Few Retirement Account Limits Will Rise Next Year

Upset women with savings
Photo by Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock.com

Savers hoping to be able to sock away more money in retirement accounts in 2021 than they could in 2020 are out of luck.

Most contribution limits for common workplace retirement and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, are subject to inflation adjustments. But for the 2021 tax year, none will budge.

The IRS announced Oct. 26 that the contribution limits for these accounts will not increase for 2021, meaning the year for which your tax return is due by April 2022.

Most income limits for IRAs — which determine whether and how much you can contribute to an IRA — will increase, however.

Contribution limits for workplace plans

For 2021, the base contribution limit for the following types of workplace retirement accounts will remain $19,500, the same as it was for 2020:

  • 401(k) plans
  • 403(b) plans
  • Most 457 plans
  • Thrift Savings Plan

The base contribution limit for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) retirement accounts also will remain the same: $13,500.

Catch-up limits for workplace plans

Each year, folks who are 50 or older can save more money in their tax-sheltered retirement accounts by also making additional contributions, known as “catch-up contributions.”

For 2021, the catch-up contribution limit for the following types of workplace retirement accounts will remain $6,500, the same as it was for 2020.

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Most 457 plans
  • Thrift Savings Plan

This means that someone who is at least 50 years old could contribute $19,500 plus $6,500 to those types of accounts — for a total of $26,000 — in 2021, as was the case the prior year.

Contribution and catch-up limits for IRAs

The base contribution limit for individual retirement accounts remains the same as it has been since the 2019 tax year: $6,000.

The catch-up contribution limit for IRAs also remains the same, at $1,000. The IRS notes that this is because the catch-up limit for IRAs is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment, unlike various other types of retirement accounts.

Income limits for IRAs

Income limits for IRAs will change for 2021. These limits determine whether you’re eligible to contribute at all to a Roth IRA and whether you can make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

The income phase-out ranges for Roth IRA contributions will increase as follows for 2021:

  • Single and head of household tax-filing statuses: $125,000 to $140,000 — up from $124,000 to $139,000
  • Married couple filing a joint return: $198,000 to $208,000 — up from $196,000 to $206,000
  • Married couple filing separate returns: $0 to $10,000 — unchanged

This means that a single taxpayer, for example, who earns less than $125,000 in 2021 can contribute to a Roth IRA up to the full limit — $6,000 or $7,000, depending on his age. But if that taxpayer earns $125,000 to $140,000, he can contribute only a reduced amount. If he earns more than $140,000, he cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.

The income limits for tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA depend not only on your tax-filing status and income but also on whether you or your spouse is covered by a workplace retirement account. For specifics, see the bullet points in the IRS’ announcement.

Wondering how else traditional and Roth IRAs differ? Check out “Which Is Better — a Traditional or Roth Retirement Plan?“

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Saving more and working longer: Two powerful ways to increase your retirement resources

The July 2018 issue of the AAII Journal — the monthly publication of the American Association of Individual Investors — includes an intersting article about how to “increase your retirement resources”. This plain English piece summarizes some of the findings from the authors’ research paper “The Power of Working Longer“.

According to the article, there are three primary factors that determine “the adequacy of retirement resources”. Those are:

  • When a person begins participating in an employer-sponsored saving plan,
  • What percentage of their earnings they save in such a plan (i.e., their saving rate), and
  • At what age they retire and begin taking Social Security benefits.

Until Elon Musk invents a time submarine, it’s impossible for a worker to go back to their youth and begin saving for retirement earlier. Because of this, the authors focused their research on the relative power of saving more and working longer.

Note: To simplify matters, the authors make some assumptions. For instance, instead of investing in the highly-variable stock market, they assume their hypothetical subjects invest in a vehicle with a fixed rate of return: an annuity. This is a little goofy, but helps them come up with more precise numbers than they’d otherwise be able to achieve. Just keep this in mind as we talk about the article’s conclusions.

The Power of Working Longer

First, the authors look at what happens when a person decides to delay retirement by a year — or more. Generally speaking, each extra year worked brings roughly a 7.5% increase to standard of living during retirement. And that’s assuming a real (inflation-adjusted) investment return of 0%!

When you consider that stocks produce a long-term annual real return of about 6.8%, working an extra year has an even greater impact on standard of living in retirement.

Here’s a table from the article that shows the potential increases in standard of living that come from delaying retirement. (All of these numbers assume 0% real returns.)

The Power of Working Longer

As you an see, if a 62-year-old opted to work an additional three years instead of retire, they’d enjoy an increased standard of living of nearly 24%. Working longer is a powerful way to increase your “retirement resources”.

The authors’ research found that while investment returns do have an effect on retirement standard of living, they’re not nearly as large as the effect of working longer. Assuming 0% real returns on investments, delaying retirement age from 66 to 67 leads to a 7.75% increase in standard of living. With a 7% real return (similar to average stock market returns), that one-year delay in retirement brings an increased standard of living of 9.56%. It’s a boost, yes, but not even a boost of two percentage points over assuming zero investment returns.

The bottom line? Each extra year you work past your target retirement age brings a boost of roughly 10% to your post-retirement standard of living. Not too shabby.

The Power of Saving

The real reason this article caught my eye was the authors’ discussion of saving. They dismiss saving rate as being less powerful than working longer, but I’m not sure that I agree. (Remember, I believe that your saving rate is the most important number in personal finance.)

