One tax-saving strategy every retired LDS member should know

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are accustomed to paying tithing and making other charitable offerings. Our motive for these donations is certainly not for the tax benefit. But as wise stewards over the material blessings with which we have been blessed, we should do all we can to make the most of our donations and pay our charitable obligations in the most tax-efficient way possible.

As a financial advisor, I often see retired members of the Church paying more income tax than necessary because they do not understand what a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) is, and how this provision of the tax code could save them hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually in taxes. 

A Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) is a provision of the tax code that allows a withdrawal from an IRA to be tax-free as long as that withdrawal is transferred directly to a qualified charity such as the Church.

These tax savings are brought about by simply altering the way contributions are made to charity. Unfortunately, QCDs can only be used by persons over age 70.5. But since we will all be at that age sooner than later; it is beneficial to understand how they work so you can plan for your own future and so you can share this information with your fellow Latter-day Saint retirees. 

Taxation 101: Understanding the Basics

Before I explain how a QCD might benefit you, let’s first review how we are taxed. Simply put, as you calculate your tax liability, you first add up all your income and then subtract deductions to come up with your taxable amount.  We will all get a deduction. 

The IRS has a list of itemized deductions such as mortgage interest and charitable contributions that we can subtract from our tax liability. The IRS also has a standard deduction number that we can subtract from the taxes we owe if our itemized deductions do not add up to more than the standard deduction amount. In essence, we are allowed to subtract the greater of our itemized deductions or the standard deduction from our tax liability. 

Why is this important to understand? Unless you have itemized deductions in excess of the standard deduction amounts seen in the graphic below, you will not itemize your deductions—you will default to taking the standard deduction.

You only receive a tax deduction for making charitable contributions if you itemize your deductions, and because of the higher standard deduction amounts, only 10% of Americans itemized their deductions last year.

That means that for the 90% of the people who do not itemize and take the standard deduction, there is no tax benefit for paying tithing or making any other type of charitable donation.

By donating via a QCD, you will receive a tax benefit for your donations even if you do not itemize and take the standard deduction.

2024 Standard Deduction Amounts:

2024 Standard Deduction Amounts

Advantages of using a Qualified Charitable Distribution

Making charitable contributions by doing a Qualified Charitable Contribution is a unique tax saving strategy:

  • You didn’t have to pay income tax when you earned the money that you put into an IRA or 401K.
  • You didn’t pay taxes on the compound interest your IRAs earned over the years.
  • Any money paid directly to a charity using a QCD from your IRA will not be taxed.

In running projections with our clients, we have discovered that in almost every instance, those who give to charity and simultaneously make distributions from an IRA can benefit from doing a Qualified Charitable Distribution. We have also found that even those that currently itemize their deductions still benefit from doing a QCD.

We believe that every person over age 70.5, who has an IRA, and who gives to charity should consider making charitable contributions via QCDs. You or your tax professional can run tax comparisons by paying charitable contributions the traditional way versus doing a tax-free transfer from your IRA to a charity using an QCD. Many of you will find the tax savings to be significant.

There are rules, regulations, and instructions on how to report Qualified Charitable Distributions that are too extensive for this article to properly cover but additional information regarding QCDs can be found on our website.

Additionally, examples of how QCDs have benefited retired couples can be found on our website at petersonwealth.com.

You may currently be missing out on a lot of tax savings if you ignore the benefits of the Qualified Charitable Distribution. Saving substantial amounts of money each year by simply altering the way you pay your charitable donations is worth investigating.

The Retirement Income Challenge: Creating Security and Income for Retirement

Most of us sacrifice and save for four decades in preparation for what we hope will be a comfortable retirement. We are laser-focused during our working years on accumulating as much as possible, and by the time we retire, many of us have refined the art of wealth accumulation in our IRAs, 401(k)s, and a variety of other investment accounts. We feel pretty confident in our retirement preparation and then something happens that shatters our confidence…we retire. We quickly come to the realization that successfully investing and managing the distribution part of retirement takes a completely different skill set than accumulating money in retirement accounts.

Besides the universal question of how to invest, there are questions regarding distributions, taxes, risk, and keeping our income up with inflation that will all have to be addressed as we transition from accumulating to distributing our retirement accounts. All these questions bleed into the single, overarching question that every retiree needs to figure out: How am I going to create an inflation-adjusted stream of income from my investments that will last for the rest of my life?

The Need for a Retirement Income Plan

The quality of the next 30 years of your life is dependent upon the decisions that you make at retirement and the plan you put in place. There is so much on the line, and mistakes made at the beginning of retirement are not forgiving. There are no do-overs. A well-thought-out retirement income plan will provide discipline, order, safety, and peace of mind. A sound retirement income plan will allow you to focus on your retirement dreams and not be obsessed with the daily movement of markets, interest rates, or how current events will impact your retirement.

A retirement income plan should be unique to you and your specific needs. So, copying your retired neighbor’s retirement income plan won’t work. Following some generic, “rule of thumb” withdrawal advice from your financial advisor won’t get it done, and buying an annuity that will never keep up with inflation over a long retirement will only serve to crush your future purchasing power. And finally, decades of investing have already taught you the futility of market timing and betting your future on guessing the direction of the stock market.

Now that I have shot down all the popular attempts to create retirement income streams, and before I show you how a professional retirement income plan is created, let’s address what it is that we need a retirement income plan to do.

A Successful Retirement Income Plan Must Address Five Objectives

  • It must be goal specific.
  • It must create a framework for investing.
  • It must create a framework for distributing.
  • It must create a framework to reduce risk.
  • It must create a framework for reducing taxes.

Goal Specific

A retirement income plan that is goal-driven provides detailed objectives. It is a date-specific, dollar-specific blueprint that will guide you throughout retirement. A date-specific, dollar-specific plan defines how much income will be needed during retirement, and when it will be needed. Its objective is to deliver future income to the retiree with the least amount of risk, after all risks have been considered. A properly structured retirement income plan matches your current investment strategy with your future income needs. Like any goal-driven program, the performance toward reaching the goal must be monitored to maintain discipline and allow for adjustments if the goal is to be realized.

Create a Framework for Investing

Retirees must find the proper investment mix of low-volatility fixed-income investments and higher-yielding, more volatile equities.

Fixed-income investments such as bank deposits and certain types of bonds can provide a haven to draw income from when the stock market takes its occasional dive. As valuable as these types of investments can be in the short term, they are a long-term liability that will never keep up with inflation.

