Monday, January 29, 2018



Why Life Insurance Will Always Matter in Estate Planning
With or without the estate tax, it addresses several key priorities.

Provided by WenJIng He

Every few years, predictions emerge that the estate tax will sunset. Even if it does, that will not remove the need for life insurance in estate planning. Why? The reasons are numerous.
  
You can use life insurance proceeds to equalize inheritances. If sizable, illiquid assets make it difficult to leave the same amount of wealth to each heir, then the cash from a life insurance death benefit may financially compensate.
 
You can plan for a life insurance payout to replace assets gifted to charity. You often see this move in the planning of charitable remainder trusts (CRTs).

People use CRTs to accomplish three objectives. One, they can remove an asset from their taxable estate by placing it into the CRT. Two, they can derive a retirement income stream from the trust’s invested assets. Three, upon their death, they can donate a percentage of the assets left in the CRT to charities or non-profit organizations.1
  
When a CRT is fashioned, an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) is often created to complement it. The life insurance trust can be funded with income from the invested assets in the CRT and tax savings realized at the CRT’s creation. (The trustor can take an immediate charitable income tax deduction in the year that an appreciated asset is transferred into the CRT.) Basically, the value of the life insurance death benefit makes up for the loss of the CRT assets bound for charity.1
  
Life insurance can help business owners with succession. It can fund buy-sell agreements to help facilitate a transfer of ownership, regardless of how an owner or co-owner leaves a company. It can also insure key employees – the policy can help the business attract and retain first-rate managers and creatives, and its death benefit could help lessen financial hardship if the employee unexpectedly passes away.2

Life insurance products can also figure into executive benefits. Indeed, corporate-owned life insurance is integral to supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs), the varieties of which include bonus plans and non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements.3
    
Lastly, a life insurance policy death benefit transfers quickly to a beneficiary. The funds are paid out within weeks, even days. A beneficiary form directs the process, rather than a will – so the asset distribution occurs apart from the public scrutiny of probate. Life insurance is also a backbone of trust planning, and assets held inside a trust can be distributed directly to heirs by a trustee according to trust terms, privately and away from predators and creditors.4

WenJing He may be reached at 800-916-9860 or hew@wenadvisory.com.

www.wenadvisory.com

This material does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - estateplanning.com/Understanding-Charitable-Remainder-Trusts/ [3/28/16]
2 - quotacy.com/protecting-the-future-of-your-business/ [8/17/16]
3 - nationwide.com/supplemental-executive-retirement.jsp [11/9/17]
4 - forbes.com/sites/markeghrari/2017/05/30/pass-on-your-assets-wisely-how-to-choose-the-right-beneficiaries/ [5/30/17]

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Refrain from Tapping Your Retirement Funds
Resist the temptation. Your future self will thank you.

Provided by WenJing He

Retirement accounts are not bank accounts. Nor should they be treated as such. When retirement funds are drawn down, they impede the progress of retirement planning, even if the money is later restored. 

In a financial crush, a retirement account may seem like a great source of funds. It is often much larger than a savings account; it is technically not a liquid asset, but it can easily be mistaken for one.

The central problem is this: when you take a loan or an early distribution from an IRA or a workplace retirement plan, you are borrowing from your future self. In fact, you may effectively be borrowing more money from your future than you think. Even if you put every dollar you take out back into the account, you are robbing those dollars you removed of the tax-deferred growth and compounding they could have realized while invested.

An early withdrawal will commonly come with a 10% penalty. The Internal Revenue Service does not want you to cash out your retirement account prior to age 59½, so it puts an additional tax on withdrawals from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans that occur before then. (This applies even to withdrawals defined as “hardship distributions,” where the account holder has demonstrated a severe financial dilemma and a lack of other financial sources to address the problem.)1,2

The money exiting the plan is considered a distribution of ordinary, taxable income. So, you will pay regular income tax on the money you take out, plus a penalty equal to 10% of the amount withdrawn.1,3

In the case of a workplace retirement plan, you will not even receive 100% of what you take out. The plan must withhold 20% of the withdrawn funds from you to cover income taxes.2
        
