Most people don’t work for one employer their entire lives anymore. The days of people relying on a pension from their employer are seemingly coming to an end.
401k’s came into existence in the 1980’s. Since then most employers have made the move from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution 401k’s.
- Defined Benefit– A type of retirement plan in which an employee’s pension payments are calculated according to the length of service and the salary they earned at the time of retirement.
- Defined Contribution– A type of retirement plan in which the employer, employee, or both make contributions on a regular basis. Future values fluctuate based on investment earnings and contributions.
Back in the 1980’s, 401k’s were presented as giving employees the power to choose their own investments. In reality, they were oftentimes a modest cost savings to employers over their defined benefit counterparts since all employers aren’t required to contribute to an employee with a 401k. Typically the total employer contribution amount is lower as the employee is expected to contribute as well.
The 401k is designed for employees to save for themselves for retirement. The money the employee contributed can go with the employee when they leave the place of employment. The employer contribution is also eligible to go with the employee if the employer contribution is vested.
34% of employees say they plan to leave their current employer in the next 12 months according to Mercer. So wondering what to do with an old 401k balance can come up quite often as there are many people changing jobs that have balances in an old employer’s 401k.
There are four options that may be available to you when it comes to your old 401k: You can leave your account alone, roll it into an IRA, roll it into your new employer’s plan, or cash it out. We will walk through each here.
1) Keep your money in your former employer’s plan.
If you have a 401k balance over $5,000 you legally cannot be forced out of the 401k plan. If you have under $5,000, your employer has the option to cash you out of the plan which can potentially cause you issues you may not be aware of.
- You don’t have to do anything
- You are already set up to view your account.
- You can take penalty-free withdrawals from an employer-sponsored retirement plan if you leave your job in or after the year you reached age 55 and expect to start taking withdrawals before turning 59½.
Not So Good Things:
- Once you’re no longer an employee, your access to your money may be limited, you are no longer eligible for any loans, and you cannot add more money to the account. You may have to go through your old employer for any changes or requests.
- You have to remember to make sure your old employer has your current information such as your mailing address. This can be annoying if you have multiple 401k balances sitting out there. Plus, if your old company gets bought, changes plan providers, or the HR person changes, you may not have easy access to your login information or your new account number.
- Investment advice is typically done at employee education meetings at the business, so once you are no longer employed typically you aren’t attending these meetings.
- Plan may offer expensive investment options or lack investment options you want. Do you know the administrative costs the 401k passes to the participants? What about your mutual fund expense? See my blog about 401k fees here.
2) Move your money into an IRA
This choice gives you the most control and flexibility. With a 401k plan, the employer chooses the investments that are available in the plan and has more rules, with an IRA you aren’t limited to what the employer has chosen for the plan.
- Working with a financial advisor, you will have access to advice for your certain situation. This can be especially helpful if your 401k has been at your old employer for years and you are just now taking a look at the investments you were allocated into. It is also helpful if you are close to retirement age, to sit down with someone to discuss a course of action.
- Ability to combine multiple employers’ old 401k accounts into one IRA.
- Greater control over your investment expenses. 401k investment fees are in a participant fee disclosure, and in some cases they’re higher than what you’d pay for comparable investments outside the plan.
- Greater freedom to name beneficiaries. The beneficiary of your 401k plan, by law, must be your spouse; you have to obtain a signed release from him or her if you want to name anyone else. An IRA can be more flexible.
Not So Good Things:
- Taxes will be withheld unless you move the money from your 401k to an IRA via a trustee-to-trustee transfer. Not all recordkeepers will do this, and sometimes the check is mailed to the employee rather than the new IRA custodian. You have to make sure the money is in the account within 60 days, so the disbursement of funds aren’t treated as a withdrawal by the IRS.
- It can take a bit of effort to figure out how to move the accounts by yourself.
3) Move your money into your new employer’s 401k
You should certainly contribute to your new plan if your employer offers a match, but should you transfer your old account into it?
Most 401k’s allow you to transfer old employer’s 401k balances into it. Not all do though, so you should check with your new employer before you do so.
- Consolidating your retirement money makes it easier to view and manage. When you’ve left a retirement account at a company you no longer work for, you may pay less attention to its performance or downplay its importance in your overall picture.
- The new plan may offer more attractive investment options than the old one, as well as additional services, such as access to a financial advisor.
Not So Good Things:
- The financial advisor on the plan may not be a fiduciary. The advisor may just do group meetings with little access to personal advice for your specific scenario.
