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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 is Adjusted Gross Income?

For tax purposes, Adjusted Gross Income is the basis of an individual’s income tax calculations, before “below the line” deductions. Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is Gross Income (all of an individual’s earnings for the year) minus above-the-line deductions such as retirement plan contributions, education and medical expenses, Health Savings Accounts, alimony, military exemptions, and so on. After these adjustments, a person can take the standard federal deduction or itemize their other deductions. These are known as below-the-line deductions. 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 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...

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 Contribution Deadlines for My Keogh Plan?

Generally the deadline for contributions is the tax filing deadline, with extensions. In order to deduct your contributions to a Keogh Plan from your taxable income, the Keogh Plan has to be set up by the last day of that year (December 31). The deadline to make contributions to your Keogh Plan is the same as the due date for Federal Income Taxes for your business. This includes extensions, so you may be able to make contributions until October of the following year. 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...

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 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...

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...

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 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...

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 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...

How Does a 401(k) Compare With Other Retirement Plans?

There are several types of retirement plans that employers can provide, but 401(k)s are one of the most popular. Other employer-sponsored retirement plans include SIMPLEs, SEPs, and various kinds of defined benefit plans. SIMPLE IRAs are sometimes called SIMPLE 401(k)s, because they operate under the same laws as Safe Harbor 401(k)s. They both are primarily employee-funded, and have rigid standards for employer contributions. 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...

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...

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...

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

Contributions for Money Purchase and Profit Sharing plans come entirely from the employer, and must be made before the deadline. In order for an employer to deduct contributions to a money purchase or profit sharing plan, the first thing that needs to happen is that the plan has to be set up by the last day of that year, which is generally December 31. SEP IRAs, which are different than money purchase or profit sharing plans, do not have to be set up until contributions are made, which can be up until the tax deadline (with extensions). Continue reading...