On the flip side, retirees need to own some equities in their portfolios. Owning higher yielding equities is a logical way to keep ahead of inflation over the long run. But we all know that short-term volatility and unpredictability afflict all who own equities. Creating a retirement income plan that takes advantage of the opposing nature of fixed-income and equities is an essential component in creating a long-lasting retirement income plan.

It’s just commonsense to invest the money we’ll need in the short-term into fixed-income type investments and invest the money we don’t think we will need for a while into stock-related investments. But, most retirees and their advisors don’t invest this way. Unfortunately, the failed practices of chasing last year’s returns and making investment decisions based upon guessing the future direction of the stock market continue to be the prevalent methods used to determine investment allocations, even though these methods have proven to be extremely unreliable.

Following a plan that allocates retirement savings by determining short versus long-term income needs liberates the retiree from having to time the markets or beat the stock market average by superior investment selection. With an investment plan that matches current investments with future income needs, the retiree only needs to concentrate on maintaining discipline and following the plan.

Create a Framework for Distributing

When it comes to withdrawals from investments at retirement, I have noticed two types of personality traits. The first trait is manifested in individuals I will call the “entitled spenders” who think to themselves, “I have been saving all my life for retirement, and I am now retired, so I am going to spend however much I want on whatever I want.” The second type I will call the “paranoid savers”. These people are those who think, “I may have a lot of money, but it has to last a long time. And who knows what the future might bring?” These types of individuals are often afraid of spending any of their retirement funds at all.

The “entitled spenders” sabotage their retirement by spending too much, too early, as they burn through all their retirement savings in the first ten years of possibly a thirty year retirement. The “paranoid savers” likewise harm their retirement by living below their privilege by denying themselves many of the simple pleasures and opportunities of retirement. Ironically, both the spenders and the savers would greatly benefit from the same date-specific, dollar-specific retirement income plan, a plan that outlines how much money can and should be withdrawn from investment accounts and when.

Quite literally, the million dollar question is, “How much can/should I withdraw from my investments each year?” You must be able to answer this question if you’re going to have a sustainable income stream throughout retirement, and if you’re going to be able to enjoy your retirement experience to the fullest.

A sustainable withdrawal rate can be created through determining the answers to three important questions:

  • How much income will I need to pull from my investments to sustain my retirement lifestyle?
  • When will retirement savings need to be converted into retirement income?
  • How should retirement accounts be invested until they are needed to be converted into income?

Again, having a retirement income plan that includes date-and-dollar specifics should drive your withdrawal decisions. Adjustments in either the timing of withdrawals, the withdrawal amounts, or how retirement funds are invested between now and the future income date will impact your future income stream.

Create a Framework to Reduce Risk

A viable retirement income plan must recognize and minimize risks where possible. Retirees are particularly susceptible to three kinds of risks:

  • Inflation risk
  • Stock market risk
  • Behavioral risk

Inflation Risk

When it comes to inflation, you must ask yourself the following, “How do I invest to maintain my purchasing power and stay ahead of inflation?”

Inflation is the gradual but lethal loss of purchasing power. Currently, we are going through a period of high inflation but historically, the long-term inflation rate has averaged 3%. At just a 3% inflation rate, $1.00 will only be able to purchase $0.41 worth of goods and services at the end of a 30-year retirement. Unless you are willing to reduce your lifestyle and spending habits by about 60% during your retirement, inflation must be dealt with. Fortunately, the risk of inflation can be mitigated by investing in inflation-beating equities. The retirement income plan I will show you later in this blog helps by deliberately designating a portion of a portfolio toward long-term inflation protection.

Stock Market Risk

How do I maintain investment discipline throughout retirement and not make major mistakes during periods of market volatility? Market corrections are part of the investment cycle and should be planned for. Successful investors follow plans and are patient, while unsuccessful investors follow the breaking news and daily movements of the stock market and are prone to panic. Informed investors manage stock market risk by being diversified and patient because they understand every bear market is eventually followed by a bull market. Having a plan in place is the antidote to panic. Knowing what you own, and why you own it, goes a long way towards helping you stay the course during periods of market turbulence.

Behavioral Risk

Two related questions come to mind when considering the behavioral aspects of a retirement income plan:

  • How do I protect myself from my older self when my financial judgement is clouded by age?
  • How do I provide the less financially savvy spouse with a plan to follow that will provide for his or her financial needs after my death?

Retirement is not a time for investment experimentation. It’s not a time to be tossed about by every headline on the nightly news or story on the internet. It isn’t a time to change your investments based on irrational exuberance or equally irrational fear. A goal-specific income plan goes a long way toward helping to navigate the emotional roller coaster of investment management now, and especially as you age. It can also be a valuable tool to provide guidance to a spouse upon your death. A date-specific, dollar-specific retirement income plan helps protect your future from perhaps its greatest threat — you.

Create a Framework for Reducing Taxes

From which accounts, or combination of accounts, should I withdraw retirement income from to give myself the most tax-efficient income stream? Should I withdraw from my IRA, my Roth IRA, or my non-retirement accounts? How do I go about managing my Required Minimum Distributions?

Tax-saving opportunities rarely happen by accident. Rather, they come about through careful planning. This is especially true with retirees. Keeping retirees in lower tax brackets throughout retirement can be done by managing withdrawals from pre-tax versus after-tax investment accounts. In other words, the retiree can take income from IRA accounts until they reach the top of a tax-bracket and then take the balance of their needed income for the year from an after-tax account. This is an easy concept to visualize but a little more difficult to implement. What adds to the complexity is that implementing this plan has to integrate with the framework for investing and the framework for distribution sections that I just mentioned. At this point, it might sound daunting to bring all of this together. As we create the income plan in the next section, you will be able to see how all these components can integrate with each other.

Retirement Income Plan Creation

Now that I have explained the retirement income challenge, and what your retirement income plan must address, let me demonstrate how a professional retirement income plan is structured. In 2007, we created our proprietary retirement income plan that we call the Perennial Income Model™.  It has helped hundreds of retired families successfully navigate their retirements during the volatile years since its inception. The Perennial Income Model is goal-based and creates the essential frameworks for investing, distributing, reducing risk, and reducing taxation, as previously mentioned.

Allow me to introduce the Lee family who we will build a retirement income plan for. Tony and Kathy Lee are both 65 and are ready to retire. They have accumulated $1,000,000 in their 401(k) and their after-tax brokerage accounts. They want to know how they should invest the million dollars and how much income they should expect to receive from that sum of money. They feel a retirement income plan spanning 25 years should be sufficient, and they would like to pass the full $1,000,000 to their children upon their deaths, if possible.

