How to Find an Old 401(k) — and What to Do With It

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, there are more than 25 million people with money left behind in a previous employer-sponsored retirement plan. Read this blog post from NerdWallet for information on how to find an old retirement plan and what to do with it.


There are billions of dollars sitting unclaimed in ghosted workplace retirement plans. And some of it might be yours if you’ve ever left a job and forgotten to take your vested retirement savings with you.

It happens. A lot.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that from 2004 through 2013, more than 25 million people with money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) left at least one account behind after their last day on the job.

But no matter how long the cobwebs have been forming on your old 401(k), that money is still yours. All you have to do is find it.

Following the money

Employers will try to track down a departed employee who left money behind in an old 401(k), but their efforts are only as good as the information they have on file. Beyond providing 30 to 60 days notice of their intentions, there are no laws that say how hard they have to look or for how long.

If it’s been a while since you’ve heard from your former company, or if you’ve moved or misplaced the notices they sent, there are three main places your money could be:

  1. Right where you left it, in the old account set up by your employer.
  2. In a new account set up by the 401(k) plan administrator.
  3. In the hands of your state’s unclaimed property division.

Here’s how to start your search:

Contact your old employer

Start with your former company’s human resources department or find an old 401(k) account statement and contact the plan administrator, the financial firm that held the account and sent you updates.

"You may be allowed to leave your money in your old plan, but you might not want to."

If there was more than $5,000 in your retirement account when you left, there’s a good chance that your money is still in your workplace account. You may be allowed to leave it there for as long as you like until you’re age 70½, when the IRS requires you to start taking distributions, but you might not want to. Here’s how to decide whether to keep your money in an old 401(k).

Plan administrators have more leeway with abandoned amounts up to $5,000. If the balance is $1,000 or less, they can simply cut a check for the total and send it to your last known address, leaving you to deal with any tax consequences. For amounts more than $1,000 up to $5,000, they’re allowed to move funds into an individual retirement account without your consent. These specialty IRAs are set up at a financial institution that has been federally authorized to manage the account.

The good news if a new IRA was opened for the rollover: Your money retains its tax-protected status. The bad: You have to find the new trustee.

Look up your money’s new address

If the old plan administrator cannot tell you where your 401(k) funds went, there are several databases that can assist:

Search unclaimed property databases

If a company terminates its retirement plan, it has more options on what it’s allowed to do with the unclaimed money, no matter what the account balance.

"If your account was cashed out, you may owe the IRS."

It might be rolled into an IRA set up on your behalf, deposited at a bank or left with the state’s unclaimed property fund. Hit up missingmoney.com, run in part by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, to do a multistate search of state unclaimed property divisions.

Note that if a plan administrator cashed out and transferred your money to a bank account or the state, a portion of your savings may have been withheld to pay the IRS. That’s because this kind of transfer is considered a distribution (aka cashing out) and is subject to income taxes and penalties. Some 401(k) plan administrators withhold a portion of the balance to cover any potential taxes and send you and the IRS tax form 1099-R to report the income. Others don’t, which could leave you with a surprise IRS IOU to pay.

What to do with it

You might be able to leave your old 401(k) money where it is if it’s in your former employer’s plan. One reason to do so is if you have access to certain mutual funds that charge lower management fees available to institutional clients — like 401(k) plans — that aren’t available to individual investors. But you’re not allowed to contribute to the plan anymore since you no longer work there.

Reasons to move your money to an IRA or to roll it into a current employer’s plan include access to a broader range of investments, such as individual stocks and a wider selection of mutual funds, and more control over account fees.

If your money was moved into an IRA on your behalf, you don’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — leave it there. The GAO study of forced-transfer IRAs found that annual fees (up to $115) and low investment returns (0.01% to 2.05% in conservative investments dictated by the Department of Labor regulations) “can steadily decrease a comparatively small stagnant balance.”

Once you find your money, it’s easy to switch brokers and move your investments into a new IRA of your choosing without triggering any taxes.

Unless you enjoyed this little treasure hunt, the next time you switch jobs, take your retirement loot with you.

SOURCE: Yochim, D. (27 February 2019) "How to Find an Old 401(k) — and What to Do With It" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/how-to-find-an-old-401k-and-what-to-do-with-it/


15 states where $1 million in retirement savings will last the longest

How much do you have saved for retirement? According to GOBankingRates data, employees who have $1 million in retirement savings can make it last for more than 20 years in Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. In this article, Paola Peralta writes on the importance of understanding what better retirement choices can do for your future.


