then he tells readers that, after age 59 ½, “when you begin to take distributions” from the Roth, they will be tax-free”. That statement is not inaccurate, but it does omit the very important fact that your contributions can be withdrawn from a tax free Roth IRA before age 59 1/2.  (Earnings on your contributions are treated differently.) It is the traditional IRA that, in most cases, you cannot withdraw from without penalty until age 59 1/2.

The worst advice, though, came when he tried to present the pros and cons of Roth conversions.

He recommends that you take one of your existing IRAs or qualified plans and convert the entire thing to a Roth, but then warns you that you will need to pay tax on that entire conversion at once.What is omitted here is that, if you convert your entire account at once, your tax bill may be so large that you move up in to a higher tax bracket. It would be imprudent to make such a recommendation to a client! What generally makes more sense is to make several smaller conversions, in amounts that ensure that you stay in the same tax bracket. He recommends not making tax free Roth IRA conversions later in life, on the basis that you will not live long enough to enjoy the tax-free benefits. Tongue in cheek, I might argue that that’s a risk at any age, but even if you don’t live long enough to enjoy them, the tax-free benefits to your heirs, who are likely much younger than you, are indisputable. The strangest statement against Roth conversions, I thought, was that “you will potentially have to write a big check to the IRS”. It is true that you will have to pay tax on any amount converted from a traditional to a Roth IRA. But even if you don’t need your retirement money to live on, you will have to start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRAs every year once you turn age 70 ½. Those mandatory withdrawals will be taxable, and at that point you will be writing a big check to the IRS. The question is, does it make more sense to make Roth conversions while your retirement account balance is likely to be smaller, pay tax on a smaller amount of money, and generate tax-free income on all of the future earnings on the converted amount? Or, does it make more sense to wait twenty or thirty years, let the taxable traditional IRA grow as large as possible, and then pay the tax on the larger mandatory withdrawals?

In this age of electronic communications it’s easier to offer opposing points of view, and I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the sheer volume of dissenting opinions that the article produced within hours of its publication. I also wondered if there were other individuals who read it and took the advice to heart. That made me think of another question – what would my readers have thought about that article, especially after receiving such dramatically different advice from me? Who are you supposed to trust?

My advice to you is this – trust yourself first. If a financial professional says something that does not make sense to you, ask for clarification. If the answer you are given still doesn’t make sense to you, trust your instincts. Get a second, third, fourth or fifth opinion before you act. Or, look up the answer yourself. There are number of resources that my staff and I use all the time, that are also available to you.   These include the Internal Revenue Service’s website (www.irs.gov), the Social Secure Administration’s website (www.ssa.gov), and the website established by Medicare (www.medicare.gov). Educating yourself about your options is the best defense against making a potential mistake that you have available to you.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Stop back soon for another update on my book.

Jim

Save

Save

Is It a Good Idea to Roll Over Your 401K to a Traditional or Roth IRA?

Earlier this year, President Obama announced that he wants to create new rules that give financial advisors a “fiduciary” status under the law. I welcome this wholeheartedly because a fiduciary is required to always put his clients’ interests ahead of his own. This means that a financial advisor cannot make investment recommendations based on the commission they would receive from the investment, and that they must first consider the benefits that would be received by their client. As a fee-based advisor I have always served as a fiduciary to my clients and believe that it is an immensely important role.

I find it sad that we have to pass laws to make sure that the client’s interests are protected, but think that the President is on the right track with this one. More often than not, I hear of financial advisors who are only looking for a commission telling retirees that there’s no reason to not roll their old retirement plans to an IRA. That is simply not true and, in fact, there are circumstances where a retiree will be well served by keeping all or part of his or her retirement money in the original work plan.

These scenariosare discussed in detail in Chapter 6 of the new edition of Retire Secure! If you’ve wondered if rollingyour old 401(k) to an IRA is a good idea, you may very well find that you could save yourself from making a terrible financial decision by weighing all the potential advantages and disadvantages.

Many work plans give employees the opportunity to contribute to both pre-tax and after-tax accounts. If you ultimately decide that rolling your 401(k) to an IRA is the best course of action, you should make sure that you read Chapter 6 to educate yourself about the brand new IRS ruling that applies to your after-tax contributions. This ruling gives retirees an unprecedented opportunity to roll part of your 401(k) to a Roth IRA and, if done properly, the transaction will be completely tax free.

Check back soon for the latest information on Roth conversions!

Thanks for Reading!

Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Save

Save