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What is a 529 Plan?

529 plans are accounts designed to help families save for the future college expenses of young family members. A 529 Plan is designed to help you save money now to pay your child’s college expenses later. Investment companies who design a plan, which looks similar to a retail mutual fund account or IRA, will partner with state governments to offer the state’s official 529 plan. Families can invest in a 529 and gain access to an array of mutual funds. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits For My 529 Plan?

Parents and family members, or actually anyone, can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion limits, and beyond. Several people can fund 529 plans for the same person or child, and any one person can maintain as many 529 plans as they would like. Each person can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, which in 2016 is $14,000, per beneficiary. 529 plans have a special provision that allows the owner of the account to exceed the gift tax exclusion by contributing up to $70,000 at once – but no contributions can be made for 5 years after that, because this provision is really just allowing you to accelerate the contributions. Continue reading...

How Can I Use the Money From My 529 Plan?

You can technically use it however you see fit if you are willing to pay the 10% IRS penalty. Money from 529 Plans can be used for tuition, books, supplies, room and board and, as of recently, computers and electronic necessities. Always check if you’re not sure that an expense is covered by the 529 plan. Money used for anything other than the specified costs will be subject to federal income taxes and a 10% penalty on the earnings. You can also transfer the account to another beneficiary or yourself if you or someone else will need the money for college one day, without incurring any penalties or taxes. Continue reading...

Will Having a 529 Plan for My Child Impact His/Her Eligibility For Financial Aid in the Future?

It will be factored in when considering financial aid eligibility. Unfortunately, having a 529 Plan may affect your child’s eligibility for financial aid in the future. If a parent owns the account, in 2016 the financial aid office will take 5.64% of the account’s value (and all other non-retirement investment accounts) into consideration when determining how much financial aid a student can receive. Continue reading...

What is Form 1099-Q?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Distributions from qualified educational accounts such as 529s will be reported on a 1099-Q. This will be submitted by the institution serving as the custodian of the account. Qualified tuition programs (QTPs) might include Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) or 529 plans, and distributions from these plans are not taxable when used for qualified educational expenses, such as college tuition. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits For My Coverdell ESA?

Coverdell ESAs have low contribution limits, and an income limit that may keep you from contributing at all. Currently, in order to contribute to an ESA at all, you and your spouse must make less than $220,000 per year (combined). The annual contribution limit to an ESA is $2,000, and the contributions made to an ESA are not tax-deductible. These limits have not been adjusted for inflation in years, and these plans are quickly becoming obsolete. Continue reading...

How Can I Use the Money From My Coverdell ESA?

Coverdell ESA accounts can be used to cover educational expenses. Similarly to a 529 Plan, the money from a Coverdell ESA can only be used for qualified educational expenses. However, the definitions for “qualified” are broader with this plan, and can be used for educational expenses from Kindergarten through high school, in addition to postsecondary (college) expenses. The downside is that Coverdell’s have a low contribution limit of only $2,000 per year. Continue reading...

When are My IRA Withdrawals Penalty Free?

The surest way to make tax-free withdrawals is to wait until you are older than 59½, but there are a few other ways. If you are 59½ or older, you can make penalty-free withdrawals. Of course, you will need to pay income taxes on the amount you withdraw from your Traditional IRA. There is a 10% penalty assessed by the IRS on early withdrawals (withdrawals made before age 59½) and these are generally not a good idea. Continue reading...

What is IRS Publication 513, Tax Information for Visitors to the United States?

IRS Link to Reporting Guidelines — Found Here Despite how it sounds, this publication is not meant for tourists to the US, but rather for non-US-citizen workers who might be considered either resident aliens or nonresident aliens, or dual-status if they can be considered both within the same year. Non resident aliens do not have to file a return if they did not earn more than the standard annual deduction amount. This guide is relatively short by IRS Publication standards, at only about 20 pages. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between Cash-Balance Plans and Other Retirement Plans?

What is the Difference Between Cash-Balance Plans and Other Retirement Plans?

Cash Balance plans are Defined Benefit plans, but are not much like Pensions as you may know them, or other types of retirement plans, for that matter. On one side of the retirement isle you have defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s and SEPs and so on, where the contributions are certain, or at least ascertainable, while the ending balance or benefit of each employee’s account is unknown, or at least does not have to be (and in most cases isn’t). Continue reading...