Employees with $1 million in retirement savings can make it stretch for more than 20 years in Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to GOBankingRates data in an article from Business Insider. Retirees in New Mexico, Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas can also live on a similar amount of savings, data shows. Retirees with $1 million can expect their savings to last in average span of 19 years, GOBankingRates estimates.

Less choice could mean better retirement outcomes
The amount of income that seniors can replace in retirement is a good measure to determine whether there is a looming retirement crisis in the U.S., according to retirement expert Mark Miller in this article from Morningstar. However, it is hard to make generalizations, he explains. “I think it varies tremendously, depending which demographic group you’re looking at, you can do it generationally or otherwise,” Miller says.

Retirement requires a shift in thinking
As retirees needs change, they should be ready to adjust their mindset and modify their investment strategies, an expert in Kiplinger writes. Retirees should focus more on preservation and distribution after the accumulation phase, the expert writes. “In retirement, it’s important to think of your savings as income rather than a lump sum. It’s not all about achieving maximum return on investment anymore," the expert says. "It’s about how you can get the maximum return from your portfolio and into your pocket."

Employees nearing retirement? 12 features to look for in their next home
Seniors who intend to move to a new home in retirement should consider a property that offers low yard maintenance, a single-story open floor plan and easy access to loved ones and essential amenities, according to a Forbes article. They should ensure that the new house is cheap to maintain and won’t trigger a hefty tax bill, says one expert. “If those costs are low, it can be a great investment.”

SOURCE: Peralta, P. (15 August, 2019) "15 states where $1M in retirement savings lasts the longest"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/states-where-retirement-savings-will-last-the-longest


10 Retirement Lessons for 2019

There are lessons to be learned from recent decisions and settlements about the best ways to protect yourself in 2019. Here are some important takeaways from recent litigation activity.

1. Your Process Matters.

New York University recently got a lawsuit dismissed by a district court because it provided evidence that it followed a prudent process when selecting investments. If a case goes to trial, you will also need to demonstrate that you made prudent decisions in order to prevail.

2. Put It in Writing.

It’s hard to prove that you followed a prudent process if you don’t write down what you did. People change jobs, die or simply forget the details of what was done if there are not minutes explaining the reasons for decisions. Have clear written policies showing what you will consider when selecting or replacing investments and reviewing fees, and make sure to follow those policies.

3. Know and Review Your Options.

Complaints have alleged that fiduciaries failed to consider alternatives to common investments, such as collective trusts as an alternative to mutual funds and stable value funds as alternatives to money market funds. Employees of investment giants such as Fidelity have sued because they claimed that these companies filled their plans with their own in-house investments even though better performing alternatives with lower fees were available. Even if you don’t select these options, you should investigate them and record the reasons for your decisions. Be especially careful about choosing your vendor’s proprietary funds without investigation.

4. Understand Target Date Funds.

They have different risk profiles, performance history, fees and glide paths. Don’t take the easy way out and automatically choose your vendor’s funds. In fact, you need to have a prudent process to select these.

5. Benchmark Plan Fees.

Be able to demonstrate that your fees are reasonable for plans of your size. But don’t compare apples to oranges. Select an appropriate peer group. Remember, though, that it is not a violation of ERISA to pay higher fees for better service, so long as the fees are reasonable.

6. Retain an Expert to Help You.

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If you don’t have internal investment expertise, hire an outside fiduciary to assist you. Insist on written reports of recommendations if the fiduciary is a co-adviser, and that the fiduciary attend committee meetings to answer questions and explain the recommendations.

7. Consult Outside Counsel When Necessary.

See No. 6. Don’t try to guess what the law requires, and listen to counsel’s recommendations about best practices. While both advisers and ERISA counsel are available to provide fiduciary education, your ERISA counsel can give you a better handle on your legal responsibilities as ERISA fiduciaries.

8. Hold Regular Committee Meetings.

The days when committees met once a year are over. Many committees now meet quarterly. These should be formal meetings where committee members sit down together with the plan adviser and, where appropriate, with ERISA counsel.

A secretary should take formal minutes. Plan fiduciaries shouldn’t be meeting over the water cooler or making decisions by exchanging emails without face-to-face discussion in a misguided effort to save time.

