Income tax diversification defined

tax diversification

If you’re saving and investing for retirement, you’re probably familiar with the concept of investment diversification: Combining different types of assets to balance your overall investment risk and return. This same principle can and should be applied to income tax diversification.

Why? Income tax diversification may allow you to structure withdrawals in retirement to potentially increase the amount of after-tax spendable income.

To achieve a diversified tax base, you want financial assets that offer different types of income tax advantages as you:

  • Save for retirement (Contribution).
  • Grow your savings (Accumulation).
  • Use them for retirement income (Distribution).

There are particular income tax advantages offered by different financial instruments at each of these stages.

Choosing options that offer tax advantages during these different stages may help you accumulate more for retirement and reduce your income tax liability during retirement.

Retirement savings plans (pretax contributions, tax-deferred accumulation, taxable withdrawals)

As you earn money, you pay income tax. But certain retirement savings programs — 401(k) plans, IRA’s, and some types of pension and profit-sharing plans allow you to contribute on a pretax basis. This effectively lowers your gross pay and, as a result, the taxes on that income.

Additionally, many employers offering these types of plans offer some kind of match of funds to a certain limit. For example, your employer may contribute 50 cents for every dollar you contribute up to 6 percent of your pay. So, if you contribute 6 percent of your pay, then add your employer’s match, your contribution amount is effectively increased to 9 percent.

The pretax income you invested in these types of qualified retirement accounts grow on a tax-deferred basis, meaning the money doesn’t get taxed until you take it out.

These kinds of plans are typically subject to a 10 percent penalty for distributions prior to age 59½, and may also have annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) starting at age 73. Failure to take full RMDs will result in a penalty tax equal to 50 percent of the shortfall.

Roth plans (after tax, tax deferred, tax advantaged)

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are built with after-tax dollars. Both earnings and withdrawals are income tax free if the owner is 59½ and has had the account for five years or longer.

Contributions are limited, however. Those making more than a specific income level cannot contribute a Roth IRA. And those do qualify can only contribute a set amount. Roth 401(k)s don’t have income thresholds, but have limits on how much can be contributed.

Roth account values may also pass tax deferred to the account beneficiary at death.

Annuities (tax deferred, tax advantaged)

An annuity is a contract with an insurance company that can protect you from the risk of outliving your savings in retirement. It is purchased in a lump sum or series of payments and guarantees a stream of payments at some time in the future.

There aren’t any statutory limits on how much after-tax money can be used to fund an annuity, although the annuity itself may have contractual limits.

Earnings in annuities accumulate tax-deferred. When you start receiving payments, you’ll be taxed. If the annuity was bought with pretax funds, the payments will be taxed as ordinary income. If purchased with after-tax funds, you would only pay tax on the earnings.

Life insurance (after tax, tax deferred, tax advantaged)

Life insurance provides a death benefit to help your loved ones carry on in the event of your passing, and life insurance death benefit proceeds are generally income tax free.

Some types of life insurance build cash value. This cash value grows on a tax-deferred basis.

The cash value can be accessed on a tax-advantaged basis. Money taken from the cash value of a life insurance policy is not subject to taxes up to the “cost basis.” That’s the amount paid into the policy through out-of-pocket premiums.

Policyowners can withdraw or borrow against their cash value for any need, like paying a college bill or coming up with a down payment on a house. Retirees can use the cash value as a ready reserve of funds for inevitable market pullbacks, allowing time for invested funds to recover.

Municipal bonds

Those looking to diversity their tax base also sometimes look at municipal bonds.

The attraction of municipal bonds is the interest earnings are not subject to federal taxes. They may also avoid state and local taxes if the investor lives in the state that issued the bond.

Conclusion

The kind of income tax diversification mix using the various options will be different from individual to individual, depending on age, income, and other circumstances. Many people turn to a financial professional to help them understand the choices and possible outcomes.

Provided by Matthew Clayson, courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). CA Insurance License # 0I01304


©2023 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001 

MM202611-307408

6 Signs You May Be Underinsured

Presented by Matthew A. Clayson

says are you underinsured for life insurance

How do you know if you are underinsured? If you’ve purchased life insurance, you’ve taken an important step in protecting your family’s financial future, but you still may be underinsured. Such coverage can help your loved ones maintain their living standard in the event you should pass away prematurely, or at least eliminate some of the stress of making ends meet.

