401k PlanningTaking Control of Your Workplace Retirement Plan
The second most important decision you can make for your retirement is to participate in your employer sponsored retirement plan.
The most important decision you should make is to understand how to invest.
How to max out your 401k
For many years, investment options in workplace retirement plans have been limited. The selection of funds made available was often in place specifically to “cover all the bases”, but not much in the way of higher caliber options. You can now have professional management for one of your largest assets, your 401k plan.
Your employer can’t legally give you advice and all the 401k plan providers can do is explain how to access your online portal, the categories of funds, and make changes when you would like, but that’s about it. It’s time for 401k planning so you can get the advice you need to invest in your retirement plan confidently.
Taking emotion out of the equation
It’s never if the market will turn, it’s a matter of when. Today, technology has made it possible to help defend your 401k plan assets in market downturns. This non-emotional, mathematical, algorithmic system helps take the emotion and the guesswork out of investment decisions. Safeguards that are designed to protect you.
Most recent statistics indicate that over 90% of employees DO NOT manage their 401k planning on at least an annual basis.
Whether you have been saving in your workplace retirement for decades or if you have just begun, there is excitement when you consider the possibilities. You set aside a portion of your income, you probably get an employer match (“free money”), and you get your taxable income reduced for your 401k plan participation.
In most cases, you don’t have an impressive array of funds to choose from, but even if you did, which do you choose? You can’t really get direct advice on any specifics, and the idea of getting advice on a regular basis is unheard of.
How do you protect what you have? For those of you nearing retirement, do you remember feeling victim to something you had absolutely no control over at different points along the way when the stock market took a downturn? It’s not if the stock market will decline, it’s when. What if you don’t have the time to ride out another market correction?
2020 showed us how the world can change overnight and have financial repercussions. Today, swings in the stock market have become the norm of modern volatility.
We believe you should be able to gain access to high-quality funds, get 401k planning advice and guidance all along the way, not be charged some absorbent fee to do so, and most importantly, if you are concerned about protecting your retirement, have a process to actively manage volatility.
Retirement IS NOT a DIY exercise
When you are finally nearing retirement, (10-year window minimum, ideally) seek out 401k planning assistance to ensure that your thoughts of how retirement should look are aligned with the reality of where you will be when you actually do. Retirement is not the same as most things in life to get a second chance, it’s a “get it right the first time” or deal with the consequences scenario. Even a simple 401k calculator gives you an idea of whether or not you’re on track. A slight change in your path to improve your financial outcome, and having guidance can mean keeping your lifestyle just the way you want it.
Best 401k plan investments are not about which investment, but how to invest
Thousands of employers have enhanced their 401k plans to include what is referred to as a Self-Directed Brokerage Account (SDBA). This is a built-in design opportunity so you can have more choice and greater flexibility for true 401k planning with your retirement investments.
Self-Directed Brokerage Account (SDBA)
It is estimated that approximately 40% of retirement plans offer SDBAs
Often SDBA's are not explained or offered to participants
Executing an SDBA, requires expertise and a clear understanding of how to implement them, for employee participants looking for more choices as a hands-on investor
Growing numbers of 401k plan participants are seeking 401k planning advice specifically for their workplace retirement accounts, since using these accounts not only provides you guidance to maintain assets within your plan but also places asset allocations into investments apart from those available in the core plan
Self Directed Brokerage Accounts allow investors to choose from a vast array of investment options
An expanded range of investment choices beyond your 401k plan core investments allow you access to funds beyond your plan design, and most importantly, this now includes professional management advise on those assets
401k planning for retirement using advanced options
The traditional school of thought was to contribute to your 401k plan up to your employer match, receive your match and automatically double your money. In years of minimal growth, at least you doubled your investment. In years where significant losses occurred, you will recover over time.
There is no option that can help you completely avoid loss, but asset allocation and active management can minimize those losses. These are options that do not exist in your standard 401k plan, but Self-Directed Brokerage Accounts can add that capability to your workplace retirement plan.
