Time is Running Out to Maximize Your Social Security Benefits

The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets, James LangeThere were two married couples, the Rushers and the Planners, with identical earnings records and investments. The Rushers didn’t read this book and during retirement, they ran out of money. Bad news. The Planners, however, took the time to read this short little book, implemented the recommended strategies, and when the Rushers were barely scraping by, they still had $2,013,881.

If you want to be a Planner and not a Rusher, please go to www.paytaxeslater.com/ss and sign up to receive your free digital copy of The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets on the day it comes out.

Eligible married couples must act by April 29, 2016 to take advantage of the two strategies that will allow them to maximize their income from Social Security.

Why?

Because a certain provision buried in the fine print of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 eliminates the two strategies: Apply and Suspend and Restricted Applications for Benefits.

If you are married and will be at least 66 by April 29, 2016, you should read this book to learn whether it would benefit you to apply for and suspend your benefits by the deadline.

The Potential Benefits of Apply and Suspend for Social Security, James Lange, CPA/Attorney, Pittsburgh, PAApply and Suspend works this way. You file an application for benefits at age 66 (or later) and then suspend them – meaning that you will not receive monthly checks. There’s good reason to consider doing this. For each year that your benefit remains suspended, it grows by 8 percent (up to a maximum of 32 percent), plus cost of living adjustments. When you finally begin collecting checks at age 70, they’re significantly higher than they would have been if you had begun collecting them at age 66 – and they stay that way for the rest of your life. If you change your mind and want to start receiving your checks after you’ve suspended them, you can do so at any time.

Better yet, your spouse will be eligible to apply for spousal benefits—which can be as high as 50 percent of your benefit at age 66—as soon as she is age 62. This will give your family some income from Social Security during the years that your own benefit is suspended. (If her own benefit is higher, then a different strategy should be used).

But you must Apply and Suspend by the deadline, April 29, 2016, to be grandfathered under the old rules. If you do not apply for and suspend your own benefits by April 29, 2016, your spouse will not be allowed to collect a spousal benefit unless you are also collecting your own benefit.

The second strategy, called a Restricted Application for Benefits, allows you to file for benefits and specify that you only want to receive whatever spousal benefit to which you might be entitled. Depending on your age, it could mean a monthly check as high as 50 percent of your spouse’s benefit, while your own benefit continues to grow by 8 percent, plus cost of living adjustments, every year. When you turn 70, you can then switch to your own benefit if it is higher than your spousal benefit.

If you were at least 62 years old as of December 31, 2015, you will be able to file a Restricted Application for Benefits. In order to file a restricted application, you must wait until your Full Retirement Age – which is 66 for those who will be able to take advantage of the strategy before it is eliminated.

Clearly, maximizing Social Security benefits is to your advantage. What many people do not realize is just how important it can be to the surviving spouse. If you are the higher earner and you make the right choices, your spouse will be eligible to receive a survivor’s benefit which, at maximum, will be as high as your own benefit amount. But, two of the strategies that you can use to maximize your benefits are being eliminated.

Don’t delay. Go to www.paytaxeslater.com/ss to get your free digital copy of The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets, and then talk to a professional about your options before it’s too late.

Roth IRA Conversions Early in 2016 Present Potential Advantages

Let’s face it. The stock market has declined a lot in the past few months.

Many people wonder if they should move to cash and do nothing with their investments. While we do not recommend trying to time the future moves in the stock market, the reality is that it is better to buy low and let it grow more in the future. This is especially true for Roth IRA conversions which result in long-term advantages when the account grows after the conversion. So maybe the time to convert is now.

Lange Roth IRA Money Nest Egg

But, what if the market continues to decline after you convert? One good thing about the current tax law is that you can undo a 2016 conversion as late as April 15, 2017 and perhaps even to October 15, 2017. This gives you a long time, over a year, to see if it grows. If it really dives after you convert, you can even do another conversion at a lower price and undo the first conversion later. The technical term for the undoing of a conversion is a recharacterization, because the Roth IRA is recharacterized as a traditional IRA by moving it back to the original or a different traditional IRA account. Converting early in the year is often recommended as it gives the account more time to grow before a decision must be made on a potential recharacterization.