When it comes to making investment decisions, the most important consideration is an investment’s time horizon. In other words, how long will the money be invested? The Perennial Income Model matches the Lee’s current investment portfolio with their future income needs by dividing their money into various investments that have different objectives based upon when a particular segment of their money will be called upon to provide future income. Therefore, the Perennial Income Model will divide the $1,000,000 they have accumulated for retirement into six different accounts. The first five of these accounts are responsible for creating retirement income for five different five-year periods of the Lee family’s retirement. I will refer to the accounts that cover the five-year period of income as segments. So, Segment 1 is responsible for providing the income for the first 5 years of retirement, Segment 2 for years 6-10 of retirement, Segment 3 for years 11-15 of retirement, and so on… until 25 years of retirement are covered.

The sixth segment, or Legacy Segment, is designed to create a fund that will replace the original investment of $1,000,000 to the Lee family at the end of 25 years. This provides money for their heirs or can serve as an insurance policy should they live longer than 25 years or experience large end-of-life expenses like nursing home costs. The accompanying chart shows the retirement income plan being built for the Lee family — I will walk you through it to make sure it all makes sense to you.

The Perennial Income Model Walk-Through

The underlying principle of the Perennial Income Model is matching current investment portfolios with future income needs. Therefore, the money that the Lee’s depend on to provide income in the short-term is invested in conservative investments that provide safety from volatile markets. The money that won’t be needed to create income for a prolonged period is invested into more aggressive investments that keep up with inflation. Segment 1 will provide income for the first five years of retirement. It will be invested into a conservative account that will systematically distribute $4,329 monthly to the Lee’s checking account.

Segment 1’s primary responsibility is safety of principle because it’s sending out a monthly payment immediately; so, this segment is the most conservatively invested. We assume only a 1% rate of return on the money invested in Segment 1. Certainly, in today’s environment retirees can, and should, expect a higher return than 1% on their conservative money. We also expect to outperform the conservative assumptions for the other segments as well. By choosing to underestimate performance, we avoid creating a false sense of security and unrealistic income expectations. Obviously, if the Perennial Income Model works with the conservative assumptions we are using, it will work better as investment performance exceeds these assumptions.

Segment 2 will take over the role of providing monthly income to the Lees once Segment 1 runs out of money at the end of the fifth year. Since the money from Segment 2 will not be needed for at least five years, it can be more aggressively invested than Segment 1, but it can’t be significantly more aggressive. A prolonged bear market could last longer than five years, so the bulk of this money should also avoid volatile investments. That’s why only a 5% return is assumed during the five years it’s invested before being turned into income in year 6.

Segment 3 will be invested for ten years before it will be called upon to create income for years 11-15. Because the money in this segment won’t be used for ten years, Segment 3 is moderately invested in a 50% stock/50% bond portfolio. A conservative 6% return is assumed for this segment.

You can see from the chart, Segment 4 assumes a 7% growth rate and Segment 5 and the Legacy Segment assumes an 8% growth rate. We use these higher growth assumptions because these segments are more aggressively invested. Investments that will not be needed for fifteen years and beyond must invest into a diversified portfolio of equities to keep up these higher growth assumptions. History has shown us that, in the long run, equities have always beaten inflation and have given us superior returns. It’s understood these inflation-fighting segments will experience occasional bouts of volatility that the stock market imposes with regularity. But given the long-term nature of these segments, short-term volatility is inconsequential. The key to making the stock market work for you is to maintain discipline and stay invested during periods of volatility. Following the Perennial Income Model will provide the discipline that is needed.

Harvesting

At first glance, the Perennial Income Model appears to become more aggressively invested as the retiree ages and gets into the latter segments of the plan. Having 80–90-year-old retirees with all their money invested in long-term, aggressive equity portfolios doesn’t make any sense. Fortunately, this is not how this retirement income plan works when the income model is properly managed and “harvested.” In financial terms, the process of harvesting is transferring riskier, more volatile investments into a conservative and less volatile portfolio once the target, or goal, of each segment is realized. The target, or goal of each segment is the number found in the dark green box associated with each segment.

For an example of harvesting, let’s look at Segment 4. You can see that the initial investment in Segment 4 is $127,476 and we know that if this initial investment grows by the assumed growth rate of 7%, it will reach its target, or goal amount by the projected fifteenth year. Segment 4 is invested in a moderate growth portfolio (70% stocks, 30% bonds). According to a study done by Vanguard, the historical return of a moderate growth portfolio has averaged an annualized return of 9.4% since 1926. So, it would be plausible, if history simply repeated itself, that the investment portfolio in Segment 4 would reach its goal of $363,172 before year 15 (at a 9% growth rate, the segment reaches its target in 12 years). Once the target is reached, no matter what year that happens, the investment needs to be harvested and preserved. That means the equities in the segment that have reached their target goal must be moved into more stable and conservative investments.

We have found, the key to successful outcomes is to begin with conservative growth assumptions and then maintain the discipline to harvest portfolios in the segments when they reach their targets.

Five Insights to Point Out:

1. Notice the account balance stays roughly the same throughout retirement (see the far-right column of the chart). People often assume that as segments are liquidated, the overall portfolio balance is going down, but that’s not the case. Recall that as the early segments are being liquidated, the later segments are invested and growing.

2. Notice that the retirement income plan is projected to automatically increase the Lee’s income every fifth year by an annualized 2.6% rate to help offset the effects of inflation.

3. To keep things simple and to help you to understand how the Perennial Income Model works, I have not incorporated any other sources of income such as Social Security or pensions into our example. But, for tax planning purposes, projected Social Security, pension, and other sources of taxable income should be incorporated into the retirement income stream projections.  Once the income stream is created by adding all sources of income, thoughtful consideration should be made to determine which type of account (IRA, Roth IRA or after-tax account) should be allocated into the various segments for maximum tax efficiency.

4. Assumed growth rates are purposefully overly conservative. Historically, the S&P 500 has averaged more than 10%, and the largest assumed growth rate used in the most aggressive segment is only 8%. If you feel that these assumed growth rates are not realistic, you can always adjust the income plan to run at lower or higher growth assumptions. The Perennial Income Model uses conservative growth assumptions within the retirement income plan in hopes that the target for each segment is reached prior to the date it’s needed to provide income.

5. Please look at the bottom line of the chart. Based upon these conservative assumptions, the Lee family will receive $1,674,433 of income during their 25-year retirement and leave $1,000,000 to their heirs.

