You Should Get To Know The Self Directed Brokerage 401(k)

You would think that because I’ve been doing financial planning for 25 years that I would be a flat out 100% advocate for 401(k) plans.    With the ability today to put away money on a pre-tax basis in your 401(k) or now the use of a Roth 401(k) there are many different ways to save for your future.    Many employers even offer a ‘match’ of some of the funds that you put away into your plan as an incentive and some companies even give a year end profit sharing contribution if the company has done well.    The 401(k) has now become the Gibraltar Rock for most people in their 30’s and 40’s as the main driving force for their future retirement.    In most 401(k) plans, the problem is that you are generally limited to choices of five or six target date/retirement date funds and with limited index fund choices you could be left in an absolute mess in retirement if ...

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How Does The My RA Work?

Trapped in my office by the Snowpocalypse that hit Atlanta on last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to watch the State of the Union (#sotu) Address delivered by President Obama.   There is a whole lot of financial topics we could talk about on Your Smart Money Moves, but I’d like to review the topic around the new proposed investment vehicle called the MyRA.  Since we already have the SEP-IRA, SIMPLE-IRA, Rollover IRA, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Beneficial IRA, etc., wouldn’t it have just been easier to call it the My IRA instead of the new urban dictionary word called MyRA? The concept behind the MyRA account would be a new type of bond within a Roth IRA-type umbrella.  Contributions would not be tax-deductible, but earnings would be tax-free when you withdraw it in the future.  It’s unclear about how closely the rules on this account shadow the rules of the current Roth IRA. The investment vehicle would be a new ...

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Personal Finance 101 – The Tax Management Triangle

Don’t you wish that you had a crystal ball to know what the tax rates will be 20 years from now?   In 1970, the top tax marginal tax rate was at 70%.   In 1980, the top marginal tax rate was still at 70%.   In 1990, the top marginal tax rate hit a historical low of 28%.   In 2000, that top marginal tax rate had moved back up to 39.6%.   Just one year ago in 2010, the top marginal tax rate settled at 35%. (source: taxfoundation.org)  With all the uncertainty going on with our debt and taxes, how can you best plan your finances for the certainty of uncertainty when it comes to income taxes? Over the years, we’ve adopted a tax triangle methodology around taxes and investing.  This allows an individual investor or business owner to think about where they place their investments and tax strategy upon the accumulation and distribution phase.  Here are the three sides to the triangle. ...

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Is A Roth 401(k) Right For Me?

Since 1997, Roth IRA accounts have been around as an investment vehicle. In the past several years, participants at many work places have been offered the opportunity to do a Roth 401(k). Readers have e-mailed me over the past year about whether or not the Roth 401(k) is a good idea. The Roth 401(k) follows many of the same rules as your current Traditional 401(k). There are two very large distinctions between doing a Traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k): 1) How contributions are taxed – In a traditional 401(k) plan, all of your contributions will be put in your plan on a pre-tax basis.  Thus, your reportable w-2 income at year end will be lowered by the amount of Traditional 401(k) contributions that you make over the course of the year. In a Roth 401(k), your contributions will be taxed now and put in your plan on an after tax basis.  Thus, you will have no change in your ...

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Can I Convert My 401(k) To A Roth 401(k)?

This past week Congress passed the Small Business Jobs Act Of 2010. While there were many interesting parts to the bill including changes to how employee cell phones are viewed and accelerated write offs for business owners, one of the very intriguing parts to the bill is the conversion of your existing 401(k), 403(b), or 457 retirement plan. If your employer has a Roth 401(k) provision, (which if they do not currently you should really complain to your HR or Benefits person) you may be eligible for a potentially good long term tax management idea. Generally your employer must have a Roth 401(k) source in the plan, allow in-service withdrawals, allow rollovers, and have the Roth provision in the plan to be able to take advantage of a conversion. 2010 is an especially meaningful year because no matter what level your income is this year, you can convert some or all of your 401(k) (403(b), 457) over to a Roth ...

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I like April 15th!

Within a few weeks, we will be approaching one of my favorite days of the year April 15th.   This is the last day of the official tax season unless you are filing an extension.   If you ever want to see something truly funny, park your car around 10 p.m. outside of a U.S. Post Office on the last day of tax season and watch the masses flock with their tax returns. The thing I like about April 15th is asking the question, “Did you learn anything different this tax year than the year before this one?” Each year, people seem to spend more time watching Dancing With The Starts or some other reality show than figuring out ways to save money in taxes.   By the time the 2009 tax season ends on April 15th, we are almost a trimester into the 2010 tax year.   This is the time to reflect and ask yourself what you will do differently in 2010 ...

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Should You Convert Your Roth IRA?

Hey folks, I’ve got a news flash for you. Going into October, it isn’t just football season, it’s recharacterization season. While most of you are worried about the stock market, I hear individuals and businesses talk everyday about what they should do with their money. (i.e. should I put it in the market, should I put it in a bank account, where is the best place that I should put my money?). The reality is right now, you can’t always think about your portfolio, but also you have to start think about tax strategy. With that being said, for folks out there that make less than $100,000 adjusted gross income, you’ve got the ability to do what’s called recharacterizing your IRA. What this would give you is the ability to do if you make under $100,000 in adjusted growth income is to take your existing IRA and put it into a Roth IRA. There is a handful of legislation that ...

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