Are You Retirement Ready?

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

In our work with clients, one of the most common questions we get is, “How will we know when we are ready (and able) to retire?”  That can be a tricky question, because there are two sides to being ready for the next phase of your life – the technical side and the personal side.  While certainly you need to be financially secure for the next decades of your life, you also need to be comfortable with the transition from your life as a career individual to what you now wish to become in your next phase – and that is not as easy as it sounds.

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From a financial-readiness perspective, many clients target age, monetary or benefit milestones to help them determine when they will be ready to retire:

  • “When I have $1 million in assets saved, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to collect Social Security, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to collect my company pension OR I have reached my XX anniversary with my company, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to receive Medicare, I will be ready to retire.”

The real answer is, some or all of these may be true for you, and some or all of these may be false.Every client situation is different and no general guideline can determine whether or not you are financially ready to retire. Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than that. There are numerous financial factors that go into determining financial readiness.Let’s take a deeper look into the issues.

Financial Readiness Issues:

Retirement Savings:

Do you have enough saved?

  • What might your other retirement income sources be (Social Security, Pensions, etc.)

  • How much income will you need (what are your fixed costs versus lifestyle wants in retirement), and

  • What are your longevity expectations (how long might you expect to live based on health, family history, etc.—expect it will be longer than you think!).

Where are your savings?

  • Do you have retirement savings outside of retirement plans?

  • Do you have some after-tax and reserve cash/emergency reserve savings?

  • Do you have different types of accounts to provide tax diversification going into retirement (i.e. IRAs/401(k)s, ROTH IRAs, after tax investment accounts)?

Debt:

Have you paid down your debt or do you have a plan to be as debt free as possible by the time you retire?  This will allow you to control your retirement income for other fixed expenses and wants; it is desirable to have as little debt/fixed expenses as possible going into retirement as possible.

Retirement Income:

A large part to being retirement ready is understanding your retirement income sources, options and strategies and using them to your best advantage.  Take the time to consult with your planner to choose the option that works best for you and your family circumstance.

  • Pensions: Do you understand all your options, including the income options available to your spouse as a survivor upon your death.  We find that in many cases it makes sense to choose an option that includes a lifetime income option for you with at least a 65% survivor income benefit for your spouse if you were to die first.

  • Social Security: While many are under the false impression that because you are allowed to take Social Security benefits as early as age 62, they should, we might recommend otherwise.  For most individuals now approaching Social Security claiming age, Full Retirement Age for claiming Social Security is now age 66 and delaying benefits until age 70 results in an 8% per year increase in benefits.  Knowing and understanding the Social Security benefits, rules and strategies that can be employed, especially for married couples, to ensure the largest lifetime benefit can be an added supplement to long-term retirement income. We find that our most successful married couples in retirement employ a strategy where the lower Social Security earner draws at Full Retirement age while the higher Social Security earner waits to draw at age 70, insuring the highest possible Social Security benefit for the spouse that lives the longest.

Investments:

Preparing for retirement involves making appropriate adjustments to your investment strategy.  You should work with your financial planner to adjust your asset allocation to one that is appropriate for your new goals and time horizon. We find that our most successful retirees tend to have asset allocations ranging from 40% Bond/60% Stock to 50% Bond/50% Stock.

Insurance:

  • For those retiring before age 65 (Medicare eligibility) and without retiree healthcare, finding health insurance to bridge them to Medicare is a must. 

  • Retirement readiness does require addressing the issue of Long Term Care funding Having a plan, no matter what your choice, is something that must be done before retirement.

Estate Planning:

While not exactly monetary, having your estate planning documents (Durable Powers of Attorney, Wills and possibly Trust or Trusts in place) updated prior to retirement is a good idea.Part of this is making sure accounts are titled properly, beneficiaries are updated, and account holdings/locations and management are as simplified as possible going into your last phase of life.

Once you have determined your financial retirement readiness, you need to determine your personal retirement readiness, which may be even more difficult for many folks.  Why?  Many have spent the majority of their lifetimes to this point building careers that established them with titles, credentials and stature. They built reputations, networks, social and business circles and were well respected because of the work that they have done.  And now they are moving from that phase of their lives to another and that means starting over.  What will they be now?  What will their lives mean?  And to whom?

