Podcast of the Month: Planning for the Unexpected

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You may be healthy today, but what about tomorrow? When Mark’s mother was 84 she seemed perfectly healthy, but that all changed in the blink of an eye. Tune in as Financial Professional Mark Wutt shares the obstacles he faced when handling his mother’s long-term care arrangements, what he wishes he had done differently, and how you can plan for the unexpected.

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Need to Know: Women and Retirement

Weingast_startupSince March is Women’s History Month, we’re bringing you a special Need To Know post on women and retirement. The gender pay gap in the US and globally is well-documented and a frequent topic of conversation and advocacy. While there is work to be done to achieve compensation equality, women can —and should — take some key steps to ensure financial stable retirements for themselves.

The most important thing for women to do when it comes to retirement is to get informed. The Robin S. Weingast team believes when it comes to retirement planning, knowledge is more than just power — it’s peace of mind. The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) has a helpful checklist that outlines what women need to know, what women should ask their employers, and what women should discuss with their spouses. Click here to look at their checklist.

Something important to note is that while retirement benefits are offered to more and more full-time employees, women are more likely than men to be working part-time, and so there may be fewer benefits available. The TransAmerican Center for Retirement Studies advises women to consider retirement benefits as part of overall compensation and to advocate for benefits if none are provided.

Once you’re informed about your benefits, it’s time to think big picture and come up with a long-term strategy. A 2015 survey by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies found that almost 60% of all female respondents felt that they were “guessing” when they estimated their retirement needs. That same study found that women estimated their retirement financial needs to be much lower than men’s — even though women live longer than men. Guessing and incorrect estimations can have drastic consequences when it comes to retirement planning. This can mean the difference between being free to enjoy retirement or having to work longer than expected.

Women should make it a point to sit down and articulate their financial goals — including a realistic picture of how much money is needed for retirement — and then determine a savings plan to help achieve those goals. The plan should include your knowledge of your benefits, and should also take into consideration that women are more likely to take time away from the workforce to act as caregivers to children or elder relatives. This will have an impact on your retirement savings and may necessitate some catch-up retirement planning. Revisit our post on making up for lost time with retirement planning to see how you can offset any delays in planning.

Something else women should consider doing when it comes to retirement? Asking for help from a professional. Only 36% of all women polled in the TransAmerica study used a financial advisor, and of that 36%, 77% talked retirement planning with their advisors. A financial advisor is well-versed in the many avenues available when it comes to retirement planning and can help get you up-to-speed on how to maximize your benefits and other savings opportunities available to you.

If you’re ready to have a discussion about your retirement, it’s time to contact the Robin S. Weingast & Associates team. We’ve worked with clients for over 30 years to craft customized retirement and financial plans that will help you do more than just save money, they’ll help give you peace of mind. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Resource of the Month: Do You Have Retirement Peace of Mind?

Robin Weingast retirement planning peace of mindPlanning for retirement isn’t just about having money, it’s about having peace of mind. Just a few years ago, a landmark study was conducted with more than 6,000 Americans over the age of 45. The study aimed to get a large-scale understanding of our retirement concerns and questions and to find out what factors made it more likely for people to have “retirement peace of mind.” Our latest Resource of the Month compiles the results and explores what they mean for YOUR retirement. From asking pointed questions about your goals to giving you tangible tips to increase your peace of mind, this is a resource that will truly help everyone.

Download our April 2015 Resource of the Month.

One interesting note from the study is that people who worked with advisers were significantly more likely to have retirement peace of mind. The Robin S. Weingast & Associates team provides more than just valuable retirement planning advice and administration – we provide all of our clients with the peace of mind they need to both prepare for and enjoy their retirement. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Cash Balance Plans: What Else You Need To Know

Robin-WeingastWe’re wrapping up our four-part series on Cash Balance Plans. (Miss a part? Click for Part One, Part Two, and Part Three).

In our final post, let’s look at some other key factors to consider when thinking about adopting a Cash Balance Plan:

1) Profit Sharing Plans on their own allow flexibility for contributions to vary from year to year depending on profitability. Cash Balance Plans require amendment in order to accommodate the need for different levels of contributions. There is a restriction on the frequency of amendments unless a valid economic reason exists.

2) If profits are not expected to support its Cash Balance Plan contribution, then the plan can be amended to accommodate either a lower level of contribution or no contribution at all.

3) Any amendment reducing or freezing contributions must be adopted 30 days before employees complete 1,000 hours. Amendments for increases to contributions must be adopted within two-and-a-half months following the end of a plan year.