- The new plan may offer fewer investment options or investments that don’t meet your needs.
- Fees can be high in 401k plans; do you know the administrative costs the 401k passes to the participants? What about your mutual fund expense?
- Paperwork to move the money can be confusing and requesting certain documents and letters from the old 401k plan sponsor/recordkeeper can be tedious.
Generally, the smartest move is to evaluate the fees charged by the investments that you’d use in each plan and go with the plan that offers the lower-cost options. Again, the participant fee disclosure might not have all plan fees listed and it isn’t the easiest to determine.
4) Cash out the account
- It’s money you can use for other purposes.
Not So Good Things:
- You could no longer have any retirement savings.
- Distributions from your 401k could also push you into the next tax bracket, giving you a bigger tax bill.
- You will owe income taxes on your money.
If you’re in a 28% combined federal and state tax bracket, for example, and cash out a $40,000 account, you’ll have only $28,800 left after taxes. If you are under 59.5 there would also be a 10% penalty which would leave you with $24,800, far from the $40,000 you were expecting.
Not all of these options are available in everyone’s situation. If you find it confusing or overwhelming, I’d be happy to speak with you regarding your situation to help you with the decision, or to start the process.
The content of this article is provided for information and discussion purposes only. It is not intended to be a financial recommendation and should not be the sole basis for your investment or tax planning decisions.
Is a SIMPLE IRA actually simple?
A SIMPLE IRA stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. It is a type of retirement account for small businesses, and for people who are self-employed.
It works similarly to a Traditional IRA, where your contributions grow tax-deferred, which can harness the power of compounding interest. When it comes time for retirement, your distributions are taxed as normal income. Typically, you are in a lower tax bracket when you retire than when you are working.
A SIMPLE IRA is a benefit that can help you attract and retain talent in this competitive job market, even as a small employer.
Your company is eligible for the SIMPLE IRA if it has no more than 100 employees and does not sponsor another retirement plan. Typically, the startup costs and administration of a SIMPLE IRA are lower than a traditional 401k, but the IRA is less flexible when it comes to a few things such as eligibility, matching, and vesting periods, etc.
Why would you choose a SIMPLE IRA?
SIMPLE IRAs are ideally suited for start-ups or small businesses to give their employees a way to save for retirement.
SIMPLE IRAs allow employees to make contributions to their accounts. A SIMPLE IRA requires employers to contribute on the employee’s behalf. The employers are required to contribute a dollar-to-dollar match of up to 3% of salary, which can create an incentive for employees to save for their retirement. An employer could also do a flat 2% of pay, regardless of whether the employee continues to contribute to the account.
- For 2018, if you are under 50 you can contribute up to $12,500. If you are over 50, you are allowed a $3000 contribution, for a total of $15,500, not including the company match portion.
Example: Sarah Smith, who works for ABC INC., earns $40,000 a year. She contributes $5,000 to her SIMPLE IRA in 2018. ABC, which chose the matching option, contributes $1,200 (3% of $40,000). Therefore, the total amount moving into Sarah’s account in 2018 is $6,200.
Continuing with the ABC INC. example, suppose that Rick Johnson, the chief shareholder, is 54 years old. Rick defers the maximum $15,500 of his salary to his SIMPLE IRA. If he earns more than $516,667 in 2017, a 3% match would be another $15,500, bringing Rick the maximum $31,000 SIMPLE IRA contribution this year.
Too Small for a retirement plan?
Tax credits for your small business is a perk of putting a retirement plan in place. Companies that sponsor SIMPLE IRAs are eligible to receive a tax credit for 50% of some of the administrative costs generated by the plan each year for the first three years of the plan’s life. There is a maximum of $500 per year on the amount that may be credited.
Depending on how your company is structured, the matching contributions that the company contributes to the employees can typically be deducted. If you are a sole proprietor, you can deduct from your personal income contributions you make to a retirement account. Either way, you or your business get a substantial income tax savings with these contributions. Please consult with a knowledgeable CPA or tax adviser.
Example: Ron, a sole proprietor, contributes $11,000 this year to a qualified retirement account. He can deduct the entire amount from his personal income taxes. Because Ron is in the 28% tax bracket, he saves $3,080 in income taxes for the year (28% × $11,000), and he has also saved $11,000 toward his retirement.
Example 2: Carrie, a part owner of ABC Corp., who makes $105,000 a year, contributes $10,500, which is 10% of her W2 income, this year to a qualified retirement account. The W-2 Carrie gets from her employer should not include her SIMPLE IRA contributions as taxable income. Because Carrie is in the 30% tax bracket, she saves $3,150 in income taxes for the year (30% × $10,500), and she has also saved $10,500 towards her retirement.