Why are the authors dismissive of saving rate? Their research shows that for each bump of one percentage point in saving rate over thirty years, a person can expect a 2.16% increase in standard of living at retirement — assuming a 0% real return. This same increase could be achieved by working an extra 3.3 months past target retirement age.

But what if instead of assuming a 0% real return on investment, we assume a 7% real return on investment (which is close to the long-term return of stocks)? Then each increase of one percentage point in saving rate over thirty years leads to a 4.79% increase of standard of living during retirement. In this case, it would take six months of extra work to match a one percentage point jump in saving rate.

I think the authors are far too quick saving rate in favor of working longer. They’re working with tiny, tiny fractions. Instead of talking about increasing savings by one percentage point, why not talk about something meaningful, such as an increase to saving rate of ten or twenty percentage points?

Assuming average stock-market returns (instead of 0% returns) — where every one percentage point increase to savings is equivalent to six months of extra work — then we find that by boosting your saving rate for ten percentage points over thirty years means you can retire five years earlier. If you boost your saving rate by twenty percentage points, you can retire ten years earlier. These are significant amounts of time!

To summarize, this article gives us two new financial rules of thumb. First, for each year you work past standard retirement age, you’ll enjoy roughly a 10% increase to your post-retirement standard of living. Second, each percentage point bump to your saving rate is roughly equivalent of six months you don’t have to work.

What if You Start Late?

To me, there shouldn’t be an argument about whether it’s better to work longer or to save more. Both strategies produce notable increases to standard of living in retirement. If we save more now, we’ll have more later. And if we work a little longer, that’ll provide a boost to our standard of living too.

Last of all, I’d like to point out that the authors correctly conclude that the later you start saving, the less powerful saving actually is. If you don’t begin saving for retirement until age 56, there’s far less time for the power of compounding to grow your wealth snowball. As a result, for older folks each percentage point increase to saving rate is equivalent to about a month-and-a-half of extra work (as opposed to between three and six months).

Effects of a Saving Rate Bump

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start saving in your forties and fifties. It just means that the power of saving is diminished. And it means that, realistically speaking, you’ll probably have to work beyond your desired retirement age.

[Increasing your retirement resources: The Power of working longer, AAII Journal]

Source: getrichslowly.org

Dear Penny: My Dad Says to Invest My Roth IRA in Silver, Marijuana

Dear Penny,

I’m a 24-year-old single male and recent college graduate. I have a job but no 401(k) match, so my dad suggested I start a Roth IRA. I don’t have any idea how to invest it.

My dad says that since I’m young, I need to take risks. He’s suggested some marijuana stocks and silver stocks that he’s made money on. But this seems like it might be too risky to me. My dad doesn’t work in investing, and I don’t think he knows a whole lot about it. I’m not making enough to hire a financial advisor. Is my dad giving me bad advice?

-New Investor

Dear Newby,

Your dad loves you and wants what’s best for you. But that doesn’t mean he knows anything about investing.

Your dad’s suggestion that you open a Roth IRA was a good one. By forgoing a tax break now, you’ll get tax-free income when you retire. But it sounds like your dad isn’t clear on the kind of investment risks beginning investors should take.

So you start out by investing mostly in stocks, which tend to be high-risk/high-reward, and then gradually shift more money into bonds, which are safer but offer little growth. When you have a few decades to go until retirement, your money has time to recover from a stock market crash.

But when you invest in just a couple of stocks, your risk of losing everything is substantial. Your investments may never recover if things go south. There may not be any money left to recover. You never want your life’s savings tied to the fate of a single company or two.

Both the silver and marijuana industries are especially volatile. The price of silver fluctuates wildly for a host of reasons. One is that more than half of silver is extracted as a byproduct while mining for other metals, like gold, copper or zinc. It’s basic supply and demand stuff: The supply of silver doesn’t move up and down with changes in demand, so the prices are turbulent. With marijuana, you’re doing a lot of political calculus about when and where marijuana will become legal, plus a lot of the companies are small with no proven track record.

That doesn’t mean you should never invest in silver or marijuana. But you should only do so if you already have a diversified portfolio and you’re starting with a relatively small amount. And never use your retirement funds for these kinds of speculative investments.

The best way to start investing is to spread your money across the stock market. You don’t need a financial adviser here. You can do this with a total stock market index fund, which invests you across the entire stock market, or an S&P 500 index fund, which invests you in 500 of the largest companies in the U.S. You could also take the guesswork out of it completely and use a robo-adviser. Your brokerage firm will use an algorithm to invest your money according to your age, goals and how much risk you’re willing to take.

If you opt to choose your own investments once you get your feet wet, it’s essential that you only do so after researching the investment on your own. Don’t make decisions based solely on what someone else says, whether that person is your dad or an advice columnist or a stranger on Reddit.

If, after doing your own research, you decide you wanted to invest in silver or marijuana, a safer way to do so would be to invest in a silver or marijuana exchange-traded fund, or ETF. Your money would be invested in a bunch of businesses throughout the industry instead of concentrated in a single company. But I’d only suggest this after you’ve gotten some investing experience — and only then if you’re limiting your investment to 5% to 10% of your portfolio.

You don’t say how old your father is or whether you know anything about his finances. To be honest, I’m more concerned about your dad’s retirement planning than I am about yours if he gravitates toward high-risk investments.

