Retirement Planning in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are all aware of the widespread economic impact that the lockdowns instituted to curb COVID-19 have had on U.S. businesses and taxpayers, which has moved Americans to rethink their retirement planning strategies.
Given the spikes in unemployment or reduction in wages experienced by millions of people – and unpredictable stock market performance, which so many rely upon for their retirement wealth – the pandemic is causing disruptions beyond the everyday.
Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave, reported in an article on ThinkAdvisor said, “The pandemic has had the biggest impact on what we used to think of as retirement because now all the pieces on the table are moving around. It’s brought to light the importance of matching health span to life span. People are thinking more and more about the importance of health and what they can do to optimize it.”
Health spans, lifespans, and retirement lifestyles
Americans have enjoyed longer lifespans over the generations and have had to plan on saving more for retirement to enjoy their lifestyles for longer periods of time. However, COVID-19 has older adults also thinking more about their health. As Dychtwald puts it, they have suddenly been thrust into thinking about what matters most in life. He feels that for many people, the psychological impact of the pandemic has been not only to consider what happens if they die, but how they want to live their lives—more streamlined, pared down to the essentials of a good life, and optimizing their health.
That said, according to Dychtwald, there’s more optimizing to do for retirees in the realms of technology and financial literacy. He says this population needs to adapt to and adopt technology to connect to new ways of socializing, access medical care (via telemedicine), or research financial information. A Pew Research study reported that only 62% of Americans over age 75 use the internet and 28% use or feel comfortable connecting to social media. And when it comes to financial health, Dychtwald notes many retirees don’t understand their options for retirement savings and what it all means, including Social Security benefits.
So where does retirement planning come into this new pandemic-colored picture?
A new post-pandemic lifestyle?
For many people, they’ve been experiencing a quieter, simpler lifestyle in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns and safety guidelines— and may be re-evaluating what their retirement looks like. Will it include more travel or less travel? Time spent with loved ones or more time for hobbies or volunteering? Staying in a sprawling home or downsizing to a cozy bungalow, moving to an urban environment from the suburbs or getting that cabin in the woods?
Given the business closures—even temporary ones—business owners who may have been putting off retirement before the pandemic might be looking at retiring earlier than originally planned … and are taking a fresh look at their retirement accounts and how the funds are invested.
Taking control of your financial future with self-directed IRAs
Luckily for self-directed investors, they’re connecting, researching, and are savvy about the types of investments they’re including within their retirement accounts. Rather than rely on the ups and downs of the stock market or tolerate sluggish returns on Treasuries, self-directed investors are taking stock of their goals, perhaps shifting their priorities, and planning for the future—despite these uncertain times—with nontraditional investments such as real estate, private equity, secured and unsecured loans, hedge funds, precious metals and many more.
While this retirement strategy is not for everyone, many individuals are seeking a hedge against stock market volatility (such as the recent market turbulence wrought by the pandemic), portfolio diversification and better control over their investment returns – all benefits offered by self-directed IRAs.
Are you looking to shift your retirement strategy to include alternative assets you already know and understand? Do you want to develop a retirement portfolio that reflects your interests or an area of expertise? If you’re comfortable making your own investment decisions, it’s a great time to plan your retirement from a different perspective. You’ll find a plethora of information about self-directed IRAs on our website; and if you have questions about how to get started, you can schedule a complimentary educational session with someone from our team. Alternatively, you can contact us directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Considering Taking a Hardship Distribution from Your Retirement Plan?
The coronavirus pandemic is leaving millions of Americans on furlough or out of a job, dealing with reduced hours or workload… but NOT with reduced monthly bills to pay. For many, this is a time of financial hardship. Sadly, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve report, 40 percent of adults cannot cover a $400 emergency expense and the current situation goes far beyond that.
Sometimes, individuals consider dipping into one’s retirement plan to cover short-term expenses. Among the emergency expenses that may qualify for such a withdrawal are tuition/education expenses; down payment or repairs on a primary residence, rent or mortgage payments (to thwart possible eviction or foreclosure); out-of-pocket medical expenses; and funeral costs.
