Capture8

Why Aren’t Interest Rates Going Up?

Interest Rates, Inflation, and Monetary Policy: Why aren’t U.S. interest rates going up?

Our topic today is interest rates, inflation, and monetary policy. The question we will attempt to answer is: When are interest rates in the United States finally going to rise?

 

Defensive Strategies Depress Returns

If you’re like most bond investors, you’ve been expecting interest rates to rise for over 2 years now. As a prudent investor, you’ve been holding the duration, or interest rate risk, of your portfolios shorter than usual to protect against falling prices when rates rise. Unfortunately, the result of your prudent behavior has been to underperform standard indexes such as the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond index. And if your portfolio is focused primarily on safe assets such as U.S. Treasuries, all but the longest maturity funds struggled to provide a return even modestly better than inflation.

Capture1

Source: http://news.morningstar.com/fund-category-returns/ and https://fred.stlouisfed.org
1Author’s calculations

While short-term rates have indeed risen with the Federal Reserve rate hike in December 2015, interest rates for Treasuries maturing in 10 years and beyond have actually fallen by an average of more than -0.50% over the past 3 years. Granted, this article was written the day after the British referendum to exit the European Union, which caused global stock markets to tumble and U.S. Treasury yields to fall. If we measure the change in yields as of June 23, 2016 when most experts expected the British to vote to remain in the E.U., long term interest rates have still fallen an average of -0.37% since January 2013.

Capture2Source: www.treasury.gov

In contrast to the lack of upward movement in nominal interest rates, real yields – nominal yields adjusted for inflation – have risen across all maturities in recent years, albeit from an extremely low starting point. As of January 2, 2013 real yields for 5-year Treasury bonds were nearly -1.50%, whereas by June 24, 2016 5-year real yields are only negative -0.50%. And if you were willing to invest for 20 or 30 years, you could earn the princely sum of approximately +0.35% to +0.75% real yield as of January 2013 and June 2016, respectively.

If we take a longer term perspective and look back 10 years, we observe an enviable real rate of approximately 2.5% across maturities from 5 years to 30 years! At today’s paltry real yields of less than 1%, it seems unsustainable to invest hard-earned funds for 5 years or more and barely keep up with inflation. Surely interest rates must return to more normal levels eventually.

But when will that long-awaited time finally arrive?

Building Blocks of Interest Rates

To gain some insight into the drivers of interest rates, let’s take a moment to review the building blocks using what I like to call my ‘interest rate birthday cake’.

Capture4

Theory would have us believe that the minimum return investors will accept is a modestly positive ‘real return’, historically between 1.0% and 2.5%. If you add a maturity term premium and inflation expectations to the real rate, the result is the ‘risk free’ rate of interest, which we typically consider the U.S. Treasury yield curve.

The average annual inflation rate from 2006 to 2016 was 1.93%¹, so we could expect the risk free rate of interest over that time period to be approximately 3% to 4.5%. And yet 10-year Treasury yields are currently hovering below 2%, while 30-year yields stand at approximately 2.5%. In fact, 10-year Treasury rates have been falling ever since the ‘taper tantrum’ in mid-2013 as the U.S. economy continues to struggle to sustain momentum after the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

¹Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

Capture5

 

Let’s not forget the aggressive monetary policy actions of the Federal Reserve bank since the financial crisis. The unprecedented amount of monetary stimulus has long been expected to cause inflation, and yet the only result to date has been to keep the U.S. economy from stalling.

Capture6

Source: http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/bst_recenttrends.htm

Why Has Aggressive Monetary Policy Not Sparked Inflation?

In times past economists observed a fairly reliable relationship between ‘easy money’ and the ‘velocity of money’, or the amount of times a single dollar changes hands. It is the velocity of money that traditionally puts pressure on prices of goods and services.

But as bank lending standards and capital requirements remain strict, consumer debt levels low, and with the ‘shadow banking system’ taking the place of traditional lenders, the velocity of money has been on a steady decline. Consequently, the impact of monetary policy on the economy has diminished.

