401(k) Plans

Retirement plans established under Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code, commonly referred to as "401(k) plans," have become one of the most popular types of employer-sponsored retirement plans.

What is a 401(k) plan?

A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that offers significant tax benefits. You contribute to the plan via payroll deduction, which can make it easier for you to save for retirement. Perhaps the most important feature of a 401(k) plan is your ability to make pretax contributions to the plan. Pretax means that your contributions are deducted from your pay, and transferred to the 401(k) plan, before federal (and most state) income taxes are calculated. This reduces your current taxable income. You don't pay income taxes on the amount you contribute--or any investment gains on your contributions--until you receive payments from the plan.

For example, Melissa earns $30,000 annually. She contributes $4,000 of her pay to her employer's 401(k) plan on a pretax basis. As a result, Melissa's taxable income is now $26,000. She isn't taxed on her contributions ($4,000), or any investment earnings, until she receives a distribution from the plan.

You may also be able make Roth contributions to your 401(k) plan. Roth 401(k) contributions are made on an after-tax basis, just like Roth IRA contributions. Unlike pretax contributions to a 401(k) plan, there's no up-front tax benefit--your contributions are deducted from your pay and transferred to the plan after taxes are calculated. But a distribution from your Roth 401(k) account is entirely free from federal income tax if the distribution is qualified, as discussed below.

Many 401(k) plans let you direct the investment of your 401(k) plan account. Your employer will provide a menu of investment options (for example, a family of mutual funds). But it's your responsibility to choose the investments most suitable for your retirement objectives.

Note: Before investing in any mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

Note: Special rules apply to SIMPLE 401(k) plans and "safe harbor" 401(k) plans.

When can I contribute?

You can contribute to your employer's 401(k) plan as soon as you're eligible to participate under the terms of the plan. In general, a 401(k) plan can make you wait up to a year before you're eligible to contribute. But many plans don't have a waiting period at all, allowing you to contribute via payroll deduction beginning with your first paycheck.

Some 401(k) plans provide for automatic enrollment once you've satisfied the plan's eligibility requirements. For example, the plan might provide that you'll be automatically enrolled at a 3 percent pretax contribution rate unless you elect a different deferral percentage, or choose not to participate in the plan. This is sometimes called a "negative enrollment" because you haven't affirmatively elected to participate--instead you must affirmatively act to change or stop contributions. If you've been automatically enrolled in your 401(k) plan, make sure to check that your assigned contribution rate and default investments are appropriate for your circumstances.

How much can I contribute?

There's an overall cap on your combined pretax and Roth 401(k) contributions. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000 ($24,000 if you're age 50 or older) to a 401(k) plan. If your plan allows Roth 401(k) contributions you can split your contribution between pretax and Roth contributions any way you wish. For example, you can make $10,000 of Roth contributions and $8,000 of pretax 401(k) contributions.

But keep in mind that if you also contribute to another employer's 401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE, or SAR-SEP plan, your total contributions to all of these plans--both pretax and Roth--can't exceed $18,000 in 2017 ($24,000 if you're age 50 or older). It's up to you to make sure you don't exceed these limits if you contribute to plans of more than one employer.

Can I also contribute to an IRA?

Yes. Your participation in a 401(k) plan has no impact on your ability to contribute to an IRA (Roth or traditional). You can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA in 2017 ($6,500 if you're age 50 or older) if you qualify. But, depending on your salary level, your ability to make deductible contributions to a traditional IRA may be limited if you participate in a 401(k) plan.

What are the income tax consequences of contributing to a 401(k) plan?

When you make pretax 401(k) contributions, you don't pay current income taxes on those dollars (which means more take-home pay compared to an after-tax Roth contribution of the same amount). But your contributions and investment earnings are fully taxable when you receive a distribution from the plan. In contrast, Roth 401(k) contributions are subject to income taxes up front, but qualified distributions of your contributions and earnings are entirely free from federal income tax. In general, a distribution from your Roth 401(k) account is qualified only if it satisfies both of the following requirements:

  • It's made after the end of a five-year waiting period
  • The payment is made after you turn 59½, become disabled, or die

The five-year waiting period for qualified distributions starts on January 1 of the year you make your first Roth contribution to the 401(k) plan. For example, if you make your first Roth contribution to your employer's 401(k) plan in December 2017, your five-year waiting period begins January 1, 2017, and ends on December 31, 2021.

