Secure Act 2.0: Tax Planning Tips

Tax planning for your retirement savings is also important. To help with that, you can typically choose between two account types as you save for retirement: Traditional IRA or employer-sponsored plans, or Roth versions of the same. 

All Things Roth

Either way, your retirement savings grow tax-free while they’re in your accounts. The main difference is whether you pay income taxes at the beginning or end of the process. For Roth accounts, you typically pay taxes up front, funding the account with after-tax dollars. Traditional retirement accounts are typically funded with pre-tax dollars, and you pay taxes on withdrawals. 

That’s the intent, anyway. To fill in a few missing links, the SECURE 2.0 Act:

  • Eliminates Required Minimum Distributions for employer-sponsored Roth accounts, such as Roth 401(k)s and Roth 403(b)s, to align with individual Roth practices (2024)
  • Establishes Roth versions of SEP and SIMPLE IRAs (2023)
  • Lets employers make contributions to traditional and Roth retirement accounts (2023)
  • Lets families potentially move 529 plan assets into a Roth IRA (2024 – as described above)

There’s one thing that’s not changed, although there’s been talk that it might: There are still no restrictions on “backdoor Roth conversions” and similar strategies some families have been using to boost their tax-efficient retirement resources. 

Speaking of RMDs

Not surprisingly, the government would prefer you eventually start spending your tax-sheltered retirement savings, or at least pay taxes on the income. That’s why there are rules regarding when you must start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) out of your retirement accounts. That said, both SECURE Acts have relaxed and refined some of those RMD rules. 

  • Extended RMD Dates (2023): the original SECURE Act postponed when you must start taking taxable RMDs from your retirement account—from 70 ½ to 72. The SECURE 2.0 Act extends that deadline further. If you were born between 1951–1959, you can now wait until age 73. If you were born after that, it’s age 75. 
  • Reduced Penalties (2023): If you fail to take an RMD, the penalty is reduced from a whopping 50% of the distribution to a slightly more palatable 25%. Also, the penalty may be further reduced to 10% if you fix the error within a prescribed correction window. 
  • Aligned RMD Rules for Personal and Employer-based Roth Accounts (2024): As mentioned above, RMDs have been eliminated from employer-based Roth accounts. If you’ve already been taking them, you should be able to stop doing so in 2024. 
  • Enhanced RMDs for Surviving Spouses (2024): If you are a widow or widower inheriting your spouse’s retirement plan assets, you will be able to elect to determine your RMD date as if you were your spouse. This provision can work well if your spouse was younger than you. As described here: “RMDs for the [older] surviving spouse would be delayed until the deceased spouse would have reached the age at which RMDs begin.”

An Addendum For Charitable Donors

One good thing hasn’t changed with SECURE 2.0: Even though RMD dates have been extended as described, you can still make Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) out of your retirement accounts beginning at age 70 ½, and the income is still excluded from your taxable adjusted gross income, as well as from Social Security tax and Medicare surcharge calculations. Plus, beginning in 2024, the maximum QCD you can make (currently $100,000) will increase with inflation. Also, with quite a few caveats, you will have a one-time opportunity to use a QCD to fund certain charitable trusts or annuities. 

Next Steps

How else can we help you incorporate SECURE 2.0 Act updates into your personal financial plans? The landscape is filled with rabbit holes down which we did not venture, with caveats and conditions to be explored. And there are a few provisions we didn’t touch on here. As such, before you proceed, we hope you’ll consult with us or others (such as your accountant or estate planning attorney) to discuss the details specific to you. 

Come what may in the years ahead, we look forward to serving as your guide through the ever-evolving field of retirement planning. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today with your questions and comments.

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Reference Materials and Additional Reading:

Secure Act 2.0: Spending Today, Saving Tomorrow

It can be hard to save for your future retirement when current expenses loom large. We advise proceeding with caution before using retirement savings for any other purposes, but SECURE 2.0 does include several new provisions to help families strike a balance. 