But how do you know if you have enough coverage? That can be a complicated question. And possible answers are likely to change over time. Life insurance is not a “set it and forget it” financial solution. As circumstances change, so do your coverage needs.

You may need to revisit the amount (and type) of life insurance coverage you have if:

  1. Your family has grown.
  2. Your stay-at-home spouse is not insured.
  3. You only have group life insurance through work.
  4. Your income rose.
  5. You have significant debt.
  6. Your financial goals have changed.

Life Insurance Policy Review

There is no one right answer. The appropriate death benefit amount differs for everyone depending on their assets, income, and financial goals.

How Many are Underinsured?

Underinsurance is common. According to Life Happens, a nonprofit consumer education group, 41 percent of U.S. adults — both insured and uninsured — say they do not believe they have enough life insurance protection.1 Some started off with sufficient coverage, but failed to increase their policy amount as their income and financial obligations grew.

Of course, the “right” amount of coverage is relative. People purchase life insurance for different reasons. Often, it’s used to replace the policyowner’s lost income if he or she should die unexpectedly, so their surviving spouse and kids can pay the bills. Others buy whole life insurance to provide for a spouse in retirement or cover long-term care expenses. And some use it as an estate planning tool to pass money along on a tax-favored basis to their heirs, so they may not realize they are underinsured.

1. Your family has grown -If you added a new family member to your flock, it may be time to increase the size of your life insurance policy. According to the most recent government estimates, it will cost the average middle-income, married couple nearly $311,000 to raise a child through age 18. That does not include the cost of a college education. If you aim to cover your kid’s college education, braces, and future wedding in the event that you are no longer around, those expenses should be factored into your death benefit as well.

2. Your stay-at-home spouse is not insured-It’s a common misconception that stay-at-home parents do not need life insurance coverage. True, they don’t produce an income. But if they should pass away when the kids are still young, the breadwinner would need to pay for day care or a nanny.

One more reason to insure a stay-at-home parent: It protects the earnings potential of the breadwinning parent, so he or she would not have to scale back hours or take a less-demanding job to keep their household afloat.

3.You only have group life insurance-Employer-provided life insurance is a great benefit for many, but the amount provided may not be sufficient to protect your family from financial loss. Group life insurance is typically not portable, either. And, if you develop a health condition between now and when you leave your job, you may no longer be eligible for the lowest rates, or qualify for private insurance at all.

To estimate how much life insurance coverage his clients should have, Guarino said he starts by calculating the cash-flow needs (through retirement) of each spouse and any dependent children with the assumption that the other spouse has passed away. He then compares that figure with their cash flow sources.

4. Your income rose-A bigger paycheck is a good thing, but if your family depends on your income to cover their living expenses, your life insurance coverage needs to keep up. It may be time to review your coverage needs if your salary has grown substantially since you purchased your policy.

Remember, the purpose of life insurance is to provide a big enough safety net that those you leave behind would be able to maintain their lifestyle if you were no longer around. If that lifestyle has changed, your coverage amount should, too.

5. You have debt-You may need more coverage if you have private student loans, mortgages, medical bills, or other debts.

Remember, the purpose of life insurance is to provide a big enough safety net that those you leave behind would be able to maintain their lifestyle if you were no longer around. If that lifestyle has changed, your coverage amount should, too.

6. Your financial goals have changed-Many couples purchase budget-friendly term life insurance when they start a family, primarily because it costs less. But as their income and financial goals change, they may no longer have the kind of protection that’s right for them. Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific length of time. The beneficiaries receive the death benefit only if the policyowner dies before that term is up, so you may still me underinsured.

By contrast, a permanent (or whole) life insurance policy costs more because it guarantees a death benefit to your beneficiaries when you pass away at any age, as long as you maintain your policy. It may also enable policyowners to accumulate cash value that can be used to help meet their retirement and other long-term accumulation goals. If you currently have a term life policy, but wish to leave a legacy to your heirs (or a favorite charity), you may not have the type of coverage you need.