9. Review Your Providers.

At least once a year, review whether your vendors are performing in accordance with their proposals and their services agreements, and survey your committee members to determine whether they are happy with the provider’s performance. Follow up to request changes or start an RFP to find a new vendor if necessary.

10. Schedule Regular RFPs.

Even if you are happy with your current providers, new RFPs will give you the opportunity to renegotiate your services agreements and fees and will also let you know whether additional services are available in the marketplace.

content resource: https://401kspecialistmag.com


12 Ways to Save on Health Care

Managing your money is tough, saving for your health care is pretty rough too. These tips and tricks will assist you in managing your medical finances for the future.


We all know paying for health care is a challenge, with or without insurance, amid rising copays, deductibles, and premiums. But there are ways to hold down the costs that can come in handy now, but also as the Affordable Care Act undergoes whatever transformation (or replacement) the Trump administration comes up with.

The Huffington Post reports that, despite the numerous obstacles to cutting costs on health care for individuals —insured or not — there are also numerous ways to do just that, whether it takes due diligence on the patient’s part or having conversations with doctors, hospitals and insurers — even drug companies — about price.

While such tactics may not exactly amount to haggling, negotiating skills can’t hurt, and determination and perseverance are definite assets when it comes to finding the best prices or convincing medical entities to give you a better deal.

Plenty of other sources have good suggestions for slicing medical expenses, whether for prescription drugs, doctor and dentist visits, or hospital care. In fact,

Here’s a look at 12 strategies and suggestions that can end up saving you beaucoup bucks for care and treatment.

12. Check the internet

You would be amazed at how many tips there are online to help you cut the cost of getting — or staying — healthy.

One of the first things you should do is to check out the internet, where you’ll find not just help from the Huffington Post but also from such prominent sources as Kiplinger, Investopedia, Money, CBS and other news stations — and checking them out can have the advantage of providing you with any new suggestions arising out of changes in the law or in the medical field itself. And definitely compare prices on the Internet for procedures and prescriptions before you do anything else.

11. Skip insurance on your prescriptions

Not all the time, and not everywhere, but you could end up getting your prescriptions filled for less money if you don’t go through your medical insurance.

Costco, Walmart, and other retailers with pharmacies often offer cut-to-the-bone prices on generics, some prescription drugs and large orders (say, a 90-day supply of something you take over an extended period). Costco will even provide home delivery, and fill your pets’ prescriptions, too.

Then there are coupons. GoodRx will compare prices for you, provide free coupons you can print out and take to the pharmacy and save, as the website says, up to 80 percent — without charging a membership fee or requiring a sign-up.

10. Talk to your doctor

And ask for samples and coupons. Especially if you’ve never taken a particular drug before, let your doctor know you want to try out a sample lest you have an adverse reaction to the medication and get stuck with 99 percent of your prescription unusable.

Pharmaceutical reps, of course, provide doctors with samples, but they often give them coupons, too, lest you suffer sticker shock in the pharmacy and walk away without filling the prescription. So ask for those too. Doctors can be more proactive about samples than coupons, but remember to ask for both. After all, it’s your money.

9. Talk directly to the drug companies

So you’ve tried to get a brand-name drug cheaper, but coupons don’t help enough and there’s no generic available (or you react badly to it). Don’t stop there; go directly to the source and ask about assistance programs the pharmaceutical company may offer.

Such programs can be need-based, but not always — sometimes it’s a matter of filling out a little paperwork to get a better deal. The Huffington Post points out dialysis drug Renvela can go for several hundred dollars, but drops to $5 a month if the patient completes a simple form.

8. Haggle

Before you go in for a procedure (assuming it’s voluntary), or when the bills start to come in, talk to both the doctors (is there ever only one?) and the hospital and ask for a discount — or a reduction in your bill for paying in cash or for paying the whole amount. Be polite, but stand your ground and negotiate for all you’re worth.

A CBS report cites Consumer Reports as having found that only 31 percent of Americans haggle with doctors over medical bills but that 93 percent of those who did were successful — with more than a third of those saving more than $100. Just make sure you’re talking with the right person in the office — the one who actually has the authority to issue those discounts. And get it in writing.

7. What about an HMO?

If you’re not devoted to your doctor, opting for an HMO can save you money — although it will limit your choices of doctors and hospitals. Still, coverage should be cheaper.