  • Student Loan Payments Count as Elective Deferrals (2024): If you’re paying off student debt and trying to save for retirement, your student loan payments will qualify as elective deferrals in your company plan. This means, whether you contribute to your company retirement plan or you make student loan payments, your employer can use either to make matching contributions to your retirement account. 
  • Transferring 529 Plan Assets to a Roth IRA (2024): This one is subject to a number of qualifying hurdles, but SECURE 2.0 establishes a path for families to transfer up to $35,000 of untapped 529 college saving plan assets into the beneficiary’s Roth IRA. With proper planning, this may help families “seed” their children’s or grandchildren’s retirement savings with their unspent college savings.
  • New Emergency Saving Accounts Linked to Employer Plans (2024): SECURE 2.0 has established a new employer-sponsored emergency savings account, which would be linked to your retirement plan account. Unless you are a “highly compensated employee” (as defined by the Act), you can use the account to save up to $2,500, with your contributions counting toward matching funds going into your main retirement plan account. 
  • Relaxed Emergency Plan Withdrawals (2024): SECURE 2.0 relaxes the ability to take a modest emergency withdrawal out of your retirement plan. Essentially, as long as you self-certify that you need the money, you can take up to $1,000 in a calendar year, without incurring the usual 10% penalty for early withdrawal. Once you’ve taken an emergency withdrawal, there are several hurdles before you’re eligible to take another one.
  • Additional Exceptions to the 10% Retirement Plan Withdrawal Penalty (Varied): SECURE 2.0 has established new exceptions to the 10% penalty otherwise incurred if you tap various retirement accounts too soon. For example, there are several new types of public safety workers who can access their company retirement plans penalty-free after age 50. Various exceptions are also carved out if you’re terminally ill or a domestic abuse victim, or if you use the assets to pay for long-term care insurance. The Act also has modified how retirement plan assets are to be used for Qualified Disaster Recovery Distributions. Many of the new exceptions are fairly specific, so check the fine print before you proceed. 
  • Relaxed Emergency Loans from Retirement Plans (2023): If you end up living in a Federally declared disaster area, SECURE 2.0 also increases your ability to borrow up to 100% of your vested plan balance up to $100,000, with a more generous pay-back window. 
  • Expanded Eligibility for ABLE Accounts (2026): ABLE accounts help disabled individuals save for disability expenses, while still collecting disability benefits. Before, you had to be disabled before age 26 to establish an ABLE account. That age cap increases to 46. 
  • A Tax Break for Disabled First Responders (2027): If you are a first responder collecting on a service-connected disability, at least a portion of your disability payments will remain tax-free, even once you reach full retirement age and begin taking a retirement pension. 

Next Steps

If you missed the first part of the blog series, we discussed key provisions in the newly enacted SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022, including updates that impact (1) savers/investors and (2) employers/plan sponsors. Check in next week for the last part of this blog series, where we share tax planning tips under this new Act. 

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Reference Materials and Additional Reading:

Secure Act 2.0: Summary for Individuals and Employers

Who doesn’t enjoy tying up year-end loose ends? The original SECURE Act was signed into law on December 20th, 2019. Its “sequel,” the SECURE 2.0 Act, was similarly enacted at year-end on December 29th, 2022.

Both pieces of legislation seek to reform how Americans prepare for retirement while juggling current spending needs. How, when, or will each of us retire? How can government incentives, regulations, and safety nets help more people safely do so—or at least not get in the way? 

These are questions we’ve been asking as a nation for decades, across shifting socioeconomic climates. Throughout, a hard truth remains:

Employers and the government play a role in helping you save for and spend in retirement, but much of the preparation ultimately falls on you. 

Neither the original SECURE Act nor SECURE 2.0 has fundamentally changed this reality. SECURE 2.0 has, however, added far more motivational carrots than punishing sticks. Its guiding goal is right there in the name: Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE). Following is an overview of its key components. 

Note: Implementation for each SECURE 2.0 provision varies from being effective immediately, to ramping up in future years. A few even apply retroactively. Many of its newest programs won’t effectively roll out until 2024 or later, giving us time to plan. We’ve noted with each provision when it’s slated to take effect. 