Conclusion

Underinsurance is common in U.S. households. To be sure your family has the protection it needs, review your coverage regularly to ensure that you have both the amount and the type of policy that’s right for you.

Saving for Retirement

Presented by: Matthew A. Clayson

saving for retirement  glass jars with money

Saving for retirement is better than spending every dollar you earn, but just putting money aside probably won’t get you where you want to be. That’s why investing may be a crucial component of any retirement plan. It takes the money you earn from work and allows it to go to work for you.

A successful retirement investment strategy often touches on the following principles:

  • Start early
  • Invest more aggressively to start
  • Diversify investment risk
  • Keep fees low
  • Transition into safer investments over time

Whether you’re investing on your own through an IRA, through your employer with a 401(k), or both, here’s what you need to know about laying out an investment strategy that will hopefully get you from where you are now to a comfortable retirement.

Start early with your retirement investment plan

If you’re earning income from a job, you can open a traditional or Roth IRA. Minors can start saving through a custodial account that a parent has control over until they turn 18 or 21, depending on the type of plan and what state they live in.

Let’s say that when you’re 25, you start saving for retirement by investing $100/month and assume a moderate average annual return of 5 percent. By the time you’re 55, you’ll have about $80,000.

If you don’t start saving for retirement until you’re 35, you’ll have to invest $200/month to earn the same amount by age 55 at the same return. If you only invest $100 a month, you’ll have to earn an 11 percent rate of return to end up with the same amount by age 55.

Invest more aggressively to start

It’s important not to panic and change your investment strategy if this happens, experts note. Rather, it may be a great time to stay invested and invest more so you can follow the adage “buy low, sell high.”

In other words, when stocks plummet, you can likely buy them on the cheap. Over time, assuming the market rebounds, you’ll have the opportunity to experience investment growth that people who withdrew from their investments missed out on.

But just because an investment entails risk doesn’t mean it will pay off. The type of risk you want to take is a calculated, time-tested one. Over more than a century, betting on the U.S. economy by investing in the stock and bond markets has proven rewarding. However, putting all of your money into a single company, no matter how well it appears to be doing, is the type of risk many people don’t want to take.

Diversify investment risk

All investing carries risk: You might lose money. Investments are not guaranteed to increase in value and are not FDIC insured.

Not investing also carries risk: Your money may lose value to inflation over time, and without putting your money to work through stock and bond markets or other financial vehicles, it can be challenging to accumulate enough for retirement.

Mutual funds provide an easy way to invest in a professionally managed portfolio consisting of dozens or even hundreds or stocks, bonds, and other securities. Mutual funds can be a great choice for people who don’t have the time, interest, or know-how to invest in individual stocks and bonds.

Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and index funds are similar to mutual funds in many ways, but they usually aim to copy the performance of a market index, such as the S&P 500® Index. Owning shares of mutual funds or ETFs is a little like having an investment manager working for you who requires little of your time or money.

Keep investment fees low when saving for retirement

Almost all investments have fees. For mutual funds, you might pay a commission to buy or sell a fund, an ongoing fee called an expense ratio for the fund’s management, or a sales charge. For ETFs, you’ll pay an expense ratio and possibly a commission.

ETFs are usually passively managed, meaning you’ll pay a lower expense ratio to own them; mutual funds can be actively or passively managed.

Why are fees so important? In the same way that investment returns compound over time, the effect of fees on your portfolio compounds over time. The higher your fees, the less money you have to invest, and the lower your net returns tend to be. Further, investments with higher fees have no guarantee of outperforming investments with lower fees. That’s why it’s important to do your research or hire a trusted professional to do it for you.

Transition into safer investments over time when saving for retirement

It’s important to take enough risk to meet your goals while maintaining enough safety to feel comfortable. As you get closer to retirement age, you have less time to recover from a market downturn, which means you need more safety and less risk in your portfolio.

Bottom Line

Most savings accounts don’t pay enough interest for your nest egg to support you through several decades of retirement. Investing in a careful, risk-managed way can allow you to outpace inflation and multiply your savings over the years.

Don’t want to go it alone? A financial professional can help you create a plan for your retirement.