If you’re generally in good health, choosing a plan — HMO or not — that restricts your choices of doctors and hospitals can save you money. And having the flexibility to go see the top specialist in his field won’t necessarily be your top priority unless you have specific health conditions for which you really need specialized care. In that case, you might prefer to hang on to your right of choice, despite the expense.

6. Ask for estimates

Yes, just the way you would from your mechanic or plumber. Ask the doctor/hospital/etc. what the charge is for whatever it is you’re having done, whether it’s a hip replacement or a deviated septum. You will already have checked out the costs for these things on the Internet, of course, so that you have an idea of standard pricing — and if your doctor, etc. comes in substantially higher, look elsewhere.

And while you’re at it, ask whether the doctor uses balance billing. If so, run, do not walk, in the opposite direction and find a doctor who doesn’t. Otherwise, particularly if the doctor’s fees are high, you’ll find yourself paying the balance of his whole bill once the insurance company kicks in its share.

Normally the doctor and insurer reach an agreement that eliminates whatever is left over after you pay your share and the insurer pays its share. But with balance billing, whatever is left over becomes your responsibility — and you’ll be sorry, maybe even bankrupt. By the way, balance billing is actually illegal in some states under some circumstances, so check before you pay.

5. Network, network, network

Always, always ask if the doctor is in network, and if the lab where your blood work goes and the specialist he recommends and the emergency room doctor and surgeon are also in network. Of course you can’t do this if it’s a true emergency, but if you learn after the fact that you were treated by out-of-network doctors at an in-network hospital, see whether your state has any laws against, or limits on, how much those out-of-network practitioners can charge you.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, close to 70 percent of with unaffordable out-of-network medical bills were not aware that the practitioner treating them was not in their plan’s network at the time they received care.

4. Check your bill with a fine-toothed comb

Not only should you check to see whether your bill is accurate, you should also read up on medical terminology so you know whether you’re being billed for medications and procedures you actually received.

Not only do billing offices often mess up — a NerdWallet study found that 49 percent of Medicare medical claims contain medical billing errors, which results in a 26.4 percent overpayment for the care provided, but they can also get a little creative, such as billing for individual parts of a course of treatment that ought to be billed as a single charge. It adds up. And then there are coding errors, which can misclassify one treatment as another and up the charge by thousands of dollars.

3. Get a health care advocate

If you just can’t face fighting insurers or doctors’ offices, or aren’t well enough to fight your own battles, consider calling in a local professional health care advocate. They’ll know what’s correct, be able to spot errors, and can negotiate on your behalf to contest charges or lower bills.

For that matter, if you call them in ahead of time for a planned procedure or course of treatment, they can advise you about care options in your area and maybe forestall a lot of problems.

2. Go for free, not broke

Lots of places offer free flu shots and screenings for things like blood pressure and cholesterol levels — everyplace from drugstores to shopping centers, and maybe even your place of work.

Senior centers do too, but if you can’t find anything locally check out places like Costco and Sam’s Club, which do screenings for $15; that might even be cheaper than your copay at the doctor’s office.

1. Deals can make you smile

Whether you have dental insurance or not, it doesn’t cover much. So go back to #8 (Haggle) to negotiate cash prices with your dentist for major procedures, and take advantage of Living Social or Groupon vouchers to get your routine cleanings and exams with X-rays. The prices, says HuffPost, “range from $19 to $50 and are generally offered by dentists hoping to grow their practices.”

SOURCE:
Satter, M (2 June 2018) "12 ways to save on health care" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/07/12-ways-to-save-on-health-care?t=Consumer-Driven&page=6


Eligibility, lack of plans keep millennials from retirement saving

As millennials reach the age to save for retirement, there is a clear lack-of-knowledge in the arena of what plans they need and how to save for them with the continuing costs of their lifestyles. In this article, we take a look at why this is.


Millennials are way behind on retirement savings, but it has nothing to do with self-indulgence or feasts on avocado toast.

Instead, what they actually need are retirement plans, and earlier eligibility to save in them.

A new report from the National Institute of Retirement Security highlights millennials’ precarious retirement futures with the news that only a third are saving for retirement. It’s not because they don’t want to, or are being extravagant, because when the numbers are crunched they actually save at rates equal to or higher than those of their elders—even if not as many of them can do so.