Since you’re already talking about your retirement, this could be a good opportunity to start the conversation about how prepared your dad is for his retirement. I’m not asking you to play financial adviser here. But even just asking your dad when he wants to retire and whether he feels ready is a good conversation to have.

As for your dad’s stock picks, I think you’re probably fine saying, “Thanks, I’ll check it out.” You’re an adult, and you don’t need to provide your dad with a copy of your brokerage statement.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

Related Posts

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Ergodicity: The Coolest Idea You’ve Never Heard Of

Table of Contents show

Share This Post:

Surely that’s a typo…ergodicity!? No, it’s right! Ergodicity is a powerful concept in economic theory, investing, and personal finance.

Even if the name seems wild to you, the idea is simple—stick with me while I explain it. And then we’ll apply ergodicity to retirement planning and investing ideas.

By the end of this article, you’re going to be seeing ergodic systems and non-ergodic systems all over your life!

Ergodic, Non-Ergodic, and Russian Roulette

Ergodicity compares the time average of a system against the expected value of that system. Let’s explain those two terms: time average and expected value.

The time average asks, “If we did something a million, billion, trillion times…what would we expect the results to look like?” It needs to be a sufficiently long random sample.

The expected value asks, “By simply averaging probabilities, where would we expect the result to be?”

At first blush, you might think, “Those two are the same thing…right?” Right! Or, at least you’d be right if the system in question is ergodic.

I flip a coin a billion times, and I end up with a time average of 50/50 heads and tails. Alternatively, I could just use their known probabilities and surmise the expected value of 50/50.

In this case, the time average and the expected value are the same. Therefore, the system—coin flipping—is ergodic.

But let’s contrast coin flips against Russian Roulette. The expected value of Russian Roulette is optimistic. ~83% success and ~17% failure. But what happens if one “plays” a million times? Ahh! I think you’d agree that the time average of Russian Roulette is 100% failure.

When one fails in Russian Roulette, it is a devastating failure. To only look at the expected value of the system is too simple. The expected value is far different than the time average. Thus, Russian Roulette is non-ergodic.

Ergodicity –> Over and Over, Big & Small

Ergodicity rears its head in two circumstances. First, ergodicity matters when we do things over and over and over. And second, ergodicity matters when certain outcomes are meaningful while other outcomes are insignificant.

To further explain ergodicity, imagine this bet:

I have a 100-sided die.

I’ll roll the die and you pick a number. If it lands on any other number than your number, then you win $1000.

But if it lands on your number, then Mike Tyson punches you in the face and takes your money.

What a deal! You call 99 of your friends and you all come to take this bet. Sure enough, one of your friends loses. But the rest of you win a combined $99,000 and agree to pay for his medical bills (which may or may not be covered by the $99K…which is another crazy blog post waiting to happen).

The “ensemble average” is that you won! One individual loss doesn’t change that.

But would that result be the same if you had played 100 times by yourself? No! In that scenario, there’s a 63% chance that you’d eventually lose the roll, lose your money, and get punched in the face.

The expected value (you and all your friends) is different than the time average (you doing it 100x). This is not an ergodic process.

Revisiting Ergodicity & Coin Flips

We concluded earlier that coin flips are ergodic. The expected value of a single coin flip equals the time average results of many coin flips.

But let’s change the rules a bit. Imagine I promised you a 40% positive return on heads but a 30% loss on tails. You start with $100,000. Would you take this bet?

Again, let’s call up 100 of your friends. You each take the bet.

We can predict that half of you will end up with $140K (40% return) and half end up with $70K (a 30% loss). On average, you each have $105K. As a group, you’ll end up 5% higher than you started.

Sure enough, we can run this simulation a million times and that’s exactly what we see. Both the mean and median results of these simulation show a 5% profit. Taking the bet was smart.

But what if you took the bet 100 times? Same result?

Same for You?

To start, let’s look at two common snippets in the sequence of returns: one win followed by one loss, and one loss followed by one win.

Win then loss

Loss then win

(You mathematicians will see the commutative property at play. The order of this multiplication didn’t matter.)

This result completely shifts our mindset.

When two people share a win/loss, then end up with $140K+$70K = $210K, or $105K each. They gain $5K. But when one person sequentially suffers a win/loss, she ends up with $98K, or a $2K loss.

What happens if you take this bet 100 times in a row? On average, you are going to lose money. Let’s look at a 50/50 heads/tails split.

Group 50/50:

That’s a 5% profit.

You 50/50:

That’s a 64% loss

But you might “spike” a certain run where you get more heads than tails. What happens if the group gets 60 heads and 40 tails? What happens if you get 60 heads and 40 tails?

Group 60/40:

You 60/40:

That’s…a big profit. $37.3 million.

I simulated the “you get 100 flips” case 100,000 times. As expected, the median result is a 64% loss. But the best result of the 100K simulations turns your $100K bet into $950 million dollars (68 heads, 32 tails).

This bet is non-ergodic. The expected value (100 friends scenario) is completely different than the time average (you 100x bets scenario).

But it’s also interesting that the distribution in the expected value case is tight (low risk, low reward) while the distribution in the time average case is extremely wide (high risk, potentially high reward).

EV is a profit, while time average is a loss. EV is low variance, while time average is high variance.

In case you can’t tell, ergodicity economics and subsequent economic theory is a serious field. There are big conversations taking place and serious money to be made (or lost).

But let’s focus a little closer to home: ergodicity and retirement.

