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What Role Does Inflation Play in my Retirement Planning?

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...

How Do I Take Money From My 401(k) After I Retire?

Different 401(k) custodians will have different distribution options available to participants in retirement. After you retire, you have at least two disbursement options: lump-sum distribution and periodic distribution. If you take a lump-sum distribution that is not bound for an IRA, you will incur a significant tax bill, since all 401(k) distributions are taxable. Periodic distributions may mean that every so often you can choose an amount to be paid out to you on a quarterly basis, for example, while your investments remain intact and you attempt to accrue more interest on your money. Continue reading...

Can I Decide How My Money is Invested in My Defined Benefit Plan?

Employees have no control over the assets in their Defined Benefit plan. The short and simple answer is: No. The payments you will receive in retirement are calculated according to a pre-determined formula. Your employer is responsible for managing the investments, while you simply receive the agreed-upon payments when they are due to you - assuming all goes as planned. Most pension funds, as they are sometimes called, are invested in very conservative instruments such as long term government bonds and fixed accounts offered by some insurance companies and banking institutions. Continue reading...

What is a Pension?

What is a Pension?

Pensions are income streams guaranteed to employees upon their retirement. A Pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan in which your employer promises to pay you a certain amount every month for the rest of your life. Employers who are part of the pension plans are sometimes called pensioners. An employer retains the funds in a trust, usually, and everyone’s pension assets are pooled together in what’s called a Pension Fund. Continue reading...

What are Periodic Distributions from a 401(k)?

Periodic distribution is a planned intermittent payment of cash from a 401(k). If you choose to have your money distributed periodically, you will usually have a choice between monthly, quarterly, or even annual payments. Money distributed periodically is not subject to the same 20% withholding the lump-sum payment is. The periodic payments are treated as wages, and, because plan participants taking these payments in retirement may find it easy to calculate what their income will be for the year, they can instead plan for their actual tax bracket, or opt-out of withholding if they prefer. Continue reading...

How do my IRA Withdrawals Get Taxed During Retirement?

Different IRAs have different tax treatments. Traditional IRAs, as well as SEPs, SIMPLEs, and 401(k)s are all taxed as income in retirement. Roth IRAs are not taxed. Traditional IRAs and the other pretax accounts will have distributions that are also includable in the Modified Adjusted Gross Income calculations which may subject them to 3.8% Medicare surtax, as well as the income calculations which determine what portion of Social Security income may be taxable in retirement. 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’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 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...

Can I Take a Periodic Distribution from my Pension Plan?

Regular pension payments are periodic distributions. Yes. This will be the default option on pension arrangements, unless companies are trying to settle with pensioners for lump-sum amounts that will lessen the plan’s long term liability. The options for periodic distributions will always be for periods less than or up to a year in length. Periodic distributions can help you sleep better at night, knowing that you have a fixed stream of income for the rest of your life. It may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle completely, but it will give you a sense of financial security and prohibit overspending in a way that the lump-sum distribution does not. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Cash-Balance Plan?

It’s not likely that a cash-balance plan will allow for early withdrawals. Generally speaking, you can’t withdraw money from a Cash-Balance Plan before you retire unless it is to roll over assets to a new employer’s plan or a personal IRA. Once the money is in another account, you could potentially have full access to it, minus the 10% IRS penalty if you’re under 59 ½. Loans from a cash balance plan may be permitted if they abide by the same rules as 401(k) loans — and if the IRS and the DOL will allow you to consider your vested amount in your hypothetical account as adequate collateral. Continue reading...

What’s the Difference between a Defined Benefit Plan and a Defined Contribution Plan?

Defined Benefit plans and Defined Contribution plans can sometimes look similar, but the main difference is what is certain and defined. In a Defined Benefit Plan, your employer guarantees you a certain fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life, so the benefit is said to be defined. A Defined Contribution Plan’s only certainty is the amount that went into the employee account, so the contributions are defined. Continue reading...

What are the Withdrawal Rules for My SEP IRA?

SEP IRAs are subject to the same withdrawal rules as Traditional IRAs. SEP IRA contributions and earnings may be withdrawn at any time, but there are penalties that may apply, using the same rules as those applied to Traditional IRA withdrawals. If you are under the age of 59½, you must pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on your withdrawal. Of course, there are certain exceptions to the penalties: first time home-buyers expenses up to $10,000, medical bills, educational expenses, and a few others. Continue reading...