5 Potential Retirement Obstacles

Whether you’ve been working hard for 30 years or are just three months into your first job, it’s always wise to plan ahead for retirement. After all, one day you will close the chapter on your career and start the next adventure. But what you get out of tomorrow depends on what you put into it today — and how you handle any bumps along the way.
So, while you’re keeping one eye on that retirement prize, make sure to keep the other on the lookout for pitfalls, like:

  1. Short-sighted savings
  2. Career interruptions
  3. Illness or injury
  4. Debt
  5. Unexpected life demands

Here’s a look at how to possibly prepare for these situations.

  1. Short-Sighted Savings -This is where proper planning plays a big part. Savings take time to grow, so you may wish to consider saving and investing early to take advantage of compound interest and long-term stock gains if the U.S. stock markets continue their historical upward trend.1 Also be sure to consider multiple avenues for your savings dollar, including:
    • 401(k) ― Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans can often be a good way to invest in your future. Many employer-sponsored plans also offer a matching contribution feature. 401(k) plans typically enable you to make contributions out of your paycheck on a pre-tax basis, so you can defer taxation on your income while growing your retirement savings on a tax-deferred basis.
    • Individual Retirement Account (IRA) ― Many smaller employers offer an IRA option, or you can open your own IRA.
    • Personal Savings ― Many banks offer automatic withdrawals from a direct deposit paycheck into a savings account. Interest rates are a lot higher now than they have been in recent years.

So how much money do you need to save for retirement? Well, the answer is different for everyone. Individual risk tolerance goes a long way in determining how — and how much — to save. Talk to a financial professional to develop a savings strategy tailored for you and your specific circumstances.

2. Career Interruptions

In today’s economy, you can never be sure of your job stability — or of your ability to quickly find a new job. That’s why many believe it’s critical to maintain an emergency fund to cover 6-12 months of living expenses like rent or mortgage and groceries.

If you withdraw money from your retirement savings, especially a qualified retirement plan, you may incur tax penalties on the withdrawals (depending on your circumstances) while also cutting into the account’s value over time.

3. Unforeseen Illness or Injury

According to the Social Security Administration, about one in four 20 year-olds working today will become disabled before they retire. It’s a startling statistic with serious consequences. If you get sick or hurt and have to go on long-term disability, your employer may have the right to terminate your position — and with it, your ability to continue contributing to your 401(k). This can potentially have a considerable impact on your retirement savings.

Many people who become too sick or hurt to work are forced to tap into their retirement savings to meet the expenses of everyday life. A disability income insurance policy not only helps replace a portion of your income when a disability occurs, but it can also be designed to help you continue saving for retirement.

4. Debt

From credit cards to home loans to paying off college education, debt has the potential to derail your retirement plans. When not properly managed, it may lead to low credit scores, depletion of your retirement savings, or even bankruptcy. Unmanaged debt may also make achieving your foundation of retirement planning more difficult and potentially more expensive. The key is to pay down debt while properly balancing it with your other financial priorities.

5. Life Events

You can save early and save often for retirement, but something may happen that puts that savings at risk. Maybe your daughter’s college scholarship falls through. Or your home value unexpectedly declines when you are ready to sell. At that point, you can either toss up your hands and say “That’s life!” (and it certainly is), or you can be thankful you prepared for this obstacle.

Consider planning for the unexpected with a life insurance policy that builds cash value. Of course, one of the most important parts of life insurance is the death benefit, which protects your loved ones by providing a financial benefit when you die. But, instead of digging into your retirement savings to pay for unforeseen expenses, you may be able to access the cash value in the life insurance policy to cover some of these costs.3 Or, later in life you may use your cash value to supplement a shortfall in your retirement income.

Taking the steps ahead of time to prepare for potential and real obstacles can help you enjoy life’s next adventure — retirement.

Why you Need Both Life and Disability Insurance

hands protecting a family

It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but life-altering illnesses and injuries happen every day. We wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning if we fixated on all the ways we could hurt ourselves.

In fact, just over one-in-four of today’s 20-year-olds will find themselves unable to work at some point during their career because of an illness or injury.1

On top of that, there are also lots of ways to die prematurely — many overlapping with ways to become injured or disabled. Any of these scenarios can have significant financial impacts on you or your family.