There is one asterisk worth noting here. The I.R.S. will let you withdraw your contributions to a Roth IRA at any point during your life, tax free and penalty free. Roth IRA earnings, however, are a different story – if you begin to withdraw those earnings before you reach age 59½ and have owned the Roth IRA for at least five years, then regular income taxes and the 10% penalty apply to the distribution.1

Loans come with their own set of issues. Most employer-sponsored retirement plans allow them once you are vested. You can usually withdraw up to $50,000 or 50% of your account balance, whichever is less; the term of repayment is typically five years.1,3

All that may appear very convenient, but you are still borrowing money that could be growing and compounding in the account – with taxes deferred, no less. Moreover, the loan comes with interest and cuts into your take-home pay.3

In some cases, you may feel like you have no choice but to borrow from your employee retirement plan: your back is against the wall financially due to hospital bills, high-interest debts, or other pressures; you lack other financial means to address these pressures; and you certainly do not want to turn to a predatory lender.

If you do take a loan from your workplace retirement plan account, remember two things. One, the loan should not be so large that your monthly household debt approaches 35-40% of your gross income. Two, you should avoid taking a loan if it appears you may leave the company in the coming months. If you quit or are fired, you may need to repay the whole loan balance in as little as 60 days. Any money you fail to repay will be considered a distribution of taxable income to you otherwise.3


All this underscores the need to build an emergency fund. If you have adequate cash on hand for sudden financial crises, you can refrain from taking what should be thought of as a withdrawal or loan of last resort. 

WenJing He may be reached at 800-916-9860 or hew@wenadvisory.com.
www.wenadvisory.com

This material does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - tinyurl.com/ya42no9v [9/13/17]
2 - forbes.com/sites/financialfinesse/2017/03/16/the-401k-distribution-opportunity-you-need-to-think-twice-about/ [3/16/17]
3 - cnbc.com/2017/04/13/never-pull-money-from-your-401k--except-in-these-3-cases.html [4/13/17]

Monday, January 15, 2018



Avoiding the Cybercrooks
How can you protect yourself against ransomware, phishing, and other tactics?

Provided by WenJing He

Imagine finding out that your computer has been hacked. The hackers leave you a message: if you want your data back, you must pay them $300 in bitcoin. This was what happened to hundreds of thousands of PC users in May 2017 when they were attacked by the WannaCry malware, which exploited security flaws in Windows.
  
How can you plan to avoid cyberattacks and other attempts to take your money over the Internet? Be wary, and if attacked, respond quickly.
 
Phishing. This is when a cybercriminal throws you a hook, line, and sinker in the form of a fake, but convincing, email from a bank, law enforcement agency, or corporation, complete with accurate logos and graphics. The goal is to get you to disclose your personal information – the crooks will either use it or sell it. The best way to avoid phishing emails: stick to a virtual private network (VPN) or extremely reliable Wi-Fi networks when you are online.1

Ransomware. In this scam, online thieves create a mock virus, with an announcement that freezes your monitor. Their message: your files have been kidnapped, and you will need a decryption key to get them back, which you will pay handsomely to receive. In 2016, the FBI fielded 2,673 ransomware attack complaints, by companies and individuals who lost a total of $2.4 million. How can you avoid joining their ranks? Keep your security software and operating system as state of the art as you can. Your anti-virus programs should have the latest set of virus definitions. Your Internet browser and its plug-ins should also be up to date.2

Advance fee scams. A crook contacts you via text message or email, posing as a charity, a handyman, an adult education provider, or even a tax preparer ready to serve you. Oh, wait – before any service can be provided, you need to pay an “authorization fee” or an “application fee.” The crook takes the money and disappears. Common sense is your friend here; avoid succumbing to something that seems too good to be true.
  