- The withdrawal amount has been limited to the amount of the emergency expense
- The plan participant pays income tax on the withdrawal plus a 10 percent penalty if under 59½ years old
- If a 401(k) design allows for loans (not all do), people taking loans against their 401(k) plans must repay the full loan amount with interest; lack of repayment can trigger additional penalties
- In addition, participants’ contributions from their paychecks into their 401(k) plans are suspended for at least six months after taking the hardship distribution
Changes with the CARES Act
This stimulus package has loosened the rules around taking hardship withdrawals from retirement plans, and loans from 401(k) plans. A CARES Act provision allows individuals who are facing adverse financial consequences due to COVID-19 to withdraw funds from their retirement accounts without penalty (regardless of age). This applies to IRAs and 401(k) plans.
The withdrawal must be made before December 31, 2020 and can be up to $100,000. Tax payments on this income are extended out three years. For those taking loans against their 401(k)s, that amount is also raised to $100,000. Note that there are no loans from IRAs.
Why gamble with your retirement savings?
Many financial experts argue against taking out a hardship loan from one’s 401(k) plan to avoid reducing any retirement savings, when there are other loan options available (such as a home equity loan, SBA loan, or other lines of credit). And, all good intentions aside, it may be difficult to replace the funds from a hardship distribution from an IRA or other retirement plan—and then rebuild on that money for retirement.On top of that, the stock market has suffered a tremendous downturn, with subsequent volatility almost daily, as a result of COVID-19 and the economic stressors stemming from lockdowns.
Weathering market volatility through self-direction
Self-directed investors have greater leeway when it comes to hedging against that stock market volatility. That’s because of the many alternative assets that can be held in a self-directed retirement plan. Investing in real estate, precious metals, private equity, or other non-publicly traded assets give savvy investors many more ways to build a more diverse retirement portfolio that have stronger potential to weather the COVID-19 storm (and other times of economic uncertainty). One reason is because the returns on nontraditional investments in a self-directed IRA do NOT directly correlate with stock market returns.
You can even loan funds from your self-directed IRA to someone who is dealing with a cash flow shortage, with the terms worked out between both parties, and receive interest and principal paid back to your IRA.
As always, it is best to consult your trusted financial adviser about how to navigate financial hardship as it relates to your retirement plan. At Next Generation, we’re here to answer any questions you have about self-direction as a retirement strategy, or about the many alternative assets allowed in these plans. You can schedule a complimentary educational session to learn more or contact us directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Women’s History Month: A Look at Women and Their Financial & Investing History
Ever since the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s a lot has changed for women in America, thanks to spitfire pioneers who generated shifts in societal attitudes and pushed for legislative changes.
The National Organization of Women advocated for six measures to ensure women’s equality: enforcement of laws banning employment discrimination, maternity leave rights, childcare centers (so mothers could work), tax deductions for childcare expenses, equal and unsegregated education, and equal job-training opportunities for women in poverty. These all took many years to pass.
Eventually, as more women entered the workforce employers were barred from firing a woman because she was pregnant. More women began running for political office. No-fault divorce laws arose. Women began serving in combat, became astronauts, and sat on the Supreme Court bench. Moreover, they could finally apply for a credit card or loan in their own names.
Women in financial history
Women have been making their mark on the financial sector since our country’s early days. In fact, future First Lady Abigail Adams began trading in government-issued bonds during the Revolutionary War with strong results, and a woman named Victoria Woodhull opened her own brokerage house in 1870 with her sister; she also ran her own newspaper company and was the first woman to run for U.S. President.
Some more notable firsts in modern times:
- Isabel Benham was the first woman to work on Wall Street in the 1930s at R.W. Presspich & Co. and in the 1960s, became the firm’s first female partner.
- Muriel Siebert was the first woman to purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967 and the first woman to be appointed Superintendent of Banking a decade later.
- In 2014, Janet Yellen became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve.
Women and investing
The women’s liberation movement notwithstanding, it’s been an uphill climb for women to take their rightful places in the workplace and take their seats at corporate tables. As of January 1, 2020, there have been 82 individual women in Fortune 500 CEO roles in total, with three serving as CEO twice.