Saving More, Saving Better: Individual Savers

First, key provisions include several updates to encourage individual savers: 

  • Expanded Auto-Enrollment Requirements (2025): Because you’re more likely to save more if you’re automatically added to your company retirement plan program, auto-enrollment will be required for additional new retirement plans. Even with auto-enrollment, you can still opt out individually. Also, the Act has made a number of exceptions to the rules, including, as described here, “employers less than 3 years old, church plans, governmental plans, SIMPLE plans, and employers with 10 or fewer employees.” 
  • Higher Catch-Up Contributions (2024–2025): To accelerate retirement saving as you approach retirement age, SECURE 2.0 Act has increased annual “catch-up” contribution allowances for many retirement accounts (i.e., extra amounts allowed beyond the standard contribution limits); and, importantly, tied future increases to inflation. However, in many instances, the updates also require high-wage-earners ($145,000/year or higher) to direct their catch-up contributions to after-tax Roth accounts. 
  • Faster Plan Participation for Part-Time Employees (2024): If you’re a long-term, part-time employee, the SECURE Act of 2019 made it possible for you to participate in your employer’s retirement plan. With SECURE 2.0, you’ll be eligible to participate after 2 years instead of 3 years (after meeting other requirements). 
  • Saver’s Match for Low-Income Savers (2027): A Saver’s Credit for low-income families will be replaced by a more accessible Saver’s Match for those whose income levels qualify. While the credit offsets income on a tax form, the match will be a direct contribution into your retirement account, of up to $1,000 in government-paid matching funds.  
  • An Expanded Contribution Window for Sole Proprietors (2024): If you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll be able to establish a Solo 401(k) through the current year’s Federal income tax filing date, and still fund it with prior-year contributions. 
  • Potential Tax Error “Do Overs” (2025): To err is human, and often unintentional. As such, SECURE 2.0 has directed the IRS to apply an existing Employer Plans Compliance Resolutions System (EPCRS) to employer-sponsored plans and to IRAs. The details are to be developed, but as described here, the intent is to set up a system in which “most inadvertent failures to comply with tax-qualification rules would be eligible for self-correction.” 
  • Finding Former Plans (2024): It can be hard for company plan sponsors to keep in touch with former employees—and vice-versa. SECURE 2.0 has tasked the Dept. of Labor with hosting a national “lost and found” database to help you search for plan administrator contact information for former employees’ plans, in case you’ve left any retirement savings behind. 

Saving More, Saving Better: Employers

There also are provisions to help employers offer effective retirement plan programs: 

  • Better Retirement Plan Start-Up Incentives (2023): Small businesses can take retirement plan start-up credits to offset up to 100% of their plan start-up costs (versus a prior 50% cap). Also, businesses with no retirement plan can apply for start-up credits if they join a Multiple Employer Plan (MEP)—and this one applies retroactively to 2020.
  • A New “Starter 401(k)” Plan (2024): The Starter 401(k) provides small businesses that lack a 401(k) plan a simpler path to establishing one. Features will include streamlined regulatory and reporting requirements; auto-enrollment for all employees starting at 3% of their pay; a $6,000 annual contribution limit, rising with inflation; and a deferral-only structure, meaning the plan does NOT permit matching employer contributions.
  • Expanded SIMPLE Plan Contributions (2024): Under certain conditions, SECURE 2.0 allows for additional employer contributions to, and higher participant contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans. 
  • New Household Employee Plans (2023): Families can establish SEP IRA plans for their household employees, such as nannies or housekeepers.
  • Small Perks (2023): Until now, employers were prohibited from offering even small incentives to encourage employees to step up their retirement savings. Now, de minimis perks are okay, such as a gift card when a participant increases their deferral amount.

Next Steps

Stay tuned for the next part of this blog series, where we discuss strategies under the Secure 2.0 Act.

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Reference Materials and Additional Reading:

Update: Should I Sell Some of My Chevron Stock?

With Chevron’s (CVX) stock price hovering around $185 (as of 11/22/22), I’ve been actively calling my clients to vet their interest in selling stock to diversify their portfolios.

It’s worth noting that we’re not talking about Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) shares, which are tax advantaged. Those are generally advisable to hold onto long-term. 