Until you are ready to start the next phase of your life knowing your purpose – what you want to wake up for every day – you are likely not ready for retirement.  Those that have not given the thought to their mission, values, and their “why” for their next phase will be left feeling lost and will likely fail at retirement and find themselves wanting to go back to their former lives.

How can you find your purpose?

  • Ask yourself what is most important to you? (family, friends, spirituality, charity,etc)

  • Ask yourself what are your life priorities? (family, health, knowledge, etc.)

  • Ask yourself what you want to let go of and what you want to give yourself to.

  • Realize that the rest of your life can be the best of your life if you embrace it with an open mind and enthusiasm.

  • Consider reading the book “Purposeful Retirement” by Hyrum Smith if you need more help!

“Am I ready to retire?”  It is not a simple question and there is no simple answer.  It may take months or years to answer all of the questions and make all of the preparations.  If you think that retirement is in your not too distant future, the time is NOW to start planning.  Don’t let retirement sneak up on you…work with your financial planner and be Retirement Ready!

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.

Webinar in Review: Year-End Tax and Planning Strategies

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

In November of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2018 passed with numerous changes to our tax code. This year we provided a refresher on some of those changes as well as some planning opportunities to think about as 2018 wraps up.

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, we encourage you to check out the recording below. 

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • (04:20): New 2018 Marginal Tax Brackets

  • (06:30): Highlights of the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – comparing 2017 with 2018

  • (14:24): Planning charitable gifts under the new tax law

  • (19:15): Healthcare coverage overview – Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Medicare

  • (25:30): Roth IRA conversions as an attractive planning opportunity

  • (33:20): How to utilize your employer retirement plan most effectively

  • (36:30): How we help mitigate taxes & tax efficient investing

  • (41:30): Updates to gifting and intra-family gifting for 2018

Mid-term Elections and the Market: 2018 Outcome

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

Mid-term Election and the Market: 2018 Outcome

Voting day came and went much as the markets had anticipated.  Democrats flipped the House of Representatives over to their control while the Senate maintained and even strengthened their republican majority.  From a legislative policy perspective, we expect the republican agenda to slow.  Mid-term election implications may include:

  • The President can continue to act alone regarding trade policies but had bi-partisan support for cracking down on China’s trade and intellectual property practices anyway

  • Democrats are going to scrutinize and investigate President Trump, his cabinet officials and executive actions…yes, even more!

  • Any further tax cuts are unlikely

  • Democrats will likely get to work on some infrastructure spending

  • Affordable Care act will be strongly defended

While markets care about legislation and the far-reaching impact those decisions make, long-term markets are agnostic to election results. Information and how markets digest the information affect investment outcomes more than politics.  Frankly, markets do not really care which side is in control.  In fact, the new balance of power sets a similar stage for the strongest historical performance in the S&P 500 for a republican president.  Want to learn more, check out this blog, “Mid-Term Elections and the Market.”


Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of RJFS. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Mid-Term Elections and the Market

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

Elections and the stock market are two topics prime for speculation.  The media will speculate on who will win elections, and then again speculate on how those outcomes will affect the markets!  With this double layer of uncertainty and recent market volatility, investors can be left with feelings of unease.  Currently the Republican president is backed by a Republican-led Congress; however, this year's midterm elections have the balance of power on the ballot.  35 Senate seats are up for grabs, and Democrats would need to gain two seats to take control.

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Although there is no way to say how the markets will be affected by either outcome with certainty, history can help to keep us grounded.  The chart below shows us the average annual S&P 500 performance by the presidential party and the majority Congressional party.  Regardless of the power make-up or split, the index has averaged positive returns. A party split (i.e., Republican president and Democratic Congress or Democratic president and Republican Congress) has delivered better performance than when a single party controlled both branches of government.

The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market.

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The year following midterm elections has historically had the best stock returns of the president's four-year term, even when a president's party loses seats in Congress.  The last time the S&P 500 declined in the year after midterm elections was 1946, but, although a guide, history is not a fortune teller. 