I.R.S. impersonations. Cybergangs send out emails to households and small businesses with a warning: you owe money. That money must be paid now to the Internal Revenue Service through a pre-paid debit card or a money transfer. These scams often prey on immigrants, some of whom may not have a great understanding of U.S. tax law or the way the I.R.S. does business. The I.R.S. never emails a taxpayer out of the blue demanding payment; if unpaid taxes are a problem, the agency first sends a bill and an explanation of why the taxes need to be collected. It does not bully businesses or taxpayers with extortionist emails.1
      
Three statistics might convince you to obtain cyberinsurance for your business. One, roughly two-thirds of all cyberattacks target small and medium-sized companies. About 4,000 of these attacks occur per day, according to IBM. Two, the average cost of a cyberattack for a small business is around $690,000. This factoid comes from the Ponemon Institute, a research firm that conducted IBM’s 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study. That $690,000 encompasses not only lost business, but litigation, ransoms, and the money and time spent restoring data. Three, about 60% of small companies hit by an effective cyberattack are forced out of business within six months, notes the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance.3


Most online money threats can be avoided with good security software, the latest operating system, and some healthy skepticism. Here is where a little suspicion may save you a lot of financial pain. If you do end up suffering that pain, the right insurance coverage may help to lessen it. 

WenJing He may be reached at 800-916-9860 or hew@wenadvisory.com.
www.wenadvisory.com

This material does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/avoid-12-scary-money-scams/ [8/28/17]
2 - eweek.com/security/the-true-cost-of-ransomware-is-much-more-than-just-the-ransom [8/18/17]
3 - sfchronicle.com/business/article/Interest-in-cyberinsurance-grows-as-cybercrime-12043082.php [8/28/17]

Monday, January 8, 2018



Are Millennial Women Saving Enough for Retirement?
The available data is more encouraging than discouraging.

Provided by WenJing He

Women 35 and younger are often hard-pressed to save money. Student loans may be outstanding; young children may need to be clothed, fed, and cared for; and rent or home loan payments may need to be made. With all of these very real concerns, are they saving for retirement?
   
The bad news: 44% of millennial women are not saving for retirement at all. This discovery comes from a recent Wells Fargo survey of more than 1,000 men and women aged 22-35. As 54% of the millennial women surveyed were living paycheck to paycheck, this lack of saving is hardly surprising.1
    
The good news: 56% of millennial women are saving for retirement. Again, this is according to the Wells Fargo survey. (A 2016 Harris Poll determined roughly the same thing – it found that 54% of millennial women were contributing to a retirement savings account.)1,2

The question is are these young women saving enough? In the Wells Fargo survey, the average per-paycheck retirement account contribution for millennial women was 5.7% of income, which was 22% lower than the average for millennial men. One influence may be the wage gap between the sexes: on average, the survey found that millennial women earn just 74% of what their male peers do.1
    
In the survey, the median personal income for a millennial woman was $28,800. So, 5.7% of that is $1,641.60, which works out to a retirement account contribution of $136.80 a month. Not much, perhaps – but even if that $136.80 contribution never increased across 40 years with the account yielding just 6% annually, that woman would still be poised to end up with $254,057 at age 65. Her early start (and her potential to earn far greater income and contribute more to her account in future years) bodes well for her financial future, even if she leaves the workforce for a time before her retirement date.1,3
 
More good news: millennial women may retire in better shape than boomer women. That early start can make a major difference, and on the whole, millennials have begun to save and invest earlier in life compared to previous generations. A recent study commissioned by Naxis Global Asset Management learned that the average millennial starts directing money into a retirement account at age 23. Historically, that contrasts with age 29 for Gen Xers and age 33 for baby boomers. If the average baby boomer had begun saving for retirement at age 23, we might not be talking about a retirement crisis.4  
  
In the aforementioned Harris Poll, the 54% of millennial women putting money into retirement accounts compared well with the 44% of all women doing so. The millennial women were also 14% more likely to voluntarily participate in a workplace retirement plan than male millennials were, and once enrolled in such plans, their savings rates were 7-16% greater than their male peers.2

In 2015, U.S. Trust found that 51% of high-earning millennial women were top or equal income earners in their households. That implies that these young women have a hand in financial decision-making and at least a fair degree of financial literacy – another good sign.4


Clearly, saving $136.80 per month will not fund a comfortable retirement – but that level of saving in their twenties may represent a great start, to be enhanced by greater retirement account inflows later in life and the amazing power of compound interest. So, while young women may not be saving for retirement in large amounts, many are saving at the right time. That may mean that millennial women will approach retirement in better financial shape than women of preceding generations.