ABC Corp, does a 3% match, which is an additional $3,150 in Carrie’s account for a total of $13,650. ABC Corp, can deduct Carrie’s contribution on their tax return a well, as the company may deduct all contributions made to employees’ SIMPLE IRAs on their corporate tax return.
The deadlines for setting up a SIMPLE IRA or a Safe Harbor 401(k) for 2018 is October 1st, 2018. But don’t wait until a few days before the deadline to set up your plan; it can take a few weeks or more to set up your plan.
If you missed the October 1st, deadline, all is not lost, you can set up a SIMPLE IRA for 2019 or look at a traditional 401k for 2018.
Whether you’re a business owner seeking a retirement plan for your employees or are self-employed, the SIMPLE IRA plan could be the answer to your retirement needs. This is especially true if you work alone but eventually want to run a bigger business.
Martin Financial Group works with businesses in Kentucky and Southern Indiana and can help you determine what type of employer sponsored plan is right for your business.
This article is for educational purposes only, each person’s situation is unique, and this article should not be taken as advice.
I joined Martin Financial Group recently to work with businesses on their company sponsored retirement plans. I specifically have worked with many businesses on varied aspects of their 401k plans at my prior employer. This blog post is specifically geared towards business owners, plan sponsors, trustees, and people involved in human resources. Many 401k plan participants may be curious how 401k fees work on a plan as well.
My goal is to write a series of blog posts that will help you understand 401ks better and hit on topics that are relevant and important to employers and employees. Martin Financial Group’s goal is to make your organization’s retirement plan more effective, efficient, and align with your organization’s overall objectives. We are happy to help pull, review, and analyze your plans current fee disclosure.
When working with plan sponsors, I ask if they know the fees they are paying. Many times the plan sponsor can tell me the amount the business pays in hard dollar fees to the recordkeeper and the third-party administrator. What the plan sponsor typically doesn’t know or is unfamiliar with is the internal expense of the 401k plan. Typically, where you find these internal expenses is on a document or documents called a 408(b)(2).
What is a 408(b)(2)?
The 408(b)(2) should be received by the plan sponsor from each service provider who is receiving payment from the company’s 401k plan.
A “payment from the plan” means that the fees are being collected from the plan participants. Service providers can include advisors, recordkeepers, third party administrators, custodians, auditors, and anyone who provides a plan service. Employers might only receive disclosures from providers that are paid out of the plan and not necessarily from providers that they make a hard dollar direct payment to.
What is a 404(a)?
The 404(a) is a document that is distributed to participants and is intended to give plan participants a better understanding of the costs associated with the 401k so they can make more informed investment decisions. It typically does not lay out any specific asset based fee or any admin costs that are passed on to the plan.
Parties typically compensated by a 401k
- Third Party Administrator- Usually a flat dollar amount plus a variable per head fee or sometimes a percentage of assets paid from the recordkeeper. Ex. ($1000-$5000)
- Recordkeeper– Can be a % of assets fee, some providers are a flat fee plus a per participant fee, or some also get compensated within the investments Ex. (A 1,200,000 plan with a .5% asset fee is $5000)
- Investments- Different share classes have different fees. If sold by a broker the broker could be paid out of the investments. The same fund could range quite a bit depending on the share class. Ex. (American Funds Balanced R1- 1.37%, American Funds Balanced R6- .28%)
- Advisor- Can be paid by the 12-b1 in the investments or if a fee based advisor it can be pulled separate. Ex. (Typically .25%-1.5% of the assets in the plan)
- Fidelity Bond- A fiduciary bond provides insurance protection against the possibility of fraud or embezzlement by a fiduciary Ex. ($100-$300)
It’s worth pointing out that there are two methods used to collect service provider fees from participants. Some plans remove fees directly from a participant’s account. Such fees are transparent, making it easier for plan sponsor and participant alike to measure service value. However, some plans use a “revenue-sharing” method where the fees are removed from the participant’s investment returns before they become a part of the participant’s retirement account. Such “hidden” fees are not reported in a participant’s quarterly plan statement, are difficult to identify and have led some plan participants and plan sponsors to believe their retirement plans are free. I’ve outlined where the fee components are usually taken from in the section below.
Where do we find this 408(b)(2) document?
Typically, a good starting point is on the recordkeepers plan sponsor website (ADP, VOYA, John Hancock, Fidelity, Principal, etc.). This would be labeled as the plan fee disclosure or 408(b)(2). You can also request them from your financial professional.
Employers must comb through the 408(b)(2) documents in detail to first understand the services being provided and whether the service provider or the financial professional is a fiduciary. Service providers or financial professionals acting as fiduciaries must specifically state that they are doing so. If a provider is silent regarding fiduciary status, it is not a fiduciary.
Fee components on a 401k plan usually include:
• A one-time expense
2. Investment management fees—Participant
• Charge by money manager
• Asset-based charge
3. Administrative fees—Employer or Participant
• Annual fees for recordkeeping services
• Base fee and/or per-employee cost
• Asset-based charge
• Activity-based charges—loans, distributions
• Dollar amount per transaction
• Asset-based charge
5. Insurance features—Participant
• Mortality and expense-risk fee
• Asset-based charge
6. Direct or indirect fees—Employer or Participant
• 12b-1 fees
• Advisory fees
Therefore the 408(b)(2) can be a long document that is not the easiest to understand. Understanding and compiling your plan fees from the 408(b)(2) and fees paid hard dollar can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be with our experience and knowledge. A proper review of a plan’s provider disclosure report by a fiduciary can result in plan improvements to the benefit of business and the participants.
Martin Financial Group acts as a fiduciary on our clients 401k plans, discloses all fees, and can help you comb through your current provider to meet your fiduciary duties on benchmarking and reviewing the fees on the plan. You can read more about fiduciary responsibilities on the Department of Labor website . If you’d like help with your 401k or retirement plan, click here.
The Required Minimum Distribution
If you turned 70 on or before June 30th, 2018, you have moved into a new phase of retirement planning. The IRS may now require that you take a minimum distribution from your retirement accounts beginning this year.
What is the RMD and when does it need to be taken?
RMD is an amount of money that is required to be removed from your qualified accounts each year. The IRS allowed for money to be added over the years into a qualified retirement account [IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.] before tax and allowed the assets to accumulate tax deferred. The RMD is a way for the IRS to make sure that the account that you have deferred tax on to this point is withdrawn over your lifetime, or the lifetimes of your beneficiaries, so that the amount becomes taxable.
Each person with a qualifying account is required to make their first distribution by April 1st of the year following the year they turn 70.5. After the first year, you are then required to take a distribution from the account by December 31st of each following year.
Which accounts does it affect?
Accounts that had assets added to it on a pretax basis and that have grown tax deferred are going to be subject to the RMD rules. This includes IRAs, SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s.
If you are working past 70.5, you cannot make contributions to an individual plan and you must start the RMD for those plans. However, if you are 70.5 years old and still working at an employer that has a qualified employer plan, you may add to this plan and you do not have to take an RMD from that plan as long as you are not more than 5% owner of the company.
If you have both account types, are 70.5 and still working, you do have to take an RMD from your individual accounts but you do not have to take from your employer plan. You are allowed this exemption to the rule while you are working. Once you stop working the employer plan is now subject to the RMD rule.
When Stan leaves the company both the IRA and the 401(k) are subject to the RMD rule and he is now required to take the minimum from both accounts. It makes no difference whether Stan leaves the money in the 401(k) or moves it to the IRA, the RMD amount is the same and is required for both accounts.
How is it calculated?
Many people believe that the RMD is calculated as a percentage of the account value but that is not the case. To calculate your RMD simply take your account balance on December 31st of the previous year and divide it by the number that corresponds to your age at the end of the year on this IRS RMD Table. Each individual account has its own RMD so you will want to calculate each account separately. If you are not comfortable performing the calculation yourself or want to double check, there are many online RMD calculators available.
How do I take it?
Stan would be required to take a total of $26,415.09 ($18,867.92 + $7,547.14) from his accounts by April 1st, 2019. He is only required to take the total, it does not matter which account(s) he takes it from and in what proportions. He could take the amounts listed from each account or he could take all from one and none from the other. As long as he takes the total by the deadline the IRS mandate is satisfied.
As discussed above, this first distribution is for 2018 and he has until April 1st, 2019 to take it. After the first distribution, he is required to take an annual distribution by December 31st every year after, including December 31st, 2019. Note that he will recalculate the RMD amount each year using the same method discussed above.
Taking two RMDs in a single tax year could have the effect of some income being subject to a higher marginal tax rate, reduced deductions or a change in the treatment of capital gains, qualified dividends and social security. Taking that first distribution by December 31st, 2018, would have helped him avoid these pitfalls but would have increased his income in 2018, possibly causing their own pitfalls. Speak to a trusted advisor regarding your situation to make sure you are making the best decision for you.