But when it comes to shares of common stock, this might be the time to sell — or at least take a little off the top. It’s tempting from a psychological standpoint — i.e., recency bias — to want to stick around and see how long the stock price climbs. But you have to be willing to ask yourself the “what ifs:”

  • What if the war in Ukraine ends? 
  • What if Chevron shares go back to $100 as a result of oil prices dropping?
  • How would I feel if I held out thinking the price was going to hit $200, and it drops back to $100? 

In this blog post, we’ll unpack these questions, as well as share considerations for your decision.

How Will You Feel?

One of the most important questions to ask yourself is how you’ll feel in these what-if scenarios. Sure, Chevron’s stock price could keep going up and make you more money when you sell. But what if it doesn’t? What if the war ends and it drops to $100 overnight? Will you still be able to retire when you want to? 

We all tend to have a very short memory span. It wasn’t that long ago that the global economy was going haywire due to Covid. Chevron stock was at $59 a share, because oil wasn’t worth anything. People weren’t traveling, and there was no place to store the oil. 

If another wave of Covid hit or the war in the Ukraine ended — where would Chevron be? If the stock price plummeted back below $100, you might be kicking yourself. Or, worse, you may have to work several more years than you planned before retirement. 

What Do You Fear?

If you’re confident that you could still retire on time, even if Chevron stock went back to $100, that’s fine. But most people would rather diversify now than risk having to work another five years.  

Even if you’re confident that Chevron’s stock price will stay elevated, think about Apple and Amazon. As strong as those tech giants are, their stocks have taken big hits over the years. If employees had all their retirement savings invested in those companies, any one of those stock hits could have drastically slashed those employees’ savings and postponed their retirement dates.

Visualize the What-Ifs

If you don’t have a good sense for whether or not you could retire, it might be time to do some scenario planning. Ask your advisor to conduct a Monte Carlo analysis to help you understand different scenarios. Monte Carlo simulations essentially run hundreds of different scenarios to help you understand the probability of successfully reaching your goals (retirement or otherwise) in the midst of unknown variables. 

Another visual that can be helpful is to think of your stock in “chunks” to sell. We can help you put together a plan to sell a certain percentage of your stock over time. That way, you can still capture some of the upside if the stock continues to climb, but also protect yourself if it plummets. 

You don’t necessarily need to sell all your Chevron stock, but it’s a good idea to at least start diversifying. We would recommend putting your money to work in both the stock and bond markets and can recommend a model portfolio for you that suits your needs, timeline, and risk tolerance. Diversification is key to making sure you stay on track with your goals and can retire when you want. 

As you can tell, your decision about whether or not to sell your Chevron stock doesn’t have to be black or white. If you want to explore options, just want to talk through your situation, or would like to run a Monte Carlo simulation to help with scenario planning, we’re here to help in whatever way we can.

If you’d like to chat, please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with me.

Len Hanson

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Perks of a California Retirement

Having a comfortable retirement doesn’t necessarily mean leaving The Golden State behind.

In our California-based advising firm we often see clients who would like to move out of the state at retirement (or sooner). There are plenty of reasons to re-settle, and if your only reason is “I want to” then that is good enough for us. But the retirement of your dreams doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pack up and move. Call us biased…but we love The Golden State! 

The State Tax Problem

A major concern for Californians is taxes. Our top state tax bracket is the highest in the nation. However, a retiree’s taxable income is not often in the highest bracket. The tax rates for most middle (and even upper-middle) class taxpayers are comparable to, and sometimes lower than, those in several other states.

To illustrate: in 2021 a single California taxpayer’s taxable income between $61,215 and $375,221 will be taxed at 9.3%. Compare that to a nice midwestern state like Minnesota. Their very top tax bracket is 9.85%, but it starts at taxable income over $166,041. So if your taxable income is between $166,041 and $375,221, you will pay similar state taxes whether you are in California or Minnesota.

Let’s look at a more realistic retirement income. Taxable income in retirement for an average married couple might be around $85,000. In California, their effective state tax rate for 2021 would be about 2.40%. If the couple decided to move to Arizona (a low tax state) in retirement, their effective state tax rate would be about 1.87%. That’s a difference of just $450 per year. Uprooting and moving states to save $450 in a year may not really be worth it!