What about employer contributions?

Employers don't have to contribute to 401(k) plans, but many will match all or part of your contributions. Your employer can match your Roth contributions, your pretax contributions, or both. But your employer's contributions are always made on a pretax basis, even if they match your Roth contributions. That is, your employer's contributions, and investment earnings on those contributions, are always taxable to you when you receive a distribution from the plan.

Should I make pretax or Roth contributions?

Assuming your 401(k) plan allows you to make Roth 401(k) contributions, which option should you choose? It depends on your personal situation. If you think you'll be in a similar or higher tax bracket when you retire, Roth 401(k) contributions may be more appealing, since you'll effectively lock in today's lower tax rates. However, if you think you'll be in a lower tax bracket when you retire, pretax 401(k) contributions may be more appropriate. Your investment horizon and projected investment results are also important factors. A financial professional can help you determine which course is best for you.

Whichever you decide--Roth or pretax--make sure you contribute as much as necessary to get the maximum matching contribution from your employer. This is essentially free money that can help you reach your retirement goals that much sooner.

What happens when I terminate employment?

When you terminate employment you generally forfeit all contributions that haven't vested. Vesting means that you own the contributions. Your contributions, pretax and Roth, are always 100 percent vested. But your 401(k) plan may require up to 6 years of service before you fully vest in employer matching contributions (although some plans have a much faster vesting schedule).

When you terminate employment you can generally leave your money in your 401(k) plan, although some plans require that you withdraw your funds once you reach the plan's normal retirement age (typically age 65). Your plan may also "cash you out" if your vested balance is $5,000 or less, but if your payment is more than $1,000, the plan must generally roll your funds into an IRA established on your behalf, unless you elect to receive your payment in cash. (This $1,000 limit is determined separately for your Roth 401(k) account and the rest of your funds in the 401(k) plan.)

You can also roll all or part of your Roth 401(k) dollars over to a Roth IRA, and your non-Roth dollars to a traditional IRA. You may also be able to roll your funds into another employer's plans that accepts rollovers.

What else do I need to know?

  • Payroll deductions can make saving for retirement easier. The money is "out of sight, out of mind."
  • You may be eligible to borrow up to one half of your vested 401(k) account (to a maximum of $50,000) if you need the money.
  • You may also be able to make a hardship withdrawal if you have an immediate and heavy financial need. But this should be a last resort--hardship distributions are taxable to you (except for your Roth and any other after-tax contributions), and you may be suspended from plan participation for 6 months or more.
  • If you receive a distribution from your 401(k) plan before you turn 59½ (55 in some cases), the taxable portion may be subject to a 10 percent early distribution penalty unless an exception applies.
  • Depending on your income, you may be eligible for an income tax credit of up to $1,000 for amounts contributed to the 401(k) plan.

Your assets are generally fully protected in the event of your, or your employer's, bankruptcy (some exceptions apply).

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable - we cannot assure the accuracy y or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
Securities offered through SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services and fixed and/or Traditional Insurance Services offered through Keeler Thomas a registered investment advisor not affiliated with SagePoint Financial, Inc.
This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of CA and UT. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018.
 

 

 

Investing for Major Financial Goals

Go out into your yard and dig a big hole. Every month, throw $50 into it, but don't take any money out until you're ready to buy a house, send your child to college, or retire. It sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? But that's what investing without setting clear-cut goals is like. If you're lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure.

How do you set goals?

The first step in investing is defining your dreams for the future. If you are married or in a long-term relationship, spend some time together discussing your joint and individual goals. It's best to be as specific as possible. For instance, you may know you want to retire, but when? If you want to send your child to college, does that mean an Ivy League school or the community college down the street?

