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What is a Life Income Fund?

Life Income Funds (LIFs) are available to Canadians who have left a job before retirement and who are entitled to a sum of money in their pension plan. LIFs offer some flexibility, more than some other alternatives, but the amount that can be withdrawn at a time is limited to a minimum and maximum. The former employee could choose to leave the funds in the pension plan, or to use one of the alternatives to LIFs, which include a Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA), which is provincially-regulated, or a Locked-In Retirement Savings Plan (LRSP), which is federally regulated. LIRAs and LRSPs do not permit regular withdrawals, and are seen as savings vehicles rather than income vehicles. Continue reading...

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...

Where do I Get Started in Saving for Retirement?

Your employer is usually the best place to start, but you can also open your own retirement account (an IRA or Roth IRA, for instance) at your bank or a major custodian (like Charles Schwab or Fidelity). In some cases, there are income limits for contributing to a retirement account, which a financial advisor can discuss with you. A smart idea is to set up an automatic contribution to your retirement account, such as 10% of your monthly income. That way you’re automatically saving, and saving regularly. Continue reading...

What is a Thrift Savings Plan?

A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-style plan for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan functions the same way a 401(k) does – you can elect to contribute a portion of your salary, known as an employee deferral or employee contribution, and the money will be allowed to grow in the account tax-deferred. The TSP is only available to Federal Employees and United States military personnel. There is a flat contribution of 1% from the employer, and, depending on the type of Federal job, employees may be eligible for a matching contribution from the employer. Continue reading...

What is Lifestyle Inflation?

Lifestyle inflation is a term used in personal financial planning for the tendency of people to increase their spending and standard of living right along with any raises and monetary resources, even if it’s is at the detriment of any plans for debt reduction or long-term savings. Monetary inflation describes the phenomenon when more money has no more utility value than a lesser amount used to because the cost of goods is going up. Lifestyle inflation is when people select higher-priced goods and lifestyle spending habits when they have the money available to do so. Continue reading...

What Role Does Inflation Play in my Retirement Planning?

Inflation plays a crucial role in your retirement planning. Investors should anticipate 2% - 3% inflation each year, meaning that the costs of goods and services rise substantially over time. Retirees should also consider that inflation is different for different items. For instance, health care has a higher rate of inflation each year than retail goods, and the cost of home improvements generally rises faster than the cost of food. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits For My Thrift Savings Plan?

Contribution limits for the TSP are the same as regular 401(k)s. Employees and employers using the TSP will have the same contribution limits as 401(k) plans. An employee can defer up to $18,000 a year in 2016, plus a $6,000 catch-up deferral if the employee is over 50 years old. The employer can contribute up to a maximum total balance of $53,000 (or $59,000 if the employee is over 59 ½), including employee deferrals. There is a standard 1% employer flat contribution, and some Federal employees will also receive a match. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for My Keogh Plan?

The contribution limit for a Keogh Plan depends on what type of Keogh Plan you set up. There are Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Keoghs. Defined Contribution plans could be profit-sharing or money-purchase plans. As of 2013, a Defined Contribution Keogh Plan allows the employer to contribute up to 25% of your income, or $53,000, whichever is less, and this will constitute the profit-sharing or money-purchase aspect of the plan. Continue reading...

How are My Retirement Benefits Computed?

Each Defined Benefit Plan has its own formula and therefore its own calculations. These formulas need to be arranged by an enrolled actuary to insure that they’ll work over time and will hold up to IRS scrutiny. In general, however, the calculations are strongly based on factors such as your age, your salary, and the number of years you have spent working for the company. For every bit of salary you collect, or length of time you add to your tenure, you add incremental amounts to the set benefit waiting for you in retirement. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for My Money Purchase/Profit Sharing Plan?

Contributions are generally limited to 25% of employee compensation, but a small addition amount may be contributed for higher-income employees. Money Purchase plans and Profit Sharing plans are funded by employer contributions, and in general these contributions cannot exceed 25% of gross compensation. For a self-employed person or a partner in a pass-through entity, the real percentage of contributions cannot exceed 20% of net profits because self-employment taxes will reduce the amount of profits considered compensation, as will the actual contribution. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for My SIMPLE IRA?