Conclusion

I end with the question that all new retirees and those approaching retirement need to ask themselves, “Will I outlive my money, or will my money outlive me?” Without knowing anything about your finances, I can tell you that you will be much more likely to have your money outlast you if you follow a plan. Your retirement income plan should be goal-based and should serve as a guide to your financial decision-making for the rest of your life. It should drive your investments, withdrawals, and even influence your spending and gifting decisions.

The Perennial Income Model appeals to those seeking a logical, goal-based roadmap for investment management during retirement. It reduces the retirees’ need to be anchored to the daily movements of the stock market which, in turn, will provide them with greater peace of mind and will make them less vulnerable to making the irrecoverable investment mistakes that so many retirees make.

Retirees that follow the Perennial Income Model understand why they are invested, when they will need a specific portion of their investments to provide future income, how much they can safely withdraw, and how their dollars will need to be invested to accomplish their goals. They will also realize a more tax-friendly way to navigate retirement. The Perennial Income Model is designed to provide a secure stream of income in the short-term, while providing an inflation-adjusted stream of income for the retiree’s future.

Hopefully, you can now see that there is so much more to planning retirement income streams than buying an annuity and more to consider than following generic and overly simplistic rule of thumb guidelines to manage your finances during retirement.

My hope is that this blog has opened your eyes to a better way to invest during retirement and that you might be able to incorporate some of the ideas found in this blog so you might face your financial future with confidence and have the peace of mind to free you to pursue your retirement dreams.

The Perennial Income Model is explained in greater detail in my book “Plan On Living”. You can get a complimentary copy of my book and get a better understanding of the services that we offer by visiting here.

The Best Way to Create a Retirement Income Plan

Scott Peterson was a guest writer on the popular White Coat Investor blog—a blog esteemed amongst physicians and other high-income professionals. Scott’s blog outlines our proprietary process for investing, The Perennial Income Model™. The article also presents a retirement income plan creation example of a couple who have accumulated $1 million for their retirement.


Click here to read Scott’s blog in its entirety on WhiteCoatInvestor.com.

Reduce your taxes throughout retirement with the Perennial Income Model™

“You must pay taxes. But there is no law that says you gotta leave a tip.” -Morgan Stanley

How can any retiree make a good decision about reducing taxes in retirement, or any financial professional recommend a proper course of action, without first mapping out, and projecting a future income stream?

The answer is . . . they can’t. Retirees often end up making only short-term, immediate tax-saving decisions, while missing out on more advantageous, long-term tax reduction opportunities because neither they nor their advisor project income streams across a full retirement. Focusing only on the current tax year ends up costing retirees many thousands of dollars because they fail to recognize, and then to organize, their finances to take advantage of long-term opportunities to reduce taxes.

A comprehensive retirement income plan must consider a lifetime tax reduction strategy that focuses on how today’s decisions to withdraw money from the various types of accounts will impact their tax liability years into the future. The Perennial Income Model™ is the ideal tool to help retirees recognize and organize long-term tax-saving opportunities to keep more of their wealth.

Three retirement account tax categories

Before looking at strategies to maximize your lifetime tax savings, you must first understand the categories of retirement accounts and the tax implications of each. How your investments are taxed depends on the type of account in which they are held. There are three categories of accounts to consider:

Tax-deferred retirement accounts

The money in IRAs/401(k)s and a variety of other company-sponsored retirement saving plans are 100% taxable upon withdrawal unless you use the Qualified Charitable Distributions exception (to be explained). Non-IRA annuities can likewise be lumped into this category with the exception that only the interest earned on the non-IRA annuity is taxed upon withdrawal, not the entire value of the annuity.

Tax-free retirement accounts

The funds in Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s can be withdrawn tax-free.

Non-retirement accounts (after-tax money)

Investments that are individually owned, jointly owned, or trust owned have their dividends and interest taxed annually. They are also subject to capital gains taxation in years when investments are sold at a profit.

Three strategies to reduce your taxes in retirement

At Peterson Wealth Advisors we use our Perennial Income Model to provide the organizational structure to recognize and benefit from major opportunities to reduce your taxes. Let’s consider three of these tax-saving strategies that can benefit you in retirement:

1. Managing investment income according to tax brackets

Thankfully, your retirement income stream can come from a mix of tax-deferred, tax-free, and non-retirement accounts used in combination to lower your tax liability. Even though income stemming from tax-deferred accounts is 100% taxable, Roth IRA funds can be withdrawn tax-free and money coming from non-retirement accounts hold investment dollars that can oftentimes be withdrawn with limited tax consequences.

The key is to determine which of the above categories of accounts should be tapped for future income needs . . . and when. Tax-efficient income streams that are thoughtfully mapped out at the beginning of a retirement, as we do with the Perennial Income Model, can be extremely effective to help minimize your lifetime tax burden.  With advanced planning, you can avoid the costly mistakes of conventional wisdom: paying almost zero tax from retirement date to age 72, then paying high taxes and higher Medicare premiums until death. The Perennial Income Model shows us that it is better to pay minimal taxes from retirement date to age 72, along with how to be able to pay minimal taxes and minimal Medicare premiums from age 72 to death. When you structure your retirement income streams from a variety of tax locations within your portfolios, thoughtfully planned out, you can experience a higher standard of living while still paying very low tax rates.

2. Qualified Charitable Distributions

The most overlooked, least understood, and one of the most profitable tax benefits recognized by forecasting income streams through the Perennial Income Model comes from the use of Qualified Charitable Distributions. A Qualified Charitable Distribution, or a QCD, is a provision of the tax code that allows a withdrawal from an IRA to be tax-free if that withdrawal is paid directly to a qualified charity.  Our clientele consists of retired people who regularly donate generous sums to charities. By simply altering the way contributions are made to charity, you can make the same charitable contribution amounts and reduce your taxes at the same time.

The ability to transfer money tax-free from an IRA to a charity has been around for a while, but the doubling of the standard deduction from the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was the catalyst that brought this valuable benefit to the forefront. With larger standard deductions, only 10% of taxpayers itemize deductions. Here is the catch: you only get a tax benefit from making charitable contributions if you itemize your deductions, and with the higher standard deduction, fewer of us will be itemizing. So, a 65-year-old single taxpayer, with no other itemized deductions, could end up contributing up to $13,000 and a 65-year-old couple could end up contributing up to $27,000 to charity and it would not make any difference on their tax returns, or their tax liability, because both generous charitable contribution amounts were lower than the standard deduction. So, they will just end up taking the standard deduction. Another way of saying this is that these charitable donors will not receive a penny’s worth of tax benefit for giving so generously to charity.