It is true that state taxes are much lower in many other states. There are even states with no state income tax. But these states offset their lack of income tax with sales tax, property taxes, and other local taxes. The bottom line is: no state is going to let you put down roots for free. While California certainly is not the most taxpayer friendly state, for a large portion of residents the higher tax brackets are not going to be a factor.

Quality of Life in California

Two major considerations for quality of life are staying physically active and staying socially engaged. We know that a sedentary, perpetually isolated lifestyle is bad for your health. The mild-to-warm weather in California means your favorite activities can usually continue year-round, keeping you moving and socializing consistently throughout your life.

California has something for everyone. Do you prefer vibrant evenings out in the city or quiet mountain escapes? Yoga on the beach? Pickleball in the suburbs? Hiking in the desert? It’s all here.

Why Warren Street Loves CA

Why else does our team love California? When asked “What are some reasons a person might want to retire in California?” here is what we had to say:

  • “Many job prospects for those who want to have a part-time retirement living.”
  • “On the tax note, Prop 13 and Prop 19 can keep CA property taxes low.”
  • “Good access to medical care and good doctors in most of CA.”  
  • “Diverse population and diverse cultures in CA.”  
  • “California is a great hub for entertainment and tourism.” 
  • “Home to multiple beaches, national parks, etc.” 
  • “CA is the largest municipal bond market by issuance.” 
  • “In-N-Out.”

Every state has something great to offer. Above all, we love to see our clients happy and living their best life – before and after retirement.

Do you want to continue your California dream after you retire? Or do you want to try somewhere new? Whatever your goals, Warren Street is here to help you make them reality.

Kirsten C. Cadden, CFP®

Associate Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

References:

https://www.thebalance.com/state-income-tax-rates-3193320

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/taxes/california-state-tax

https://smartasset.com/taxes/california-tax-calculator

Should I Sell My Chevron Stock?

As a Chevron employee-turned-financial-advisor, I’m passionate about helping current employees plan for their retirements. With Chevron stock recently hitting a high of $170.901 (as of 03/10/2022), I’ve been hearing from a number of Chevron employees wondering if this is the time to sell. This is the highest price Chevron stock has hit in 10 years, and as the old adage goes, “Buy low, sell high!” Still, there are other considerations for Chevron employees, such as portfolio diversification and ESOP shares. 

While no one has a crystal ball to know what the market will do, here’s a summary of what I’ve been sharing with my clients to help them make an informed decision on whether or not to sell their Chevron stock.

1. Remember the value of diversification. 

When I first meet my Chevron clients, many are 100% invested in Chevron stock. Almost immediately, I will advise clients to consider the value of diversifying their portfolio. 

While Chevron has had a very good run as of late thanks to the political and economic factors beyond the company’s control, the stock has underperformed the S&P 500 (an index of 500 stocks) over the last 10 years, returning an annual 8% compared to the S&P 500’s 14.6% yearly return (data as of 4/01/2022)1

Had you diversified into one of the most simple indices like the S&P 500, you would have gained an additional 6% per year. While you probably don’t want to switch to being invested only in the S&P 500, you do want to recognize that it is possible to both reduce single stock risk and potentially increase or at least stabilize your investment return at the same time. 

2. Consider how global factors impact timing. 

But the stock’s up 40%1 this year (data as of 4/01/2022)!

That’s true, but it can also introduce recency bias into our decisions. The war in Ukraine has contributed to high oil prices, which is a primary reason Chevron stock recently shot up to $170.90 (as of 03/10/2022). We’ve seen oil prices skyrocket in the past, and more often than not they will make their way back down as political tensions ease, supply increases, and demand levels.

To remove the impact of the war (and for simplicity’s sake), let’s look at 10 year returns on 12/31/2021 (just three months ago). Chevron’s 10 year return significantly underperformed the S&P 500 at an annual 5% return compared to 16%, respectively1. The stock has certainly surged in 2022, but we encourage you to look past recency bias. 