We have written many articles about Roth IRAs and Roth conversions and included discussions of the extensive advantages they provide. We discuss conversions in our book Retire Secure! and we have written an entire book on Roth IRAs called The Roth Revolution. Both of these books can be purchased on Amazon, but we would be happy to send you a copy for free. To receive a free copy, call us at 412-521-2732, or email admin@paytaxeslater.com and ask for one. Just reference this newsletter offer! These articles and discussions go into much deeper detail on the many strategic ways to do Roth conversions to your advantage, depending on your current situation.

The Roth conversion amount will add to your taxable income, so there are many tax traps to consider when deciding how much to convert, such as …

  • Higher tax rates and related tax surcharges and phaseouts of deductions first implemented for 2013 could result in extra tax if you convert too much.
  • For people who are covered by Medicare parts B and/or D, and pay Medicare premiums, converting too much in 2016 can raise the Medicare premiums in 2018.
  • Also, for medium- or lower-income people who get Social Security income, a conversion can make more of the Social Security subject to tax and also can turn tax-free long-term capital gains and qualified dividends into taxable amounts.

However, paying extra tax can sometimes be worth it in the long run if the Roth IRA account grows a lot after the conversion. These are just some of the things that should be considered in determining the best conversion amount.

Other considerations include the current and future financial and income tax situations of you and your beneficiaries. As we move further into an election year, the possibility of tax law changes looms ahead. Since future tax laws can affect the long-term success of a conversion early in 2016, they should also be considered.

Due to all these considerations and more, we stress the importance of “running the numbers” to be certain that the decisions you are making about Roth IRA conversions are absolutely right for your situation. In general, we like Roth IRA conversions for taxpayers who can make a conversion and stay in the same tax bracket they are currently in, and have the funds to pay for the Roth conversion from outside of the IRA. It is best to run the numbers to determine the most appropriate time and amount for your situation. This is a service that we have provided for hundreds of clients and currently offer free for our assets under management clients. We like to do these number running sessions with the clients in the room. This allows them the opportunity to bring up questions, adjust the scenarios, and feel extremely comfortable with the final decisions.

We usually find many people hesitant to make any changes in their investments when they decline in value. However, you should not pass up the opportunity to do a Roth conversion in a troubled market, as it could provide you and your family more financial security in the long run. Because of the many things to be considered when doing a Roth conversion, we suggest you discuss how much to convert in 2016 with your qualified advisor.

If you are interested about learning about whether a Roth IRA conversion is right for you, please click here and fill out our pre-qualification form. If you qualify, we will contact you to schedule an appointment with either James Lange or one of his tax experts.

Unfortunately, this Free Second Opinion is for qualified Western Pennsylvania residents only.

4 Reasons Why We’re Excited that Retire Secure! is Interactive on the Web!

If you haven’t made your way to www.langeretirementbook.com yet, now is the time!

Here at the Lange Financial Group, LLC, we are very excited to bring you an interactive version of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting the Most Out of What You’ve Got. 

Reason #1 – The entire book is on this website. Yes, all 420 pages of the book, including the front and back covers, all about the best strategies for retirement and estate planning. 
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
Reason #2 – The book is divided into chapters for ease of reading. Meaning, you don’t have to flip through 400-some pages to get to Chapter 11 – The Best Ways to Transfer Wealth and Cut Taxes for the Next Generation.
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
Reason #3 – We honestly haven’t seen anything like this before. Granted, I’ve read magazines on viewers where you can flip the pages as you read. But not a website for a book that includes a viewer, as well as a forum where readers can engage with each other.
The comments are moderated by the Lange Financial Group, LLC staff and myself. One of us will reply to your comment as soon as we can. To leave a comment, all you need to do is connect with your Amazon, Facebook, or LinkedIn account. This measure is for your protection, as well as ours. We don’t want spammers posting comments or incorrect information about such an important topic. 
James Lange, Retire Secure, Lange Retirement Book, Interactive
 
Reason #4 – We are hoping this interactive website encourages you to purchase the book! Retire Secure! is available from Amazon and JamesLange.com. Once you’ve read the book, feel free to return to LangeRetirementBook.com to ask questions, as well as Amazon and Goodreads to review the book for the benefit of others.

 

Donations to Charity: Is There Still a Tax Benefit if I Donate?

donations-to-charity-james-lange-the-roth-revolution-blogImagine 100 years in to the future: Two people are playing a word association game. One player gives the clue, “Bill Gates.” Today, you’d probably say, “The founder of Microsoft,” right? Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that, 100 years from now, Microsoft’s importance will have faded because of ever-evolving technology and many people will not recognize the company name, much less know who its founder was. However, I’m confident that Bill Gates will still be a household name. Why? It is because Bill and his wife Melinda have donated, and continue to donate, the vast majority of their immense wealth to charity.   The impact of their generosity is astonishing. Thanks to their largesse, it is possible – maybe even likely – that diseases such as malaria will be eradicated within our lifetimes. Certainly, their philanthropy will save millions of lives, and improve the lives of virtually everyone on the planet. My own charitable gifting is nowhere near the scale of Bill and Melinda’s, but, even so, I can see how my donations benefit others. And it makes me happy to think that I can make someone else’s life better, even in my own small way.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 reinstated a phase-out of itemized deductions for high income taxpayers. For those individuals, it meant that they were unable to receive the full benefit of their charitable contributions on their tax returns, and they were very unhappy. A few taxpayers didn’t care. I have a client who donates an unusually significant amount of her annual income to charity every year, and who steadfastly refused to give me a list of the donations so that I could deduct them on her tax return. She felt that it was morally wrong for her to receive any benefit from them. It was an admirable position, to be sure, but then I pointed out that the government does not do a very good job of dealing with social problems in this country. I told her that I believe that the reason charities don’t have to pay taxes is because they do a much more efficient job of distributing money and services to the needy than our government does. Under those circumstances, it seemed wasteful to me to not deduct the donations. She listened to me, and the following year presented me with hundreds of donation receipts, which I deducted on her return. She received a significant tax refund, which she promptly used to donate even more to charity!

If donating to charity is important to you, you may find it worthwhile to review the ideas discussed in Chapter 18. Many readers will be surprised to learn that there are strategies available that can give them far more bang for their charitable buck than they may have thought possible. Charitable gifting does not necessarily have to come at the expense of family members either, and in some instances it may even benefit them! Your distant dreams of establishing a scholarship fund, building a bicycle trail, or providing ongoing medical care to people in need are more achievable than you may realize. The secret is to take advantage of all of the gifting strategies that are available to you.

See you soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Trusts as Beneficiaries of Retirement Plans: A Possible Alternative to the Stretch IRA?

trusts james langeIf you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that much of the new edition of Retire Secure! addresses the ramifications of the legislation that, if passed, will kill the Stretch IRA. If this potential change is a concern for your family, then Chapter 17 is a “must-read” for you because it offers a possible alternative that will allow them to continue the tax deferral of your retirement plan for many years.

Trusts may be appropriate in many situations. We use them for young beneficiaries who, by law, cannot inherit money, and for older beneficiaries who can’t be trusted with money. Trusts can also be used to help minimize taxes at death (although this is not as common as in previous years). With more frequency, though, our office is using trusts to replace the benefits of the Stretch IRA. This application started when all of these campaigns to kill the Stretch IRA began, and we began to seek alternatives for our clients. Chapter 17 compares the value of an IRA assuming that the non-spouse beneficiary must withdraw the proceeds within 5 years, to the value of an IRA when it is protected by a specific type of trust. I think you will find the results very surprising.

The rules governing trusts are very complex, and, if you are interested in incorporating them in to your own estate plan, you will need the assistance of a competent professional.

Do you donate to charity? If so, my next post will cover the changes in the laws that affect charitable contributions.

All the best,

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

The Ideal Beneficiary for your IRA or Retirement Plan

beneficiary-designation-retirement-plan-james-langeThe Ideal Beneficiary for your IRA or Retirement Plan: Give Your Heirs as Much Flexibility as Possible

I gave serious thought to changing the title of Chapter 15, which discusses the ideal beneficiary for your retirement plan, to “My Pet Peeve”. This is because of how annoying I find it to see people spend thousands of dollars to create elaborate wills and trusts, only to render them useless because they carelessly listed the wrong beneficiary on their retirement plan. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common mistake.

What follows here is one of the most, if not THE most, important concepts in the book. Your will and trust documents do not control the distribution of your IRA or retirement plans. Any account that has a specific beneficiary designation will be distributed to the individuals listed on that beneficiary form, regardless of what your will or trust says. Why is this important? Well, I’ll tell you about a situation I became aware of recently. A gentleman who had been married and divorced twice prepared a will that left all of his assets to his children from his first marriage. Most of his wealth was in his retirement plan, though.   He died unexpectedly, before he could get around to changing the beneficiary designation of that plan from his second ex-wife to his children. After his death, the second ex-wife (who had since remarried) received the very large retirement plan, and his children received the non-retirement assets, which were worth far less than the retirement plan. To add insult to injury, the second ex-wife made sure that his children knew that she had used her inheritance to buy herself and her new spouse very expensive cars – even going so far as to post photos on social media websites as proof! So your beneficiary designations are very, very important – so important that, in fact, if you’re my client I won’t even let you fill them out by yourself!

I like to give my clients as many options as I can. The beneficiary designation that I usually recommend gives your heirs as much flexibility as possible. It allows both your surviving spouse and your adult child, assuming that the child is the contingent beneficiary, to disclaim or refuse the inheritance to his or her own children (your children and/or grandchildren). Under current laws, this allows the children and grandchildren to take minimum distributions based on their own life expectancy. Will I still do this if the law changes? More than likely, yes, but the financial benefits will not be as significant as they were in previous years. If this topic interests you, then you’ll probably want to read Chapter 15 to learn about all the changes.

My next post will continue on the topic of beneficiary designations, and why they are important if your estate plan includes trusts. Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Disclaimers: Who on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

inheritance stretch ira james lange the roth revolution blogWho on Earth Would Refuse to Accept an Inheritance?

Plenty of people!

The concept of disclaiming, which means that you refuse to accept an inheritance, is often surprisingly difficult for clients to accept. Who on earth would refuse to accept an inheritance? When I get this question, I have to laugh because the obvious assumption is that the beneficiary is turning away a rare opportunity to increase his or her wealth with little or no effort. So let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose your rich uncle wrote his will twenty years before he died, and the will provided that, at his death, you would inherit a small apartment building that he owned. In the twenty years since his will was written, though, your uncle’s health declined and he did no maintenance at all on the building. The angry tenants moved out long ago, and the building has been vacant for ten years. Vandals broke the windows and stripped the building of its plumbing and wiring. The city has condemned it because it is a nuisance, and the owner is going to have to pay to have it demolished. Do you still want your inheritance now?

Beneficiaries always have the right to disclaim (or refuse) all or part of an inheritance. This idea has traditionally been a cornerstone when planning for the multigenerational benefits of a Stretch IRA. Under the current law, if the named beneficiary chooses to disclaim an IRA or retirement plan, the contingent beneficiary is able to use his or her own life expectancy to determine the Required Minimum Distribution from that account. In a case where a surviving spouse disclaims to children, this allows the IRA to be “stretched”, allowing maximum growth as well as income tax savings.

If the Stretch IRA is eventually eliminated, disclaimers will likely play less of a role in estate settlements. There is, however, a rapidly growing group of attorneys (including me) who use and will continue to use at least some form of disclaimer in the estate plans of most clients. I have used them in my practice for years, and have found that they can give families a lot of flexibility during what is usually a very stressful time.

One final note about disclaimers: beneficiaries who are on Medicaid may be disqualified from their benefits if they receive an inheritance. They may be able to refuse the inheritance and keep those benefits, but this depends on the laws of the state that they live in and the terms of the grantors will.

These ideas are presented in Chapter 14.

My next post will continue to expand on the concept of the Stretch IRA, but will specifically address the ramifications of choosing one beneficiary over another. Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Ways to Cut Taxes for the Next Generation – Consider Gifting Money to Children

gifting money to children lange financial groupIn January of 2015, President Obama proposed eliminating the tax-free benefits of Section 529 college savings plans. Under his proposal, savings would grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals would be taxed as income to the beneficiary (usually the student). His belief was that taxpayers who save in 529 plans are families who can better afford the cost of college than everyone else. In reality, it is estimated that close to ten percent of 529 accounts are owned by households having income below $50,000, and over 70 percent are owned by households with income below $150,000. What isn’t surprising, though, is that the tax revenue realized by this action would have been significant, because as of the end of the 4th quarter of 2014, the assets held in 529 and other college savings plans reached almost a quarter of a trillion dollars. How many students would have been forced to apply for loans if they had been required to pay tax on withdrawals from their college savings plans? Fortunately, the House of Representatives thought differently than the President and, in February of 2015, they passed HR 529. This bill not only maintains the tax-free status of 529 plans, but also makes them more flexible and easier to use. Hopefully the Senate will follow the House’s lead and pass a companion bill with similar provisions.

Do you have college savings plans established for your children or grandchildren and, if so, were you aware of this attack on their tax-free status?

Gifting money to children

Contributing to college savings plans for children and grandchildren is a form of gifting, which is a topic that I discuss in detail in Chapter 11 of Retire Secure!. Gifting money to children is an excellent way to minimize taxes at your death, and, depending on the amount gifted, can also provide the recipient with tax-free income. Unfortunately, strategies that reduce taxes frequently come under fire and it is critical that you stay on top of the rules. Also discussed in this chapter are the perils of gifting to relatives in an attempt to avoid seizure of your to pay for nursing home care. It’s a bad idea – don’t even think about it – but it is still beneficial to understand the laws on this subject.

Many couples are not aware that the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 introduced a concept called portability that makes estate taxes less of a concern for many individuals than in the past. If you have not had your estate plan reviewed since 2012, you should read Chapter 11 to learn about the potential pitfalls of what I call “The Cruelest Trap of All”. Since the passage of this act, many estate plans are outdated and could cause the surviving spouse to be disinherited at the first spouse’s death.

Gifting money to children strategies, and the tax implications of gifting, should be a critical part of every estate plan. Changes in legislation that were not anticipated at the time the plan was established, though, can make your plan ineffective and in some cases disastrous. As much has changed in this area; please read Chapter 11 thoroughly to see how you might be affected.

Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA): Don’t Pay More Taxes Than You Need To

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) Don’t Pay More Taxes Than You Need To, James LangeSome employees have Stock Options, or the option to buy the stock of the company that they work for within their retirement plans. A unanimous Supreme Court decision in 2014 might discourage employers from offering their employees a stake in the business in future years, because they can now be held liable if the value of the stock drops. Employers can now also be held liable under insider trading laws for certain actions they make within the retirement plan, with respects to company stock.

But what if you do happen to have some company stock in your retirement plan? If you do, be sure to read Chapter 9 for some very important tax planning tips! When you retire and take a lump sum distribution from your retirement plan, the distribution may include employer stock that is (hopefully) worth more than the fair market value at the time it was purchased in your plan. The difference between the value of the company stock at the time you take your lump sum distribution and its value at the time it was purchased is called Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA).

If you own company stock within your retirement plans, you should make sure that you understand Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) rules outlined in Chapter 9 before you roll over or take distributions from the plan. Many financial advisors don’t understand these rules and, if you don’t, you could end up paying significantly more in taxes than you need to. This is especially true if the company stock in your 401(k) has increased in value!

Stay tuned for an update on our classic case study of Eddie & Emily from Chapter 10!

– Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Tax Free Roth IRAs: Don’t believe everything you Read

Tax Free Roth IRA, Don't Believe Everything You Read, James Lange, The Lange Financial GroupMy wife recently told me that she didn’t think that there was anything that could keep me from blogging about my upcoming book, Retire Secure! While she was joking, she was also right. I thought. But then, an article that was published in US News and World Report yesterday (April 20, 2015) was inaccurate on so many points that I could not let it go without commenting on it. I submitted a comment to the article and asked that the article be retracted. I can only hope that the magazine will publish a retraction, and quickly, before an unsuspecting reader takes the writer’s recommendations to heart.

The writer is a certified financial planner and registered investment advisor, as well as a published author, from Virginia. He begins by telling readers about Roth IRAs. He says that you can contribute $5,000 to a Roth IRA – that limit was increased $5,500 in 2013. If you have a Roth account in your 401(k), he claims you can add $6,000 to it if you are over 50 years old. (If you are over 50, you can add $24,000 to a Roth 401(k) in 2015this is made up of the $18,000 basic contribution limit plus a $6,000 “catch-up” contribution limit.) He claims that, if you contribute to a Roth, “the money you invest will be taxed”. (Everyone knows that, if you follow the rules, Roth accounts aren’t taxable, right? I sincerely hope that what he was trying to say was that there is no tax deduction for Roth contributions!) Then he tells readers that, after age 59 ½, “when you begin to take distributions” from the Roth, they will be tax-free”. That statement is not inaccurate, but it does omit the very important fact that your contributions can be withdrawn from a tax free Roth IRA before age 59 1/2.  (Earnings on your contributions are treated differently.) It is the traditional IRA that, in most cases, you cannot withdraw from without penalty until age 59 1/2.

The worst advice, though, came when he tried to present the pros and cons of Roth conversions. He recommends that you take one of your existing IRAs or qualified plans and convert the entire thing to a Roth, but then warns you that you will need to pay tax on that entire conversion at once. What is omitted here is that, if you convert your entire account at once, your tax bill may be so large that you move up in to a higher tax bracket. It would be imprudent to make such a recommendation to a client! What generally makes more sense is to make several smaller conversions, in amounts that ensure that you stay in the same tax bracket. He recommends not making tax free Roth IRA conversions later in life, on the basis that you will not live long enough to enjoy the tax-free benefits. Tongue in cheek, I might argue that that’s a risk at any age, but even if you don’t live long enough to enjoy them, the tax-free benefits to your heirs, who are likely much younger than you, are indisputable. The strangest statement against Roth conversions, I thought, was that “you will potentially have to write a big check to the IRS”. It is true that you will have to pay tax on any amount converted from a traditional to a Roth IRA. But even if you don’t need your retirement money to live on, you will have to start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRAs every year once you turn age 70 ½. Those mandatory withdrawals will be taxable, and at that point you will be writing a big check to the IRS. The question is, does it make more sense to make Roth conversions while your retirement account balance is likely to be smaller, pay tax on a smaller amount of money, and generate tax-free income on all of the future earnings on the converted amount? Or, does it make more sense to wait twenty or thirty years, let the taxable traditional IRA grow as large as possible, and then pay the tax on the larger mandatory withdrawals?

In this age of electronic communications it’s easier to offer opposing points of view, and I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the sheer volume of dissenting opinions that the article produced within hours of its publication. I also wondered if there were other individuals who read it and took the advice to heart. That made me think of another question – what would my readers have thought about that article, especially after receiving such dramatically different advice from me? Who are you supposed to trust?

My advice to you is this – trust yourself first. If a financial professional says something that does not make sense to you, ask for clarification. If the answer you are given still doesn’t make sense to you, trust your instincts. Get a second, third, fourth or fifth opinion before you act. Or, look up the answer yourself. There are number of resources that my staff and I use all the time, that are also available to you.   These include the Internal Revenue Service’s website (www.irs.gov), the Social Secure Administration’s website (www.ssa.gov), and the website established by Medicare (www.medicare.gov). Educating yourself about your options is the best defense against making a potential mistake that you have available to you.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Stop back soon for another update on my book.

Jim