Ergodicity and Retirement

In retirement planning, probability of success is often used as a figure of merit. I’ve used it here on the blog.

For example, the famous Trinity Study and 4% Rule cite a “95% chance of success,” where success is equivalent to “not running out of money before you die.”

Die with money? Success! Die without money? Failure! This is an expected value metric—for 95% of all people, the 4% rule would have worked.

But a few problems in this thinking immediately arise and ergodicity is to blame.

Problem 1: Equal and Opposite?

The 5% of retirement fail cases are painful. Very painful. I would argue that the pain of failure in retirement is greater than the joy of success.

This is reminiscent of loss aversion, or the “tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains.” The keyword in loss aversion is “equivalent.” People would rather avoid a $100 parking ticket than win a $100 lotto ticket. Those are equivalent. And yes, loss aversion is irrational.

But is failing in retirement equivalent-and-opposite to succeeding in retirement? I’d argue no. Failing in retirement is akin to a Russian Roulette loss. Devastating! And succeeding in retirement is a Russian Roulette win. It’s “expected.”

Problem 2: Expected Value & Risk Sharing

Let’s assume we all follow the 4% rule. And true to historical form, let’s assume that 95% of us have successful retirements, but 5% of us “fail” and run out of money.

In the previous examples—100 friends and Mike Tyson, or 100 friends and the 40% win/30% loss coin flip—we assumed that the group would share the risk and share the reward.

This guaranteed that we’d see profits, but eliminated our chance to win $950 million. This guaranteed that even if we did get face-punched by Mike Tyson, our winning friends would still help us out.

But in retirement planning, people do not share risk. The 95% winners have no obligation to bail out the 5% losers. This changes the game. This isn’t traditional ergodicity.

Instead, we’re all in the game by ourselves (like the time average participant), but only have one shot to get it right (lest our retirement plan fail). From the ergodicity point of view, it’s a conundrum. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with a 20-chamber gun (5% failure = 1 chance in 20).

How do potential retirees react to this change in the rules?

For starters, many real retirement plans are couched with so much conservatism that the retiree ends up with more money when they die than when they retired. Put another way—their investment gains outpace their ability to spend.

And we know that money is time. Therefore, we can conclude that many people work for years more than they need to. They’re cursing at spreadsheets when they could be sipping mojitos. Pardon my 2020 vernacular, but this is an abundance of caution.

Is there an ergodic solution to this over-cautious planning?

Does Ergodicity Have a Solution?

What did we learn from Mike Tyson ergodicity example? What did we learn from our coin flipping?

If we share risk, we reduce our potential upside but also eliminate downside.

Imagine that 100 retirees pool a portion of their money together. They all know that 95% of them won’t need to dip into that pool. They also know that their money in the pool is probably going to have worse returns than it would outside of that pool.

However! These 100 retirees also realize that the pool will save 5 of them from failure. And thus, the pool guarantees that their retirement will be successful. Instead of 100% of them worrying about a 5% downside, now none of them need to be concerned.

The purpose of investing is not to simply optimise returns and make yourself rich. The purpose is not to die poor.

William Bernstein

Some of you will know that this “pool” concept already exists. It’s called an annuity.

Annuities?! Jesse, You Son of a B…

Wait, wait, don’t shoot me! Besides, you only have one bullet in those 20 chambers (thank ergodicity)

Real quick: an annuity is a financial product where a customer pays a lump sum upfront in return for a series of payments over the rest of their life. Insurance companies often sell annuities.

Annuities—on average—are losing propositions. Just like my pool above, the average annuitant will suffer via opportunity costs. Their money—on average—is better invested elsewhere.

Insurance protects wealth. It doesn’t build wealth.

Ben Carlson

Never let someone convince you that an insurance product is going to build your wealth. Why? There are only two parties involved—you and the insurance company. If you’re building wealth, then the insurance company is…losing money? No way.

Insurance products are equivalent to average mutual funs with high fees. The high fees drain you like a vampire bat. They make money, and you lose via opportunity costs.

But one thing that annuities get right is that they hedge against downside risk in your retirement planning. The insurance company—i.e. my pool in the example above—collects a loss from most customers in order to provide a vital win to few customers.

This is just like real insurance. Most people pay more in insurance premiums—for their house, their car, their medical life—then they ever see in payouts. But for a vital few, insurance saves them from complete disaster.

Of course, detractors will rightly point out that annuities aren’t always guaranteed. If the insurance company goes belly-up, your state guarantor might only cover a portion of what you’re owed. Yes—that means your risk mitigation technique has risk itself. Riskception.

Annuities aren’t perfect. I don’t plan on buying one. But if the ergodicity of retirement planning has you fretting small chances of failure, annuities are one way to hedge that downside.

Is Robin Hood Ergodic?

Jesse is a boring index fund investor. It’s true.

But not Robin. She day-trades on Robin Hood, often experimenting with exotic trades with high leverage.

We can examine Jesse and Robin using ergodicity.

Jesse is playing the long game. In this simple hypothetical, his yearly returns are +30%, +10%, then -15%. The same three-year cycle keeps repeating. One might look at those three values and think, “Ah. About 8.3% per year, on average.”

Robin thinks daily. She wants money now. In this hypothetical, her daily returns are +60%, +15%, and -50%. The same three-day cycle keeps repeating. Again, one might look at those three values and think, “Ah. About 8.3% per day, on average.”