 WenJing He may be reached at 800-916-9860 or hew@wenadvisory.com.
www.wenadvisory.com

This material does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - time.com/money/4438063/millennial-women-not-saving-retirement/ [8/4/16]
2 - bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-21/millennial-women-save-more-than-mom-but-less-than-men [4/21/16]
3 - investor.gov/additional-resources/free-financial-planning-tools/compound-interest-calculator [3/23/17]
4 - bustle.com/p/5-ways-youre-better-at-managing-money-than-your-parents-were-44402 [3/15/17]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Understanding Inherited IRAs
What beneficiaries need to know and consider.

Provided by WenJing He

At first glance, the rules surrounding inherited IRAs are complex. Here are some questions (and potential answers) to consider if you have inherited one or may in the future.
   
Who was the original IRA owner? If the original owner was your spouse, you have a fundamental choice to make. You can roll over your late spouse’s IRA into an IRA you own, or you can treat it as an inherited IRA. If the original owner was not your spouse, you must treat the IRA for which you are named beneficiary as an inherited IRA.1,2

What kind of IRA is it? It will either be a traditional IRA funded with pre-tax contributions or a Roth IRA funded with post-tax contributions.

Do you want to let the money grow and take RMDs or cash it all out now? In the case of a small IRA, many heirs just want to cash out – it seems bothersome to schedule tiny withdrawals out of the IRA across the remainder of their lifetimes. Money coming out of an inherited traditional IRA is taxable income, however – and if a lump sum is taken, the tax impact could be notable.1

If the IRA is substantial, there is real merit in scheduling Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) instead. This gives some of the still-invested IRA balance additional years to grow and compound. Any future growth will be tax deferred (traditional IRA) or tax free (Roth IRA).1

Internal Revenue Service rules say that RMDs from inherited IRAs must begin by the end of the year following the year in which the original IRA owner died. These RMDs are required even for inherited Roth IRAs. Each RMD is considered regular, taxable income.1,2

One asterisk is worth noting regarding inherited traditional IRAs. If the original IRA owner died on or after the date at which RMDs are required for that IRA, then you can schedule RMDs during the remainder of your lifetime using tables in I.R.S. Publication 590 as a guide. If the original IRA owner died before that date, you have a choice of scheduling RMDs over a lifetime or withdrawing the whole IRA balance by the end of the 5th year following the year of the original owner’s death.2,3
   
What is the IRA’s basis? In other words, what is the amount on which the original IRA owner paid taxes? For an inherited traditional IRA, the basis equals the amount of all non-deductible contributions that the original IRA owner made. For an inherited Roth IRA, the basis equals the amount of total contributions made by the original owner.4

When you know the basis, you can figure out the percentage of an RMD from an inherited traditional IRA that is subject to tax. RMDs out of inherited Roth IRAs are not normally taxed, but if the inherited Roth IRA is less than five years old, you must determine the basis. The Roth IRA’s basis will be distributed to you first, then the Roth IRA’s earnings, and only the earnings will be taxed. Earnings can be withdrawn tax free from an inherited Roth IRA starting on the first day of the fifth taxable year after the year the Roth IRA was first created.1,4
   
Can you withdraw more than the RMD amount from an inherited IRA each year? Certainly, but keep in mind that a large, lump-sum payout could leave you in a higher tax bracket.1
 
What happens when you inherit an inherited IRA? As a secondary beneficiary to that IRA, you assume the RMD schedule of the person who was the primary beneficiary.1
 
Can you convert an inherited traditional IRA into a Roth IRA? The I.R.S. forbids this – with one exception. A spousal IRA heir who rolls over an inherited IRA balance into their own traditional IRA can arrange a Roth conversion.3
   

If you have inherited an IRA, talk with a financial professional. That conversation may help you determine a tax-efficient way to manage and withdraw these assets.

WenJing He may be reached at 800-916-9860 or hew@wenadvisory.com.
www.wenadvisory.com

This material does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 - forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2017/07/10/what-to-do-if-you-inherit-an-ira/ [7/10/17]
2 - irs.gov/retirement-plans/required-minimum-distributions-for-ira-beneficiaries [8/17/17]
3 - fool.com/retirement/iras/2017/06/01/5-inherited-ira-rules-you-should-know-by-heart.aspx [6/1/17]
4 - finance.zacks.com/basis-inherited-iras-2711.html [10/12/17]