Get Schooled on Self-Directed Education Savings Accounts
There are several investment/savings options available to individuals who want to give the gift of education to children. An education savings account (ESA) is an excellent supplement to other education savings (such as a 529 plan) with tax advantages. Also called a Coverdell Education Savings Account, this is a trust account created by the U.S. government.
An ESA may be used to cover qualified expenses related to primary, secondary, or higher education, from kindergarten through college or post-secondary trade school. Withdrawals are tax free (free from federal income tax) when used for eligible expenses. These include tuition, books and supplies, computers/equipment, transportation, school fees, and room & board. Children attending public school or private school may use the funds for qualified expenses.
Self-directed ESA investments
As with any other type of self-directed plan, an education savings account can include a range of alternative assets. Depending on need and time horizons for taking qualified withdrawals, there are opportunities to boost the $2,000 annual contribution limit through nontraditional investments such as private equity, secured and unsecured loans, real estate, precious metals, and many more.
Baby Sarah’s grandparents want to contribute to her education and open a self-directed ESA – they can contribute up to $2,000 annually. Sarah’s parents are also putting money away for the baby’s education. They plan to register her into public elementary school but may consider private middle/high school.
Every year, Sarah’s grandparents contribute $2,000 into her ESA, and begin investing the funds in an alternative asset with which they have years of experience.
As the value of Sarah’s ESA grows beyond the $2,000 annual contributions, she will have funds to use for books and supplies or can withdraw funds to cover tuition costs at a private high school or for college, to supplement her parents’ savings. Plus, her grandparents can continue to contribute to the ESA until Sarah turns 18—and continue to diversify the accounts’ holdings through other self-directed investments they already know and understand.
Their $36,000 gift over those 18 years can grow exponentially through the power of nontraditional investments not typically affected by the stock market, provide Sarah with more money to use for her education, and give mom and dad a little help along the way.
- Contributions may be made for beneficiaries until they turn 18; funds must be used within 30 days of the student turning 30 years old. (There are certain exceptions for special needs students.)
- The funds in the account can be transferred into another ESA for a relative under 30 years old.
- The total maximum contribution for any single beneficiary (even with multiple education savings accounts) is $2,000 per year.
- Contributions are considered gifts by the IRS and are not tax deductible.
- There are income guidelines regarding who may contribute. The 2020 limits are as follows:
- For a married couple filing jointly with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $190,000 and $220,00, a partial contribution is permitted; for those with less than $190,000 MAGI, the full $2,000 contribution is permitted.
- Solo tax filers must have MAGI of $95,000-$110,000 to make a partial contribution, and less than $95,000 MAGI to make the full $2,000 contribution.
- Corporations and trusts may contribute to an ESA without the restriction on adjusted gross income.
- There is a 10% IRS penalty on earnings (with certain exceptions) for non-qualified withdrawals.
If you have questions about how to get started or about the alternative assets allowed in self-directed accounts, you can schedule a complimentary educational session with one of our knowledgeable representatives. Alternatively, you may contact us at directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or send an email to NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Has Your Work Situation Changed? You Can Roll Your 401(k) Funds into a Self-Directed IRA
Do you have a retirement plan that is still with an employer where you are no longer working? If you have recently lost a job due to COVID-19, or are in job transition, make sure you don’t leave your old 401(k) plan behind. If yours is still with a previous employer, you can rescue those funds and roll them over into a self-directed IRA.
Right now, it’s unclear for many workers if or when there will be a new employer with a new workplace retirement plan. However, one thing is clear: opening an IRA (Roth or Traditional) is an option that enables individuals to make sure their retirement savings stay with them. Moreover, if that new retirement plan is self-directed, there is a much wider range of potential investment options available that account holders—not their employers—control.
Rollovers into self-directed IRAs
Since most 401(k) plans are limited in terms of allowable investments, rescuing and rolling over those funds into a self-directed IRA opens up the door to greater investment opportunity, without the limits imposed by most plan sponsors on the defined contribution plans they offer. As you may know from your existing 401(k), most of those plans are limited to investing in mutual funds or exchange traded funds, stocks, and bonds. Opening a new self-directed IRA will enable you to include an array of alternative assets that you may already know and understand, such as real estate, private equity, precious metals, hedge funds, secured and unsecured notes/loans, energy investments, and more.