SIMPLEs allow higher employee deferrals than most retirement accounts. Employees are only able to make salary reduction contributions. As of 2016, they are able to defer up to $12,500 a year, but if an employee is over 50, they may defer an additional $3,000 as a “catch-up” contribution. However, an employee may choose not to contribute anything to their SIMPLE IRA. Employers, on the other hand, are required to make either a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution of 3%, or a non-elective contribution of 2% of the employee’s pay. The 3% match can be reduced to 1% in two out of five years if employees are notified before they make contributions. Continue reading...

What is AARP?

One of the largest and most influential groups in the country is the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP. It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is the improvement of the quality of life for its members. The group is one of the largest entities in the country, and it’s free monthly magazine has a higher circulation than any other publication in the United States. Its membership consists of over 40 million American citizens over the age of 50. Members receive many benefits each year, including many discounts and coupons on food, lodging, travel, and so on, for dues around $20 per person per year. Continue reading...

What are some Good Books on Investment?

The investing section in your bookstore has shelves packed with titles hoping to earn a five-star rating from you, but not all of these are going to be worth your time. There are thousands and thousands of books written about investments, stocks, Mutual Funds, retirement portfolios, and so on. By the time most of them hit the market, the information in these books has long become irrelevant. The classic treatise on investments is Ben Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor.” Try to avoid books with titles like “12 Steps to Financial Prosperity,” and “How to become a Zillionaire.” Continue reading...

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...

When Should I Start Saving Money?

The answer is simple and needs only common sense to understand: you should begin saving as soon as you can! However, because of most people’s spending habits and the day-to-day realities of life, it is often difficult to follow that advice. Let’s compare how your savings would accumulate, depending on the age at which you begin to save. Your total savings will be much greater by the time you want to retire – say when you’re 65 – if you invest $5000/year at age 25 for just 10 years, than if you continuously invested $10,000/year at age 35, or $15,000/year at age 45. Continue reading...

What Should My First Savings Vehicle Be?

Start basic, and just open a savings account at a bank or create a brokerage account at a major custodian (Charles Schwab, Fidelity, for example). As a rule of thumb, you should have six months’ worth of living expenses in this account. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid touching this money at all costs, and never invest this money in risky assets like stocks. It’s better to keep the money as liquid as possible, so even buying Certificates of Deposit (CDs) may not be the best idea. The purpose of this money is not to make you rich – this is your safety net. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for a Roth IRA?

If you are eligible to make Roth IRA contributions, you can fund an account for yourself and a non-working spouse, up to the contribution limits. As of 2016, if you are under 50 years old, you are allowed to contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth IRA. If you have a spouse, even if he or she does not work, you can make contributions into an account for him or her, up to the full limit. For two people, that means $11,000 a year can be set aside each year. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for my Self-Employed 401(k)?

There is a high possible contribution you can make to your own 401(k), but you still have to pay attention to the limits. As of 2016, you may contribute up to $53,000 annually to your Self-Employed 401(k), plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you’re over 50. If your spouse is also on the payroll, you are allowed to have a combined contribution of up to $106,000, or $118,000 if you’re both over 50. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for My SEP IRA?

SEPs contain only employer contributions, and they must contribute the same percentage of every employee’s compensation. As of 2016, an employer may contribute the lesser of either 25% of an employee’s compensation or $53,000 annually. An important thing to note is that the employer decides whether to contribute to the employees’ SEP IRA each year; the employer is not required to make continuous yearly contributions. The equal treatment of all employees with respect to the retirement plans is a fundamental principle of all employer-sponsored retirement programs. Continue reading...

Will my target mutual funds miss their targets?

Surprisingly, target funds seem to be doing their jobs well enough, despite their ‘one-size-fits-all’ style. There are many target date mutual funds that have appeared in the past 5-10 years, which are supposed to simplify your investment decisions. These target funds are nothing more than carefully selected asset allocations, based on historical models and a client’s time horizon. For example, Target Retirement 2018 will probably consist of 70% Fixed Income Funds, and 30% of Equity Funds, and Target Retirement 2028 will probably consist of 50% Fixed Income Funds and 50% Equity Funds, etc. Continue reading...