But there are ways to help protect against such circumstances.

To illustrate, consider the following hypothetical examples based on the experiences of real, everyday people. One illustrates how life insurance can help provide protection for your family should something unexpected happen to you. The other shows how disability income insurance can help with income needs should an illness or injury prevent you from working.

Life insurance

One ordinary day, Erica came home from work to find her husband Blake unconscious on the kitchen floor. She couldn’t wake him up. An autopsy would reveal that he’d had a brain aneurism that morning and died instantly. He was in his 40s with no health problems. He left behind two daughters and his wife — his high school sweetheart.

Fortunately, Blake had a life insurance policy to provide for his family.

Giving loved ones a way to cope with situations like Erica’s is a compelling reason to buy life insurance. Term policies are typically inexpensive, especially if you’re young and healthy.

Permanent life insurance policies are more expensive, but they provide coverage for as long as you live for a steady premium, whereas term policies typically are designed for shorter time frames. In addition, they build cash value over time, making them an option for funds in later years.

Long-term disability income insurance

A disability can affect your mind, body, or both. And it can affect your ability to earn a living: your most valuable financial asset.

Financially, a long-term disability or illness can have a greater financial impact than premature death. You still have living expenses, but you also have increased health care expenses—without any way to make money to pay for them.

Xavier was a young doctor when he learned he had a rare and aggressive form of cancer—and it was already in stage 4. He had to put his plans on hold and immediately enter treatment. Few people Xavier’s age have the foresight to purchase disability income insurance or even know it exists. But Xavier did, because a fellow doctor recommended it. Adding insult to injury, those benefits could be taxable, whereas a private policy’s benefits would not be, assuming Xavier had paid the premiums out of his take-home pay.

Conclusion

A financial professional can provide you with quotes and different policy options tailored to your circumstances. Both types of insurance are cheaper when you’re younger. You’ll be paying premiums for more years, but you’re more likely to be insurable and get coverage when it’s most affordable. We all like to think that serious illness, disability, and premature death won’t ever happen to us or to our loved ones. But one way to make the possibility less scary is to buy the right insurance. Knowing that you’ll have the financial support you need in a challenging time will make life’s uncertainties and misfortunes less difficult to endure.

How to Know if Your Retirement is on Track?

Presented by Matt Clayson

The journey to financial independence and wellness starts with saving. But for many people, that can be a challenge, especially in trying economic times.

But there are strategies and mechanisms that can help you get on track for retirement.

If you are not currently saving … start

For people in their younger years, starting a retirement savings plan can be the biggest challenge, but also the most important step toward ensuring financial security and well-being in the future, even if that future seems far off.

Why can it be a challenge? Often, those just starting out in their career and working life are saddled with a large amount of student loan debt. That presents a question about whether it’s better to direct resources to paying off debt or start building a nest egg for retirement. The answer will be different depending on individual circumstances, but will probably lie somewhere in the middle.

Those starting out also likely face lower paychecks than those whose experience have allowed them to command a higher salary. Amid living expenses and day-to-day demands, setting aside money for retirement savings can seem like less of a priority.

Which is a mistake. For one thing, many employers offer incentives for company-sponsored retirement savings programs, typically matching a certain percentage of contributions. Not taking advantage of such saving plans amounts to essentially turning down a pay raise. Also, starting a savings program, especially in early years, takes better advantage of compounding interest over time.

That math can help those starting a savings program in later years, too.

If you think you can’t afford to save, you may want to look at moves to improve your financial wellness and allow at least some funds to go into a savings program. These steps include:

  • Creating a budget. This is central to getting a handle on your personal finances. It will also likely identify areas where cutbacks may be possible in order to direct some money to savings.
  • Learning to manage debt. This is the area that trips up many people. Credit cards can lead consumers to rack up more in obligations than is necessary or wise. On the other hand, some types of debt are necessary. Understanding the kind of debt you have and having a plan to tackle it is a positive step.
  • Managing student loans. For those starting out, student loans may be a part of the debt load. Beyond setting an overall debt plan, investigate the specific options available to you for student loan debt.

Those already saving may still want to take a couple of steps to make sure they are on course to meet their retirement goals.