Doing a direct transfer of funds to a charity by doing a QCD versus the traditional writing a check to a charity, can restore tax benefits lost to charitable donors. QCDs are only available to people older than age 70 1/2, they are only available when distributions come from IRA accounts, and a maximum of $100,000 of IRA money per person is allowed to be transferred via QCD to charities each year.

3. Roth IRA Conversions

Converting a tax-deferred IRA into a tax-free Roth IRA can be a valuable tool in the quest to reduce taxes during retirement. Unfortunately, few retirees get it right deciding when to do a Roth conversion, deciding how much of their traditional IRA they should convert, or even deciding if they should convert any of their traditional IRAs at all. Without a projection of future income that the Perennial Income Model provides and the subsequent projection of future tax liability, it is virtually impossible to determine whether a Roth IRA conversion is the right course of action. Perhaps the greatest unanticipated benefit that we have observed since creating the Perennial Income Model is its ability to clearly estimate future cash flows and subsequent future tax obligations for our retired clients. Given this information, the decision whether to do a Roth conversion becomes apparent.

As advantageous as Roth IRA conversions can be, they are not free! The price you pay to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA comes in the form of immediate taxation. 100% of the conversion amount is taxable in the year of the conversion. For this reason, investors must carefully weigh whether doing a Roth conversion will improve their bottom line.

Too much of a good thing usually turns a good thing into a bad thing. So, it is with Roth conversions. Excessively converting traditional IRAs into Roth IRAs without fully considering the tax consequences, can cause some investors to pay more tax than they otherwise would if they didn’t do a Roth conversion in the first place. So, it’s important to recognize when, and when not, to do a Roth conversion.

The Perennial Income Model™ as a tax planner

We first designed the Perennial Income Model to provide the structure to reinforce rational decision-making. It started with a focus on helping retirees match their current investments with their future income needs. Now, we see that the Perennial Income Model’s role is much bigger, including providing the benefit of reducing your taxes throughout the entirety of your retirement.

26 ways to combat inflation in your own life

After my last blog, where I described the reasons we are experiencing high inflation this year, you might be asking “What can I do to combat inflation in my own life?” As I consulted with my team members, financial professionals that work with retirees all day every day, we came up with twenty-six inflation-fighting ideas that will help the retiree, or those nearing retirement. Some of these ideas will have a huge impact, other ideas are less significant but are things that you may not have thought of previously. 

I found it interesting that as we compiled our list, it morphed from being merely an inflation-fighting list into a commonsense checklist of things that every retiree should consider going through as a matter of just being financially responsible. Obviously, not every one of the money-saving ideas on our list will apply to your specific situation, but some will. We are confident that every one of you will benefit from going through this list in your own situation and that you will end up saving money by implementing the applicable ideas. These savings will be helpful for you to maintain your lifestyle as you are squeezed by inflation. 

Investing: 

Investment mistakes early in retirement can be devastating and there are no do-overs. So, I first wanted to remind you of the inflation-fighting capabilities of your investments before we talk about any other inflation-fighting/money-saving ideas.  

1. Remember, the price we pay for inflation-beating investments is having to endure temporary periods of volatility. Volatility is not risk, the synonym for volatility is unpredictability and in the short-term, equities are certainly unpredictable. You wouldn’t be human if this year’s stock market hasn’t caused you concern. However, you need to stay the course and not let yourself be frightened out of owning a piece of some of the most profitable corporations the world has ever known. Compound interest has helped you accumulate the nest egg that you now have. Keep the miracle of compound interest alive during retirement by owning equities. Hold on to your equities if keeping up with inflation is your objective.

2. Have a plan. We follow our proprietary Perennial Income Model™ to create an income plan that protects our retirees’ short-term income from stock market downturns while protecting their long-term income from the ravages of inflation. The Perennial Income Model helps to strike the right balance between owning less-volatile types of investments and owning the more-volatile inflation-fighting equities in a portfolio. It matches your current investment allocation with your future income needs. Do yourself a favor and learn how the Perennial Income Model can help you create your retirement income plan. To learn more about the Perennial Income Model, order a free copy of my book, Plan on Living, here.

3. Have faith in the future and follow your plan. We are not facing an investment apocalypse. Market conditions are cyclical, and we will continue to experience good as well as bad economic cycles. A well-thought-out investment and retirement income plan should have built within itself a contingency plan to deal with economic downturns and periods of market turbulence. In fact, your plan should not just help you to navigate volatile markets it should assist you in taking advantage of them. Don’t allow yourself to get derailed from your plan.

Income:

4. If you haven’t started Social Security yet, consider delaying applying for your own benefit until age 70. Beyond the built-in annual cost of living adjustments of Social Security, your benefit will increase by 8% each year that you delay from your full retirement age until age 70 by simply waiting. Your full retirement age is somewhere between age 66 to 67 depending on your year of birth. Receiving 24%-32% more each month in Social Security benefits for the rest of your life can be a handsome inflation-fighting boost.

5. Go back to work. Statistics show that almost half of all retirees go back to work after two or three years of retirement and they go back to work for reasons beyond satisfying income needs. In other words, they get bored. Work satisfies their need for social interaction and the need to be part of something bigger than themselves. Find a part-time job that is interesting to you for a day or two a week. With a nationwide worker shortage, there are endless opportunities for retirees to find the kind of job they would enjoy with the flexible schedule that they desire. Being engaged in something that interests you, while picking up a couple of bucks to help with inflation can be realized…have fun!

Energy: 

6. Replace light bulbs and fixtures with LED. LED bulbs last longer and use 25% less electricity than outdated light bulbs that you still might be using in your home.

7. If you are regularly away from your house during the day,  program your thermostat. Don’t heat or cool an empty house. You can drop your electric and gas bills by as much as 10% by adjusting your home temperature by a few degrees. Open a window in the summer or wear a sweater in the winter to offset the mild changes in temperature.

8. Take advantage of the energy-saving programs offered by your power and gas companies. Utility companies provide valuable energy-saving tips and even will send representatives to your home to help you recognize where you could substantially save on your energy bill. They will also keep you up to date with rebates and tax credits that are available to you as you update your home. This service is free or available at minimal costs.

9. Save gas by better organizing your errands. Knock out all your errands in one trip versus three or four separate trips.