Millennials are getting a raw deal. Not only are traditional defined benefit plans disappearing, with the likelihood that a millennial might actually be able to participate in one, they’re worried that Social Security—which runs way behind the cost of living anyway—will be of even less help to them in the future as an income replacement than it already is for current retirees. Add to that the fact that more than half of millennials are expected to live to age 89 or even older, and they have the added worry of outliving whatever savings they might have managed to stash.

In fact, millennials need to save way more than their elders to stand a chance of having a retirement that honors the meaning of the word. Says the report, “[S]ome experts estimate that millennials will need to make pretax retirement plan contributions of between 15 percent to 22 percent of their pretax salary, which at 22 percent, is more than double the recommendation of previous generations.”

They’re viewed as irresponsible, but 21 percent are already worried about their retirement security, says the report, and while 51 percent of GenXers and boomers contribute to their own retirement plans, just 34.3 percent of millennials participate in an employer’s plan, although 66 percent work for bosses that offer such plans.

In fact, 66.2 percent of millennials have no retirement savings at all. Zip, zilch, zero. And millennial Latinos? A whopping 83 percent have a goose egg, not a nest egg. Latinos have it much worse, incidentally, than any other millennials group, with just 19.1 percent of millennial Latinos and 22.5 percent of Latinas participating in an employer-sponsored plan, compared with 41.4 percent of Asian men and 40.3 percent of millennial white women—who have the highest rates of participation in a retirement plan.

Despite working for an employer who provides workers with a retirement plan, millennials don’t always have a way to save, since said employer may have set barriers in place to prevent participation until an employee has been with the company for at least a year. And millennials are, of course, known as the job-hopping generation—so if they don’t stay in one place they never qualify. Close to half of millennials—40.2 percent—say they’re shut out of retirement plans because of employers’ eligibility requirements, including working a minimum number of hours or having a minimum tenure on the job.

But don’t accuse them of having no desire to participate: when they’re eligible, more than 90 percent do so.

Read the article.

Source:
Satter M. (2 March 2018). "Eligibility, lack of plans keep millennials from retirement saving" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/02/eligibility-lack-of-plans-keep-millennials-from-re/


Part-time employment adds leg to traditional retirement stool

Source: Employee Benefit News

You have probably have heard about the three-legged stool approach to retirement planning. Historically, financial planners have advised that retirees could expect to derive their retirement income from three sources: Social Security, corporate retirement plans and personal savings.

It was generally understood that each source of funds was responsible for providing one-third of the total living expenses required in retirement. Over the years the three-legged stool approach has been modified for a number of reasons:

  • The disappearance of defined benefit pension plans (only 18% of workers currently have access to such a plan);
  • An increase in the age required to collect a full Social Security benefit;
  • The soaring costs of health care; and
  • The expectation that many pre-retirees may not reduce their standard of living when they retire. In other words, many workers are expecting 100% income replacement in retirement.

In order to meet the 100% income replacement requirement, experts estimate that 25% of retiree living expenses will need to come from corporate retirement plans, 25% from Social Security and 50% from personal savings. However, it is becoming evident that most baby boomers have not saved, and will not save,  nearly enough to fund the retirement they expect. As a result, it may become necessary to add a fourth leg to the stool: part-time employment in retirement. This new approach assumes that income will flow in 25% increments from each source.

Surprisingly, nearly 75% of pre-retirees over the age of 50 in a recent study say they have a desire to work while retired. This is probably a good thing, since most will have to. Lack of corporate retiree health care, lifestyle expectations and a much lower savings rate than required will force most baby boomers to continue working.

 


2015 HSA and FSA Cheat Sheet

Source: BenefitsPro.com

Health savings accounts

What they are

A health savings account is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in an HSA-qualified high-deductible health plan.

HSAs can grow tax-deferred in your account for later use. There’s no deadline for making a withdrawal: Consumers can reimburse themselves in future years for medical costs incurred now.

HSA contribution limits:

Individuals (self-only coverage) - $3,350 (up $50 from 2014)

Family coverage - $6,650 (up $100 from 2014)

The annual limitation on deductions for an individual with family coverage under a high-deductible health plan will be $6,650 for 2015.

The maximum out-of-pocket employee expense will increase next year to $6,450 for single coverage from $6,350, and to $12,900, from $12,700, for family coverage.

