You might be surprised at its potential.
An IRA is a retirement savings account, right? Indeed. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Arrangement. Even with that definition, however, there is no prohibition on using an IRA to save for other purposes, such as funding a college education.
Why would anyone choose an IRA as a college savings vehicle? At first glance it may seem strange, since there are other types of investment accounts specifically dedicated to that objective. On closer inspection, though, IRAs (especially Roth IRAs) present some features that may be quite attractive to the parent or grandparent who wants to build education savings.
Flexibility. Parents are urged to save for their children’s college education as soon as possible, but what if their children end up spending little or no time in college? Some young adults do start careers or businesses without any higher education. Others have no interest in going to school any longer. Another, more pleasant, circumstance worth mentioning: what if a child ends up getting a significant college scholarship or even a full ride?
If any of these things happen, parents or grandparents who have opened a conventional college savings account may face a dilemma. Withdrawals from such accounts are tax free as long as they are used for qualified educational expenses, but if the money is withdrawn for other purposes, the Internal Revenue Service defines the distribution as taxable income (and the account gains are subject to a 10% penalty). The account assets can often be transferred to another family member, but not all families have that option.1,2
Assets saved and invested for college in an IRA have the potential to be repurposed as retirement savings, if necessary.
Tax-deferred growth and the possibility of tax-free withdrawals. You probably know the basic distinction between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA: the former permits tax-deductible contributions as a tradeoff for eventual taxable withdrawals, while the latter offers no tax deduction on contributions in exchange for tax-free withdrawals later (provided an investor follows I.R.S. rules). Either IRA gives you tax-deferred growth of the invested assets.3
Can you open a Roth IRA, own it for five years or more, and withdraw its assets tax free even if you use the money for something other than retirement? If that something is a college education, the answer is (a qualified) yes.3
Withdrawals from Roth (and for that matter, traditional) IRAs taken before age 59½ face no early 10% withdrawal penalties if the money withdrawn is used for qualified educational expenses. Does this mean you can take $100K out of a Roth IRA today and use it to pay for your child’s college education? Probably not that large an amount, as some restrictions apply.1
If you own a Roth IRA and are younger than 59½ (or are older than 59½, but have owned your Roth IRA for less than five years), your Roth IRA’s earnings are ordinary, taxable income if withdrawn. Roth IRA contributions may be withdrawn tax free at any age. So, as a hypothetical example, if you have contributed $45,000 to a Roth IRA and followed I.R.S. rules, as much as $45,000 could be taken out of that IRA tax free and used for qualified educational expenses.3,4
Not considered an asset on the FAFSA. When students apply for college aid, they routinely fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps the federal government figure out the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or the degree of college costs the family finances can handle. Conventional college savings accounts need to be reported as assets on the FAFSA, but IRAs and other retirement accounts do not need to be.1
What are the shortcomings of building college savings with an IRA? First, this idea may not work for retirees: you must have earned income to make IRA contributions, and you cannot make traditional IRA contributions past age 70½. Phase-outs for high earners may reduce or even prohibit annual Roth IRA contributions for some. Lastly, the annual contribution limit for Roth and traditional IRAs is currently set at $6,000 ($7,000, if a catch-up contribution is included), and that may be frustrating for a household needing to build college savings in a hurry. Even so, families who seek more flexibility in their college savings options may see an IRA, particularly a Roth IRA, as an intriguing potential savings vehicle.3
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - thebalance.com/ira-college-savings-accounts-795254 [3/27/19]
2 - merrilledge.com/ask/college/can-you-transfer-or-rollover-529-plans [6/1/18]
3 - thestreet.com/retirement/ira/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira-14920371 [4/9/19]
4 - fool.com/retirement/2018/09/09/your-first-ira-is-roth-or-traditional-the-best-way.aspx [9/9/18]
Term insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. Here's how it works.
Term insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. It provides temporary life insurance protection on a limited budget. Here’s how it works:
When policyholders buys term insurance, they buy coverage for a specific period and pay a specific price for that coverage.
If the policyholder dies during that time, their beneficiaries receive the benefit from the policy. If they outlive the term of the policy, it is no longer in effect. The person would have to reapply to receive any future benefit.
Unlike permanent insurance, term insurance only pays a death benefit. That’s one of the reasons term insurance tends to be less expensive than permanent insurance.
Many find term life insurance useful for covering specific financial responsibilities if they were to die unexpectedly. Term life insurance is often used to provide funds to cover:
*College education for dependents
Would term life insurance be the best coverage for you and your family? That depends on your unique goals, needs, and circumstances. You may want to carefully examine the pros and cons of each type of life insurance before deciding what type of policy will be the best fit for you.
Another factor to think about: term policies generally become more expensive as you grow older. If your term life insurance expires and you are facing certain health challenges, such as an injury or disease, you may find that a policy with similar coverage may be much more expensive.
Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.
1 - nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/how-much-life-insurance-do-i-need-ncna935811 [11/24/18]
Will your accumulated assets be threatened by them?
All too often, family wealth fails to last. One generation builds a business – or even a fortune – and it is lost in ensuing decades. Why does it happen, again and again?