Through self-direction, you’ll build a more diverse retirement portfolio, create a hedge against stock market volatility, and gain better control over your investment returns as part of your retirement strategy. You’ll also have the flexibility of buying and selling your investments when you choose, rather than according to a prescribed schedule that most 401(k) plans follow.
You can choose to do a rollover into a new Roth or Traditional IRA, or a SIMPLE or SEP IRA, depending on your employment status, overall tax situation and how far out you are from retirement. As always, we recommend you discuss your unique scenario with a trusted advisor. You may also have to check with the current plan administrator to see if there are any restrictions concerning the type of IRA allowed for a rollover from the existing 401(k).
How to roll funds over into a self-directed IRA
At Next Generation, our comprehensive starter kits walk you through all the steps needed and required documentation to submit in order to open a new self-directed retirement plan with us, and include a rollover form for Traditional, Roth, SEP, or SIMPLE IRAs (we have starter kits for other types of plans as well). Moreover, our helpful team of professionals are available to answer questions about opening a self-directed IRA or about the many types of non-publicly traded, alternative assets, these plans allow. You may schedule a complimentary education session; or you may contact Next Generation by phone at 888.857.8058 or by email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Fuel Your Self-Directed IRA with Energy Investments
Energy investments are among the alternative assets that can be held in a self-directed IRA; oil and gas fall under the umbrella of types of energy investments.
Oil and gas investment opportunities can include:
- The land being explored and/or the mineral rights of that land
- Interest in refineries and drilling companies
- Futures and commodities contracts
Oil and gas investments are relatively complicated, but for the right investors, can be a powerful way to fuel one’s retirement portfolio and create asset diversity. As with any nontraditional investment, individuals should carefully research the oil and gas market and understand mineral rights, surface rights, working interests, and royalty streams.
Property issues to consider
In the United States, property owners have rights to the land’s surface, structures and what lies below. Therefore, property owners with oil or gas deposits on their land control those minerals. They may sell or lease the mineral rights to make money and buyers with self-directed IRAs can invest in the mineral rights as a long-term retirement strategy.
Holding mineral rights means you own the mineral content beneath the surface. Other minerals besides oil and gas that qualify for mineral rights differ among states, so make sure your research and due diligence includes state law regarding mineral rights.
The person who holds mineral rights to a piece of property within a self-directed IRA also has access to the property’s surface; this confers the ability to use reasonable means to locate and produce the underground minerals (as in exploration or drilling).
This is the right to control the surface of the land, including existing structures erected on the land. Depending on the transaction, the seller may stipulate that he or she is selling surface rights only and retaining the mineral rights (or vice versa).
A working interest is an investment in drilling operations (also referred to as operating interest). It is an ownership percentage in the operation; therefore, the investor is responsible for a portion of the ongoing costs associated with the exploration, drilling and production of the asset. With all self-directed investments, any expenses related to the asset must be paid from the self-directed IRA account, and profits from the investment must be returned to the account.
The accounts can be tax-deferred or tax free, depending on the type of IRA (Traditional or Roth). Since there are certain tax benefits related to the costs and losses in a working interest, investors are wise to consult a tax specialist as part of their due diligence.
Royalty interests in oil and gas are the ownership portion of the resource or the revenue it produces. The entity that owns a royalty interest (such as the self-directed IRA) is not responsible for any operational costs, but does own a portion of the resource or revenue produced (the royalties). Some reasons to invest in royalty interests are whether the investor/company/IRA has the finances to bring resources to the production phase, and risk tolerance. In the case of oil production, the producing company pays the property owner a royalty in return for access to the oil field.
Other self-directed energy investments
Solar or wind options, geothermal energy, biofuel, or hydroelectric power are other energy-related assets that can be included in a self-directed IRA.