However, more women are undergoing a new women’s liberation movement when it comes to their investment choices . . . and discovering they can take more control of their financial futures through self-directed investing.
Self-directed IRAs enable investors to better control their retirement savings by investing in alternative assets they know and understand. Although historically, women have taken a more moderate approach to risk, those who prefer to make their own investment decisions can open a new self-directed retirement plan and include non-publicly traded, alternative assets to build a more diverse retirement portfolio. These investments might include real estate, private equity, private lending, partnerships, precious metals or impact investments.
Self-directed investors also conduct their own research and due diligence about the alternative assets they wish to include in their retirement plans. They may already be investing in these assets outside of their existing retirement accounts. In fact, that’s how our founder and CEO, Jaime Raskulinecz, started Next Generation.
Next Generation’s Women in History
Jaime was a seasoned real estate investor who wanted to include real estate in her IRA; she discovered self-direction as a retirement strategy that would allow her to do so. As a pioneer in her own right, Jaime started a company in 2004 to enable more investors to include nontraditional investments in their retirement plans and Next Generation, a third-party administrator for those plans, was born. Continuing to build on her success, in 2017 she led the formation of its sister firm, Next Generation Trust Company, which now acts as custodian for all of its accounts.
Jaime and her partner Linda Varas, Principal of Next Generation, have always believed in the power of women in the workplace and our team is a testament to that. Jaime and Linda have cultivated a career-building environment for women (and men, too!), as you’ll see on our team page.
We are proud to recognize Jaime’s many professional achievements as we continue to educate more women on the power of self-directed investing. Want to take control of your future, today? Sign up for a complimentary educational session with one of our knowledgeable representatives. Alternatively, you can email us directly at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com or call 888.857.8058 to get started.
Americans are Working Longer
Recent research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies* shows that Americans are working longer, with 54 percent saying they expect to work past age 65 or never retire at all. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they plan to retire either at age 65 or later, and 22 percent plan to retire earlier.
While there are personal factors around why Americans are working longer – such as maintaining social connections, longer lifespan and emotional health – financial factors are also part of this story. In the U.S., it’s often not having enough saved for retirement and Social Security concerns; three-quarters of the workers surveyed said they are worried that Social Security will not be available when they retire.
Global expectations around retirement age are very interesting to look at and compare with U.S. figures. Transamerica conducted additional research across 15 countries, in collaboration with the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement. While the current expected age of retirement in the U.S. is 66 (shared by the United Kingdom and Australia), it is 65 in many European countries and Canada, 60 in India, and 58 in Turkey and China. The findings are based on 14,400 workers and 1,600 retired people surveyed online between 22 January and 14 February 2019.
However, as we know, the average retirement age is rising in the U.S.; for Americans born in 1960 and later, it is 67. The Netherlands is already there and according to the study, France, Spain and Poland are planning to move their retirement age to 67 as well.
Americans are Working Longer, but a Self-Directed IRA Can Help Make the Most of Your Employment and Retirement Timelines
In the Transamerica/Aegon global study, a majority of respondents said they envision an active retirement, where work and leisure can co-exist. Sixty percent cited travel and 57 percent cited spending time with family and friends as important retirement goals; 49 percent said they look forward to pursuing new hobbies. Additionally, 27 percent aspired to do volunteer work and 26 percent planned to include some form of paid work. The two biggest retirement concerns were declining physical health and running out of money.
Whether you retire at age 65 or 66, or continue to work in some capacity well into your retirement years, you can make the most of your retirement savings through self-direction. A self-directed IRA allows you to include many alternative assets, which are not allowed in typical retirement plans, and build a more diverse retirement portfolio. This also allows investors to hedge against the volatility of the stock market, and include nontraditional investments they already know and understand. Why limit yourself to stocks and bonds when you can invest in real estate, precious metals, promissory notes, private equity and joint ventures—and have more control over your returns—within a self-directed IRA?
At Next Generation, we help individuals make the most of their retirement savings and live up to their retirement goals through self-directed retirement plans. If you’re someone who’s comfortable making your own investment decisions and conducting your full due diligence about certain types of investments, you may benefit from self-direction.