Often, families fall prey to serious money blunders. Classic mistakes are made; changing times are not recognized.
Procrastination. This is not just a matter of failing to plan, but also of failing to respond to acknowledged financial weaknesses.
As a hypothetical example, say there is a multimillionaire named Alan. The named beneficiary of Alan’s six-figure savings account is no longer alive. While Alan knows about this financial flaw, knowledge is one thing, but action is another. He realizes he should name another beneficiary, but he never gets around to it. His schedule is busy, and updating that beneficiary form is inconvenient.
Sadly, procrastination wins out in the end, and as the account lacks a payable-on-death (POD) beneficiary, those assets end up subject to probate. Then, Alan’s heirs find out about other lingering financial matters that should have been taken care of regarding his IRA, his real estate holdings, and more.1
Minimal or absent estate planning. Every year, there are multimillionaires who die without leaving any instructions for the distribution of their wealth – not just rock stars and actors, but also small business owners and entrepreneurs. According to a recent Caring.com survey, 58% of Americans have no estate planning in place, not even a basic will.2
Anyone reliant on a will alone risks handing the destiny of their wealth over to a probate judge. The multimillionaire who has a child with special needs, a family history of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or a former spouse or estranged children may need a greater degree of estate planning. If they want to endow charities or give grandkids a nice start in life, the same applies. Business ownership calls for coordinated estate planning and succession planning.
A finely crafted estate plan has the potential to perpetuate and enhance family wealth for decades, and perhaps, generations. Without it, heirs may have to deal with probate and a painful opportunity cost – the lost potential for tax-advantaged growth and compounding of those assets.
The lack of a “family office.” Decades ago, the wealthiest American households included offices: a staff of handpicked financial professionals who worked within a mansion, supervising a family’s entire financial life. While traditional “family offices” have disappeared, the concept is as relevant as ever. Today, select wealth management firms emulate this model: in an ongoing relationship distinguished by personal and responsive service, they consult families about investments, provide reports, and assist in decision-making. If your financial picture has become far too complex to address on your own, this could be a wise choice for your family.
Technological flaws. Hackers can hijack email and social media accounts and send phony messages to banks, brokerages, and financial advisors to authorize asset transfers. Social media can help you build your business, but it can also expose you to identity thieves seeking to steal both digital and tangible assets.
Sometimes a business or family installs a security system that proves problematic – so much so that it is turned off half the time. Unscrupulous people have ways of learning about that, and they may be only one or two degrees separated from you.
No long-term strategy in place. When a family wants to sustain wealth for decades to come, heirs have to understand the how and why. All family members have to be on the same page, or at least, read that page. If family communication about wealth tends to be more opaque than transparent, the mechanics and purpose of the strategy may never be adequately explained.
No decision-making process. In the typical high net worth family, financial decision-making is vertical and top-down. Parents or grandparents may make decisions in private, and it may be years before heirs learn about those decisions or fully understand them. When heirs do become decision-makers, it is usually upon the death of the elders.
Horizontal decision-making can help multiple generations commit to the guidance of family wealth. Estate and succession planning professionals can help a family make these decisions with an awareness of different communication styles. In-depth conversations are essential; good estate planners recognize that silence does not necessarily mean agreement.
You may plan to reduce these risks to family wealth (and others) in collaboration with financial and legal professionals. It is never too early to begin.
1 - thebalance.com/what-is-a-payable-on-death-or-pod-account-3505252 [1/15/19]
2 - cbsnews.com/news/failing-to-have-a-will-is-one-of-the-worst-financial-mistakes-you-can-make [3/13/19]
A look at where stocks were in 2009 and how they have performed since.
Where were you on March 9, 2009? Do you remember the headwinds hitting Wall Street then? When the closing bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange that Monday afternoon, it marked the end of another down day for equities. Just hours earlier, the Wall Street Journal had asked: “How Low Can Stocks Go?”1
The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index answered that question by sinking to 676.53, even with mergers and acquisitions making headlines. The index was under 700 for the first time since 1996. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled to a closing low of 6,547.05.2
To quote Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was the bottom of the bear market – and it was also the best time, in a generation, to buy stocks.2
The next day, a rally began. Buoyed by news of one major bank announcing a return to profitability and another stating it would refrain from further government bailouts, the Dow rose 597 points for the week ending on March 16, 2009. On March 26, the Dow settled at 7,924.56, more than 20% above its March 9 settlement. The bull market was back.3
This bull market would make all kinds of history. In fact, it would become the longest bull market in history – at least by one measure.2
While the last 10-plus years have seen some big ups and downs for the benchmark S&P 500, the index has never closed more than 20% below a recent peak in that span, meaning the current bull market is more than 10 years old.2
Ten years later (at the close on Friday, March 8, 2019), the S&P 500 had risen 305.5% from that low. The Dow had gained 288.7%.2
How about the Nasdaq Composite? 483.94%. (As you look at these impressive numbers, remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.)4,5
Those gains did not come without turbulence, and stocks in no way turned into a “sure thing.” The risk inherent in the market is still substantial along with the potential for loss. The lesson this long bull market has taught is simply that the bad times in the stock market are worth enduring. Good times may replace those bad times more swiftly than anyone can anticipate.