4) Qualified plans’ assets are protected from creditors in the event of bankruptcy. The anti-alienation provision of ERISA states that “each pension plan shall provide that benefits provided under the plan may not be assigned or alienated,” which means that the assets in a qualified plan are not available to creditors. Since professionals and business owners often consider asset protection a premium, it is very advantageous to accrue retirement savings in an asset-protected vehicle, like a qualified plan. These plans provide a means for business owners and partners to move assets from their businesses to a pension plan. Once in the qualified plan, these assets are then protected from creditors as a “nest egg” for retirement or to pass on to heirs.

As you can see from our series, Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plans can enhance the effectiveness of your retirement program, but only if they are designed thoughtfully and using state-of-the-art technology and processes. They must also include effective communication and education for your employees.

If you are considering a Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plan, The Robin Weingast & Associates team of enrolled actuaries and certified pension and employee benefit consultants are essential partners who can help you develop and get the most out of a Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plan as part of your retirement program. Contact us today for more information.

Cash Balance Plans: Advantages

Weingast-Cash-Balance-PlanWelcome to Part Two of our special series on Cash Balance Plans. (Click here to catch up on Part One).

Now that you have an understanding of Cash Balance Plans and their tremendous growth, it’s important to understand why and how cash balance plans can be advantageous to your business goals.

Advantages of Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plans

1) The opportunity for larger tax deductible contributions for partners than permitted by 401 (k) Profit Sharing Plans.

2) As an enhancement to an existing pension program, it attracts competent employees and serves to increase retention.

3) Contributions required for Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plans are generally less volatile from year to year and allow lower costs for employees than Traditional Defined Benefit Plans

4) Tiered levels of benefits are attractive to partnerships who desire different levels of contributions fro partners and employees.

5) Many employees seem to understand the account balance concept and appreciate the value of an account balance more than the value of the promise of an annuity payable in the future.

6) Cash Balance Plan assets are portable on termination of employment in that vested balances can be paid as lump-sum distributions, which can be rolled over to an IRA or another qualified retirement plan. When a participant terminates employment, they are eligible to receive the vested portion of their account balance. The vesting schedule required for Cash Balance Plans is also called a 3-year “cliff” vesting schedule, whereby accounts are not vested for the first two years of service, but are fully vested after 3 years of completed service.

As you can see, there are distinct advantages to this kind of benefits plan. In our next part, we’ll explore how to tell if you are a good candidate to adopt a Cash Balance Plan.

If you think a Cash Balance Plan may be right for you, it’s vital that you have the right guidance. The Robin Weingast & Associates team of enrolled actuaries and certified pension and employee benefit consultants are essential partners who can help you develop and get the most out of a Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plan as part of your retirement program. Contact us today for more information.

Cash Balance Plans: What are They?

Welcome to a special series from Robin Weingast & Associates on Cash Balance Plans! If you keep up with our Resource of the Month series, you’ll recall that we recently provided two resources on Defined Benefit Plans: One on Traditional Defined Benefit Plans and one on Fully Insured Defined Benefit Plans.

This month we want to give you an in-depth look at the fastest-growing type of Defined Benefit PlanCash Balance Plans. Since 2001, Cash Balance Plans have soared, with double-digit annual growth each year of the decade and an increase of more than 600% in 12 years:

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This growth is why we’re presenting a special four-part series on Cash Balance Plans that explains what they are, their advantages, good candidates for adopting a cash balance plan, and other considerations.

Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plans: What Are They?

Professionals of highly profitable businesses are generally looking for larger tax deductions and accelerated retirement savings with minimal costs for employees, so a Cash Balance Plan working in coordination with an already established 401 (k) Profit Sharing Plan may be the perfect solution for your practice. Current tax legislation is encouraging many professionals to adopt this type of plan arrangement as part of their pension programs.

A Cash Balance Plan is a “tax qualified” retirement plan, similar to a 401 (k) Profit Sharing Plan in that it allows for tax deductible contributions and deferral of taxes, as well as creditor protection under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

While assets of a Cash Balance are invested in a single pooled investment account, each participant has has an account, similar to a 401 (k) Profit Sharing Plan, that is record kept by the plan actuary, who generates annual participant statements, so that employees know what they have accumulated in the plan.

Participants’ account balances in a Cash Balance Plan grow annually in two ways:

1) The employer’s contribution, which is a percentage of compensation or a flat dollar amount based on a formula specified in the plan document, and;

2) An annual interest credit, which is a guaranteed rate of return, independent of the plan’s investment performance. The guaranteed rate varies each year but it is generally equal to the yield on 30-year Treasury bonds, which has hovered close to 5% in recent years.

In our next part, we’ll explore the advantages of these plans.

If you think a Cash Balance Plan may be right for you, it’s vital that you have the right guidance. The Robin Weingast & Associates team of enrolled actuaries and certified pension and employee benefit consultants are essential partners who can help you develop and get the most out of a Cash Balance Defined Benefit Plan as part of your retirement program. Contact us today for more information.