You'll end up with a list of goals. Some of these goals will be long term (you have more than 15 years to plan), some will be short term (5 years or less to plan), and some will be intermediate (between 5 and 15 years to plan). You can then decide how much money you'll need to accumulate and which investments can best help you meet your goals. Remember that there can be no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful and that all investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.

Looking forward to retirement

After a hard day at the office, do you ask, "Is it time to retire yet?" Retirement may seem a long way off, but it's never too early to start planning--especially if you want your retirement to be a secure one. The sooner you start, the more ability you have to let time do some of the work of making your money grow.

Let's say that your goal is to retire at age 65 with $500,000 in your retirement fund. At age 25 you decide to begin contributing $250 per month to your company's 401(k) plan. If your investment earns 6 percent per year, compounded monthly, you would have more than $500,000 in your 401(k) account when you retire. (This is a hypothetical example, of course, and does not represent the results of any specific investment.)

But what would happen if you left things to chance instead? Let's say you wait until you're 35 to begin investing. Assuming you contributed the same amount to your 401(k) and the rate of return on your investment dollars was the same, you would end up with only about half the amount in the first example. Though it's never too late to start working toward your goals, as you can see, early decisions can have enormous consequences later on.

Some other points to keep in mind as you're planning your retirement saving and investing strategy:

  • Plan for a long life. Average life expectancies in this country have been increasing for years and many people live even longer than those averages.
  • Think about how much time you have until retirement, then invest accordingly. For instance, if retirement is a long way off and you can handle some risk, you might choose to put a larger percentage of your money in stock (equity) investments that, though more volatile, offer a higher potential for long-term return than do more conservative investments. Conversely, if you're nearing retirement, a greater portion of your nest egg might be devoted to investments focused on income and preservation of your capital.
  • Consider how inflation will affect your retirement savings. When determining how much you'll need to save for retirement, don't forget that the higher the cost of living, the lower your real rate of return on your investment dollars.

Facing the truth about college savings

Whether you're saving for a child's education or planning to return to school yourself, paying tuition costs definitely requires forethought--and the sooner the better. With college costs typically rising faster than the rate of inflation, getting an early start and understanding how to use tax advantages and investment strategy to make the most of your savings can make an enormous difference in reducing or eliminating any post-graduation debt burden. The more time you have before you need the money, the more you're able to take advantage of compounding to build a substantial college fund. With a longer investment time frame and a tolerance for some risk, you might also be willing to put some of your money into investments that offer the potential for growth.

Consider these tips as well:

  • Estimate how much it will cost to send your child to college and plan accordingly. Estimates of the average future cost of tuition at two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities are widely available.
  • Research financial aid packages that can help offset part of the cost of college. Although there's no guarantee your child will receive financial aid, at least you'll know what kind of help is available should you need it.
  • Look into state-sponsored tuition plans that put your money into investments tailored to your financial needs and time frame. For instance, most of your dollars may be allocated to growth investments initially; later, as your child approaches college, more conservative investments can help conserve principal.
  • Think about how you might resolve conflicts between goals. For instance, if you need to save for your child's education and your own retirement at the same time, how will you do it?

Investing for something big

At some point, you'll probably want to buy a home, a car, maybe even that yacht that you've always wanted. Although they're hardly impulse items, large purchases often have a shorter time frame than other financial goals; one to five years is common.

Because you don't have much time to invest, you'll have to budget your investment dollars wisely. Rather than choosing growth investments, you may want to put your money into less volatile, highly liquid investments that have some potential for growth, but that offer you quick and easy access to your money should you need it.

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable - we cannot assure the accuracy y or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Securities offered through SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services and fixed and/or Traditional Insurance Services offered through Keeler Thomas a registered investment advisor not affiliated with SagePoint Financial, Inc. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of CA and UT. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018.
 