Take control of your retirement, today
You might already be investing in energy assets outside of your existing retirement plan, in which case, you can open a new self-directed IRA with Next Generation and include these as a hedge against stock market volatility. Whether you plan to include oil, gas, or other alternative assets in your portfolio, you may have questions about self-direction as a retirement strategy. If so, you can schedule a complimentary educational session with the Next Generation team. Alternatively, you can email us directly at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com or call 888.857.8058.
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.
Impact Investing Through a Self-Directed Retirement Plan
Younger investors are changing the investing landscape as they start putting more of their dollars into sustainable investments. This category of investments includes those that consider environmental, social, or government practices.
More and more, millennial investors want to include investments that align with their values within their retirement plans—including their self-directed IRAs.
According to the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, interest in sustainable investing (SI) has grown among the general population and even more so among millennial investors in recent years.
- In 2015 among the general population, 71% of those surveyed indicated they were interested or very interested in SI in 2015. In 2019, that rose to 85%.
- In 2017, 84% of millennials were interested or very interested, which rose to 95% in 2019.
- When it came to actually having sustainable investments:
- In 2017, 42% of the general population and 50% of millennials had sustainable investments.
- Today, 52% of the general population and 67% of millennials do.
- Investment into sustainable funds has nearly tripled in 2019 from the prior year ($13.5 billion to date).
To name a few ways that social impact investing is showing up in self-directed retirement plans, investors have been including assets such as organic farmland, FINtech, innovative startups, or renewable energy. Popular target investments cited in the Morgan Stanley report were those related to plastic reduction and climate change.
The social impact side of this is important to investors – a majority (83% of the general population and 89% of millennials) said they believed their sustainable investments could create economic growth and reduce poverty. Around one-third of these investors (33% of the general population and 36% of millennials) are also screening investments in order to avoid putting money behind something they object to.
Sustainable investments in a self-directed IRA
Given that self-directed investors have more options in terms of the types of investments their plans can include, it’s no surprise that those interested in supporting environmental and social causes, innovations, and companies are including organic farmland, renewable energy resources, or innovative startups within those plans.
Some other examples of social impact and sustainable investing are:
- Climate mitigation projects
- Clean energy projects or companies (wind, water, solar)
- Organic farms, sustainable tree farms
- Affordable housing
- Equity funding in companies that produce devices that increase water or energy efficiency or life-saving medical equipment for rural areas or Third World countries
Self-directed investors make all their own investments decisions – usually based on experience with assets they already know and understand. Self-direction can be a powerful way to put what moves investors most into their retirement plans because it can give investors better control over their earnings. Added benefits of self-direction include portfolio diversification for investors who also wish to continue investing traditionally, and a hedge against stock market volatility.
If you’d like to learn more about the many options available through self-direction as a retirement strategy, register for one of Next Generation’s complimentary educational sessions. Alternatively, you can contact our team directly by phone at 1-888-857-8058 or by email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Self-Directing your HSA Can Help Boost Your Savings for Future Medical Expenses, Tax Free
It’s common today for people to have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP)—one with a higher annual deductible and out-of-pocket maximums (and slightly lower premiums) than typical health insurance plans.
Those high deductibles may be a hard pill for many people to swallow, but HDHPs allow individuals to open and fund a health savings account (HSA). HSAs provide three tax-advantaged ways to save and pay for qualified medical expenses. The tax benefits of these accounts are:
- Funds deposited into an HSA are not taxed
- The balance in the HSA grows tax free
- The amount withdrawn to pay for qualified medical expenses (including copays, coinsurance, premiums, dental care, eye care, and prescription drugs) is not taxed
After a person hits 65 years old and is on Medicare, he or she can no longer contribute to the HSA but the funds may be used for other expenses without penalty; however, any non-medical distributions are treated like those from a Traditional IRA and subject to income tax on the distribution. Unlike a Traditional IRA, there are no required minimum distributions.
Your savings can accrue year after year, just like in an IRA. And just as you include alternative assets within your IRA, you can also invest the money you accrue in your health savings account—and purchase alternative assets to build up your savings for the future.