You might see a problem. We’ve used the arithmetic mean here. The arithmetic mean is useful in finding the expected value, in ergodicity terms. If Person A gains 60%, Person B gains 15%, and Person C loses 50%, their average change is an 8% gain.

But sequencing investment returns—e.g. the ergodicity time average—requires that we use a logarithmic average. So let’s do that below:

[note: exp = the exponential function, ln = the natural log]

Uh oh. Robin’s log average return is negative. And sure enough, if Robin executed this particular day-trading strategy, she would turn her $10,000 into $500 in less than four months. Meanwhile, Jesse is fine with his 6.7% annual return (trust me…he is).

The simple lesson is one that new investors love to scream from the rooftops (and that’s a good thing). Namely, a given portfolio loss requires a larger equivalent gain to return back to even. The arithmetic mean does not capture this fact, while the log mean does.

The larger the loss, the more significant the returning gain needs to be. That’s another ergodicity concept.

E.g. a 1% loss is offset by a 1.01% gain—they’re essentially the same. But a 50% loss—like the one Robin suffers every third day—requires a 100% gain to offset it

Just like we said earlier in the post—big risks matter most, and those large downsides are when we’re likely to see non-ergodic systems.

Everyday Ergodicity

I would argue that a smooth, ergodic personal life is also optimal. Imagine ranking your days on a scale of 1-10. Would you rather have half 10’s and half 4s? Or all dependable 7’s? Or two-thirds 10’s and one-third 1’s?

To each their own. I’d prefer the 7’s. I don’t want half my days to be “bad,” even if the flip side of that coin is that half my days are “perfect.”

Don’t make ‘perfect’ the enemy of good enough.

-Someone at Jesse’ work

Maybe it’s boring. Maybe it’s the same muscle that pushes me towards indexing and away from Gamestop. To each their own. But I’ll take the 7’s.

Ergodicity in Grad School

In grad school, I studied fluid dynamics. See—this is me! Specifically, I worked on reaction-diffusion-advection problems in the University of Rochester Mixing Lab.

Fluid mixing is a terrific example of ergodicity. Take a few seconds to watch the video below. It’s a pretty way to view equilibrium statistic physics. Ergodicity applies to many different dynamical systems, stochastic processes, thermodynamic equilibrium problems, etc. It’s a mechanical engineer’s dream.

Ergodic mixing

If we mix sufficiently, we see that small sub-sections of the fluid are representative of the fluid as a whole. The time average of many mixes is equal to our expected value of a uniform mix. This is ergodicity. This system is ergodic.

If this was butter and sugar—soon to be cookies—we could take any teaspoon of the mixture and draw reasonable assumptions about the mixture as a whole. Mmmmm!

But imagine if we accidentally introduce a dog hair into the mix (not that that’s ever happened in my kitchen). Suddenly, the mix is no longer ergodic.

Why? The expected value of any given cookie is that it will not contain the dog hair. But of course, eat enough of the cookies and you’ll eventually find the hair.

Or put another way, a single teaspoon of the mixture—which will contain either the entire dog hair or no dog hair at all—is no longer representative of the total mixture.

Good Article. Ergo…

Ergo it’s time for the summary.

Ergodicity is a fun concept. Or at least fun for nerds like me. It’s a terrific way to consider risk. It helps us in behavioral economics, personal finance, and real retirement planning.

What do you think? Any cool ergodic or non-ergodic systems in your life?

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Share This Post:

Tagged ergodicity, retirement, risk, statistics

Source: bestinterest.blog

Indexed Universal Life (IUL) vs. 401(k)

Indexed Universal Life (IUL) vs. 401(k) – SmartAsset

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

When creating your personal retirement plan, there are a variety of tools you can use to fund your long-term savings goals. An employer-sponsored 401(k) is one of them while indexed universal life insurance (IUL) is another. A 401(k) allows you to invest money on a tax-deferred basis while also enjoying a tax deduction for contributions. Indexed universal life insurance allows you to secure a death benefit for your loved ones while accumulating cash value that you can borrow against. Understanding the differences and similarities between IUL vs. 401(k) matters for effective retirement planning. Working with a financial advisor can also make a substantial difference in the amount of money you’ll have when you retire.

What Is Indexed Universal Life Insurance?

Indexed universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance coverage. When you buy a policy, you’re covered for the rest of your natural life as long as your premiums are paid. When you pass away, the policy pays out a death benefit to your beneficiaries.

During your lifetime, an IUL insurance policy can accumulate cash value. Part of the premiums you pay are allocated to a cash-value account. That account tracks the performance of an underlying stock index, such as the Nasdaq or S&P 500 Composite Price Index. As the index moves up or down, the insurance company credits the cash value portion of your policy each year with interest.

IUL is different from fixed universal life insurance or variable universal life insurance. With fixed universal life insurance your rate of return is guaranteed, making it the least risky of the three. With variable universal life insurance, your cash value account is invested in mutual funds and other securities so you’re exposed to more risk. An indexed universal life insurance policy fits in the middle of the risk spectrum.

Cash value that accumulates inside an IUL insurance policy grows tax-deferred. You can borrow against this cash value if necessary, though any loans left unpaid at the time you pass away are deducted from the death benefit.

What Is a 401(k)?

A 401(k) is a type of qualified retirement plan that allows you to set money aside for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis. Contributions are deducted from your paychecks via a salary deferral. Your employer can also offer a matching contribution. The IRS limits the amount you can and your employer can contribute each year.