We cannot control the election results or the market, but we can control our vote and how we handle our investments.As always, we preach sticking to your financial plan without making changes to your portfolio out of fear or uncertainty.Our team remains aware of the political and economic landscape, but your portfolio is always constructed with your long-term goals in mind.

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/midterms-are-a-boon-for-stocksno-matter-who-wins-1538645400 Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Social Security Increase Announced

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

The Social Security Administration recently announced that benefits for more than 67 million Americans would be increasing by 2.8% starting in January 2019. This cost of living adjustment (COLA for short) is the largest we've seen since 2011 when the benefits increased by 3.6%. 

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The Medicare Part B premium increase was also announced, and it will only be increased by a modest $1.50 per month (from $134 to $135.50).The premium surcharge income brackets have also seen a slight increase in the monthly premium on top of the $1.50 standard.These surcharges affect about 5% of those who have Medicare Part B.The biggest change, however, is the addition of a new premium threshold for those with income above $500,000 if filing single and $750,000 if filing jointly. This will affect:

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While the Social Security checks will be higher in 2019, so will the earnings wage base you pay into if you're still working.  In 2018, the first $128,400 was subject to Social Security payroll tax (6.2% for employees and 6.2% for employers).  Moving into 2019 the new wage base grows by 3.5% to $132,900.  Those who are earning at or above the maximum will pay $8,240 in Social Security tax each year.  With the employer's portion, the maximum tax collected per worker is $16,780.  

Social Security plays a vital role in almost everyone's financial plan.  If you have questions about next year's COLA or anything else related to your Social Security benefit, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Source: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2019-medicare-parts-b-premiums-and-deductibles

Webinar in Review: 2019 Medicare Open Enrollment: Selecting the coverage that works for you

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

A significant part of the retirement planning process includes making the transition from an individual or group health insurance plan to Medicare. The choices are numerous and are driven by many factors – from your personal health, your choice of doctors, financial considerations and even your zip code. Join us for an upcoming webinar with James Edge of Health Plan One, a Raymond James partner and Medicare consultant, to learn the basics of how Medicare coverage works and what you need to consider before selecting coverage.

See the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • 1:30: Understanding what HPOne is

  • 2:00: Medicare Coverage Options

  • 11:45: Medicare Part A— Hospital Insurance

  • 11:50: Medicare Part B— High Income Premium Surcharge

  • 14:15: Medicare Part D— Prescription Drug Coverage

  • 16:30: Medicare Part D—The Donut Hole

  • 21:15: Original Medicare—Coverage Gaps

  • 22:15: Medigap—Standardized Benefits but Varying Costs

  • 27:30: Closing the Coverage Gaps—Medicare Advantage

  • 28:00: Part C— Medicare Advantage

  • 30:15: Enrollment Periods

  • 36:00: Enrollment Penalties

  • 40:20: Core Capabilities of HP One

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

I’m a Millennial and I Inherited a Million Dollars – Now What?

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

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More than 75 million millennials born between 1981 and 1997 are set to take over an estimated $30 trillion in wealth from baby boomers (source – AARP).  No, that is not a typo - $30 TRILLION dollars.  Personally, I’ve had several circumstances arise in the past several years where friends in their mid 30s have lost parents.  For someone in a similar age group as the folks that have experienced this loss, it scares the heck out of me.  I’m getting to that stage in life where it’s not beyond uncommon for a child to lose a parent.  That’s a pretty big reality check to digest. 

Although it can be tough to even think about, it’s a reality.  More and more people who are in their 30s who are busy building a family, career and overall great life, will inherit a level of wealth that previously seemed unfathomable.  Recently, a friend reached out to me after his father passed and left him $1,000,000 in retirement assets and life insurance proceeds.  He was overwhelmed and had no idea what to do next (thus the title of this blog!).  He was a teacher and his wife was in IT.  Needless to say, navigating the investments, required distributions and tax rules (just to name a few) associated with his inheritance was extremely stressful.  The stress caused a state of paralysis in making any decisions with the dollars out of fear of stepping on any unintended land mines or making the wrong move with the dollars.  The more we talked, it was clear that now was time for them to have a professional partner in their life who they knew was qualified but more importantly, fully trusted to provide recommendations that made the most sense for their own personal situation and goals.