Capture7

So if yields on Treasury securities remain stagnant, where else can we look for pressure on interest rates? One answer is the market appetite for risk – what Keynesian economists term ‘animal spirits’. The layers of my ‘interest rate birthday cake’ related to market risk appetites are default risk, liquidity risk, call risk, and others.Capture8

The term ‘animal spirits’ is used to describe human emotions that drive consumer confidence. Rising consumer confidence can increase the general level of economic activity if individuals feel wealthier and purchase more goods and services. If consumer demand grows sufficiently, prices of goods and services will increase, as will the general level of interest rates.

Chasing Yield – Investors Look to Corporate Bonds

If we look to Treasury yields for the risk-free interest rate, corporate bond yields should reflect a risk-adjusted rate of interest for various levels of default risk. In recent years, investors with an appetite for risk had found opportunities in low-quality corporate bonds, only to be traumatized in late 2015 and early 2016 as the precipitous drop in oil and gas prices put extreme pressure on the profitability of the energy sector of the U.S. economy. Because the credit quality of many smaller oil and gas producers was below investment grade, the high-yield sector of the bond market was particularly hard hit.

Option-adjusted yield spreads for BBB-rated corporate bonds – the additional yield above the yield of a matched-maturity Treasury – averaged approximately 1.75% in 2006-2007, prior to the financial crisis. In 2015-2016, BBB spreads averaged 2.31%. It seems investors are being fairly compensated for default risk at the current level of yields, despite a rather bumpy ride along the way.

Capture9

Traditional Drivers of Inflation Are Absent

So with this understanding of the building blocks of interest rates, can we answer the question of why Treasury yields remain stubbornly at levels barely above inflation?

The answer lies in the middle block of the interest rate pyramid: inflation. More precisely, the market’s expectation for future levels of inflation.

As you may recall from your Econ 101 course in school (assuming our readers stayed awake during class!), inflation typically occurs when either, 1) input prices are rising, causing manufacturers and service providers to increase their finished goods prices to the extent possible, or 2) consumer demand for goods and services exceeds the current supply, enabling manufacturers and service providers to increase their prices.

Though employment and consumer sentiment in the U.S. have certainly improved since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the persistent trend of lower employment participation is thought to dampen the impact of the current, nominally low, unemployment rate relative to previous economic cycles.

Capture10

Even though the recent drop in oil and gas prices has stabilized, these essential commodities remain at historically low levels enabling manufacturing, transportation, and leisure travel firms to keep prices low.

Capture11 Capture12

Source: futures.tradingcharts.com

So when are these competing forces going to settle out and the long-awaited inflation pressures manifest themselves? Not any time soon, if the forward inflation rate expectations published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis are any guide.

Capture13

If inflation pressures are indeed muted on both the supply and demand fronts, and risk appetites are being satisfied with the current level of yield spreads, it is difficult to see where inflation pressures, and therefore interest rate increases, are likely to arise in the near term.

And yet investors cannot endure miniscule real yields indefinitely. Surely there must be something else keeping interest rates low?

As Long as U.S. Treasury Bonds Remain a Safe Haven, Treasury Yields will Remain Low

The final piece in the interest rates puzzle comes from outside the ‘birthday cake’; in fact, outside the U.S. entirely. The final piece is the capital ‘flight to safety’ as international investors seek positive returns amid a global economic slowdown and negative interest rates elsewhere in the world.

Capture14Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Given the economic uncertainty caused by the British referendum to leave the European Union, and the dearth of alternative ‘safe haven’ investments, we should expect demand for U.S. securities to remain strong over the near term. Continuing demand for U.S. Treasuries, even at historically low yields, coupled with muted economic activity dampening inflation pressures, means U.S. interest rates can remain low for the foreseeable future.

Eventually, foreign economies should recover and demand for U.S. Treasury securities should fall, pushing yields up to more normal levels as global economic activity strengthens.

But as long as the U.S. is ‘the only game in town’, prudent investors can legitimately maintain the maturities of their portfolios near- to above the standard market index to capture a positive inflation and term premium while awaiting calmer global markets sometime in the intermediate future.

 

Marcia Clark is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents her opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

Supranational_European_Bodies-en.svg

Brexit, Bremain, Blah, Blah, Blah…

Last week we watched our version of “The City” lose in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, after blowing a 3-1 lead in the series. This week we watch as London, aka, “The City” and the U.K. at large enter their own final referendum homestand on whether to leave or remain in the European Union. Whether the U.K. stays or leaves, most of this outcome will be short term noise, and will deliver little long term impact in our opinion. Similar to how Cleveland winning a championship has their town in hysterics right now, it still won’t change the fact that their rivers light on fire.