With a traditional 401(k), contributions are made using pre-tax dollars. Any money you contribute is automatically deducted from your taxable income from the year. When you begin taking money out of your 401(k) in retirement, you’ll pay ordinary income tax on withdrawals. Any withdrawals made before age 59.5 may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as income tax.

Traditional 401(k) plans allow you to invest in a variety of securities, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Target-date funds are also a popular option. These funds automatically adjust your asset allocation based on your target retirement date.

There’s no death benefit component with a 401(k). This is money you save during your working years that you can tap into in retirement. Unless you’re still working with the same employer, you’re required to begin taking minimum distributions from a 401(k) beginning at age 72. Failing to do so can trigger a tax penalty equivalent to 50% of the amount you were required to withdraw.

IUL vs. 401(k): Which Is Better for Retirement Savings?

Indexed universal life insurance and 401(k) plans can both be used as investment tools for retirement. But there are some important differences to note. With IUL, returns are tied to the performance of an underlying index. If the index performs well, then your policy earns a higher interest rate. If the index underperforms, on the other hand, your returns may shrink. Your insurance company can also cap the rate of return credited to your account each year, regardless of how well the underlying index does. For instance, you may have a cap rate of 3% or 4% annually.

In a 401(k) plan, you have the option to invest in index mutual funds or ETFs but you’re not locked in to just those investments. You can also choose actively managed funds, target-date funds and other securities, based on your time frame for investing, goals and risk tolerance. Your rate of return is still tied to how well those investments perform but there’s no cap. So, if you invest in an index fund that goes up by 20%, you’ll see that reflected in your 401(k) balance.

A 401(k) also affords the advantage of an employer matching contribution. This is essentially free money you can use to grow retirement wealth. With an indexed universal life insurance policy, you’re responsible for paying all of the premium costs.

Another big difference between the two centers on tax treatment and withdrawals. With an indexed universal life insurance policy, you can borrow against the cash value at any time. You’ll pay no capital gains tax on loans and no penalties unless you surrender the policy completely or fail to repay what you borrow. Death benefits pass to your beneficiaries tax-free.

With a 401(k), you generally can’t tap into this money penalty-free before the age of 59.5, even in the case of a hardship withdrawal. You may be able to avoid a tax penalty if you’re withdrawing money for qualified medical expenses but you’d still owe income tax on the distribution. You could take out a 401(k) loan instead but that also has tax implications. If you separate from your employer with an outstanding loan balance and fail to repay the loan in full, the entire amount can be treated as a taxable distribution.

Qualified distributions in retirement are taxable at your regular income tax rate. And if you pass away with a balance in your 401(k), the beneficiary who inherits the money will have to pay taxes on it. Talking with a tax professional or your financial advisor can help you come up with a plan for managing tax liability efficiently both prior to retirement and after.

The Bottom Line

Indexed universal life insurance and a 401(k) plan can both help you build wealth for retirement but they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. If you have a 401(k) at work, this may be the first place to start when creating a retirement savings plan. You can then decide if IUL or another type of life insurance is needed to supplement your workplace savings as well as the money you’re investing an IRA or brokerage account.

Tips for Investing

  • When using a 401(k) to invest for retirement, pay close attention to fees. This includes the fees charged by the plan itself as well as the fees associated with individual investments. If a mutual fund has a higher expense ratio, for instance, consider whether that cost is justified by a consistently higher rate of return.
  • Consider talking with a financial advisor about how to maximize your 401(k) plan at work and whether indexed universal life insurance is something you need. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to get personalized recommendations for professionals in your local area in just minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/yongyuan, ©iStock.com/kupicoo, ©iStock.com/Piotrekswat

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.

Read next article

About Our Retirement Expert

Have a question? Ask our Retirement expert.

smartasset.com

How to Retire in Turkey: Costs, Visas and More

How to Retire in Turkey: Costs, Visas and More – SmartAsset

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

Turkey is filled to the brim with beautiful architecture, art and a melange of cultures that reaches back thousands of years. It’s home to artifacts from communities like the Hittites, Ancient Greeks, early Christians and Mongols, which fill this nation of some 82 million, with a rich sense of history. Lying as it does at a crossroads of Europe and Asia, visitors can see a unique blend of Western and Eastern influences. Its Mediterranean and Black Sea beaches are renowned for their beauty. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar extends across 58 covered streets hosting some 1,200 shops. If you’re considering retiring in Turkey, here’s an overview of some basic information you’ll need. A financial advisor can offer valuable guidance as you consider retiring abroad.

Cost of Living and Housing

It’s much less expensive to live in Turkey than it is to live in the U.S. Without accounting for rent, Turkey’s cost of living is 53.56% lower than in the U.S. on average, according to Numbeo, a cost-of-living database.

U.S. rent prices are 556.13% higher when stacked against those in Turkey, on average. To rent a one-bedroom apartment in a city center will run you around $215.26 in Turkey, whereas a comparable setup in the U.S. would run about $1,340.16. If you wanted to pursue purchasing an apartment in Turkey, you would find that the price per square foot in a city center is averaged out to $83.07. In comparison, the same square footage in a similar city location in the U.S. would cost about $328.96.

To further illustrate the contrast, we can compare Istanbul, Turkey’s most populated city, to the U.S.’s New York City. To maintain the same standard of life, you would need around $8,203.10 in New York, which contrasts starkly to the approximately $1,960.45 necessary in Istanbul, assuming you rent in both.