10. Don’t run your appliances until they are full, specifically your washer, dryer, and dishwasher.

Shopping/Spending: 

11. Don’t be shy about asking for senior discounts. We found a website, www. seniorliving.org, that keeps a list of discounts available to seniors or those approaching retirement. It provides dozens of discounts and covers everything from grocery shopping to cruises. We found that many of these discounts are not well known, nor are they advertised by the companies offering the discounts. You will have to know about these discounts in advance and you will have to specifically ask for many of these discounts.

12. Life has become so much easier since we have evolved into online shoppers. Online shopping has also made it easy to comparison shop and find the best deals. Take a couple of extra minutes to compare items as you make your online purchases. We found two websites, Honey and RetailMeNot, that assist you in online shopping. Both websites show you some of the best available coupons on the internet to help you get the best deal possible.

13. Shop your pantry or freezer first. How many times have you run to the grocery store to buy an item, only to later find that same item sitting on a shelf or in your freezer at home. All of us are guilty of wasting food and money as we throw out food that has exceeded its expiration date. According to Feeding America, “Each year, 108 billion tons of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away annually. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted.” The key to avoiding waste is to take the time to better organize your pantry and food storage.

14. Try using store brands over name brands.

15. Barter – I’m not suggesting that you haggle over everything but, look for opportunities to get a better deal. You will be shocked at the discounts you will receive as you ask one simple question as you book hotel rooms, rent cars, and hire services. Try asking, “is that the best you can do?” That question has saved me thousands of dollars over my lifetime.

16. Audit your own credit card statement. Are there subscriptions that you can eliminate that you no longer use? Gym memberships, multiple streaming services that you don’t use, and magazines that are never read are the most likely culprits.

17. Make an extra effort to pay off debt, especially adjustable-rate loans. Specifically, be mindful to not carry a balance on your credit cards month to month.

18. Consider a lower-cost cellphone plan. With WIFI being so prevalent, maybe that unlimited data plan might not be necessary.

19. Load up on nonperishable items when they go on sale.

20. Work off a budget. It may have been years since you followed a budget but following a budget can be useful to help limit impulse purchases.

21. Do your kids a favor and sell the stuff you don’t use anymore. All who have had to clean out a deceased parents’ home know what I’m talking about. Learn how to sell your unwanted items on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and more. You will be shocked what people will buy, and who knows, that collectors’ edition Barbie doll that has been hiding in your basement for decades might be worth thousands.

22. Be strategic as you consider making major purchases such as houses. Interest rates will have to rise to cool down the economy. As rates rise, people will be forced out of the housing market and house prices will drop. Be patient and thoughtful as you consider your next big purchase.

Travel: 

23. Investigate cash back rewards and frequent flier discounts offered by your credit cards and learn to use them.

24. Consider vacationing closer to home during inflationary times. People come from all over the world to visit the national parks and vacation destinations that are often within driving distance of our homes. Make a bucket list of regional getaways that you would like to see.  Your next “thrifty” vacation may end up being one of your most enjoyable.

Insurance: 

25. Shop for lower auto and car insurance rates. It’s amazing the money that you will save as you shop around. You may also consider raising your deductibles for additional savings. As long as you are talking to your insurance agent, check out how much your house is insured for. The recent inflation has raised the value of your home. Is your home adequately insured?

26. Don’t lapse or cancel that old life insurance policy that you no longer need…sell it. There are viatical companies that will sometimes pay top dollar for life insurance policies that no longer fit your needs. You get paid for your policy and you free yourself from having to pay future insurance premiums.

Fighting Inflation

Before I end, I want to mention some developments regarding inflation that have occurred since our last blog was published. Last week our elected officials announced a student loan forgiveness program that promised to forgive the loan obligation for billions of dollars’ worth of loans. Essentially, the government will be going further in debt to pump billions of dollars into an already overheated economy. During the same week, Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman announced a plan to aggressively raise interest rates to quell inflation. 

So, our politicians are stepping on the gas pedal while the Federal Reserve is stomping on the brakes. I wish to point this out to you to help you understand that until policies in Washington D.C. are changed, higher inflation rates will be with us. So, in the short term, we are going to have to learn how to live with higher inflation rates than what we have been accustomed to. I hope the ideas I shared with you will offer a little relief. 

Hang in there, this too shall pass! 

If you have questions, or concerns, or would like to review your personal retirement situation, please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. You can also click here to learn more about the Perennial Income Model mentioned above in the second fighting inflation idea.

Inflation 101: Understanding the ‘why’ behind today’s inflation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported a whopping 9.1% year-over-year increase in the inflation rate. This is the highest in forty years and many economists suggest that inflation will get worse before it starts to get better. To put a 9.1% inflation rate in perspective, one million dollars today has only $909,000 worth of purchasing power compared to just one year ago.

Americans are facing higher prices for food, fuel, and housing and are grasping for answers about what is causing inflation. How long it will last, and what they should personally be doing to combat its effects.

There are no easy answers or painless solutions when it comes to the inflation problem. Before we jump into how long it will last and what can be done to resolve it, we need to define how inflation is caused.

What is Inflation?

Stated in its simplest terms, “inflation happens when too many dollars are chasing after too few goods and services”. So, inflation is really a supply and demand problem. When there is an equilibrium between the supply of goods and services and demand (money available to spend), inflation is in check. When the demand outpaces the supply of goods and services, inflation accelerates. Once this concept is understood, we can dissect what is limiting the supply of goods and services and what is driving demand.

The Supply Issues Impacting Inflation

A couple of events have contributed to the limited supply of goods and services:

First, the COVID pandemic in early 2020 led to lockdowns and numerous restrictive measures by governments around the globe to stop the spread of the virus. These government-imposed lockdowns disrupted the global supply chain as factories were shut down and maritime ports were closed. Currently, COVID continues to affect worldwide supplies as China, the world’s largest manufacturer, is still troubled by shutdowns as they try to get on top of the COVID pandemic still plaguing their nation.

Second, the United States went from being energy independent just a couple of years ago to once again being forced to purchase oil in the world markets.  U.S. production has decreased while our consumption has increased. The inevitable result of this supply/demand imbalance is inflated oil prices. Higher oil prices serve as a catalyst to higher prices in all other parts of the economy as higher energy prices increase the cost to produce and ship goods.

The Demand Issues Impacting Inflation

Consumers are spending big. When the pandemic started, the personal saving rate in the United States was sitting at an all-time high. With large amounts of savings on hand, the federal government sending out relief checks to individuals and businesses, and employees sitting at home with shopping at their fingertips, the U.S. consumer spent a lot of money. And the spending spree isn’t over, with unemployment numbers sitting at all-time lows, employees are either finding better paying jobs or are requiring higher wages from existing employers. These higher wages continue to encourage high demand for the limited goods and services available.