If you’ve been considering diversifying or selling Chevron stock for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it yet, now is a great time to talk to your advisor to see if it makes sense for you.

3. Do NOT sell your ESOP shares. 

While ESOP shares are not a benefit for new employees, most employees who were hired over ten years ago most likely still have them. These shares are eligible for a special tax treatment that may be able to save you a significant amount in taxes. This tax treatment is known as Net Unrealized Appreciation, or NUA. In order to take advantage of this strategy, you must maintain the ESOP shares until your retirement date and follow a specific procedure in distributing your retirement assets. Talk to your advisor for a more detailed explanation.

It’s impossible to predict the market, but the best we can do is make informed decisions when given the opportunity. Hopefully, you’ve found this summary helpful — but please be sure to speak with a financial advisor before making a decision to sell. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me using this link here!

Len Hanson

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Footnotes:

  1. Data from YCharts

Could I Retire Early from Chevron?

As a financial planner whose client base is largely made up of Chevron employees and retirees, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten questions about early retirement in the last year. It seems people are enjoying the freedom of working remotely and are interested in at least exploring — if not executing on — their early retirement options. 

This is an exciting prospect but a very serious decision, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out the key considerations to help my clients and other Chevron employees weigh their options. Review the points below to help you understand your choices, and feel free to reach out to me by clicking here if you would like to discuss further!

1. Review the “Rule of 55.”

Start by giving serious thought to your current age, spouse’s age if applicable, and your target retirement age. In general, 55 is the “golden age” for Chevron employees to retire early. We refer to it as the “Rule of 55.” If you leave before that, you’ll have to leverage Rule 72(T), which isn’t advisable, as it locks you into an extremely strict distribution plan. It’s also important to note that the Rule of 55 applies only to you as the Chevron employee, not your spouse (unless his or her company offers a similar plan).

2. Weigh your pension options.

For most clients, age 50-55 is a major accumulation phase — and Chevron clients are no different. Plus, the pension for Chevron employees starts really ramping up when you turn 50. The longer you stick with the company (in general), the more you accrue these pension benefits.

3. Know where your medical benefits stand.

From day one on the job at Chevron, you start accruing eligibility for retiree medical benefits. When deciding on your retirement timing, you must consider how much you have built up — for instance, when I turned 55, I was 97% eligible for retiree medical retirement benefits. But if someone retires before 50, they receive no medical retirement benefits at all. 

In Summary

No matter when you decide to retire, it’s important to find an advisor you trust, so you can be transparent and open in your financial situation and goals. While these are important considerations, there is no hard and fast rule that says you have to retire at a certain age, life stage, or on anyone’s timeline but your own. 

Take me, for instance — I could have stayed eight months longer at Chevron for slightly higher retirement benefits, but I chose to focus on pursuing my passion of helping people at Warren Street instead. My goal with clients is to lay out the options so you can make an informed decision, knowing that ultimately the choice of when to retire is no one’s but your own.

If you’re interested in speaking further about your retirement options at Chevron and what your personal timing might look like, feel free to schedule a no-cost consultation with me at the link here

Len Hanson

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

5 Bare Essentials to Consider When Retiring from SCE

Retirement can seem like the most exciting thing in the world — and the most overwhelming. On one hand, you finally get to spend your time on your terms. Maybe that’s traveling the world. Maybe it’s spending more time with your grandkids. Or maybe it’s just spending quiet evenings at home. 

Still, there’s that lingering question: “How does this all work?” So much goes into planning for retirement, as well as managing your money appropriately once you get to that point. It can be unnerving to consider how you’ll manage the nuances of your retirement plan, navigate Social Security benefits, and ensure you have the money you need to support your lifestyle in retirement. 

At Warren Street Wealth Advisors, we hear these concerns from clients often. In response, we’ve developed a specialty focus on retirement planning for Southern California Edison employees. After helping hundreds of SCE retirees navigate this crucial time, we know your retirement packages and employee benefits programs inside and out. Below are the top five bare essentials you need to know to retire from SCE.