Just as with any self-directed retirement plan, you can give your health savings account a boost by including nontraditional investments such as real estate, precious metals, notes, private equity, and more. Self-direction allows you to use your expertise in the investments you’re passionate about, and may bring you comfort in knowing you’re making your own investment decisions. And, if you have relatively low medical costs and build up a healthy balance in your HSA, you have another avenue for growing your retirement savings with the potential for higher yield than the returns on a typical savings account. The broad array of diverse investments allowed through self-direction also provide a hedge against stock market volatility.
The contribution limits for HSAs in 2020 will be $3,550 for an individual and $7,100 for a family; individuals 55 and older can make an additional $1,000 catchup contribution.
You can have more than one HSA and you can transfer funds between them—so you may choose to use one to cover medical expenses or medical emergencies and another building wealth as a long-term investment for future medical expenses or supplemental retirement income. With health care costs continually rising, and today’s workforce expected to need at least $260,000 to cover medical expenses during retirement, having a self-directed HSA can help.
By including alternative assets and self-directing your health savings account, you’ll have more options for creating a cushion for medical or other expenses when you retire—and you’ll maximize your HSA contributions while you are able.
If you have questions about self-directed HSAs or any self-directed retirement plans, Next Generation can help with one of our complimentary educational sessions. Or, contact our team about self-directed IRAs and the many types of nontraditional investments these plans allow. We’re available via phone at 1-888-857-8058 or email: NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Don’t Want to Delay Retirement? Here’s Another Option…
Although the current retirement age is 66, many seniors continue to work, even though they are eligible for full Social Security benefits. In fact, research by Provision Living (a provider of services for older adults) revealed that in U.S. cities with populations of 200,000 or more, at least 20 percent of people ages 65 and up were still working. Results of a more recent poll by Provision Living (August 2019) showed that 55 percent of respondents worked part time and 45 percent worked full time. Survey participants were between the ages of 65 and 85.
Why do seniors continue to work?
A sizable amount—one third—enjoy working and don’t want to retire, or prefer working but with fewer hours. However, 62 percent of respondents cited finances as the reason why they were still in the workforce; they couldn’t afford to retire, they were supporting families, or were still paying off debt. For many, their retirement savings were not at the level needed for a comfortable retirement that was not largely dependent on Social Security benefits.
In fact, 70 percent of working seniors in the survey said that Social Security would be their primary source of income after retirement. The others said a pension, 401(k), personal savings, and stocks would be their main income source in later years. A small percentage (11 percent) said they planned to rely on children or family to support them.
Plan for a comfortable retirement through self-direction
If you enjoy being in the workplace, that’s great! But if you’re thinking ahead to either working less or not at all, have you thought about self-directing your retirement plan?
Opening a self-directed IRA opens the door to building a more diverse retirement portfolio allowing you to invest in alternative assets such as real estate, private equity, unsecured or secured loans, and precious metals. Self-direction can be a powerful way to build retirement savings—and gives you the option to delay retirement because you want to keep working, not because you must due to finances.
Savvy investors who are comfortable making their own investment decisions can invest in what they already know and understand, take advantage of certain market opportunities, and enjoy tax-advantaged retirement savings.
The Social Security Trust Fund has an uncertain future which will affect many of today’s workers. Corporate pensions are disappearing. The stock market is unpredictable. Those who wish to self-direct their retirement plans can better control their futures, today—and create a hedge against market volatility.
Want to learn more about self-directed retirement plans? Contact us to set up a complimentary educational session. Alternatively, you can contact our team with any questions about self-directed IRAs and the many types of nontraditional investments these plans allow. We’re available via phone at 1-888-857-8058, or email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Getting Educated About Self-Directed Education Savings Accounts
Thoughts of college are in the air at this time of year, with PSATs, SATs, ACTs and other tests. High school juniors are deciding where to apply to school and seniors have decided where they’ll enroll in the fall.