 

Teaching Your Child about Money

December 05, 2017

Teaching Your Child about Money

Ask your five-year old where money comes from, and the answer you'll probably get is "From a machine!" Even though children don't always understand where money really comes from, they realize at a young age that they can use it to buy the things they want. So as soon as your child becomes interested in money, start teaching him or her how to handle it wisely. The simple lessons you teach today will give your child a solid foundation for making a lifetime of financial decisions.

Lesson 1: Learning to handle an allowance

An allowance is often a child's first brush with financial independence. With allowance money in hand, your child can begin saving and budgeting for the things he or she wants.

It's up to you to decide how much to give your child based on your values and family budget, but a rule of thumb used by many parents is to give a child 50 cents or 1 dollar for every year of age. To come up with the right amount, you might also want to consider what your child will need to pay for out of his or her allowance, and how much of it will go into savings.

Some parents ask their child to earn an allowance by doing chores around the house, while others give their child an allowance with no strings attached. If you're not sure which approach is better, you might want to compromise. Pay your child a small allowance, and then give him or her the chance to earn extra money by doing chores that fall outside of his or her normal household responsibilities.

If you decide to give your child an allowance, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Set some parameters. Sit down and talk to your child about the types of purchases you expect him or her to make, and how much of the allowance should go towards savings.
  • Stick to a regular schedule. Give your child the same amount of money on the same day each week.
  • Consider giving an allowance "raise" to reward your child for handling his or her allowance well.

Lesson 2: Opening a bank account

Taking your child to your local bank or credit union to open an account (or opening an account online) is a simple way to introduce the concept of saving money. Your child will learn how savings accounts work, and will soon enjoy making deposits.

Many banks and credit unions have programs that provide activities and incentives designed to help children learn financial basics. Here are some other ways you can help your child develop good savings habits:

  • Help your child understand how interest compounds by showing him or her how much "free money" has been earned on deposits.
  • Offer to match whatever your child saves towards a long-term goal.
  • Let your child take a few dollars out of the account occasionally. Young children who see money going into the account but never coming out may quickly lose interest in saving.

Lesson 3: Setting and saving for financial goals

When your children get money from relatives, you want them to save it for college, but they'd rather spend it now. Let's face it: children don't always see the value of putting money away for the future. So how can you get your child excited about setting and saving for financial goals? Here are a few ideas:

  • Let your child set his or her own goals (within reason). This will give your child some incentive to save.
  • Encourage your child to divide his or her money up. For instance, your child might want to save some of it towards a long-term goal, share some of it with a charity, and spend some of it right away.
  • Write down each goal, and the amount that must be saved each day, week, or month to reach it. This will help your child learn the difference between short-term and long-term goals.
  • Tape a picture of an item your child wants to a goal chart, bank, or jar. This helps a young child make the connection between setting a goal and saving for it.

Finally, don't expect a young child to set long-term goals. Young children may lose interest in goals that take longer than a week or two to reach. And if your child fails to reach a goal, chalk it up to experience. Over time, your child will learn to become a more disciplined saver.

Lesson 4: Becoming a smart consumer

Commercials. Peer pressure. The mall. Children are constantly tempted to spend money but aren't born with the ability to spend it wisely. Your child needs guidance from you to make good buying decisions. Here are a few things you can do to help your child become a smart consumer:

  • Set aside one day a month to take your child shopping. This will encourage your child to save up for something he or she really wants rather than buying something on impulse.
  • Just say no. You can teach your child to think carefully about purchases by explaining that you will not buy him or her something every time you go shopping. Instead, suggest that your child try items out in the store, then put them on a birthday or holiday wish list.
  • Show your child how to compare items based on price and quality. For instance, when you go grocery shopping, teach him or her to find the prices on the items or on the shelves, and explain why you're choosing to buy one brand rather than another.
  • Let your child make mistakes. If the toy your child insists on buying breaks, or turns out to be less fun than it looked on the commercials, eventually your child will learn to make good choices even when you're not there to give advice.
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Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable - we cannot assure the accuracy y or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
Securities offered through SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services and fixed and/or Traditional Insurance Services offered through Keeler Thomas a registered investment advisor not affiliated with SagePoint Financial, Inc.
This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of CA and UT. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017.