As the clock ticks down, most polls show a healthy balance of IN or OUT voting leading to a proverbial coin flip for the U.K referendum. Consult the odds makers or gambling experts and you’ll get a slightly more confident story for the U.K to remain in the European Union. Let’s see where the money is:

capture1111111

Source: http://www.oddschecker.com/politics/british-politics/eu-referendum/

If the masses turn out to be asses in betting, which would not be a first, what ultimate impact would a “Brexit” have on the EU or U.K. as a whole? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. A successful “Brexit” vote would start a minimum two year process described in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in which E.U. treaties would still apply as negotiations were carried out to determine how the exit is ultimately handled. Big takeaway here is we’re not dealing with a binary event where a switch is flipped and suddenly everything we know about the E.U. changes overnight.

One of the larger talking points we hear discussed is how the U.K. will lose the majority of existing trading agreements and will be on an economic island. This is simply just not true. Sure the U.K. will need to go back to the negotiation table but they’ll have ample opportunity to continue relationships with the common market via the European Economic Area, European Free Trade Area, and even other more regional trade groups. Here’s an example of how many tangled webs one can weave:

File:Supranational European Bodies-en.svg
Source: Wikipedia

One could argue, and it is our personal sentiment, that much of the market is already pricing in a “Brexit” discount. It appears that the consensus view is that the U.K. would bear the brunt of the near term pain from an exit. This risk premium can be viewed in the form of currency volatility of the British Pound relative to the Euro as of late, shrinking British equity premiums relative to Eurozone stocks, and last but not least higher relative interest rates that lead to increased debt servicing costs. The U.K. and Germany for example have similar public debt loads, but it costs the U.K. approximately an extra $33 billion a year to service its public debt load.

UKvGER Yields

Source: Haver Analytics, Ned Davis Research

Having seen that a “Brexit” discount may already be priced, whether it passes or not, we remain committed to our international holdings and will likely take any near term dip as an opportunity to buy into weakness. Ideally, a remain vote instills confidence in some of the countries on the E.U. periphery that are struggling with structural reform and the European Union as a whole can get back to trend level growth. Something we’ve been patiently waiting for now for years.

All in all, a small part of me will be sad to see the “Brexit” vote come and go, it was a welcome distraction from the impending circus of an election the United States is about to endure. On that note, my counsel remains the same, turn off the TV talking heads, spend time with those you love, grow your value in the workplace, and be a strong steward of your wealth. That’s what we’ll be doing.

 

Respectfully yours,
Blake Street, CFP®

IRA-401k

Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges than Men?

Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges Than Men?
If so, how can they plan to meet those challenges?
Provided by Joe Occhipinti

A new study has raised eyebrows about the retirement prospects of women. It comes from the National Institute on Retirement Security, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization based in Washington, D.C. Studying 2012 U.S. Census data, NRIS found that women aged 65 and older had 26% less income than their male peers. Looking at Vanguard’s 2014 fact set on its retirement plans, NRIS learned that the median retirement account balance for women was 34% less than that of men.¹

Alarming numbers? Certainly. Two other statistics in the NRIS report are even more troubling. One, a woman 65 or older is 80% more likely to be impoverished than a man of that age. Two, the incidence of poverty is three times as great for a woman as it is for a man by age 75.¹²  

Why are women so challenged to retire comfortably? You can cite a number of factors that can potentially impact a woman’s retirement prospects and retirement experience. A woman may spend less time in the workforce during her life than a man due to childrearing and caregiving needs, with a corresponding interruption in both wages and workplace retirement plan participation. A divorce can hugely alter a woman’s finances and financial outlook. As women live longer on average than men, they face slightly greater longevity risk – the risk of eventually outliving retirement savings.

There is also the gender wage gap, narrowing, but still evident. As American Association of University Women research notes, the average female worker earned 79 cents for every dollar a male worker did in 2014 (in 1974, the ratio was 59 cents to every dollar).

What can women do to respond to these financial challenges? Several steps are worth taking.  