Additionally, with the pandemic mostly behind us, there is a pent-up demand from people looking to travel and vacation once again. If you have traveled recently, you would have noticed the inflated prices of airline tickets, rental cars, hotel rooms, restaurants, and more.

So, how long will high inflation rates be with us?

There are thousands of economists attempting to answer this question, all with different opinions. So, how long this recent inflation acceleration might last is anybody’s guess. However, there is a consensus on how the inflation supply/demand equilibrium will be brought into balance. The inflation rate will decrease as consumer spending slows down, or in other words, when the demand for goods and services is reduced. Two of the main ways demand is reduced is either by raising interest rates, by the economy suffering a recession, or both.

Raising Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve has the responsibility to monitor the economy and implement policy to maintain the equilibrium between supply and demand, in other words, keep inflation in check. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow consumer demand and subsequent price growth. This policy response means that the economy will surely head for a slowdown. We have already seen how higher interest rates and higher borrowing costs have begun to cool off the housing market. The question — and big uncertainty — is just how much federal action will be needed to bring inflation under control.

Having A Recession

A recession is when the economy shrinks. This is a more painful and less desirable way to slow consumer demand, but it can work towards taming inflation. During a recession, the overall economy struggles, corporations make fewer sales and become less profitable. Workers are laid off and unemployment surges.

The hope is that the Federal Reserve can raise interest rates just enough to slow consumer demand without throwing the country into a recession. This optimistic scenario, often called a soft landing, is difficult to orchestrate and despite the best efforts by the Federal Reserve board, can still end up throwing the economy into a recession.

In our current environment, the so-called soft landing is especially challenging. As the Federal Reserve tries to reign in demand with higher interest rates, they have zero control on the supply side of the equilibrium. If supply chain shortages persist, the Federal Reserve will be required to raise interest rates more drastically. This will slow the demand enough to bring higher prices under control. It’s an economic tightrope, we will see if the Federal Reserve can walk it.

What will not help inflation?

Currently, there is talk on Capitol Hill of sending out additional stimulus checks to help the U.S. consumers pay for high gas prices and other goods. This is indeed a noble thought, but terribly misguided. The demand side of the equilibrium is already out of balance. In other words, there is already too much money chasing too few goods and services. Going into more debt, to throw more money at a problem caused by too much money pursuing too few goods and services is not the answer. We cannot spend our way out of inflation and any attempt to do so, will only result in higher inflation.

Conclusion

We have addressed the causes of inflation and talked about how inflation rates will be reduced. In our next blog we want to get personal. We will be going over the personal dos and don’ts of managing higher interest rates and making good decisions concerning your investments during recessionary times.

If you have questions, concerns, or would like to review your personal retirement situation, please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Preparing for, and Dealing with, Market Turbulence

At Peterson Wealth Advisors, we manage the retirements of several retired commercial pilots. As I have discussed these pilots’ careers with them, one of the retired pilots explained that being a pilot can be described as, “hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” Although these moments of sheer terror are rare, pilots will spend countless hours of training throughout their careers. They are preparing for that moment when their flight plan might not go according to plan.

Just as pilots have a plan, investors also need to have a plan to follow when their investments are not going according to plan. The last couple of years have provided investors ample unplanned and unforeseen market turbulence. A pandemic, a supply chain crisis, the highest inflation rate in our lifetimes, and the prospects of another world war in Europe have certainly rocked the investment world. It’s even caused the best-made investment plans to not go according to plan.

Investors should always be asking, “what is my plan when things temporarily aren’t going according to plan?” Let me share with you the Peterson Wealth Advisors’ perspective and what we are doing for our clients. Especially when it appears that things aren’t going according to plan due to ‘investment turbulence’.

Embrace the Volatility

First, temporary downturns are not a deviation from the plan. Rather, they are an expected part of the plan. Stock and bond market downturns are always temporary. Historically the duration of almost every major decline is measured in months, not years. The media would have you think that market corrections, “are unexpected events that are shocking in both their occurrence as well as their impact.” As investors with longer-term perspectives, we understand that the price you pay for inflation-beating investment returns consist of enduring occasional periods of market volatility. Few of us would pass up a Hawaiian vacation because there will surely be some turbulence in our flight to and from Hawaii. We likewise need to keep temporary market downturns in perspective and remember that turbulence is a planned for event.

Even though the exact timing of a correction is difficult, we should expect and even embrace market volatility. Investors should seize the opportunity to make wise tax moves during declining markets by doing Roth conversions, rebalancing portfolios, and tax-loss harvesting. They should also be opportunistic by purchasing depreciated equities while they are being sold on discount.

Protect Gains

We believe that investors should never be in a position where they need to liquidate depleted investments due to a temporary market downturn. This is difficult to do if an investor is not preparing for the downturns before they happen. With the Perennial Income Model™, we proactively attempt to protect our clients from selling investments at a loss. This is done by following a rigid, goal-centric, approach to harvesting investment gains once the goal of an investment has been reached. Harvesting is the process of transferring aggressive investments to more conservative investments as goals are achieved.

Navigating retirement with a plan that establishes investment goals and appropriately harvests gains can bring order, discipline, peace of mind, and added security to the retiree.

Maintain Flexibility

If you have the flexibility, you can wait out market downturns and wait for good investment opportunities. The best way to add flexibility, and tip the investment odds in your favor, is by increasing your time horizon. The longer you are invested, the better opportunity you have to endure a range of market turbulence. This endurance flexibility lets you stick around long enough to let the odds of benefiting from a positive outcome fall in your favor.

Additionally, flexibility within an investment portfolio allows Peterson Wealth Advisors to select only positive-performing investments within a portfolio to be drawn upon for income. This allows investments within that same portfolio, that may have temporarily dropped in value, to rebound.

Flexibility gives you room for error. Giving yourself a margin of error is the only way to safely navigate the world of investing. The world of investing is governed by probabilities, not certainties.

Create a Plan that has Conservative Projections

In other words,  plan for the worst and hope for the best. As the creators of the Perennial Income Model™ we project retirement income streams over decades. This process is unique to our firm. We have concluded that it is in everybody’s best interest to project low. We assume future investment returns 30% less than historical averages in all of our planning and projections. If an acceptable retirement income stream can be created from the conservative assumptions that we use, an actual income stream that spins off more income than originally projected will certainly be welcomed.