My friends decided to hire me as their planner and we were able to provide advice and value not only on the planning items directly associated with their inheritance, but also in the areas that were more near term and important to them (student loan payoff strategies, discussing how to pay for child care expenses tax efficiently, helping them through the process of purchasing their first home and drafting their estate plan – just to name a few).  After 6 short months of working together, we got to place where the most time sensitive issues were addressed and we had developed a financial action plan to review annually and keep them moving in the right direction.  Of course, we plan to meet at least once a year to address other life events that come up and work towards the goals they’ve set as a family. 

Financial planning doesn’t always have to be associated with retirement.Helping clients through significant life events and providing advice beyond the dollars and cents is an environment in which our team thrives.Don’t feel paralyzed.Please feel to reach out if you’re in a similar position and need a professional to help guide you through these tough conversations and complicated matters.

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.

2018 Third Quarter Investment Commentary

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Diversified portfolios continue their uphill battle as the U.S. Stock market continues to be one of the few sources of positive returns this year.  In August, the current bull market became the longest on record since World War II by avoiding a 20% drawdown during that time.  Recently, the equity markets fell sharply even though the near-term prospects for the economy remain strong, but there are concerns about the November election, trade policy disruptions, FED policy and labor market constraints. Increased volatility and see-sawing markets are likely to continue in the near term.

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Bonds have continued to be under the pressure of gradually rising interest rates.  Since December 2016, the Fed has raised short-term rates by .25% during 8 of the last 15 meetings.  The last time we experienced rising interest rates was 2004-2006.  During this period, the Fed raised short-term rates by .25% in 17 consecutive meetings in contrast!  This time, they are taking a far more measured pace trying to increase borrowing costs for businesses and consumers to keep the economy from overheating.

International and especially emerging markets are struggling the most this year due to trade war concerns and a strong U.S. dollar even though they were the darlings of 2017.

Trade War Tracking

Since the trade war is at the top of the headlines each day, I thought it would be interesting to share a scorecard.  The below chart shows the tariffs that are still only in the proposal state (diagonal lines) and tariffs that have been put into place. You can see that only a small amount had been implemented before September. On September 21st, the next $200 Billion of tariffs were put into place (China 301 Part 1).  These are tariffs on an extensive list of goods and will start at a 10% tariff, escalating to a 25% tariff in January 2019.  China retaliated by placing tariffs on another $60 Billion in U.S. goods.  This list was smaller and the amount of tariffs placed on them was lower than the market anticipated which is why we didn’t see any negative reactions from the stock market during this round.

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While we are also actively negotiating trade policies with many countries, the focus and largest amount of potential tariffs are against Chinese imports.   According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative “The United States will impose tariffs on…Chinese imports and take other actions in response to China’s policies that coerce American companies into transferring their technology and intellectual property to domestic Chinese Enterprises.  These policies bolster China’s stated intention of seizing economic leadership in advance technology as set forth in its industrial plans, such as ‘Made in China 2025.’”

While markets are more volatile this year seeming to be swayed by the latest tariff headline daily, local markets are still boasting 10.56%  returns on the S&P500 for the year through the end of September. This says to us that markets think this trade war is survivable and possibly even beneficial to the U.S.  While tariffs are generally a negative for an economy over the long-term, investors often, only see the short-term benefits these types of strong-arm policies can bring. 

The point of free trade is that each group of producers focus on what they are best at and can produce the most efficiently (also at the lowest price/best quality).They can then sell their products and use the money to purchase what they need from the most efficient producer.This process usually stretches your dollar the farthest when it comes to purchasing power.Tariffs place an additional tax on the consumer as they usually result in higher prices for us or reduced margins for companies (or a combination of the two).We don’t share the markets rosy outlook, as we believe this trade war will result, eventually, in inflation and supply chain disruptions.It takes time to ramp up production domestically of products that become too expensive to import.When companies face the uncertainty of what retaliatory actions are coming next, they are apprehensive to make the investments required to ramp up local production in the first place. 

Unemployment

We also have to consider that the unemployment rate is back to very low levels (blue line shows below 4% unemployment) and participations rates (gray bar) remain steady.  Where are we going to get all of the new workers required to start producing items locally rather than importing? 

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We don’t think this is how Trump foresees the end game.  He hopes to force China to remove the tariffs they have historically imposed on our goods to put us on a level playing field of no tariffs, no subsidies and preventing intellectual property drain.  Whether he is right and China will be forced to come to the negotiation table remains to be seen.  Volatility should continue at slightly higher levels if this trade war continues to ramp up.

Politics

Mid-term elections are coming up, and that always puts politics at the top of everyone’s minds.  There is also fear of impeachment that we often hear from clients and how that could affect portfolios.  Impeachment is the process where the House of Representatives through a simple majority brings charges against a government official.  After the government official is impeached, the process then moves to the Senate to try the accused.  This must pass the Senate by a 2/3’s majority vote.  If this happened, President Trump would be removed from the office, and the Vice President would take his place. 

There is little to refer to in recent history to understand how markets would react here in the U.S. if this were to happen.  Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, and Richard Nixon resigned during the Impeachment proceedings but was never actually impeached.  There have been recent unsuccessful attempts to impeach Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and, yes, even Barack Obama.  When Bill Clinton was impeached markets were down in bear market territory (over 20% peak to trough on the S&P 500) for a short time before it rallied back.  The Russian Ruble Crisis also occurred at the same time, so it is hard to say that the impact to markets was solely due to the impeachment process. So while President Trump likes to boast that the “Markets will crash and that everyone will be poor” if he were impeached that is likely not the case. 

While we don’t think this has a high likelihood of happening, if it did, short-term volatility would probably occur while there is uncertainty and this is one of the many reasons why we maintain a diversified portfolio.  If stocks retreated, it is likely that our bond portfolios would perform well and even a possibility that international investments would strengthen in the face of a weaker dollar.  We believe a diversified portfolio with short-term needs set aside in cash or cash equivalents is one of the most effective solutions to an extremely rare event like this.

While this bull market may be getting old, it is important to remember they do not simply die of old age; rather they are killed by recessions.The yield curve is getting dangerously close to inverting but has not, thus not signaling a recession…yet.We are keeping a close eye on the yield curve and trade war as these items could quickly spill us over into a risk of recession. Markets can breeze along seemingly unconcerned by these types of risk until they aren’t.When sentiment swings from optimistic to pessimistic, it can happen almost overnight.As a result, we continue to maintain that having a diversified portfolio is extremely important.We are actively taking advantage of rebalancing opportunities to make sure your portfolios are prepared.If you have any questions or would like to speak with us more on these topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Thank you for your continued trust!

On behalf of everyone here at The Center,

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
Director of Investments
Financial Advisor, RJFS

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF® is the Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Angela specializes in Investment and Macro economic research. She is a frequent contributor The Center blog.


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. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected, including diversification and asset allocation. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns.

3 Common Mistakes in Divorce Financial Planning

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

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Watch this video for some of the most common financial mistakes I’ve seen people make during their divorce. The good news is each one of these is easily corrected. What’s my most important tip? Read below to find out.

Highlights from Divorce Mistakes:

  • Minute :15: Not diving into the details of cash flow planning

  • Minute :46: Not paying enough attention to the details of the retirement account divisions

  • Minute 1:30: Getting emotionally attached to a specific asset-whether it makes sense for you to keep it or not.

  • Minute 1:58: Tip: Treat your divorce as if it was a business splitting up-you’ll get better results

  • Minute 2:20: Staying married for ten years-impact on future Social Security income

Over the past 24 years, in every case I’ve seen, there comes a time when a client says, “I agree! I just need to be done with this.” Everyone feels this way at different times in their settlement process. I felt it in my divorce, and this is what I do for a living! Getting divorced is stressful-even for amicable couples. However, fighting this urge is the key to getting a settlement you can live with today and in the future. When you start to feel like you’re willing to accept anything so you can move onto your next chapter, take a breath and slow down. Immerse yourself in the details of the offer on the table. Analyze it. Tweak it. Understand it. No detail is too small, and no question is too silly.