1 - forbes.com/2010/03/06/march-bear-market-low-personal-finance-march-2009.html [3/6/10]
2 - thestreet.com/investing/stocks/bull-market-10th-anniversary-14891697 [3/10/19]
3 - tinyurl.com/yyhbtfw8 [4/2/19]
4 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=03%2F09%2F2009&x=0&y=0 [4/2/19]
5 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=3%2F08%2F19&x=0&y=0 [4/2/19]
Coverage can be a great comfort, even in youth.
The transition to adulthood is an exciting new stage that marks true independence. You may have graduated from college, taken your first job, and even, rented your first apartment. With this new freedom comes real responsibilities, including protecting yourself from the financial risks that life presents.
Auto. Once you are no longer covered on your parents’ policy, you will need to find insurance coverage in your name. It can be expensive for a young driver, so consider shopping around for the best rates and learn the myriad of ways to reduce this cost, such as coverage and deductible elections, the type of car you own, and available discounts.
Renters. If you are moving into an apartment, you should consider renters insurance. You may not think you’ve accumulated much in value, but when you calculate the cost of replacing your computer, electronic equipment, HDTV, clothes, etc., it can total thousands of dollars. Renters insurance can be inexpensive. When shopping for a policy, ask about whether it includes liability coverage, which can protect you in the event you are sued by someone who is injured while in your apartment.1
Health. Health care coverage is frequently obtained through your employer. However, if your employer does not offer a health insurance program, you have two choices for obtaining coverage.
The first is to maintain coverage through your parents’ health insurance plan. Federal law permits parents to keep adult children on their plan up to age 26. This choice may be relatively inexpensive, so you may want to ask your parents to inquire what the monthly premium is to add you to their plan.
The second option is to purchase a policy, directly, either through a private insurer, the federal health insurance exchange (HealthCare.gov), or through a state exchange, if available in your state of residence.2
Disability. Your single most valuable asset is your future earning power. Your ability to work and earn an income is essential when it comes to your financial survival. Incurring a disability, even for a short period of time, can have substantial economic consequences, making disability insurance one of the most important insurance needs at this stage of life.
Life. Since a young, single adult typically does not have other people depending upon their ability to earn a living (e.g., children, dependent parents), some believe the need for life insurance is minimal.
However, due to a long life expectancy at this young age, life insurance coverage can be very inexpensive. You may want to consider obtaining some coverage to take advantage of low rates and good health, in advance of a time when you will have dependents.
Extended Care. Given limited financial resources, extended care insurance may be a low priority. Nevertheless, you may want to have a conversation with your parents about how extended-care insurance may protect their financial security in retirement.
Making these decisions signals that a young adult has achieved a new level of maturity and responsibility. While it may seem overwhelming at first, conversations with a trusted financial professional may assist you in finding coverage that both meets your needs and fits within your budget. It may turn out to be a decision that means a great deal to you in the years to come.
The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.
Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy is surrendered prematurely, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.
1 - thebalance.com/best-rental-insurance-4158701 [9/20/2018]
2 - transamericacenterforhealthstudies.org/affordable-care-act/consumer-categories[12/13/2018]
Even the most seasoned investors are prone to their influence.
Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions. They are less routinely cautioned about letting their preconceptions and biases color their financial choices.
In a battle between the facts & our preconceptions, our preconceptions may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance; it may actually “pay” us to recognize our biases as we invest. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.1
Valuing outcomes of investment decisions more than the quality of those decisions. An investor thinks, “I got a great return from that decision,” instead of thinking, “that was a good decision because ______.”
How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision, and to, therefore, believe that the decisions with the best outcomes were in fact the best decisions (not necessarily true).
Valuing facts we “know” & “see” more than “abstract” facts. Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information that relates to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the health of the economy.
Valuing the latest information most. In the investment world, the latest news is often more valuable than old news, but when the latest news is consistently good (or consistently bad), memories of previous market climate(s) may become too distant. If we are not careful, our minds may subconsciously dismiss the eventual emergence of the next bear (or bull) market.
Being overconfident. The more experienced we are at investing, the more confidence we have about our investment choices. When the market is going up and a clear majority of our investment choices work out well, this reinforces our confidence, sometimes to a point where we may start to feel we can do little wrong, thanks to the state of the market, our investing acumen, or both. This can be dangerous.
The herd mentality. You know how this goes: if everyone is doing something, they must be doing it for sound and logical reasons. The herd mentality is what leads many investors to buy high (and sell low). It can also promote panic selling. Above all, it encourages market timing – and when investors try to time the market, they frequently realize subpar returns.
Sometimes, asking ourselves what our certainty is based on and what it reflects about ourselves can be a helpful and informative step. Examining our preconceptions may help us as we invest.
1 - forbes.com/sites/theyec/2018/12/14/three-psychological-biases-that-prevent-effective-financial-management [12/14/18]