First and foremost, make sure you are on track. This will help you gauge how your savings are stacking up against your likely needs.

If you are falling behind, you may consider ways to save more, especially if you still have a number of years until your likely retirement. Since many people have some portion of their paycheck deposited directly to a retirement savings account, some simply try increasing that percentage.

Additionally, you may want to do some retirement savings account housekeeping. This can include checking to be sure your beneficiaries are current and taking steps to make sure you are always current on your account status. But, perhaps more importantly, it also includes making sure your investment asset allocation is correct for your age and risk tolerance.

If you are approaching retirement … double check

Estimates vary as to how much in savings you should have to maintain your current standard of living in retirement. They typically range from six to nine times your annual income and can be affected many factors, like geography and market conditions.

If you find that you are falling short, there are steps you can take. For one, most qualified retirement savings plans allow for stepping up contributions as you approach retirement. Make sure you are taking full advantage of those provisions.

Also, you should check on your Social Security status and formulate a claim strategy. Many file for benefits as soon as they can. But benefits grow the longer you wait. So for some, it might make more sense to delay filing, depending on the level of their retirement savings, their health, or the possibility of continuing to work for more years.

Conclusion

No matter your age, saving is a critical element of financial wellness. So, it’s important to understand where you stand in the savings cycle in relation to the retirement you’d like to have. And whether you are early in your working years or nearing retirement, understand the options and steps you can take to try and make sure that your retirement savings meet your needs.

Feel free to reach out to schedule a discussion with our retirement planning specialist.

The Fed’s Inflation Fight and the Markets

Markets have been troubled. Open any brokerage or 401(K) statement and you are likely to see a page of red. It seems that nearly everything has gone precisely the wrong way: bonds are down, stocks are down, and gas prices (along with the price of nearly everything else we purchase) are up.

Fear and uncertainty abound, and the headlines foreshadowing the end of the world are not helping.

And yet…perspective matters.

There are three important points:

  1. While painful, what has occurred is a healthy and needed reaction to the withdrawal of liquidity.
  2. I am beginning to find more optimism in our monetary policy than I have in nearly three decades.
  3. This is not the time to react emotionally. Even if we are pushed into a recession, if history is any indication, we will likely be fine.

With that, let us begin.

Liquidity and monetary policy

As we’ve discussed in previous updates, the U.S. Federal Reserve is the Central Bank to the United States and, as the name states, is essentially the lender of last resort. The Fed (as it is colloquially referred) has very crude tools. It can:

  • Signal what it’s going to do by talking.
  • Raise and lower the rates at which banks borrow (through one mechanism called the Federal Funds rate).
  • Expand its balance sheet by (essentially) printing currency and buying bonds.

For the sake of brevity today, generally speaking, the Fed cuts rates when unemployment is too high and raises rates when inflation is too high (remember the dual mandate).

Yet, for four decades, the Federal Reserve has provided more and more liquidity by steadily lowering rates. And yet, for four decades, growth has been, by and large, strong and unemployment has been, by and large, reasonably low (with some exceptions).

This introduced a strange dynamic where each time the Fed cut rates, it would cut much more deeply than when it would raise rates … hence, rates fell over a long period of time.
This is, in essence, just an expansion of liquidity. If a consumer would want to borrow $10,000 at 5 percent, they would probably be willing to borrow a much higher sum at 3 percent.

More broadly, in the last three years, for example, the Federal Reserve has created (through the Treasury) an additional $5 trillion (yes, trillion) out of thin air to help counteract the economic effects of COVID-19. In 2007/2008, the Fed introduced a bit over $1 trillion to counteract damage from the Global Financial Crisis. To be clear, some of this was absolutely needed and a good deal of it was remarkably effective.

And yet, as with anything, there are no absolute decisions, only tradeoffs. The obvious consequence is we have increased the money supply in the United States and, therefore, the value of our dollars has diminished. This, along with pent-up demand from COVID and supply chain disruptions, caused inflation to rise … and has created a very specific form of inflation referred to as monetary inflation.

As such, once it was clear inflation wasn’t “transitory,” the Fed finally began taking steps to reverse the cycle.

First it signaled it was slowing or stopping the expansion of its balance sheet, then it signaled it was going to raise rates and now it is in the process of raising rates.

As markets (both financial and physical) went up because rates went lower, markets go down when rates go higher. On the margin, the introduction of liquidity makes prices increase and the removal of liquidity makes prices decrease.

This is both logical and, in aggregate, a healthy move to begin focusing more intensely on the real economy and less intensely on the performance of markets.

Market performance during recessions

The question on the minds of many is therefore how far will the Federal Reserve go? Will the Fed bring inflation back down? Yes, I believe so. Will the Fed irreparably crush markets? No, I don’t believe so. Will the Fed push us into a recession? Well, possibly…

Which brings us to Chart 1: market performance during a recession, after a recession, and during “normal” times.

The period following recessions is quite good, however, as markets recover and generally with less of the unhealthy excesses that exacerbated the sell-offs in the first place. These periods are so good, in fact, that over the seven recessions from 1970, the year immediately following the end of the recession were slightly better than “normal times.”

Therefore, what to make of it all and what are investors to do?

  • First and foremost, breathe. We have been through inflation, pandemics, wars, poor policies, high rates, low rates, high unemployment, low unemployment, and many other difficult environments before. Incentives drive behaviors and markets are driven by incentives. Those incentives haven’t changed and, as providers of capital, we, as investors, must still rely on those principles above all else.
  • Second, recognize our human brain isn’t very good at market timing. Markets are down and if you have experienced the pain thus far, there is very little expected value in trying to time the market going forward. Even the most sophisticated investment organizations in the world can’t time markets very well.
  • Third, go back to your plan. Market sell-offs are wonderful opportunities to refresh on goals and objectives. Refresh on how much you are spending and whether savings rates are high enough. Dare I say there might even be opportunities (as most equities are now less expensive and most bonds are now yielding more)?
  • Fourth, review your fixed-income (e.g., bond) portfolio. The yield curve is now inverted which means shorter-term bonds are often yielding more than longer term bonds, and those shorter-term bonds are often associated with less risk. There are many other factors involved, of course, but where possible, consider shortening duration (the maturity of the bonds in your portfolio) if you haven’t done so already. Remember, inflation is not yet under control and it is unclear how soon that will happen.

In closing, take a moment to breathe, do not react emotionally, and use the difficult markets as an opportunity to reaffirm your long-term plan.

 

Securities, investment advisory, and wealth management solutions offered by MML Investors Services, LLC member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer, and a registered investment adviser. CRN202506-301948

Will I Have Enough Money to Retire?

Presented by: Matthew A. Clayson

Will I have enough money to retire? It’s a common question and one that has increased in magnitude lately — especially for people in their 40s and 50s.

Indeed, the uncomfortable truth is that only about half of Americans believe they are on track to retire when they want to, according to a recent MassMutual Consumer Sentiment Survey. And more than half worry about running out of money in retirement.

That can generate a feeling of frustration. You’ve been working hard for over 20 years. You’ve been saving as much as you can. Then, the market crashes, and your savings disappear. It’s not too late to bounce back.

Even if you’re 55 years old and decide that today is the day to begin saving in earnest, you still have time to build up income for retirement.

On your mark, set your priorities, go

Determine what you want out of your retirement…what are your priorities? Sit down with a pen and paper and start a list. Empower yourself to make the important decisions today that will set tomorrow in motion:

  • When do you want to retire?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead? How much will you want for spending each month?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking — and answering — yourself about retirement catch-up. So, take the first step and start making some decisions.

Save more, spend less

The most obvious advice still applies: save more, spend less. But there’s more to it than that.

Create a budget to help you stay on track — and actually stick to it every month. Decide where you can trim your expenses. What can you live without now so you can have more later?

If your budget isn’t working, you may want to consider downsizing to a smaller home or a less expensive location to help maintain your standard of living. This may be a difficult exercise, but remember you’re trying to catch up.

Speaking of catching up, if you will be age 50 or older at the end of the calendar year, you can take advantage of retirement catch-up contribution options to accelerate the growth of your retirement accounts. The IRS updates contribution limits periodically; checking for the most recent information can help ensure that you are making the most of the options available to you. The bottom line: make the maximum contributions possible to your employer’s retirement plan, including any available catch-up options.