It is the responsibility of your custodian to calculate and report the RMD to you each year, but it is your responsibility to make sure that it is met. Also, it is the account holder’s responsibility to verify that the amount given to them by their custodian is correct, so make sure to use the above-mentioned table to verify your RMD. If you fail to take your RMD or any part of the RMD in a given year, you will be subject to a penalty on the undistributed amount of 50%.
The penalty will be taxable income to Stan which may affect the taxation of other income sources or could bump him to a higher tax bracket. This is an easy mistake to make but a very expensive one.
What can I do with the money?
Once you have paid tax on the distribution you are free to spend it, save it or reinvest it in another, non-IRA account. The point of the IRS requirement is not to have you spend the money, it is to have you pay tax on the money.
If you are charitably inclined, the IRS does allow your RMD (or a portion of your RMD) to be directed to charities of your choice. If you distribute the funds directly to the charities through your custodian this amount will not be included in your taxable income but will satisfy your RMD for that year. This is known as a Qualified Charitable distribution (QCD). Be sure to speak to an advisor regarding this strategy as there are certain limitations that may affect the deductibility of the donation.
The RMD rules can be confusing with one account but, if you have more than one account or you are still with an employer where you have a 401(k), they can become downright overwhelming. Be sure to give yourself enough time before your deadline to understand your situation so that you can satisfy your requirement and avoid a costly penalty.
*Stan’s example is for educational purposes only. Each individual situation is unique. The piece should not be seen as a recommendation.
In part 1 and part 2 of this series we talked about the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes. In this final part of the series we will look at what is relevant to your portfolio and talk about what to look at when comparing your portfolio to a benchmark.
Understanding What You Should be Watching
If you want to follow a benchmark that is relevant to your portfolio you will first need to understand the makeup of your particular portfolio. A diversified portfolio may include both US and international securities. Keep digging and you may find that you have large, mid and small size companies. Dig a little further and you will see international companies that are based in both developed and emerging market economies. If you are an aggressive investor you may only hold equities but as you become more conservative you may introduce fixed income and cash into your portfolio.
Each of these asset classes; large, mid and, small capitalization US equities, international developed and emerging market economy equities, fixed income, and cash, all have their own risk and return profile and, therefore, they are all benchmarked to their own indexes.
A benchmark that reflects the behavior of your portfolio would need to be built to mimic your holdings. As an example, if your portfolio has 50% large US stocks and 50% US bonds you may look at a blended index of the S&P 500 (US large stocks) and the US aggregate bond index (representing most traded US bonds). This is a blended index because you are combining existing indexes to create your own blended benchmark.
Calculating the Benchmark Return
When calculating the return of this blended index, you simply find the return of each index for a given time period and then weigh that return to the allocation in the portfolio. For example, if the S&P 500 had a 10% rate of return over a given period and the Aggregate bond index had a 5% return over the same time period, your blended index would have a return of 7.5%.
S&P 500 – 10% return x 50% allocation = 5%
Aggregate Bond Index – 5% return x 50% allocation = 2.5%.
Blended Index – 5% + 2.5% = 7.5%
If your portfolio is half US stocks and half US bonds you would expect your portfolio to be close to the 7.5% rate of return of the blended benchmark. Anything above that and you are outperforming your benchmark and anything below that you are underperforming your benchmark. Withdraws from and contributions to the account, selling and buying securities, and allowing your allocation to drift away from the 50/50 mix, along with other factors, can affect your portfolios performance.
Benchmarking is Only Part of the Story
Benchmarking your portfolio is no doubt a useful exercise, but benchmarking correctly can be a tall order. While it is important to know how your portfolio is performing relative to an expectation, it should not be the sole metric for measuring your success in the market.
When looking at your portfolio return take a step back and remind yourself of why you are invested. What is your risk tolerance? What volatility are you comfortable with? Is income or growth the primary objective? What is my time horizon? Focusing only on return in your portfolio can cause you to lose sight of the primary objectives of your portfolio and could cause you to make mistakes.
Take the time to understand what the benchmarks you are looking at represent and which benchmarks are appropriate for you to measure against. Then take inventory of why you are invested in the first place. These steps will help you decide what is relevant information and what is noise.
Martin Financial Welcomes Sarah Cattan, Micah Lagowski, and Morgan Williams!
We’ve been growing, and have added three new staff members to our team at Martin Financial Group.
Click on their picture to learn more.