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Retirement Accounts401(k) and 403(b) PlansIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRA)SEP and SIMPLE IRAsKeogh PlansMoney Purchase/Profit Sharing PlansSelf-Employed 401(k)s and 457sPension Plan RulesCash-Balance PlansThrift Savings Plans and 529 Plans and ESA
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What are Bond Ratings?

The possibility of a company or municipal government defaulting on their bond obligations, usually by going bankrupt, is a real one. For this reason, all bonds are rated according to the financial stability of the issuer. A look at the history of corporate and municipal debt will illuminate the fact that the possibility of the issuer being unable to pay its obligations to bondholders is a very real one. There is an established system of bond ratings that gives a rough estimate of the bond's reliability. Continue reading...

What if the Matching Contribution for My 401(k) is in Company Stock?

Employer contributions in the form of company stock can pose some liquidity issues, but it can also be a nice benefit. If the matching contribution to your 401(k) is made in company stock, you have to weigh carefully your overall exposure to the financial well-being of your company. You are already receiving the current income (salary) from your employer. You may also have taken advantage of an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) or Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) outside of the retirement plan. Therefore, you might already have a lot riding on the stability of your company. Continue reading...

How Does the Money in My 401(k) Get Invested?

Employers sponsoring 401(k) plans are required to give employees the information and ability to manage their own accounts, using the investment options provided to them by the plan administrator and custodian. Sometimes employers and 401(k) custodians will provide employees with simplified systems by which to determine what kinds of investments appeal to them, and how they would like to allocate their portfolio in pursuit of their retirement goals. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Loan From My Pension Plan?

Generally this won’t be an option that your plan allows, but the IRS has approved it if the employer wants to. Generally speaking, you cannot. Hypothetically, if allowed in the plan document, and if the pension fund had enough of a surplus to handle such withdrawals, the IRS might find it permissible. The laws concerning such loans are the same for all qualified accounts, such as 401(k)s. An enrolled actuary would need to help you define when a loan might be allowable in particular deferred benefit plan. A Pension’s main goal is to pay out in retirement for the duration of the obligation, which may be your life and possibly the life of your spouse. Because of the massive liability they shoulder, pensions are inherently rigid and uncompromising when it comes to loans and withdrawals. Continue reading...

What is Form 2848: Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Sometimes individuals need representation to argue their case to the IRS or the tax court. To this end, there is an IRS form, the 2848, which designates an individual to represent the taxpayer on tax matters. The person receiving agency must be qualified and certified to perform such work. CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EAs), tax attorneys, and a few other professionals are qualified to represent taxpayers (or non-taxpayers, as the case may be) on tax matters in a tax court or IRS audit. To give one of these registered tax advisors the authority to serve as your agent and proxy for such matters before the IRS and tax courts, you must file a Form 2848. Continue reading...

What’s a Defined Benefit Plan?

Defined Benefit plans guarantee a certain amount of retirement income to an employee based on the employee’s current salary, years at the employer, and other factors. A Defined Benefit Plan involves a promise made to you by your employer to pay you a certain monthly “benefit” for the rest of your life, or for a certain number of years after retirement. The amount of the payment is pre-calculated using a formula which typically involves your age, your salary, the number of years you’ve worked for your employer, along with other factors. Continue reading...

What is a Cash-Balance Plan?

Cash balance plans are a type of pension in which the benefit is stated as a future account balance rather than an income stream. A Cash-Balance Plan is very similar to a normal Pension Plan. You do not technically contribute anything to the plan (unless you are an owner-employee), and you don’t have any control over the assets which are managed on your behalf. In a normal pension, the benefit waiting for you in retirement is a monthly income stream, but in a Cash Balance plan, your future benefit is stated as an account balance, which you will be able to take as either a lump sum or an income stream. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan?

This is rarely an option, but the IRS does allow it. In general, you can’t withdraw money from a Pension Plan before you retire. You also may not be able to make non-recurring withdrawals after retirement, unless it is a lump-sum settlement. If your plan allowed it, the IRS would treat it just like withdrawals from a 401(k). Withdrawals before 59 ½ would be penalized with a 10% early withdrawal tax. Continue reading...

What are Some of the Biggest Bankruptcies in Recent History?

Before Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, probably the most well-known and publicized bankruptcy was the infamous Enron scandal. To summarize, Enron executives, fully aware that the company was insolvent, started to sell their stock, while convincing the general public that the stock would continue to rise and the company was prospering (despite actual horrendous losses). As the stock dropped lower and lower, the executives continued to lie to the public, and most people fell into the trap, convinced that the low stock prices were a great opportunity (the stock was going to rebound any day – or so they thought). Continue reading...