What are the Vesting Rules for My Money Purchase/Profit Sharing Plan?

Different plans will have different vesting schedules, within regulatory guidelines. The IRS imposes certain rules on Money Purchase/Profit Sharing Plans, which includes vesting restrictions. Different employers might have totally different vesting schedules, as long as they satisfy the IRS rules. Vesting means that the employer contributions to a plan become the property of the employee, and the employee will be allowed to keep ownership of those assets even if the employee changes jobs before retirement. ‘Graduated vesting’ or ‘cliff vesting’ may be used. Continue reading...

When Can I Access the Money in my IRA?

You have the ability to make withdrawals from an IRA leading up to retirement, but you may be penalized. You are able to withdraw money from your Traditional IRA at any time (after all, this is your money), but it can be a costly decision. If you decide to take out money before age 59½, you will most likely pay a 10% penalty in addition to regular income taxes on the amount that you withdraw. As the name Individual Retirement Account implies, the money is meant to be taken out during retirement. There are a few circumstances in which the IRS will allow you to make early withdrawals without assessing the 10% penalty. These exemptions are mostly for hardships, but first time homebuyers can get up to $10,000 out penalty-free, and college tuition costs for family members can usually be withdrawn penalty-free. Continue reading...

What is a Money Purchase/Profit Sharing Plan?

Money Purchase plans and Profit Sharing plans are two types of Defined Contribution plans that can be used at a business, together if desired. Both of these are Defined Contribution plans, which means that only the terms of the contributions to the plan are defined in the plan document. This is different than Defined Benefit plans, which specifically define the benefit due to an employee at retirement, which is generally a monthly pension payment. If an employer wants to use both a Money Purchase plan and a Profit Sharing plan, it is possible, but since both of them are Defined Contribution plans, they will be limited in aggregate to the allowable defined contribution limits for employer contributions. Continue reading...

When Do I Have to Start Taking Money Out of My IRA?

The IRS requires IRA owners to take distributions starting at age 70 ½. By April 1st of the year following the year you turn 70 ½, the IRS needs to see a distribution from your IRA that satisfies the Required Minimum Distribution rule. The RMD is calculated using a table published by the IRS, and each age is assigned a different “factor.” The factor is a number, and you divide the balance of your IRA or 401(k) by that number to reveal the amount that will satisfy your RMD obligation. The factor decreases incrementally as the ages increase. Continue reading...

What is a Matching Contribution?

Employers can contribute to an employee’s 401(k) on a matching basis. Some employers will make additional contributions to your 401(k) based on the amount of your own contributions. Matching can be done on a dollar-for-dollar basis, meaning that for every dollar you contribute to your account, they will add a dollar as well. It can also be done using a factor, such as ½, meaning they will contribute a dollar every time you contribute two. Continue reading...

Can I Make Early Withdrawals From My 401(k)?

Can I Make Early Withdrawals From My 401(k)?

It depends on the 401(k) plan, but in general the answer would be “yes,” if you’re willing to pay the penalty. It is generally a pretty bad idea to withdraw 401(k) money early. If you withdraw the money before age 59½, the money will be subject to a 10% penalty in addition to regular income taxes. There are exemptions from the penalty, but there fewer exemptions in a 401(k) than an IRA. In an IRA the penalty can be waived for first-time homebuyer’s expenses up to $10,000, or even for educational expenses, but in a 401(k) the 10% penalty will still be levied if withdrawals are made for these reasons — and a plan may not even permit such withdrawals. Continue reading...

What if I Need the Money in My IRA Before Retirement?

It is possible to withdraw money from an Individual Retirement Account without incurring a penalty, but it should be used as a last resort. If you withdraw the money before age 59½, you will pay both a 10% penalty and regular income taxes on the amount you withdraw from a Traditional IRA. However, there are special circumstances that allow you to make withdrawals without being charged the 10% penalty. These circumstances might include: paying for college expenses (whether for you, your grandchildren, etc.), paying for costs associated with a disability, medical expenses (must be greater than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income), and first-time home purchase. Continue reading...