What is a Keogh plan?

Keogh plans are any type of qualified plan at a sole proprietorship or partnership. Keogh plans come in various forms, and this is because they are actually quite a broad category. IRS Publication 560 (found here) divides workplace retirement plans into SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and Qualified Plans. This last category, Qualified Plans, includes profit-sharing plans, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, money purchase plans, and defined benefit plans such as pensions and salary continuation plans. Continue reading...

What is IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here Publication 54 is a guide for those earning income in a foreign country. There are several tax deductions which might be available and several forms and filing practices that one will need to be familiar with when taking employment elsewhere. US Citizens and long term resident green card holders will need to let the IRS know how much they are making even if they are employed in a foreign country. Continue reading...

What are My Keogh Plan Investment Options?

Keoghs can hold a wide range of investments, and it will mostly depend on your plan trustee. Keogh plans have the ability to include many investment options, from stocks to bonds, certificates of deposit to cash value life insurance, and so on. Keep in mind that Keogh Plan investments are usually determined by the financial institution at which your Keogh Plan is established. When opening a Keogh Plan, be sure to check what investment options the financial institution offers, and how much in fees and commissions they would charge for these investments. Standard ERISA rules apply, so all employees must be offered the same options. Continue reading...

Should I pay for financial planning services?

Should I pay for financial planning services?

Any professional that you work with for financial planning is going to be compensated for the work they do, but there are different ways they earn their pay. Whether it’s worth it to you is another question. If you have enough knowledge and time on your hands, and your investment portfolio is not very complicated, you may be able to manage it on your own. This can save you some money on financial advisor fees. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Defined Benefit Plan?

Most pensions will not allow in-service withdrawals but some will allow loans. While you are working for your employer, you typically may not withdraw money from your Defined Benefit Plan. The IRS permits plan loans if the plan administrator permits it. In-service withdrawals are possible after age 62, meaning money can get taken out before separation from service. If you leave your employer before retirement, the funds are usually kept in a Trust until you reach retirement age (or until a specified age at which you can start to receive the benefits). Continue reading...

What is a Dividend Rollover Plan?

Dividend rollover plan is another, rarely used way to refer to a Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP). Unfortunately just reinvesting dividends in a systematic way will not get you out of any tax implication associated with the dividends attributed to your account. An automatic dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP) is an option in some investment accounts and financial products. Any dividends paid out will be reinvested in the same mutual fund, ETF, or stock at the earliest possible opportunity. Continue reading...

What are the 457 Plan Contribution Limits?

Contribution limits depend on if you are making contributions as a government employee, a non-profit employee, or a highly compensated employee. Government employees can defer up to $18,000, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50, in 2016. These plans use the same elective deferral limits as 401(k)s. A non-governmental, non-profit employee can only contribute the $18,000, and is not allowed to make the $6,000 catch-up. Both of these types of employees are allowed to use the alternate catch-up provision of 457s, however. Continue reading...

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Any employer can offer a Defined Benefit plan, but not many do anymore. Before the introduction of Defined Contribution Plans, most large corporations such as General Electric, General Motors, etc. offered only Defined Benefit Plans. Over the years, it has put a huge burden on these corporations to guarantee the performance of these plans. If the plan has not performed according to the assumptions, the company would have to contribute the difference, which would have to come from their profits. In order to shift the burden to the employees, most companies now offer Defined Contribution Plans (such as 401(k)s, etc.) instead of Defined Benefit Plans. Continue reading...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Cash-Balance Plan Before I Retire?

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Cash-Balance Plan Before I Retire?

In general, this won’t even be an option for many. Cash balance plans do not permit partial withdrawals. If you have separated from service at the employer, you can take your entire vested amount with you. You can cash out your balance and pay income taxes on it, as well as a 10% IRS penalty if you’re younger than 59 ½. This penalty may also be avoided if you separated a from service after age 55; these rules are the same for 401(k)s and other qualified plans. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

The main difference is that the TSP is only for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan is essentially a 401(k) for employees of the federal government. It functions in the same ways and is subject to the same limitations. The contribution limits and catch-up limits are the same, as well as the employer contribution limit. The plan actually has lower fees than most 401(k)s, so that’s one difference. The investment options are fairly limited, but not much more than regular 401(k)s. There are basically 5 index funds to choose from and then a series of target-date funds that blend the index funds. Continue reading...