If you have individual questions on your specific case, feel free to contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our advisors

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

Employee Benefits Open Enrollment: 2018 Game Plan

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

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Now that the Fall season is upon us and the holidays are right around the corner, it is also the annual benefits open enrollment season for many employers.  I know it can be tempting to quickly flip through the booklet checking the boxes on the forms without too much consideration, especially if things haven’t changed too much in your situation.  You’re certainly not alone.  However, setting aside some extra time to review your options is important for not only understanding the benefits you have and what might be changing, but also for identifying potential gaps in your coverages or underutilized opportunities.

Below are some benefits that, if offered by your employer, you should keep top of mind as you are making your elections.

Retirement plan contributions (401(k)/403(b) )

  • Are you contributing up to the maximum employer match? (Take advantage of free money!)

  • Are you maximizing the account?  ($18,500 or $24,500 for age 50 and over in 2018)

  • Traditional 401(k) vs. Roth 401(k) options? 

Click here for a summary of 2018 retirement plan contribution limits and adjustments

Health insurance plans

  • Review and compare your available plan offerings (e.g. PPO vs HMO). Want to explore some of the differences between plan types in more detail? Click here.

  • Focus on more than just the premium cost. Think about the deductibles, copays, and the annual out-of-pocket maximums

  • Consider your health history and the amount of services you use. For example, are you likely to hit the deductible or maximum out-of-pocket costs each year? The benefit of lower premiums for a high deductible plan may be outweighed by higher overall costs out-of-pocket.  Are you less likely to hit the deductible but you have excess cash saving just in case?  A lower premium, high deductible plan could make sense.

Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts vs. Health Savings Accounts

Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts both allow you to contribute pre-tax funds to an account that you can then withdraw tax-free to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses.  There are, however, some key differences to remember.

Flexible Spending Account for health care (FSA)

  • Maximum employee contribution in 2018 is $2,650

  • Generally must spend the balance on eligible expenses by the end of each plan year or forfeit unspent amounts (use-or-lose provision).

  • Employers MAY offer more time to use the funds through either a grace period option (you have an extra 2 ½ months to spend the funds) or a carryover option (you can carry over up to $500 of the balance into the following year)

For more information on the FSA click here.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

  • Can only be used with a high deductible health insurance plan

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 for an individual $ 3,450  ($4,450 for age 55 and over)

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 for an family plan $6,900  ($7,900 for age 55 and over)

  • All HSA balances carryover (no use-or-lose limitations apply)

Click here for more information about the basics of using an HSA

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

  • Pre-tax contributions to an account that can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified dependent care expenses within the plan year

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 is $5,000 ($2,500 if married filing separately)

  • Use-or-lose provision applies 

Life and Disability Insurance

  • Employers often provide a basic amount of life insurance coverage at no cost to you (typically 1 x salary). 

  • You may have the option to purchase additional group coverage up to certain limits at a low cost.

  • Many employers also provide a group disability insurance benefit. This can include a short-term benefit (typically covering up to 90 or 180 days) and/or a long-term benefit (covering a specified number of years or up through a certain age such as 65).

  • Disability benefits often cover a base percentage of income such as 50% or 60% of salary at no cost with some plans offering supplemental coverage for an additional premium charge.

  • Life and disability insurance benefits can vary widely from employer to employer and in many cases only provide a portion of an employee’s needs.It is important to consult with your advisor on the appropriate amount of coverage for your own situation.

Like most things related to financial planning, your benefit selections are specific for your family’s own unique circumstances; and your choices probably would not make sense for your co-worker or neighbor.  We encourage all clients to have conversations with us as they are reviewing their benefit options during open enrollment, so don’t hesitate to pass along any questions you might have. If we can be a resource for you, please let us know.

Robert Ingram is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. Life insurance Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the insurance company.