So, if you’re looking for a country to retire in with both affordable renting prices and lower property costs to make the most out of your savings, Turkey may be a solid option.

Retire in Turkey – Visas and Residence Permit

Turkey doesn’t have a visa specifically for retirement, so you have to apply for a residence permit instead. This requirement applies to anyone who intends to remain in the country more than three months. You’ll first have to apply for a short-term residence permit, and you must do so within a month of your arrival in Turkey. There is an online application you fill out at the Turkish Ministry of Interior’s website. Once you finish, it will prompt you to make an appointment with the nearest DGMM office to continue the process and pay the fee your visa requires.

A short-term residence permit is issued on a two-year basis. After you’ve lived in Turkey uninterrupted for eight years under your short-term visa, you can apply for a long-term residence permit. These extend indefinitely.

No matter what residence permit you are applying for, you will likely need to show proof that you possess adequate assets. This can shift whether or not you have dependents, but a single person is generally required to have the equivalent to a month’s worth of Turkish minimum wage. As of early 2021, that would be around $400.

Retire in Turkey – Healthcare

The World Health Organization ranking of national healthcare systems puts Turkey’s at 70th out of 191. The central government body responsible for healthcare and related policies is the Ministry of Health (MoH). There is also a private sector and university-based care; however, the MoH is the main body responsible for providing healthcare. You can expect the quality of healthcare in Turkey to vary between regions. Although it’s cheaper than some of its European neighbors, access is limited in more rural areas. You’re more likely to have high-quality care in major urban locations like Istanbul – as well as the ability to communicate with your healthcare providers in English. This increase in quality is why most expats choose to go to private medical facilities over public ones.

All residents under 65 must have either public or private health insurance. Expats who have resided in Turkey for over a year under their residence permit can apply to have public health insurance through the state-run Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK). Expats usually choose to supplement this with private insurance (or just choose private) to cover additional fees at private facilities.

As Turkey has grown as a country and political entity, it has experienced a great deal of reform around its healthcare system. It likely will continue to experience further changes in the future.

Retire in Turkey – Taxes

Like many countries, residents and non-residents are subject to different taxes in Turkey. Residents pay taxes on their worldwide income, whereas non-residents only have to pay taxes on Turkish-sourced income. The country uses a progressive tax scale, ranging from 15% to 35%, depending on your income bracket.

Turkey does possess a tax treaty with the U.S., which can provide some relief. You will only have to pay into one country’s Social Security program as a result, which in Turkey is a 14% flat tax for employees. Otherwise, there are also tax exemptions that may allow you to pay less on your U.S. income taxes. One example is the foreign earned income exclusion, which lets you exclude the first (approximately) $100,000 for foreign earned income if you can prove your Turkish residency.

Retire in Turkey – Safety

Each expat’s experience is unique. Some may travel through Turkey and find they encounter little to no issues on a security level. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be cautious. The U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory warns travelers either visiting or moving through Turkey to be wary of both terrorism and arbitrary detentions. The advisory heavily suggests that you avoid the Sirnak and Hakkari provinces, which are in the southeastern part of the country, as well as any area within six miles of the Syrian border to avoid terrorist activity. The State Department’s most recent report on human rights practices in Turkey bears a close reading, especially sections 1 and 6.

Although you should speak with locals and enjoy the culture, you should also be wary of your surroundings and keep an eye on political developments. It is also advised that you don’t engage with political topics online either since that can still be a red flag.

The Takeaway

Turkey is still in the process of significant political change, making settling down difficult for the average retiree. That, along with terrorism concerns, may encourage you to look at other countries instead. However, Turkey has a strong sense of identity with a warm populace who wants to share their cultural. That sense of belonging, along with the country’s beautiful features and its low living costs, may make the challenges worth it to you.

Tips on Retiring

  • Finding the right financial advisor who can help address your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you up with local financial advisors in as little as five minutes. If you’re ready to be meet with advisors in your area that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Planning your retirement comes with its challenges, especially if you intend to move abroad. While Turkey may have low living costs, there still may be other financial burdens you have to address. To get an idea of what to expect, stop by our retirement calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/hadynyah, ©iStock.com/Nikada, ©iStock.com/TEZCAN

Ashley Chorpenning Ashley Chorpenning is an experienced financial writer currently serving as an investment and insurance expert at SmartAsset. In addition to being a contributing writer at SmartAsset, she writes for solo entrepreneurs as well as for Fortune 500 companies. Ashley is a finance graduate of the University of Cincinnati. When she isn’t helping people understand their finances, you may find Ashley cage diving with great whites or on safari in South Africa.
Read next article

About Our Retirement Expert

Have a question? Ask our Retirement expert.

smartasset.com

How to Retire in Barbados: Costs, Visas and More

How to Retire in Barbados: Costs, Visas and More – SmartAsset

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

An island in the West Indies, Barbados is a jewel of the Caribbean. Its turquoise waters and golden beaches are a perfect match to many people’s idealized days in the sun that they hope is waiting at the end of their working life. While this commonwealth country, where English is the official language, does have good reason to boast, you may wonder whether it’s right for you to retire in Barbados. Before contacting your financial planner to see if your finances are in order for the move, here are a few matters to consider first.

