What should you make of recent ups and downs in the stock market? Here’s helpful context on volatility and expected returns.
After a period of relative calm in the markets, in recent days the increase in volatility in the stock market has resulted in renewed anxiety for many investors. From September 30–October 10, the US market (as measured by the Russell 3000 Index) fell 4.8%, resulting in many investors wondering what the future holds and if they should make changes to their portfolios.1 While it may be difficult to remain calm during a substantial market decline, it is important to remember that volatility is a normal part of investing. Additionally, for long-term investors, reacting emotionally to volatile markets may be more detrimental to portfolio performance than the drawdown itself.
Your Social Security income could be taxed. That may seem unfair or unfathomable. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a possibility.
Seniors have had to contend with this possibility since 1984. Social Security benefits became taxable above a certain yearly income level in that year. A second, higher yearly income threshold (at which a higher tax rate applies) was added in 1993. These income thresholds have never been adjusted upward for inflation.1
As a result, more Social Security recipients have been exposed to the tax over time. About 56% of senior households now have some percentage of their Social Security incomes taxed.1
A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.
What exactly is the “sequence of returns”? The phrase simply describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?
The answer: no impact at all.
Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have a major effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.
Why are investors and economists getting nervous about Treasury yields?
What is the yield curve, and why is the financial media writing about it? Here is a brief explanation, starting with a clarification.
A yield curve is really an X-Y graph projecting expected rates of return for equivalent-quality bonds with different maturity dates. But it is not just any yield curve that matters. When investors, commentators, and economists talk about “the yield curve,” they are talking about the graph plotting the interest rates of Treasuries: 3-month, 2-year, 5-year, 10-year, and 30-year notes. The “curve” is the line connecting their projected future yields. This Treasury yields snapshot is authoritatively referred to as: “the yield curve.”1,2
The Federal Reserve has hiked the benchmark interest rate twice this year, and it expects to make two more hikes before 2019 arrives. It projects the federal funds rate will approach 3.5% by 2020.1
What could these rate hikes mean for you?
Why you should periodically review beneficiary designations.
Your beneficiary choices may need to change with the times. When did you open your first IRA? When did you buy your life insurance policy? Are you still living in the same home and working at the same job as you did back then? Have your priorities changed a bit – perhaps more than a bit?
While your beneficiary choices may seem obvious and rock solid when you initially make them, time has a way of altering things. In a stretch of five or ten years, some major changes can occur in your life – and they may warrant changes in your beneficiary decisions. In fact, you might want to review them annually.
Beneficiary designations commonly override bequests made in a will or living trust. Many people do not realize this. When assets have designated beneficiaries, they can usually avoid probate and transfer directly to that person.1,2
A move that high earners can make in pursuit of tax-free retirement income
Does your high income stop you from contributing to a Roth IRA? It does not necessarily prohibit you from having one. You may be able to create a backdoor Roth IRA and give yourself the potential for a tax-free income stream in retirement.
If you think you will be in a high tax bracket when you retire, a tax-free income stream is just what you want. The backdoor Roth IRA is a maneuver you can make in pursuit of that goal – a perfectly legal workaround, its legitimacy further affirmed by language in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017.1
You establish a backdoor Roth IRA in two steps. The first step: make a non-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA. (In other words, you contribute after-tax dollars to it, as you would to a Roth retirement account.)1
A tax-advantaged option too many families overlook
At first glance, a Roth IRA might seem an unusual college savings vehicle. Upon further examination, it may look like a particularly smart choice.
A Roth IRA allows you to save for college without the constraints of a college fund. This is an important distinction, because you cannot predict everything about your child’s educational future. What if you contribute to a 529 plan or a Coverdell ESA and then your child decides not to go to college? Or, what if you save for years through one of these plans with the goal of paying tuition at an elite school and then a great university steps forward to offer your child a major scholarship or a full ride?
If you take funds out of a Coverdell ESA or 529 college savings plan and use them for anything but qualified education expenses, an income tax bill will result, plus a 10% Internal Revenue Service penalty on account earnings. (The 10% penalty is waived for 529 plan beneficiaries who get scholarships.)1,2
Comparing the old rules with the new.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made dramatic changes to federal tax law. It is worth reviewing some of these changes as 2019 approaches and households and businesses refine their income tax strategies.
Income tax brackets have changed. The old 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% brackets have been restructured to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. These new percentages are slated to apply through 2025. Here are the thresholds for these brackets in 2018.(1,2)
How much attention do you pay to this factor?
Will you pay higher taxes in retirement? Do you have a lot of money in a 401(k) or a traditional IRA? If so, you may receive significant retirement income. Those income distributions, however, will be taxed at the usual rate. If you have saved and invested well, you may end up retiring at your current marginal tax rate or even a higher one. The jump in income alone resulting from a Required Minimum Distribution could push you into a higher tax bracket.
While retirees with lower incomes may rely on Social Security as their prime income source, they may pay comparatively less income tax than you will in retirement – because up to half of their Social Security benefits won’t be counted as taxable income.1
Given these possibilities, affluent investors might do well to study the tax efficiency of their portfolios; not all investments will prove to be tax-efficient. Both pre-tax and after-tax investments have potential advantages.
Daniel Shub, AIF®, RFC®
Wealth Management Advisor & Founder.