Invest early & consistently. Women should realize that, on average, they may need more years of retirement income than men. Social Security will not provide all the money they need, and,  in the future, it may not even pay out as much as it does today. Accumulated retirement savings will need to be tapped as an income stream. So saving and investing regularly through IRAs and workplace retirement accounts is vital, the earlier the better. So is getting the employer match, if one is offered. Catch-up contributions after 50 should also be a goal.

Consider Roth IRAs & HSAs. Imagine having a source of tax-free retirement income. Imagine having a healthcare fund that allows tax-free withdrawals. A Roth IRA can potentially provide the former; a Health Savings Account, the latter. An HSA is even funded with pre-tax dollars, as opposed to a Roth IRA, which is funded with after-tax dollars – so an HSA owner can potentially get tax-deductible contributions as well as tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals.4

IRS rules must be followed to get these tax perks, but they are not hard to abide by. A Roth IRA need be owned for only five tax years before tax-free withdrawals may be taken (the owner does need to be older than age 59½ at that time). Those who make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA can still convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. HSAs have to be used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, and HSA savings must be withdrawn to pay for qualified health expenses in order to be tax-exempt. One intriguing HSA detail worth remembering: after attaining age 65 or Medicare eligibility, an HSA owner can withdraw HSA funds for non-medical expenses (these types of withdrawals are characterized as taxable income). That fact has prompted some journalists to label HSAs “backdoor IRAs.”4,5

Work longer in pursuit of greater monthly Social Security benefits. Staying in the workforce even one or two years longer means one or two years less of retirement to fund, and for each year a woman refrains from filing for Social Security after age 62, her monthly Social Security benefit rises by about 8%.6

Social Security also pays the same monthly benefit to men and women at the same age – unlike the typical privately funded income contract, which may pay a woman of a certain age less than her male counterpart as the payments are calculated using gender-based actuarial tables.7  

Find a method to fund eldercare. Many women are going to outlive their spouses, perhaps by a decade or longer. Their deaths (and the deaths of their spouses) may not be sudden. While many women may not eventually need months of rehabilitation, in-home care, or hospice care, many other women will.

Today, financially aware women are planning to meet retirement challenges. They are conferring with financial advisors in recognition of those tests – and they are strategizing to take greater control over their financial futures.

Joe Occhipinti may be reached at 714.823.3328 or Joe@warrenstreetwealth.com

www.warrenstreetwealth.com

 

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – bankrate.com/financing/retirement/retirement-women-should-worry/ [3/1/16]
2 – blackenterprise.com/small-business/women-age-65-are-becoming-poorest-americans/ [3/18/16]
3 – tinyurl.com/jq5mqhg [6/8/16]
4 – bankrate.com/finance/insurance/health-savings-account-rules-and-regulations.aspx [1/1/16]
5 – nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/know-rules-before-you-dip-into-roth-ira/ [1/29/16]
6 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/05/29/when-do-most-americans-claim-social-security.aspx [5/29/16]
7 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/071105.asp [6/16/16]

 

shutterstock_259233902

12 Keys To Retiring From SCE With Confidence

Retirement is coming soon, and you know you should be excited. But some of us have so many questions and concerns about retirement that we’re more nervous than anything else.

We understand.

At Warren Street Wealth Advisors, we’ve helped hundreds of Southern California Edison retirees navigate this crucial but confusing time. In the process, we’ve learned SCE’s retirement programs and employee benefits inside and out. So we put together a list of our top 12 keys to retiring from SCE confidently and stress-free.

1. Have A Plan

Nothing else in this post matters if you don’t have a personalized financial plan. We believe this so strongly that building a personalized financial plan is the first thing we do with every one of our clients.

A personalized financial plan is the roadmap to your comfortable, stress-free retirement. You can know your benefits inside-out and be clever about taxes and investments. But if you don’t have a map for navigating your retirement, you’ll never feel confident along the way.

And if you don’t have a map, who knows where you’ll end up?

2. Seriously: Have A Plan

I wrote that twice because I wanted to be certain you see how important this is.

Having a plan is essential for any major life decision, and navigating your retirement with wisdom and confidence is certainly part of a major life decision!