Who is the Most Widely Known Villain of Wall Street?

Throughout the history of the U.S. Stock Market, there have been countless crooks, swindlers, and villains. Money can drive people to cheat, and there have been no shortage of cheaters over the years. Undoubtedly, the biggest hoax in the history of the market is credited to Bernard Madoff, who made off (no pun intended) with over $10 billion of his investors’ money through a massive Ponzi scheme. However, there have been countless other criminal activities, such as the Enron scandal of the early 2000’s. Continue reading...

What Is Fraud?

Fraud is a deceitful act with the explicit purpose of gaining an unlawful advantage or depriving a victim of their rights. It's a term that permeates various facets of our society, and within the realm of finance, fraud takes on many forms. In this article, we'll explore the concept of fraud, its types, and the significant consequences it can unleash. Continue reading...

What Is a Certified Public Accountant?

When it comes to financial matters, especially in the complex world of accounting and taxation, trust and expertise are paramount. This is where the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation steps into the spotlight, signifying a level of dedication, knowledge, and skill that sets accounting professionals apart. Continue reading...

What is Medicare Part D?

Part D is prescription drug coverage to supplement the coverage of Medicare Part A and Part B. It can be a standalone policy, or it can be included in a package with Part C. Medicare Part D is purchased through private insurers. While the premiums vary, they tend to range from $15- $150 a month. There was a maximum deductible of $360 for these plans in 2016, after which the insurer would trigger 75/25 coinsurance or something in that range. Continue reading...

What is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is offered in a few variations by several third-party carriers. These plans are approved by Medicare and a person must still pay their Part B premiums to get them, but the Medicare Advantage plans are designed to be more appealing with their deductibles and copays than original Medicare Part A and Part B. Medicare Part C, is a private plan that is mandated to be at least equal in coverage to Part A and Part B. Continue reading...

Who Can Participate in an HSA?

In order to be eligible for an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) that is HSA-eligible. You must also not be enrolled in Medicare and you cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s health plan. Your health insurance must also be part of a high deductible plan with substantial out-of-pocket costs. How Does a Health Savings Account Work? Where Should I Put my Healthcare Savings? What is Medicare and Medicaid? Continue reading...

What if I Cannot Get Individual Coverage?

Under current law (the Affordable Care Act), everyone is eligible to receive health insurance coverage. However, not everyone may be able to afford health insurance. There are subsidies provided by the federal government for those who cannot afford it, but cost may still be an issue for many. How Much Will Individual Health Coverage Cost? Can I Purchase Individual Health Insurance? What Health Insurance Do I Need if I Don't Have a Job? Continue reading...

How are Pension Benefits Computed?

Enrolled actuaries must be used to establish the benefit formula.The amount of money you will receive (monthly) from your employer during retirement is calculated by a formula which incorporates your age, your salary, the number of years you worked for your employer, and other possible factors. The IRS stipulates that an enrolled actuary must be contracted to perform the calculations, with input from the employer, to determine how the benefit will be calculated and to make sure that the plan assets will be sufficient to pay the benefits when the employees reach retirement. Continue reading...

What is COBRA?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law that mandates employers to keep you covered under your current employer-provided health plan for up to 18 months after you leave. Of course, COBRA doesn’t apply to all employers, so you have to check in your specific case (there generally has to be over 20 employees). In some cases, you might have to pay the entire premium for the insurance, plus some sort of administrative fee (and this can be more expensive than purchasing an individual plan). Continue reading...

Keywords: health insurance, COBRA,

What is Medicare Part B?

Medicare Part B covers some doctors visits, outpatient care, and many other services not covered by Part A. There is a standard premium which is around $100/month for those receiving social security benefits at the same time. Medicare Part B covers outpatient procedures – visits to the doctor, regular checkups, physical therapy, etc. In other words, it covers medical expenses that don’t involve a hospital stay. Medicare Part A is free (if you’ve contributed to Social Security for at least 10 years), but Part B comes with a price tag. Continue reading...

What is Medicare Part A?

Medicare Part A is the standard, baseline hospital coverage that comes at no cost as part of everyone’s Medicare benefits. It will pay for inpatient stays at hospital and skilled care facilities, but only for a certain number of days. Medicare Part A is hospitalization and inpatient care insurance. It will pay fully for about 20 days of care, but only if there is an inpatient procedure first and the patient appears to be convalescing. If the patient is not gradually recovering, their Medicare benefits will be suspended. Continue reading...