What’s new

The out-of-pocket limits include deductibles, coinsurance and copays, but not premiums. But starting in 2015, prescription-drug costs must count toward the out-of-pocket maximum

Account numbers — and exploding growth

Health savings accounts have grown to an estimated $22.8 billion in assets and roughly 11.8 million accounts as of the end of June, according to the latest figures from Devenir. The investment consulting firm said that’s a year-over-year increase of 26 percent for HSA assets and 29 percent for accounts.

Projections

Devenir projected that the HSA market will exceed $24 billion in HSA assets covering more than 13 million accounts by the end of 2014. Longer-term predictions are far greater: The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism, for one, estimates that 50 million Americans will be covered by HSA-qualified health plans by Jan. 1, 2019, and that HSA adoption will grow to 37 million.

Who’s using them

Both men than women. The gender distribution of people covered by an HSA/HDHP as of January 2014 was evenly split — 50 percent male and 50 percent female. But males have more money in their accounts. At the end of 2013, men had an average of $2,326 in their account, while women had $1,526, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI reported that older individuals have considerably more money in their accounts than do younger HSA users: Those under 25 had an average of $697, while those ages 55-64 had an average of $3,780, and those 65 or older had an average account balance of $4,460.

Other things of note

People are becoming more active and better managers of their HSA dollars. In 2012, 52 percent of HSA account holders spent in excess of 80 percent of their dollars on health care expenses, according to research by the HSA Council of the American Bankers' Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Flexible spending accounts

What they are

FSAs allow employees to contribute pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses — including deductibles, copayments and other qualified medical, dental or vision expenses not covered by the individual’s health insurance plan.

They’re also known as flexible spending arrangements, and they’re more commonly offered with traditional medical plans.

Limits

On Oct. 30, the IRS announced the FSA contribution limit for 2015 would increase $50 to $2,550 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

What’s new

Last fall the U.S. Treasury Department issued new rules that let employers offer employees the $500 carryover. Previously, unused employee FSA contributions were forfeited to the employer at the end of the plan year or grace period, which industry insiders say were a barrier to adoption. The rule went into effect in 2014.

Double-digit growth

Alegeus Technologies said that clients who have actively promoted the FSA rollover allowance to their employer groups and eligible employees are seeing 11 percent incremental growth in FSA enrollment and 9 percent growth in FSA elections — compared to a flat overall FSA market growth.

Projections

The change to the FSA use-it-or-lose-it rule was greeted enthusiastically by employers, consumers and industry insiders. Many believe adoption will grow with that amendment.

Who’s using them

An estimated 35 million Americans use FSAs.

Other things of note

A survey from Alegeus Technologies says most consumers, and even account holders specifically, do not fully understand account-based health plans, including HSAs, FSAs and health reimbursement accounts. Only 50 percent of FSA holders passed a FSA proficiency quiz.


Biggest boomer retirement regrets

Originally posted by Lisa Barron on http://www.benefitspro.com

The last of the baby boomer generation will be turning 50 this year, and it's time for them to get a fix on how they are going to prepare for retirement.

Fortunately, there are valuable lessons, financial and otherwise, to be learned from those who have already reached their later years.

On the financial front, there is of course room for many regrets.  "Generally, the failure to have a plan is number one," Pete Lang, president of Lang Capital in Hilton Head and Charlotte, N.C., told BenefitsPro.

"I find people five years into retirement with no plan whatsoever."

Lang said that includes a tax plan, an income plan and an investment plan.  Otherwise, he cautioned, "All your money is slipping through your fingers."

He left out an estate plan, Lang said, because while it may be needed for a financial blueprint it is not needed to retire, as are the other three.

On taxes, according to Lang, the biggest regret is the failure to use a tax-forward plan, such as deferring Social Security. "If you don't take it at 65 or 66, you can defer it and that will minimize taxes."

Other tax regrets include withdrawing money from tax-deferred IRAs too early, and not spreading Roth IRA conversions over a period of time.

As for income, Lang goes back to Social Security deferrals. "Everybody thinks the government will go out of business. That's not the case. The checks will always continue," he said.

"If the government gets into trouble with inflation, that's another issue. But the checks will be there, and deferral is a great way to guarantee enhanced income stream."

Finally, turning to investment, Lang said the big regret is the failure to hedge against inflation. "The inflation rate over the last 15 years has averaged 2.5 percent. And when you look at portfolios, they are also taxable. You have to use a tax co-efficient.  I use 3.4 percent. So, if you're not growing at that rate you are not hedging money against inflation. If that's the case, you're losing buying power," he explained.