Plus, if you’re confused about any of the information below, then setting up a plan with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (like our very own Aileen Danley, CFP®) is the easiest way to walk through all of it in terms you’ll understand. Perhaps your next step is to contact us schedule a free consultation and talk about how you can get started.

OK, let’s move on…

3. Plan to Retire Around October

If you are grandfathered into the old SCE pension plan formula and are interested in the lump sum option then you should plan to retire around October. This will allow you to choose which interest rate you want for your grandfathered formula. You can choose whichever gives you the larger lump sum payout: the current year or the next one during this small window of time (learn more HERE).

The main takeaways are to know that you have a choice, weigh the benefits, then decide to retire on December 1st or January 1st–whichever projection pays the higher lump sum benefit.

4. Retire After 55 But Before 59½ Without Paying Penalties

Here’s a scenario we see all the time: you’re 57. You want to retire. You don’t want to wait until you’re 59½ to do it. But you know that there’s a 10% federal tax penalty and a 2.5% California state tax penalty if you take money out of your 401k before then. So are you stuck?

Nope.

This is what you do: use a 72t Distribution, the “Age 55″ IRS Rule, or a combination of the two, to keep you from paying penalties. Very simply, these rules allow you to access a portion of your 401k penalty-free that can sustain you until you get to age 59 1/2.

There are a lot of moving parts here, but at WSWA, we use these rules to make certain that none of our clients pay penalties. Ever.

5. Take Advantage of Your Medical Subsidy

Did you know that you’re eligible for retiree medical subsidy? Call HR and ask them how much you get. 50% or 85% are the most common. This means that when you retire, Edison will pay 50-85% of your retiree medical insurance premium. This is one new cost you’ll have in retirement that you’ll want to budget for.

6. Say “Goodbye” To Credit Card Debt

If you have significant credit card debt, then it’s time for a plan (there it is again!), a budget, and some hard work.

Credit card debt can be intimidating, but you can pay it off! At WSWA, one of our favorite things to see is a client freeing himself or herself from the stress of mounting credit card debt. You may just need some help and a plan.

7. Plan For Your Sick Time Payout

Sick time payout can help you tremendously, especially if you’re not yet 59½. You can run a pension projection online and it will include a calculation of your accrued sick time payout value. That gives you more clarity about how much money you’ll start with when you retire.

8. Build Up 6 Months Worth Of Emergency Savings

We’re always optimistic about the future, but sometimes life takes surprising and difficult turns. Wise financial planning means being prepared for those situations.

We recommend that you save at least 6 months worth of living expenses in case of an emergency. So if you need $4,000/month to live, then have around $24,000 saved in savings and checking. That way, you’re prepared for all of the ups and downs that can happen.

9. Build And Keep A Budget

We get it: it’s no fun to build a budget. But writing down all your income and expenses will help you identify where you can save.

Building a budget doesn’t mean eliminating all of your fun, either. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use, but keep what makes you happy! Do shop your auto insurance around for a better rate. Do call your phone company and cut your bill in half. But don’t quit your bowling league if you love to bowl and bowling makes you happy.

Not sure where to start with your budget? No problem. Use our free budget builder to make it easy.

10. Wait Until Full Retirement Age To Take Social Security

There is all kinds of information out there about what to do about your social security. Let me boil it all down to one simple point for you: you don’t have to take it at 62! When we build a financial plan for a client, we use a tool that calculates all options for optimizing social security. And no matter how many times we do it and how many ways we look at it, one thing becomes clear every time: it’s usually best to wait until your full retirement age (66-67) to take social security.

There is also plenty of evidence to support waiting until age 70 too as the 32% increase in benefit can prove worth the wait. These decisions are typically based around your health at age 62 when deciding to collect or to continue to defer. It’s ultimately your decision, and we suggest weighing your options before committing to collecting the 25% reduced benefit at age 62.

11. Use Your 401k Efficiently

Max it out. Diversify your investments. Hire a pro (like us!) if you don’t love following the markets. Take advantage of the Tier 3 option (it’s called your “Personal Choice Retirement Account”) with Charles Schwab.

Plus, hiring a pro means you’ll have more time for bowling.

12. Have A Plan

You didn’t think this was going to end without one more reminder, did you?