The ability to access higher-quality stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs within your 401k plan without moving assets out of the plan, professional management advice, and all for minimal increase over your current 401k plan fees make this a strong option to grow your workplace retirement plan.
Contact us today to find out if you have access to this plan option and how 401k planning can benefit your retirement.
401k Planning Advice
Perhaps you don’t have access to a Self-Directed Brokerage Account in your 401(k), 403(b), or 457. You find yourself in that familiar place of checking your balance every once in a while, and as long as it is positive, you see yourself as doing well. You should consider a few housekeeping duties to keep your 401k plan in the best possible state:
Compare what your 401k plan balance was the last time you checked, and what you have contributed since that last check in.
Many plan provider’s software does “fuzzy math”, it simply references year to date, quarterly growth, or point-in-time calculations based on your date parameters. It calculates the percentage as a “total” figure, including your contributions. To have an actual figure, subtract your contributions and your employer match if you want to calculate a more accurate growth vs deposits.
Take the time to examine your fund selections and make sure they are still in line with what you expected.
You may get statements in the mail telling you that a fund has been removed and replaced in your 401k plan. Often that mail gets treated like “junk mail” and gets tossed and not read. Make sure to read and examine if the new fund is acceptable or if a change is needed.
You should treat your 401k plan assets just as you do your taxable investments, consider when, how long, and how much.
- When – If you are in your 20s, savings rate can be smaller and risk can be higher, you have more time to recover losses and your balance is lower. If you are in your 50s, the savings rate must be higher and you must need to consider how much risk you are willing to take to protect what you have accumulated.
- How long – We all have an idea of when we plan to retire. Based on your current age, what does that timeline look like? Are you 10, 20, 40 years away from retirement? What is your time horizon, and, more importantly, what is the lifestyle you look forward to living?
- How much – The two factors above are the equation that will dictate how much you should be saving and how much risk you can afford.
Retirement and Taxes - Effective tax rate
Tax treatment of 401k plan assets when you begin withdrawals are treated as ordinary income, so your tax rate is based on your earnings in that calendar year. If you happen to be at a border of a tax bracket, and earning or distributing more income pushes you into the next tax bracket, it does not mean that you will pay that higher rate for all of your income. Each “chunk” of income within its tax bracket gets taxed at the corresponding tax rate. Your “effective tax rate” represents taking each of those “chunks” of income, calculating them separately in their respective tax brackets, then adding them back together to come to your actual total of taxes due.
Retirement and Taxes - Opportunities
There are ways to legally minimize or even eliminate taxes future taxes within the structure of your employee benefits.
- In the “today” column is to simply contribute to your 401k plan. Every dollar you contribute is a dollar you remove from your taxable income.
- In the “today” and “tomorrow” column is Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs). This is a triple benefit from taxation! The contributions are pre-tax, so they reduce your taxable income, grow tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free.
- In the “tomorrow” column is a ROTH provision within your retirement plan options. A traditional ROTH IRA has income thresholds and a small contribution limit. Within a ROTH 401k, 403b, or 457, there is no income threshold, your income isn’t even considered!
Retirement and Taxes - Penalties
Because of tax-deferred growth, employer match, and the power of compound interest, 401k plan assets are the most expensive money you can access before retirement. Penalties exist for withdrawing money prior to age 59 ½ at a rate of 10%.
There are exceptions: disability, unreimbursed medical bills (if more than 10% of adjusted gross income), health insurance premiums (if unemployed), death (money moving to a beneficiary), back taxes, higher education expenses, first-time homebuyer ($10k max. withdrawal), restricted income purposes (someone that has had to retire early can take equal periodic payments to bridge time to 59 ½ – not ideal, but possible). 401k planning can better prepare you for even the unexpected.