Cost of Living and Housing

Barbados’s cost of living tends to run a little higher than the U.S.’s on average, according to Numbeo, a cost-of-living database. At 12.24% above the U.S.’s average, without taking into account rent, the difference is not as significant as some other percentages found between the two.

For example, although Barbados has a higher cost of living, it has a much lower rent average. In comparison to the U.S., Barbados’s rent is generally 48.53% lower. You’ll find that renting is the cheaper way of living in Barbados, with a single-bedroom apartment in a city center at about $654.55. However, purchasing is a different story. At about $3,087.21 per square meter to buy an apartment in the same setting, it’s in the same price range as the U.S. There, it’s around $3,533.12 per square meter.

So, if you’re looking to stretch your retirement funds further, it makes more sense to pursue renting Barbados rather than purchasing a property.

Retire in Barbados – Visas and Residence Permit

For those who want to retire in Barbados, the process is relatively simple. Individuals over 60 with sufficient funds to support themselves can apply for immigrant status. After living in the country for five years, those people can then apply for permanent residence. You’ll have application and approval fees, in this case, $300 and $1,200, respectively.

Another option open to retirees is a special entry permit (SEP). This permit is offered to retired property owners and allows them to visit the island and leave as they please. The main requirements include owning Barbados real estate valued at $150,000 or higher and health insurance coverage. The latter’s value depends on the person’s age; below 50 has to have $350,000, and over 50 has to have $500,000 worth of coverage.

There are flat fees to cover for the SEP. It’s $5,000 for those below 50 and above 60 with $3,500 for those in between 50 and 60. Once you hit 60, this permit is indefinite, but you must renew it until then.

Retire in Barbados – Healthcare

Barbados enjoys a high standard of living and, thus, its people’s health is overall quite good. Its healthcare system is even viewed as among the best in the Caribbean. However, if you’re not a Bajan (as citizens of Barbados are sometimes called), you are not included under the island’s universal healthcare system. Therefore, if you’re an expat looking to retire in Barbados, you should ensure that you have private health insurance. Otherwise, numerous travelers and potential residents seek out the U.S. for treatment instead.

This outsourcing is also partially due to the difficulty in accessing professional care, such as rehab services. Otherwise, you’ll generally find four types of institutions: hospitals, both private and public; polyclinics; alternative healthcare clinics; and somewhat specialized hospitals, such as the five geriatric hospitals on the island.

Retire in Barbados – Taxes

After you spend 182 days of one year in Barbados, you are considered a resident. So, it’s important to know the tax distinctions between resident and non-resident status. Residents must pay taxes on their worldwide income, or the income they earn both inside and outside Barbados. In contrast, non-residents only pay taxes on income earned in Barbados.

For residents, they must file their income taxes on a minimum threshold of BBD50,000, or approximately $24,786. Incomes up to and including BBD50,000 incurs a 12.5% tax rate, while going over that amount leads to 28.5%. Residents are ensured a basic personal allowance of BBD25,000 ($12,500) and BBD40,000 ($20,000) for pensioners older than 60.

Non-residents receive the same tax rates. However, it’s important to note that even if you live outside the country, you must file taxes with the U.S. as an expat as well. Barbados and the U.S. have a tax treaty that can offer benefits and help ease the burden. There are also opportunities for U.S. expats through the foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credits to avoid double taxation on their Barbados earned income.

Retire in Barbados – Safety

While U.S. expats are not specific targets of crime in Barbados, they are still susceptible to crimes of opportunity and violence. Theft, such as burglary and gun violence, among other crimes, exist in Barbados. So, it is essential to remain vigilant, to avoid walking alone, particularly at night, and to know who you’re with at all times.

In particular, the U.S. Department of State advises against traveling through specific areas on the island to avoid these dangerous interactions. Areas to avoid include Crab Hill, Nelson and Wellington Streets and general nighttime party cruises.

Be cautious about which activities you enjoy, such as water sports or tourist events. This advisement comes more from a practical, safety concern than a pointed targeting of tourists, though. So, keep your wits about you.

The Takeaway

Barbados is the island of dreams for some retirees. Thanks to the prominent U.S. community as well as an English-speaking citizenry, there’s less of a culture shock to shake you up. There is also the gorgeous weather, a location out of most hurricanes’ paths and the relative ease in becoming a resident. However, before you start to plan out your future on this island, it’s best to speak with a trusted financial advisor. Such a person can lay out the commonwealth’s tax and healthcare systems and help you determine whether the high purchasing price of property is in line with your long-term goals.

Tips for Achieving Your Retirement Goals

  • Finding the most suitable financial advisor for your needs doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with local financial advisors in as little as five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with your financial advisor, who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Barbados may not have a high cost of living compared to the U.S., but the difference could still affect your finances. To see  if your finances will support this, try our retirement calculator. Just put in a few details about where you want to retire, when you want to retire and the value of your current savings.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Fyletto, ©iStock.com/isitsharp, ©iStock.com/zstockphotos

Ashley Chorpenning Ashley Chorpenning is an experienced financial writer currently serving as an investment and insurance expert at SmartAsset. In addition to being a contributing writer at SmartAsset, she writes for solo entrepreneurs as well as for Fortune 500 companies. Ashley is a finance graduate of the University of Cincinnati. When she isn’t helping people understand their finances, you may find Ashley cage diving with great whites or on safari in South Africa.
Read next article

About Our Retirement Expert

Have a question? Ask our Retirement expert.

smartasset.com