Given the risk inherent in equities and the current low yields on Treasuries, Lang said, "Use the standard rule to diversify a portfolio to create an income stream from safer allocations short term and in the long term from a more aggressive plan."

Clarence Kehoe, executive partner in accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin, told BenefitsPro he sees regrets over some very basic mistakes made during the peak earning years.

"From my experience, a lot of people when they get to retirement age look back and say 'why didn't I' or 'I wish I had,'" he said.

The two biggest killers are a lack of savings and a lack of understanding of how much will be needed in retirement, according to Kehoe.

"If you look at it realistically, many see a rise in income as they mature in their career, and when they see salaries go up, instead of saying now I have a chance to save, they are spending it. A lot of people don't pay attention, and don't say I have excess cash and I should save it," he said.

Going hand in hand with this is the problem of excessive borrowing. "Consumer debt has gone but the affluent person who wants a bigger house will have taken a mortgage or taken a second mortgage to take a vacation. Excess leveraging can squash the ability to save for retirement," Kehoe said.

Among other regrets sees is retiring too early. "There are people who have taken themselves out of the work force, some even in their mid- 50s, but they are robbing themselves of extra years of savings."

"A lot of people don't realize life expectancy is longer than they think, which means they need more money," he added.

Finally, Kehoe stresses the need to plan for age-related expenses. "People look at themselves unrealistically. They are not thinking about some of the extremes in older age. But even if you keep yourself in great shape your body wears down," he said.

That means more regular doctor visits, not all of which will be covered by the government or insurance, Kehoe warned.

Not all of the retirement-related regrets pertain strictly to finances, notes Daniel Kraus, an advisor and branch manager with Raymond James & Associates in Boca Raton, Fla.

One of the biggest one he sees among clients is the lack of a plan for what to do with their time. "A recent client commented, 'I'm bored. I don't know what to do with myself,'" Kraus told Benefitspro.

"After working for 50 years, he retired at 73 and said he wasn't prepared for the lack of activity. So there's a psychological impact of going into retirement that is dreadfully overlooked," he said.

Another area that can be overlooked has to do with way of life. "We do experience clients unwilling to change their lifestyle or unable to make that change," he said.

"I've got a client who's 84 and is burning down her money because she won't change her lifestyle. So that's an investment and psychology issue."

Another client can't make the tough decisions she needs to. "In her case, she knows she has to sell her real estate but she can't bring herself to price it at a price where it will sell," he explained.

"Retirement is all about making choices and compromise."

The person who isn't willing to change their lifestyle and runs out of money has regrets, said Kraus, as does the person who retired too early and finds the market is down and the person who pulled all of their money out of the market in 2008 and 2009 and put it in the bank.

His final cautionary tale: Regret is having long-term care expenses and not having planned for it.

Pointing to statistics showing that two-thirds of those over age 65 will incur long-term care costs, Kraus said, "There's nothing certain in life but death, taxes and long-term care."

 


More Americans Spending Rather than Saving Tax Refund

Original article http://ebn.benefitnews.com

By Margarida Correia

Most Americans (85%) will receive a federal tax refund averaging $2,803. What will spendthrift Americans do with the money? More than twice as many will spend rather than save it, according to Capital One Bank’s annual taxes and savings survey.

More than a third (35%) plan to spend all or part of the refund, while only 16% will save it. Nearly a quarter (22%) will use the refund to pay down debt and 4% will invest their returns.

Of those who plan to spend all or part of their refund this year, 23% will spend it on vacation. One in three will spend it on everyday expenses and necessities with the rest spending it on various items, including clothing and accessories (16%), iPads, smartphones and other electronics (15%), and major purchases (16%).

Less than half (42%) were aware that that their take-home pay would decline this year due to the recent elimination of the payroll tax holiday by Congress. The awareness was greater among men, with 47% saying they were very aware of the decline in take-home pay, compared with 38% for women.

“At a time when people are seeing smaller paychecks, now more than ever they should take a step back, evaluate their financial goals and consider saving their tax refund,” says Mickey Konson, managing vice president for Retail Banking at Capital One Bank.

The telephone survey polled 1,006 U.S. adults age 18 and over.

Margarida Correia is Associate Editor for Bank Investment Consultant, a SourceMedia publication.