Retirement and Taxes - Movement and Distributions
It is recommended to move your retirement savings out of your company-sponsored plan and into your own individual retirement account, to gain full control of your 401k plan assets for your needs and protection going forward. Your strategy must be to replace your income to live comfortably in retirement in the next 20-30 years. 401k planning can prepare you for each phase of your working career into retirement.
You may even benefit from moving money prior to full retirement as a strategy. Most 401k plans allow for “in-service” distributions, as long as you transfer to another “qualified” (retirement-based) account to allow that movement to be free of taxes or penalties.
Professional advice on your 401k, 403b, 457 plan
Personalized Retirement Plan Advice
Navigating your 401k plan
Since your employer can’t legally give you advice, human resources will direct you to the company that manages your plan.
Plan providers can explain how to access your online portal, the various categories of funds your employer makes available to you, and how to make changes when you would like, but that’s where their assistance ends.
Advice customized to your needs
Imagine the ability to look, on a consistent basis, at all the funds available to you, and decipher which are appropriate, (taking into account your specific goals, time horizon, and risk concerns) all while ensuring this occurs without sacrificing the security, access, or control over your account?
Would you like 401k planning advice on exactly which funds are best for your needs and goals using the investment options that are already built into your employer’s plan?
Advice doesn't mean compromise in security
Most funds that employers make available within their retirement plan offerings are publicly traded funds. This allows us to monitor those funds without the need to access your individual account. Your employer fund lineup allows our team to examine current market conditions, model options, your time horizon, and risk tolerance so that we may consider your best interests in how to apply your allocations to help you achieve your financial goals for retirement.
Access personalized, detailed, ongoing recommendations for your 401k
Our service provides 401k planning advice on a consistent, monthly basis, and reviews changes on an ongoing basis. This is especially important as market conditions are often the main factor that requires change.
There are no long-term contracts, (group discounts are available within the same company) and you are free to cancel anytime.
For a fraction of the cost of any other benefit, you will receive ongoing, personalized investment advice, so you can confidently invest in your retirement plan.
Taming Stock Market Volatility
Protecting your investments
Having a process that can actively manage volatility was unheard of years ago. Today, technology has made it possible to help defend your assets in market downturns. This can represent both taxable investment accounts for investment planning, as well as tax-deferred, qualified retirement accounts for 401k planning.
Your investments and retirement accounts can be safeguarded against extreme dips as well as a crash while participating in market opportunities.
We can show you a better way to feel confident about investing and protecting your nest egg, especially if you are ready to get off the freeway, looking for a quiet country road as you shift to retirement income.
Taking emotions out of the equation
20 years of quantitative research and expertise that is deeply rooted in analysis driven by unbiased, non-emotional, mathematical tools that have led to indicators that determine when you should be in or out of the market. This system helps take the guesswork out of investment decisions and allows you peace of mind with your investments.
It’s never if the market will turn, it’s a matter of when.
Having the ability to avoid up to 70–80% of the downtrend, while capturing up to 70-80% of the uptrend can potentially place you in a better long-term position.
It works by shifting your asset allocations and does this by monitoring the S&P 500 Index. It reduces your exposure to equities by investing in cash or cash equivalents when the closing price drops below 3.5% and further reduces exposure if it drops below 6.5%. Once the S&P 500 Index closes at a higher predetermined, algorithmic level for five consecutive trading days your account will be reinvested in equities.
You may be a more aggressive risk-taker, while others prefer to stay conservative. Perhaps these choices are driven by your age or the amount of money you can afford to risk. The question is why address risk the old way?
We support our clients by helping navigate challenges and capture opportunities. Let us show you how it is possible today to participate in growth without the traditional concerns for risk, while still maintaining liquidity.
Turning challenges into opportunities
Reducing the impact of major market downturns is a game-changer compared to a buy-and-hold strategy, but avoiding market downturns is just the start of an effective risk management system. You can’t call the peaks and valleys of the stock market, but you can monitor trends and opportunities through quantitative analysis. You can have a defensive, straightforward solution to navigating market volatility, driving performance, and mitigating losses.