Plus, with the SECURE Act provisions that enable workers to continue contributing to a Traditional IRA for a longer timeline, and delay taking required minimum distributions from their plans until age 72, there’s more time to build up one’s retirement nest egg with a broad array of nontraditional investments.
Want to learn more? Sign up for a complimentary educational session about self-directed IRAs with one of our knowledgeable representatives. Alternatively, you can call us directly at 888.857.8058 or email NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
*Online survey conducted between October 26 and December 11, 2018 among a nationally representative sample of 5,923 workers who were U.S. residents, age 18 or older; and full-time or part-time workers who are not self-employed and work in a for-profit company employing one or more people.
The SECURE Act and Self-Directed Retirement Plans
The SECURE Act, signed into law on December 20, 2019, is comprehensive legislation written to expand retirement savings, simplify existing rules, preserve retirement income, and improve plan administration. SECURE stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement.
The bill mostly makes significant changes to workplace retirement plans; other provisions affect retirement plans in general, including self-directed IRAs. Here is a look at some of the changes, effective January 1, 2020.
For those who own a self-directed Traditional or Roth IRA:
- Increase in RMD age for Traditional IRAs – The required minimum distribution age is now 72. Individuals who turn 70½ in 2020 would not be required to take a minimum distribution until April 1st of the year in which they turn 72. This only applies to individuals who turn 72 in 2020 or later.
- Contribute to your Traditional IRA longer – Workers age 70½ and older with earned income may now continue contributing to a Traditional IRA—and continue building up retirement savings. This only applies to individuals who are turning 70½ in 2020 and later.
- Tax penalty exemption for birth or adoption of a child – For a qualified birth or adoption, the account holder can withdraw a total of $5,000 as an early distribution without the 10% penalty, when the distribution occurs within one year of the event. Income taxes still apply.
- Graduate student IRA contributions – Certain payments to graduate and postdoctoral students will be treated as earned income for IRA contribution purposes.
- No more stretch IRAs – The lifetime distribution option for certain non-spousal IRA beneficiaries is now eliminated and most non-spouse inheritors who are more than 10 years younger than the deceased IRA owner will be required to take all distributions within 10 years. Exceptions include beneficiaries who, at the time of the account owner’s death, are:
- Disabled or have certain chronic illnesses
- Within 10 years of the decedent’s age
- Minors (10-year payout period begins upon reaching the age of majority)
- Recipients of certain annuitized payments begun before enactment of the SECURE Act.
For business owners who have a SEP IRA, Solo 401k, or other qualified retirement plan:
- Longer deadline to establish a plan – Now employers may establish a qualified plan as late as their business tax filing deadline, including extensions, rather than the last day of the company’s business year. This extension will not apply to certain plan provisions.
- Increase in small-employer plan startup credit – Up to $5,000 per year, effective for 2020 and later taxable years, for employers with up to 100 employees over a three-year period beginning after December 31, 2019. The credit applies to SEP, SIMPLE, 401(k), and profit-sharing plans.
- Automatic enrollment credit – Employers that include an automatic enrollment feature in their new or existing small 401(k) plans or SIMPLE IRA plans will get a maximum annual tax credit of $500 for each of the first three years that the plan is maintained. (Effective for 2020 and later taxable years.)
- Participation by part-time employees – Employees who work at least 500 hours over three consecutive 12-month periods (and who satisfy the plan’s minimum age requirement) must be offered participation in the employer’s 401(k) plan.
All SECURE provisions have tax consequences for individuals and plan sponsors. As always, the team at Next Generation strongly recommends you consult your trusted advisor regarding how the SECURE Act provisions may affect your specific tax situation.
Secure a more diverse retirement portfolio through self-direction
In light of the recent changes, consider including alternative assets within a self-directed retirement plan. Those who are comfortable making their own investment decisions and who understand certain nontraditional investments can build up their retirement savings—and hedge against stock market volatility—with such assets as real estate, precious metals, private equity, hedge funds, private notes, and more.
At Next Generation, we’re here to answer your questions about self-direction as a retirement wealth-building strategy, or how certain provisions of SECURE may affect your self-directed retirement plan. You can arrange a complimentary educational session with one of our representatives, or contact us directly at 888.857.8058 or NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com for more information.