Think outside the box

There are certain financial products and savings instruments that you may not be familiar with, but that may help you get more out of your money. Many people opt to consult a financial professional to help become aware of retirement catch-up options and lay out a plan.

In addition, there may be opportunities to earn extra income, either by working extra hours or turning hobbies into side businesses, that can be considered to help catch up on retirement savings.

Delay retirement (The beach will wait for you)

People are working longer than ever before. Delaying your retirement by three years from age 62 to 65 can boost your assets significantly — thanks to the combination of making extra contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan, not taking withdrawals, and allowing your funds more time to grow.

In addition, if you anticipate receiving Social Security retirement benefits, it’s important to understand that monthly benefits differ substantially based on when you start receiving them and the filing option you choose. For every year you postpone collecting benefits beyond your full retirement age (typically 66 or 67), you can earn an annual delayed retirement credit of up to 8 percent. That’s a big bump in benefits every year up to age 70.

On the flip side, filing for benefits before your full retirement age can permanently reduce your monthly income. Benefits will decrease based on how early you retire. What’s worse, if you begin receiving Social Security benefits early, your surviving spouse may not be able to receive your full Social Security benefit if you pass away.

The bottom line is that there are real steps and strategies you can take today to help secure your future. It’s never too early or too late to evaluate your current retirement savings plan — or create a new one.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions and if you would like to speak with our retirement planning specialist.

 

Matt Clayson is a registered representative of and offers securities and investments services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC(www.sipc.org). Supervisory Address: 101 Federal Street, Suite 800, Boston, MA 02110. 617.439.4389. CRN202502-1735773

5 Steps to a Midyear Financial Review

Summer is the perfect time for barbeques, but it’s also good opportunity to take the pulse of your saving and spending plan with a midyear financial checkup.

With the first part of the year in the rearview mirror, a quick look at your monthly budget can yield valuable insight into whether you’re on track to meet your 2021 savings goals. It can also help identify areas of waste and provide motivation to set new goals.

  1. Check your retirement contributions. Savers should, at minimum, contribute enough to collect any employer match to which they are entitled, he said. Not doing so leaves free money on the table. Ideally, you should aim to max out your tax-favored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or IRA, which not only helps to build your future nest egg, but also potentially yields a valuable current-year tax deduction. The annual contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $19,500. The total annual contribution limit for Traditional and Roth IRAs this year is $6,000. (That limit is $26,000 and $7,000 for participants age 50 and older.)
  2. Tackle debt.  Next, review your debt. If your debt level going up, you need to understand what’s happening with your financial situation and correct your spending pattern. Some debt, including student loans and home mortgages, are common and necessary, but credit card balances with double digit interest rates can cripple your budget.
  3. How’s your emergency fund? The mid-year check-up is also an opportune time to be sure your rainy day fund is up to snuff.  Most financial professionals recommend having three to six month’s worth of living expenses set aside in a liquid account, such as a money market fund or savings account.
  4. Monitor your spending.  If your debt level has been stagnant since January or you’re finding it tough to meet your savings goals, put the next lazy day to good use and get your budget under control. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling suggests consumers, track their spending for at least 30 days to get a better sense of where their money is going.  Look for opportunities to liberate cash flow by halting memberships in clubs you don’t use, slashing your cable bill, and swapping one trip per year for a staycation. Most financial professionals recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your annual salary for retirement. That’s easiest done by “paying yourself first” through automated deferrals at work.
  5. Tackle your taxes.  Most of us only pay attention to taxes in December, when it’s too late to implement many of the most effective tax-saving strategies. If you meet with your tax professional now, however, you can potentially still maximize deductions. Specifically, financial experts and tax professionals routinely suggest taxpayers check their withholding to be sure they’re on track to pay what they owe and nothing more. Look too, for opportunities to maximize charitable deductions,

The year is still young for those who are serious about getting their financial house in order. By examining your finances or working closely with a financial professional, you can potentially use the remaining months of the year to maximize your tax deductions, eliminate debt, and develop a saving and spending plan that will help you meet your financial goals.