While college is an exciting time for students, it can be a bit stressful for parents when it comes to making those tuition payments. Even with financial aid, there are plenty of expenses to cover and in many cases, the financial aid does not go far enough.
That’s where Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) come in. Many parents and grandparents set up these accounts when a child is born, and contribute to the ESA annually to build up savings to pay education-related expenses. The 2019 annual contribution limit is $2000 per beneficiary (contributed up to age 18), which can be invested and earn tax-free income.
Here are some of the benefits that ESAs have to offer:
- Coverdell ESAs are tax-advantaged so long as the money in them is used to pay for education expenses—which are not limited to higher education only; the funds may be used for qualified elementary and secondary school expenses as well.
- If the distribution is less than the beneficiary’s qualified education expense, the beneficiary (student) will not owe federal income tax.
- The money is considered the beneficiary’s money when applying for federal student aid, which may reduce the amount of student aid the student receives.
- The funds in the account can be used by the beneficiary up to age 30 or be rolled over to another plan.
Self-directed ESAs – the flexible way to build up education savings
Did you know that when ESAs were first introduced in 1997, they were called Education IRAs?
And did you know that, like all other types of IRAs a Coverdell ESA can be self-directed, so that the funds can be invested in alternative assets?
A Coverdell ESA that is opened with a custodian of self-directed retirement plans—like Next Generation—can include the same types of nontraditional investments as other self-directed plans. That way, if the stock market tumbles, the account provides a hedge through the use of those nontraditional investments, such as real estate, precious metals, private equity, notes, and more. Parents or grandparents who already have the knowledge and experience with these types of investments can apply that experience to the student’s education savings through self-direction—and help grow their contributions over time.
Think of the high school graduation gift you could give your child or grandchild years from now, with a self-directed ESA that has grown in value through nontraditional investments. At Next Generation, we offer a plethora of resources to learn more about Coverdell ESAs and the benefits of self-direction. Because client education is so important to us, we’re here to answer your questions about self-direction as a savings strategy—for education expenses or retirement. Contact Next Generation at 1.888.857.8058 or email NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com if you need assistance.
Alternatively, you can sign-up for a complimentary educational session with one of our representatives.
GE’s Fall off the Stock Market Cliff – a Lesson in the Value of Self-Direction
Over the past year, the value of General Electric Co.’s stock experienced a $140 billion drop. To give you an idea of the significance of this epic decline on the stock market, a Wall Street Journal article reported that this “was twice the amount that vanished when Enron Corp. collapsed in 2001 and more than the combined market capitalization erased by the bankruptcies of Lehman Brothers and General Motors during the financial crisis.”
This means that the retirement savings of untold people—employees with company stock and other shareholders—took a nose dive that will be extremely hard to overcome. The author pointed out some human errors that lay underneath the decapitalization and the stock market’s cyclical fluctuations. Lack of a financial plan, savings objectives, asset allocation, and understanding of risk were among them, as were:
- Overweighted portfolios with stock holdings that are not evaluated periodically. The author called this “survivorship bias.” What was once valuable may no longer be delivering the same high level of expected returns.
- Lack of portfolio diversity. Sure, it’s nice to get company stock as part of a benefit package (from the same employer that is paying your salary), but putting all of one’s retirement eggs in one nest, so to speak, lacks diversity in terms of risk and asset allocation.
As the author noted, the fall in GE’s shares caused a lot of financial pain for many stockholders. Investors who have self-directed retirement plans, however, don’t typically teeter on the edge of the stock market cliff. That’s because they include alternative assets in their plans, and avoid falling victim to the ups and downs of the stock market (especially those cataclysmic falls).
If you’re comfortable making your own investment decisions, understand certain alternative assets, and would like to include them in your retirement plan, self-direction can be a great way to diversify your retirement portfolio. If you’re already investing in real estate, precious metals, commodities, equity funding or other nontraditional investments, consider including them in a self-directed retirement plan. Want to know more? Read up on self-direction as a retirement wealth-building strategy in our white paper library and on our website… or contact our helpful team for answers to your questions at 1-888-857-8058 or Info@NextGenerationTrust.com.