If you’re not sure where to start with your financial plan, that’s OK: we can help. Schedule a free consultation to talk through your finances and take the first step toward building a plan.

You can retire comfortably and confidently. Take the first step to get the help you need today.

————–

If you have any other questions, we’d love to help. Give us a call today at 714-876-6200 or email us at info@warrenstreetwealth.com. For more helpful financial advice, sign up for our mailing list below!

abc-blocks

The A, B, C, & D of Medicare

The A, B, C, & D of Medicare
Breaking down the basics & what each part covers.
Provided by Joe Occhipinti

Whether your 65th birthday is on the horizon or decades away, you should understand the parts of Medicare – what they cover, and where they come from.

Parts A & B: Original Medicare. America created a national health insurance program for seniors in 1965 with two components. Part A is hospital insurance. It provides coverage for inpatient stays at medical facilities. It can also help cover the costs of hospice care, home health care, and nursing home care – but not for long, and only under certain parameters.¹

Seniors are frequently warned that Medicare will only pay for a maximum of 100 days of nursing home care (provided certain conditions are met). Part A is the part that does so. Under current rules, you pay $0 for days 1-20 of skilled nursing facility (SNF) care under Part A. During days 21-100, a $161 daily coinsurance payment may be required of you.²

If you stop receiving SNF care for 30 days, you need a new 3-day hospital stay to qualify for further nursing home care under Part A. If you can go 60 days in a row without SNF care, the clock resets: you are once again eligible for up to 100 days of SNF benefits via Part A.²

Part B is medical insurance and can help pick up some of the tab for physical therapy, physician services, expenses for durable medical equipment (scooters, wheelchairs), and other medical services such as lab tests and varieties of health screenings.¹

Part B isn’t free. You pay monthly premiums to get it and a yearly deductible (plus 20% of costs). The premiums vary according to the Medicare recipient’s income level; in 2016, most Medicare recipients are paying $121.80 a month for their Part B coverage. The current yearly deductible is $166. Some people automatically get Part B, but others have to sign up for it.³

Part C: Medicare Advantage plans. Insurance companies offer these Medicare-approved plans. Part C plans offer seniors all the benefits of Part A and Part B and more: many feature prescription drug coverage and vision and dental benefits. To enroll in a Part C plan, you need have Part A and Part B coverage in place. To keep up your Part C coverage, you must keep up your payment of Part B premiums as well as your Part C premiums.4

To say not all Part C plans are alike is an understatement. Provider networks, premiums, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket spending limits can all vary widely, so shopping around is wise. During Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7), seniors can choose to switch out of Original Medicare to a Part C plan or vice versa; although any such move is much wiser with a Medigap policy already in place.5

How does a Medigap plan differ from a Part C plan? Medigap plans (also called Medicare Supplement plans) emerged to address the gaps in Part A and Part B coverage. If you have Part A and Part B already in place, a Medigap policy can pick up some copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for you. Some Medigap policies can even help you pay for medical care outside the United States. You have to pay Part B premiums in addition to Medigap plan premiums to keep a Medigap policy in effect. These plans no longer offer prescription drug coverage; in fact, they have been sold without drug coverage since 2006.6   

Part D: prescription drug plans. While Part C plans commonly offer prescription drug coverage, insurers also sell Part D plans as a standalone product to those with Original Medicare. As per Medigap and Part C coverage, you need to keep paying Part B premiums in addition to premiums for the drug plan to keep Part D coverage going.7

Every Part D plan has a formulary, a list of medications covered under the plan. Most Part D plans rank approved drugs into tiers by cost. The good news is that Medicare’s website will determine the best Part D plan for you. Go to medicare.gov/find-a-plan to start your search; enter your medications and the website will do the legwork for you.8

Part C & Part D plans are assigned ratings. Medicare annually rates these plans (one star being worst; five stars being best) according to member satisfaction, provider network(s), and quality of coverage. As you search for a plan at medicare.gov, you also have a chance to check out the rankings.9

  

Joe Occhipinti may be reached at 714.823.3328 or Joe@Warrenstreetwealth.com

www.warrenstreetwealth.com

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – mymedicarematters.org/coverage/parts-a-b/whats-covered/ [6/13/16]
2 – medicare.gov/coverage/skilled-nursing-facility-care.html [6/13/16]
3 – medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-costs.html [6/13/16]
4 – tinyurl.com/hbll34m [6/13/16]
5 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan.html#collapse-3192 [6/13/16]
6 – medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/medigap/whats-medigap.html [6/13/16]
7 – ehealthinsurance.com/medicare/part-d-cost [6/13/16]
8 – medicare.gov/part-d/coverage/part-d-coverage.html [6/13/16]
9 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/five-star-enrollment/5-star-enrollment-period.html [6/13/16]

 

QuestionDollars

What Are Catch-Up Contributions Really Worth?