1. Take your final distribution when you want.

It’s a common misconception that you are forced to take your final distribution at retirement, but that’s not the case. You can wait until Jan. 1, request your final distribution, and then take a direct payment to avoid penalties using the “55 Rule” if you are 55 years or older. This will also allow you to defer the income tax due until the following year’s tax return.

2. Understand that it’s possible to retire penalty-free between age 55 and 59 ½.

Here’s a scenario we see all the time: you’re 57. You want to retire. You don’t want to wait until 59 ½ 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 the money out of your IRA before 59 ½. So are you stuck? Nope.

There are a lot of moving parts to this process, but we can take advantage of IRS rules like 72(t) distributions or the previously mentioned “55 Rule” to ensure our clients do everything possible to avoid paying penalties.

3. Take advantage of your medical subsidy.

Did you know that you are eligible for a retiree medical subsidy? The most common subsidies are 50% and 85%. When you retire, Edison will pay either 50% or 85% of your current medical insurance premium as a “continuation benefit” in retirement. Simply put, what you pay today is what you’ll pay in retirement. Of course, this is as long as you reach your required benefit milestone. (Unsure what your benefit is? Call EIX Benefits at 866-693-4947 to ask what benefit you have and at what age you’ll receive it.)

4. Weigh your Social Security options.

There is all kinds of information out there about what to do with your Social Security. Let us boil it all down: you don’t have to take it at 62! When we build a financial plan for a client, we calculate all options for optimizing Social Security. It’s ultimately your decision, but we suggest weighing your options before committing to collecting the 25-30% reduced benefit at age 62.

5. Use your 401(k) efficiently.

Your 401(k) can be an immensely powerful tool if you understand how to max it out and diversify your investments. In most cases, this is the point at which you’ll want to hire a professional team to help. One tool that can help you is the Charles Schwab Personal Choice Retirement Account (PCRA) option included in your 401(k) plan. The PCRA option lets you purchase investments on your own or hire a professional advisor to do it for you. This is made available through your Tier 3 option. 

These are just a few of the tips and resources we offer SCE employees. For a deeper dive into strategies you can take to help you maximize your money in retirement, download our full SCE Retirement Handbook here.

Want to chat further? Feel free to reach out. We’ve worked with hundreds of employees with your exact plan and are glad to point you in the right direction.

Cary Facer

Founder and Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

How Interest Rates Impact Your Chevron Pension

Rising interest rates have been a hot topic in the financial press, and many of my clients are wondering what the impact will be on their Chevron pension — specifically, their lump sum. 

As a retired Chevron employee, I understand these concerns firsthand! I monitored rates extraordinarily closely myself until I retired five years ago. The lump sum option is a great one for many people, but it is massively influenced by interest rates. Even a single percentage change in interest rates can dramatically impact your lump sum number via an inverse relationship. That is to say, as interest rates increase, your lump sum lessens. And as interest rates decrease, your lump sum grows. 

This gives you the potential to walk away with a large lump sum when you retire, but it also comes with the risk and emotional drain of fluctuating interest rates. One of my clients, for example, saw his lump sum drop from $1,080,000 to $1,040,000 in a 30-day period. Changes like that can be hard to swallow, and it’s particularly disconcerting when you don’t know how long these rate spikes will last. 

At Warren Street, we follow the tier 3 rates (the IRS segment Chevron uses to calculate your lump sum) extremely closely, so we can help you run projections for your specific case. Everyone’s situation is different, so I encourage you to give me a call if you are nervous at all, regardless of your current lump sum or retirement time horizon. However, in general:

  • If you’re thinking about retiring in the next 12-24 months or so, it might be a good time. Let’s run the numbers and see.
  • If you’re looking at two to five years or more for retirement, these interest rate spikes may not affect you. When they go back down, your lump sum will rise back up. Age and service credits will also help make up the difference from any interest rate changes.

If you’re finding yourself talking to your friends, coworkers, spouse, or others about this topic, give me a call — I will help you run the numbers so you can make an informed decision. The question of, “Do I have enough?” is never an easy one, and I’m here to help you understand all your options with data-driven insights so you can make the best choice for your family.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions,