Explaining the What is the “Restore” Option for Pensions, Part 3 of a 3 Part Series on Pensions

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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Selecting your pension benefit option as you near retirement could quite possibly be the largest financial decision you ever make.  If you’ve received a breakdown of the various ways you can elect to have your pension benefits paid and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone!  In many cases, employers give you the option to select from upwards of 30 different options that have various survivor benefits, lump-sum payouts, Social Security bridge payments and more.  Is your head spinning yet? 

One of the more appealing pension options that our team is seeing more and more of is the “restore” option.  The restore feature of a pension is a way to protect the person receiving the pension if their spouse dies before them.  If that were the case, the restore option allows the retiree to “step-up” to the higher single/straight life payment.  Similar to the survivor benefit, the restore option is another layer of “insurance” to protect the retiree from being locked into a permanently reduced pension benefit if their spouse pre-deceases them. 

Let’s take a look at an example of the restore feature:

Tom (age 61) is retiring from XYZ Company in several months.  Tom would like to evaluate his pension options to see which payment would be best for him and his wife Judy (age 60).  Tom has narrowed it down to 3 options:

Option 1:

  • $45,000/yr single/straight life (no survivor benefit)
    • Payment would cease upon Tom’s passing – $0 to Judy

Option 2:

  • $41,000/yr 50% survivor option
    • Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her

 Option 3:

  • $40,200/yr 50% survivor option with “restore” feature
    •  Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her
    • Tom would step-up to a $45,000/yr benefit (straight/single life benefit figure) if Judy pre-deceases him

The more Tom and Judy have discussed their overall financial plan; they are not comfortable selecting the single/straight life option and risking Judy not receiving a continuation of benefits if Tom pre-deceases her.  However, because Judy has had some health issues in the past, they feel the 50% restore payment option makes more sense for their situation because it is very possible that Judy will die before Tom.  They are comfortable with an $800/yr reduction in payment to have the “insurance” of Tom stepping up to the higher single/straight life option if he survives Judy. 

While the restore option for Tom and Judy seems to make perfect sense, there truly is no a “one size fits all” pension option that works for everyone.  Every situation is very unique and it’s important that you evaluate your entire financial picture and other sources of retirement income to determine which pension option is right for you and your family.

Click to see part 1 of pension blogs How to Choose a Survivor Benefit for Your Pension and part 2 What You Need to Know About Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP© and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. 

WEBINAR IN REVIEW: Retirement Income Planning: How Will You Get Paid in Retirement?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

One of most common questions I hear from clients as they approach retirement is, “How do I actually get paid when I’m no longer working?” It’s a question that I feel we as planners can sometimes take for granted.  Because we are helping hundreds of clients throughout the year with their retirement income strategy, we can sometimes forget that this simple question is often the cause of many sleepless nights for soon-to-be retirees.   

Saving money throughout your career can be simple, but certainly not easy. Prudent and consistent saving requires a tremendous amount of discipline. However, if you elect the proper asset allocation in your 401k and you’re a quality saver, in most cases, accumulating really doesn’t have to be all that difficult.  However, when it comes time to take money out of the various accounts you’ve accumulated over time or have to make monumental financial decisions surrounding items such as Social Security or which pension option to elect, the conversation changes. In many cases, this is a stage in life where we frequently see those who have been “do it yourselfers” reach out to us for professional guidance. 

The first step in crafting a retirement income strategy is having a firm grip on your own personal spending goal in retirement. From there, we’ll sit down together and evaluate the fixed income sources that you have at your disposal. Most often these sources include your pension, Social Security, annuity income or even part-time employment income. Once we have a better sense of the fixed payments you’ll be receiving throughout the year, we’ll take a look at the various investable assets you’ve accumulated to determine where the “gap” needs to be filled from an income standpoint and determine if that figure is reasonable considering your own projected retirement time horizon. Finally, we need to dive into the tax ramifications of your income sources and portfolio income. If you have multiple investment or retirement accounts, it’s critical to evaluate the tax ramifications each account possesses. 

Make sure you listen to the replay of our webinar “Retirement Income Planning: How Much Will You Get Paid In Retirement?” for additional tips and information on how you might consider structuring your own tax-efficient retirement income strategy.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This material is being provided for information purposes only. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Spring Cleaning Financial Checklist

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Spring has sprung even if it still feels like winter! Everything needs a bit of a dust off, even your money. If you're in the mood to shore things up, here are some ways to get started. Note: If this is all a bit Greek for you, working with a financial planner might be a good idea. Center for Financial Planning is here to help you reach your financial goals.

Goal Setting & Housekeeping

  • Review your current financial goals to see if there's anything you can check off as "achieved".
  • Think about emerging opportunities or frustrations and formulate a goal that you can record. Maybe it's to save up for a new house or pay off a debt. Whatever it is, make a note and set up an achievable plan with a realistic target date to get it done.
  • Don't fall victim to cyber hacks. Review your passwords and security practice to safeguard your accounts.
  • Shred the excess. If you've accumulated paperwork you no longer need, shred and recycle the waste.

Cash Flow & Savings

  • Is your checkbook balanced? Is it time to revisit your personal or family budget? Take this time to see if things are going as planned year to date.
  • Review your loans. With rising interest rates, paying down high interest or rising interest loan account is a good idea. Consider triaging your extra loan payments if you have spare funds, making sure that extra payments are made to the highest interest notes first.
  • Do you have an emergency plan? Evaluate your current emergency reserves. Ideally, they would equal 6-12 months of your living expenses. If not, work on a plan to build up reserves over time.

Retirement Readiness

  • Does your retirement savings rate need a boost? If your retirement contributions need to grow with your paychecks, take this opportunity to boost them up or play catch up.
  • Map your road to retirement. If you're nearing retirement, work with your financial planner to review your retirement needs and understand the possibilities with retirement projections.

Investments

  • Allocation assessment. Has your mix of stocks and bonds drifted from your originally planned balance? Take the opportunity to trade into your preferred zone.
  • Consolidate accounts. If you're practicing diversification by location with lots of loose end accounts lying around, revisit and organize your accounts to make things less complicated.
  • Put some cash to work. If you have extra funds available, consider setting up a monthly-automated investment distribution or making a deposit to your investment accounts to boost your base.

Insurance

  • Bridge your gaps. Have you meant to update your insurance with higher protection for a property or are you just not sure if your coverage is enough? Review your current coverages to make sure your current accounts are priced right with protection to meet your needs.
  • Get your money. If items like health care or day care reimbursements have been piling up, submit them to avoid delays and access your funds.
  • Establish a Health Savings Account. If you are a participant in a high deductible insurance plan, evaluate your options and consider contributing to an HSA. These funds have great tax advantages and can be very handy in retirement.

Taxes

  • You just filed your taxes, hopefully, what should be done differently next year? Spend a bit of time doing a recap of lessons learned and plan accordingly for the coming year.
  • If you got a big refund or unfortunately had a big payment on April 15, review your withholding, estimates, etc. Avoid sending unnecessary money to the IRS or paying a penalty for funds you owed with some forecasting. 
  • Hire a professional. If you've been on the DIY plan but you're in over your head, this is a good time to reach out to a professional to determine if hiring a CPA or tax preparer is right for you.

Estate & Charitable Planning

  • Make sure your documents are relevant. Has estate planning been on your "to do" list for a while? Whether you need to update documents, change your plan, or you're just getting started, commit to tending to these items.
  • Review your beneficiary designations. It might have been a while since you looked at beneficiary designations on retirement accounts or insurance policies. Make sure they're up-to-date and consistent with your current needs.
  • Plan your charitable giving for this year. The 2017 tax bill may have changed the most desirable way to give. Look into bundling your gifts: donor advised funds or qualified charitable distributions if appropriate.

Kids & Education

  • Start your college saving plan. If you have been stressing about college costs rather than doing something about it, look into 529's or request an education analysis from your financial planner.
  • Use the summer break for financial skill building. If your teenagers have summer jobs, your college-bound student doesn't know how to balance a checkbook, or your elementary-aged kid wants to open a lemonade stand, make the most of the summer with some money smart activities for your children.

Did I miss something or do you have a favorite spring financial cleaning tip? Let me know at Melissa.Joy@centerfinplan.com

Melissa Joy, CFP®, CDFA® is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.


Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.

The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Opinions expressed in the blog are those of Melissa Joy and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

What You Need to Know About Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC, Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Pensions

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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In many cases, the decision you make surrounding your pension could be the largest financial choice you’ll make in your entire life.  As such, the potential risk of your pension plan should be on your radar and factored in when ultimately deciding which payment option to elect.  This is where the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation comes into play.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or “PBGC” is an independent agency that was established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to give pension participants in plans covered by the PBGC guaranteed “basic” benefits in the event their employer-sponsored defined benefit plans becomes insolvent.  Today, the PBGC protects the retirement incomes of nearly 40 million American workers in nearly 24,000 private-sector pension plans. 

Municipalities, unions and public sector professions are almost never covered by the PBGC.  Private companies, especially larger ones, are usually covered (click here to see if your company plan is).  Each year, companies pay insurance premiums to the PBGC to protect retirees.  Think of the PBCG essentially as FDIC insurance for pensions.  Similar to FDIC coverage ($250,000) that banks offer, there are limits on how much the PBCG will cover if a pension plan fails.  It's important to note that in most cases, the age you happen to be when your company’s pension fails is the age the PBGC uses to determine your protected monthly benefit. 

For example, if you start receiving a pension at age 60 from XYZ company and 5 years later, XYZ goes under when you’re 65, your protected monthly benefit with the PBGC would be $5,2420.45 – assuming you are receiving a straight life payment (see table below).  As we would expect, the older you are, the higher the protected monthly benefit will be due to life expectancy assumptions.    

 *chart is from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation website

*chart is from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation website

When advising you on which pension option to choose, one of the first things we'll want to work together to determine is whether or not your pension is covered by the PBGC.  If your pension is covered, this is a wonderful protection for your retirement income if the unexpected occurs and the company you worked for ends up failing.  If you think it will never happen, let’s not forget 2009 when many unexpected things occurred in the world such as General Motors filing for bankruptcy and Ford nearly doing the same.  If your pension is not covered, we'll want to take this risk into consideration when comparing the monthly income stream options to a lump sum rollover option (if offered). 

While PBCG coverage is one very important element when evaluating a pension, we’ll also want to analyze other aspects of your pension as well, such as the pension’s internal rate of return or "hurdle rate" and various survivor options offered. 

As mentioned previously, the decision surrounding your pension could quite possibly be the largest financial decision you ever make.  When making a financial decision of such magnitude, we’d strongly recommend consulting with a professional to ensure you’re making the best decision possible for your own unique situation.  Let us know if we can help!   

Be sure to check out our pension part 1 blog How to Choose a Survivor Benefit for Your Pension posted April 5th and our next blog Explaining What the “Restore” Option is for Pensions posted May 10.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP© and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Simplifying Your Retirement Plans

Co-Contributed by: Matthew E. Chope, CFP® Matt Chope and Gerri Harmer Gerri Harmer

If you’re like most, you have multiple retirement plans from previous employers. These may be hard to track and lead to piles of paper statements. Recent rulings make it easier to consolidate accounts and potentially save on fees.

Recent changes in rulings now allow most retirement plans to be “rolled over” to other qualified plans that previously were not allowed including Simple IRAs and 401ks. One exception is you must hold your Simple IRA for two years before funds can be moved in or out of the account without paying tax penalties.  Pictured is a chart showing permissible roll over types.

Things to consider before acting:

  • Compare investment offerings and fees for each account to find the best choice to roll into. These are usually located on your statement or in the prospectus. You can also call the phone number on your statement to inquire.
  • Consider consulting a financial advisor to get the best overall financial picture.
  • Funds must be withdrawn and redeposited within 60 days to avoid paying tax penalties.

If you have questions on how to get started, or want to talk with a professional on what your rollover options our, please reach out to your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ here at The Center.  

Matthew E. Chope, CFP ® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Matt has been quoted in various investment professional newspapers and magazines. He is active in the community and his profession and helps local corporations and nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning and money and business management decisions.

Gerri Harmer is a Client Service Manager at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Be sure to consider all of your available options and the applicable fees and features of each option before moving your retirement assets. Tax matters should be discussed with an appropriate tax professional.

Webinar in Review: Employee Benefit Open Enrollment

Contributed by: Clare Lilek Clare Lilek

Each September, as school is back in session and fall is right around the corner, the last thing on your mind is “How can I make the most of my employee benefit enrollment that’s happening soon?!” It may not be the most exciting topic, but enrollment for your employer’s benefit package happens once a year, usually in late September and early October, and can affect the benefits and coverage you receive for the following twelve months. So it is very much worth your time to look at what your company offers and weigh the pros and cons of all your options. Luckily for you, Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, recently hosted a webinar that outlines the various benefits your company could offer and how you may go about electing certain packages. Below are a few highlights from the 30-minute webinar. For a more detailed explanation, watch the full webinar recording below!

Retirement Savings Plans

  • Choosing a Traditional (pre-tax) or a Roth (post-tax) plan depends on your current tax bracket versus your projected tax bracket when you retire.
  • Make sure you are always maxing out your employer match at the very least. In order to make sure you are continually growing your retirement account, consider add 1-2% each year to your contributions.
  • Choose a mix of investment options that are aligned with your risk tolerance.
  • Ride out the changes in the market. It’s important not to make constant portfolio changes.

Executive Compensation Plans

These types of compensation plans are typically used as incentive compensation. They can vary from company to company but some of the options include: stock options, non-qualified deferred compensation plans, and employee stock purchase plans. We are currently doing a blog series on Stock Options (NSOs, ISOs, and RSUs); make sure to look out for these for a more detailed overview.

Health Insurance

Nick did a high-level overview of the different types of plans and options you may encounter when it comes to company health insurance. When choosing between a PPO or HMO, you could be choosing between the flexibility of additional benefits (PPO) or the lower cost for potentially more restrictive benefits (HMO). He also highlights the importance of reading the fine print when adding a spouse to your benefits. Lately, many companies have a spousal surcharge that makes it more expensive for a spouse to be insured on your plan if they have access to insurance through their own employer. Nick also noted that some companies are making the move to high-deductible plans, which lower their premiums but put the “buying power” back in the hands of the insured.

Flex Spending Accounts

Nick continued to describe the potential benefit of using a Flex Spending Accounts, whether it’s for medical or dependent care deductibles.  When pretax contributions are used for qualified medical expenses, within the year of contribution, they continue to go untaxed. To learn how you could potentially save some tax money, make sure to tune in to this part of the webinar!

Other Insurances

To wrap up, Nick went through disability insurance and life insurance options. He weighed the pros and cons for group vs individual coverage, and how some employees might want to consider long-term and short-term disability coverage.

If you have any questions about this webinar or your specific benefits, don’t hesitate to reach out to Nick.

401(k) for Solo Business Owners

Contributed by: Matt Trujillo, CFP® Matt Trujillo

If you're self-employed or own a small business, you've probably considered establishing a retirement plan. If you've done your homework, you likely know about simplified employee pensions (SEPs) and savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans. These plans typically appeal to small business owners because they're relatively straightforward and inexpensive to administer. What you may not know is that in many cases an individual 401(k) plan (which is also known by other names such as a solo 401(k) plan, an employer-only 401(k) plan, or a single participant 401(k) plan) may offer a better combination of benefits.

What is an individual 401(k) plan?

An individual 401(k) plan is a regular 401(k) plan combined with a profit-sharing plan. Unlike a regular 401(k) plan, however, an individual 401(k) plan can be implemented only by self-employed individuals or small business owners who have no other full-time employees (an exception applies if your full-time employee is your spouse). If you have full-time employees age 21 or older (other than your spouse) or part-time employees who work more than 1,000 hours a year, you will typically have to include them in any plan you set up, so adopting an individual 401(k) plan will not be a viable option.

What makes an individual 401(k) plan attractive?

One feature that makes an individual 401(k) plan an attractive retirement savings vehicle is that in most cases your allowable contribution to an individual 401(k) plan will be as large as or larger than you could make under most other types of retirement plans. With an individual 401(k) plan you can elect to defer up to $18,000 of your compensation to the plan for 2016 (plus catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 if you're age 50 or older), just as you could with any 401(k) plan. In addition, as with a traditional profit-sharing plan, your business can make a maximum tax-deductible contribution to the plan of up to 25% of your compensation (up to $265,000 in 2016).  Since your 401(k) elective deferrals don't count toward the 25% limit, you, as an owner-employee, can defer the maximum amount of compensation under the 401(k) plan, and still contribute up to 25% of total compensation to the profit-sharing plan on your own behalf. Total plan contributions for 2016 cannot, however, exceed the lesser of $53,000 (plus any catch-up contributions) or 100% of your compensation.

For example, Dan is 35 years old and the sole owner of an incorporated business. His compensation in 2016 is $100,000. Dan sets up an individual 401(k) plan for his retirement. Under current tax law, Dan's plan account can accept a tax-deductible business contribution of $25,000 (25% of $100,000), plus a 401(k) elective deferral of $18,000. As a result, total plan contributions on Dan's behalf can reach $43,000, which falls within Dan's contribution limit of $53,000 (the lesser of $53,000 or 100% of his compensation). These contribution possibilities aren't unique to individual 401(k) plans; any business establishing a regular 401(k) plan and a profit-sharing plan could make similar contributions. But individual 401(k) plans are simpler to administer than other types of retirement plans. Since they cover only a self-employed individual or business owner and his or her spouse, individual 401(k) plans aren't subject to the often burdensome and complicated administrative rules and discrimination testing that are generally required for regular 401(k) and profit-sharing plans.

Other Advantages of an Individual 401(k) Plan

Large potential annual contributions and straightforward administrative requirements are appealing, but individual 401(k) plans also have advantages that are shared by many other types of retirement plans:

An individual 401(k) is a tax-deferred retirement plan, so you pay no income tax on plan contributions or earnings (if any) until you withdraw money from the plan. And, your business's contribution to the plan is tax deductible.

  • You can, if your plan document permits, designate all or part of your elective deferrals as after-tax Roth 401(k) contributions. While Roth contributions don't provide an immediate tax savings, qualified distributions from your Roth account are entirely free from federal income tax.
  • Contributions to an individual 401(k) plan are completely discretionary. You should always try to contribute as much as possible, but you have the option of reducing or even suspending plan contributions if necessary.
  • An individual 401(k) plan can allow loans and may allow hardship withdrawals if necessary.
  • An individual 401(k) plan can accept rollovers of funds from another retirement savings vehicle, such as an IRA, a SEP plan, or a previous employer's 401(k) plan.

Disadvantages

Despite its attractive features, an individual 401(k) plan is not the right option for everyone. Here are a few potential drawbacks:

  • An individual 401(k) plan, like a regular 401(k) plan, must follow certain requirements under the Internal Revenue Code. Although these requirements are much simpler than they would be for a regular 401(k) plan with multiple participants, there is still a cost associated with establishing and administering an individual 401(k) plan.
  • Your individual 401(k) plan assets are fully protected from your creditors under federal law if you declare bankruptcy. However, since an individual 401(k) plan generally isn't subject to ERISA, whether your plan's assets will be protected from your creditors outside of bankruptcy will be determined by the laws of your particular state.
  • Self-employed individuals and small business owners with significant compensation can already contribute a maximum $53,000 by using a traditional profit-sharing plan or SEP plan. An individual 401(k) plan will not allow contributions to be made above this limit (an exception exists for catch-up contributions that can be made by individuals age 50 or older).

If you think an Individual 401(k) might be the right vehicle for you, we encourage you to contact your financial planner to work through your individual situation to make the right choice for you.  Feel free to reach out to us if you think we can be of help!

Matthew Trujillo, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Matt currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered.


This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Matthew Trujillo and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Prior to making a retirement plan decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Roth account owners must be 59½ or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Unpacking Incentive Stock Options

Contributed by: Matt Trujillo, CFP® Matt Trujillo

What is an ISO?!

Some of you reading this might have been granted Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) in the past or perhaps this is something that your employer recently started to grant you. In either case it never hurts to get a refresher on what they are and some of the nuanced planning opportunities that go with them. ISOs are a form of stock option that employers can grant to employees often to reward employees' performance, encourage longevity with the company, and give employees a stake in the company's success. A stock option is a right to buy a specified number of the company's shares at a specified price for a certain period of time. ISOs are also known as qualified or statutory stock options because they must conform to specific requirements under the tax laws to qualify for preferential tax treatment.

The tax law requirements for ISOs include*:

  • The strike price—the price you will pay to purchase the shares—must be at least equal to the stock's fair market value on the date the option is issued.
  • To receive options, you must be an employee of the issuing company.
  • The exercise date cannot be more than 10 years after the grant.

*Special rules may also apply if you own more than 10 percent of your employer's stock (by vote). Nonqualified stock options, another type of employee stock option, are separate from ISOs therefore receive different tax treatment.

Once you have been granted a stock option, you can buy the stock at the strike price even if the value of the stock has increased. If you choose to exercise a stock option, you must buy the stock within the specific time frame that was set when the option was purchased or granted to you. You are not required to exercise a stock option.

Your options may be subject to a vesting schedule developed by the company. Unvested options cannot be exercised until some date in the future, which often is tied to your continued employment. The stock that you receive upon exercise of an option may also be subject to a vesting schedule.

Assuming that a stock option satisfies the tax law requirements for an ISO, preferential tax treatment will be available for the sale of the stock acquired upon the exercise of the ISO, but only if the stock is held for a minimum holding period. The holding period determines if a sale of the stock you received through the exercise of an ISO is subject to taxation as ordinary income or as capital gain or loss.

To receive long-term capital gain treatment, you must hold the shares you acquired upon exercise of the option for at least:

  • Two years from the date you were granted the option, and
  • At least one year after the date that you exercised the option

So whether this is something new to you or something you’ve been handling for a long time, feel free to contact us with questions regarding the nuances around Incentive Stock Options.

Matthew Trujillo, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Matt currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered.


This information does not purport to be a complete description of Incentive Stock Options, this information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Investing in stocks always involves risk, including the possibility of losing one's entire investment. Specific tax matters should be discussed with a tax professional.

Are your Medicare Premiums about to Increase?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

If you’re like most, chances are you have not heard of what’s known as the “hold harmless” provision set forth under the Social Security Act. To keep things simple, this provision is essentially in place to protect the majority of those on Medicare from seeing jumps in Part B premiums when Social Security benefits do not increase through cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). 

For the second year in a row, due to low inflation, the hold harmless provision is coming into play. This year, there was no COLA for those receiving Social Security and 2017 is projected to only see a minuscule 0.2% bump in benefits. If you’re single and have an adjusted gross income (AGI) below $85,000 or are married and have an AGI below $170,000, your Medicare Part B premiums will not increase – you are part of the group whom the hold harmless provision protects (approximately 70% of those on Medicare). For those with income higher than the thresholds mentioned above, however, (which is approximately 30% of those on Medicare), you will more than likely see yet another increase in your Medicare Part B premiums in 2017 that is currently projected to be approximately 22%.    

It’s also important to note that those who are “sheltered” under the hold harmless provision (AGI below $85,000 for single filers, AGI below $170,000 for married filers) are only those who are currently receiving Social Security benefits. For example, if you’re 66 years old, receiving Social Security benefits and enrolled in Medicare, you will not see a jump in your Part B premium. If you’re currently age 64 but plan on delaying Social Security benefits until age 70, however, there is a very high probability that when you begin Medicare at age 65, your Part B premiums will be higher than they are for current enrollees. 

As mentioned previously, the same situation occurred last year and the actual increases in Medicare Part B premiums ended up being much less than what was initially projected (here’s a link to when I covered the topic last year). In October, we will be hosting a webinar on Medicare and we’re hoping to have more clarity on any potential premium increases at that time. Keep your eyes open for more information surrounding this topic and our October webinar! As always, if you have questions before then, please contact us.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Nick is a member of The Center’s financial planning department and also works closely with Center clients. In addition, Nick is a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. These hypothetical examples are for illustration purposes only. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Are Your Aging Parents a Roadblock in Your Retirement Planning?

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

As the meat in the so-called “sandwich generation,” the baby boomers are approaching retirement at a record pace. As we work with clients and client couples to get their financial and non-financial “ducks in a row,” it is becoming more and more common to discuss issues surrounding the assistance of one or both sets of parents and aging/long term care issues. If this sounds familiar, here are the possible roadblocks that this can cause for your retirement planning and some suggestions about what you can do to prevent them.

What are the Roadblocks?

  • Providing assistance/caregiving often limits the time you can work; you may be forced to take family leave time to provide care, go to part time work, or even take early retirement.
  • Working less reduces earnings, providing less Social Security earnings, and less in retirement savings for future retirement.
  • Stopping work prior to age 65 may mean a need to bridge a health insurance gap when that was not the original plan.
  • Caregiving can be stressful, especially if you are trying to continue to work and also have responsibilities with adult children and/or grandchildren, so your own health can become a concern.
  • With so much going on, just being able to keep your “eye on the ball” and concentrate on your own retirement goals can be a challenge.

What Can You Do to Make Sure To Stay On Track?

If you find yourself in the position of assisting aging parents, now or in the future, do not assume that all is lost. There are things that you can do to make sure that your own retirement will stay on track:

  • Have conversations with your parents and plan ahead as much as possible to make sure that their long term care is funded; have a conversation to discuss if they are willing and able to have non-family members provide care if and when the time comes (at least until you retire); have a professional moderate the planning conversation if it’s not a talk your family is comfortable having on their own.
  • If you do end up leaving work to care for an aging parent, discuss having a paid caregiver contract drafted or determine if your parent’s Long Term Care insurance policy has the ability to pay you for your services as a caregiver.
  • Make sure others take their turn and spread the responsibilities amongst others (see my recent blog on Family Care Agreements); take breaks and take care of yourself (caregiver stress is a real thing!).
  • Continue to meet with your financial planner on an annual basis to keep yourself focused on your own goals along the way—continue to save for retirement as you are able and make progress.

We all have roadblocks that slow our progress towards our goals; aging parents might be one of yours.  The love and care we have for our family—especially our parents—is not something we would ever deny, however frustrating it might be when it delays that ultimate freedom we call retirement. But if we plan ahead, and coordinate with our families and professional partners, we can hope to make the roadblock more of a speedbump.  Contact me if you have questions about how your financial planner can be of assistance.

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Sandy Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.