What Are Catch-Up Contributions Really Worth?
What degree of difference could they make for you in retirement?
Provided by Joe Occhipinti

At a certain age, you are allowed to boost your yearly retirement account contributions. For example, you can direct an extra $1,000 per year into a Roth or traditional IRA starting in the year you turn 50.¹

Your initial reaction to that may be: “So what? What will an extra $1,000 a year in retirement savings really do for me?”

That reaction is understandable, but consider also that you can contribute an extra $6,000 a year to many workplace retirement plans starting at age 50. As you likely have both types of accounts, the opportunity to save and invest up to $7,000 a year more toward your retirement savings effort may elicit more enthusiasm.¹ ²

What could regular catch-up contributions from age 50-65 potentially do for you? They could result in an extra $1,000 a month in retirement income, according to the calculations of retirement plan giant Fidelity. To be specific, Fidelity says that an employee who contributes $24,000 instead of $18,000 annually to the typical employer-sponsored plan could see that kind of positive impact. ²

To put it another way, how would you like an extra $50,000 or $100,000 in retirement savings? Making regular catch-up contributions might help you bolster your retirement funds by that much – or more.  Plugging in some numbers provides a nice (albeit hypothetical) illustration.³

Even if you simply make $1,000 additional yearly contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA starting in the year you turn 50, those accumulated catch-ups will grow and compound to about $22,000 when you are 65 if the IRA yields just 4% annually. At an 8% annual return, you will be looking at about $30,000 extra for retirement. (Besides all this, a $1,000 catch-up contribution to a traditional IRA can also reduce your income tax bill by $1,000 for that year.)³   

If you direct $24,000 a year rather than $18,000 a year into one of the common workplace retirement plans starting at age 50, the math works out like this: you end up with about $131,000 in 15 years at a 4% annual return, and $182,000 by age 65 at an 8% annual return.³

If your financial situation allows you to max out catch-up contributions for both types of accounts, the effect may be profound indeed. Fifteen years of regular, maximum catch-up contributions to both an IRA and a workplace retirement plan would generate $153,000 by age 65 at a 4% annual yield, and $212,000 at an 8% annual yield.³

The more you earn, the greater your capacity to “catch up.” This may not be fair, but it is true.

Fidelity says its overall catch-up contribution participation rate is just 8%. The average account balance of employees 50 and older making catch-ups was $417,000, compared to $157,000 for employees who refrained. Vanguard, another major provider of employer-sponsored retirement plans, finds that 42% of workers aged 50 and older who earn more than $100,000 per year make catch-up contributions to its plans, compared with 16% of workers on the whole within that demographic.²

Even if you are hard-pressed to make or max out the catch-up each year, you may have a spouse who is able to make catch-ups. Perhaps one of you can make a full catch-up contribution when the other cannot, or perhaps you can make partial catch-ups together. In either case, you are still taking advantage of the catch-up rules.

Catch-up contributions should not be dismissed. They can be crucial if you are just starting to save for retirement in middle age or need to rebuild retirement savings at mid-life. Consider making them; they may make a significant difference for your savings effort.  

 

 

 

Joe Occhipinti may be reached at 714.823.3328 or Joe@warrenstreetwealth.com

 

www.warrenstreetwealth.com

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – nasdaq.com/article/retirement-savings-basics-sign-up-for-ira-roth-or-401k-cm627195 [11/30/15]
2 – time.com/money/4175048/401k-catch-up-contributions/ [1/11/16]
3 – marketwatch.com/story/you-can-make-a-lot-of-money-with-retirement-account-catch-up-contributions-2016-03-21 [3/21/16]