Conclusion

Market turbulence has and will continue to afflict investors with regularity. This is why we choose to create retirement income streams. We follow the goal-based, time-segmented processes of the Perennial Income Model.

A retirement income plan is only successful if it can survive reality. A future filled with unknowns is everybody’s reality. That is why we feel it is important that retirees understand and embrace volatility, follow a goal-based plan to protect investment gains, maintain investment flexibility, and use conservative estimates as retirement income streams are projected. If retirees understand and embrace these points, they will be prepared to answer the question, “what is my plan when things temporarily aren’t going according to plan?”

Schedule a free introductory meeting with an advisor.

The Perennial Income Model™ – Retirement Income “bad luck insurance policy”

The Perennial Income Model™ was created and launched in 2007. Through all the ups and downs of the stock market, it has withstood the test of time. The initial goal of the model was to provide a logical format for investing and for generating inflation-adjusted income from investments during retirement. In the beginning, we did not fully anticipate all the accompanying benefits that would result from projecting a retiree’s income over such a long timeframe. However, our eyes have been opened to a number of benefits, one of them being how the Perennial Income Model acts as a ‘bad luck insurance policy’.

The Perennial Income Model can help protect your retirement income during a bad market

The Perennial Income Model can protect you if you are unlucky and happen to retire about the same time as a stock market crash. Every stock market correction is temporary, but that knowledge isn’t helpful if you are ill-prepared and are having to liquidate equities in down markets to support yourself.

Let me share with you an example, Mike had been carefully planning for his retirement for years and it was finally his turn. He wanted to be conservative as he selected investments for his retirement years, but he knew enough about investing to realize that a good part of his investment portfolio had to be invested into equities if he was going to keep ahead of inflation.

So, he reluctantly invested more than half of his portfolio in stock-related investments. Mike retired, and almost immediately his worst fears were realized, as the stock market dropped by 50%. His money was invested in a balanced mutual fund that was composed of 60% stock and 40% bonds. Unlike the working years, Mike couldn’t just wait for the stock market to recover, he had to withdraw a portion of his money every month from his mutual fund just to pay the bills. As Mike withdrew his monthly stipend, he realized that he was liquidating a proportional amount of stocks and bonds each month from his balanced mutual fund. This meant, he was systematically selling stocks at a loss every month that the stock market was down, and it could take months, or even a couple of years before the stock market recovered.

Mike was frustrated, and even a little angry. He thought to himself, “why did this happen to me? I anticipated, and planned for, every contingency of my retirement in detail, then the one thing that I have no control over trips me up. I must be the unluckiest person on the planet!”

Mike is not alone; this exact scenario happens and will continue to happen to millions of new retirees every time there is a market correction. It’s true when we are no longer contributing and we begin taking withdrawals from our accounts, the temporary ups and downs of the market can have a much bigger impact on our investments than when we were working and had time to wait out market corrections.

To be clear, Mike’s mistake wasn’t in being too aggressively invested because a 60% stock, 40% bond portfolio is a very reasonable allocation for a new retiree. His mistake was failing to have a plan that allowed him to only liquidate the least impacted, non-stock portion of his portfolio to provide immediate income during a market downturn.

To illustrate this point, let’s take the example of two investors, Mr. Green and Mr. Red. Both have decided to retire at age 65 and both have saved up a $1,000,000 nest egg. Each of them plan to withdraw 5% of their initial balance each year to have an annual income of $50,000. As you can see from the table, both average the same 6% return during their 25-year retirements, but Mr. Green ends up with more than $2,500,000 to pass on to his heirs at death, while Mr. Red runs out of money halfway through his retirement. How can this be?

Every aspect of their retirement experience is identical except for one thing: the sequence of their investment returns.

retirement income planning chart comparing two possible outcomes

As you can see from the chart, Mr. Green experiences overall positive returns at the beginning of his retirement and a string of negative returns towards the end. Mr. Red experiences the same returns only in reverse. He goes through a series of negative returns at the beginning of retirement and the more positive returns come at the end. Again, both investors average the same 6% return over their 25 years of retirement. The sequence of those returns is the only difference. We can see from the table just how much of a difference the order of returns makes.

Set yourself up for retirement success

The good news is that it’s possible to set ourselves up to be successful no matter what the markets happen to do year by year. The Perennial Income Model is the bad luck insurance policy that can protect you from the pitfalls that Mr. Red experienced.

I’m not suggesting that following the Perennial Income Model will guarantee that your account balance will never go down, or suffer temporarily because it will. What I am saying is, that by following the Perennial Income Model, you shouldn’t find yourself having to sell stocks at a loss during a stock market correction.

Mr. Red’s losses are realized as he liquidates equities in down years at a loss to cover his expenses. If Mr. Red were to have his portfolio organized according to the investment regimen provided by the Perennial Income Model, he would not be in a position where he would have to liquidate stocks in down years to provide income. He would have a buffer of conservative investments to draw income from while giving the more aggressive part of his portfolio a chance to rebound when the stock market temporarily experiences periods of turbulence.

The Perennial Income Model’s design is intended to give immediate income from safe, low-volatility types of investments. At the same time, it furnishes you with long-term, inflation-fighting equities in your portfolio, equities that won’t be called upon to provide income for years down the road. Market corrections typically last for months, not years. So, even if you are the unluckiest person on the planet and your retirement coincides with a market crash, your long-term retirement plans won’t be derailed as long as you are following the investment guidelines found within the Perennial Income Model.

Ready to talk? Schedule your complimentary consultation here.

Are you ready for a 30-year retirement?

Warren Buffet once called the babies born today “the luckiest crop in history” because they are expected to live longer and enjoy greater prosperity than any previous generation. I believe it would be a fair assumption to add that the baby-boomer generation is the “luckiest crop” of retirees to have ever lived. Today’s retirees are healthier, wealthier, happier, safer, freer, more educated, more equal, more charitable, and more technologically advanced than any previous generation.

4 Common Threats to Retirement Savings

Ironically, the wonderful advancements that current retirees are blessed with are also the root of the problems that retirees will face.  Longevity, inflation, and the retiree’s individual responsibility to manage their own investments will be the challenges that this generation of retirees will have to grapple with.

1. Longevity

Not only are we living better, we are also living longer. Therein lies the challenge: We are living too long. Life expectancies are steadily climbing. According to the Social Security Administration, a couple who is currently 65 years old have a 48% chance that one of them will live to be the age of 90.

Life Expectancy table for Age 65

Because of long life expectancies, many retirees face the very real risk that they will outlive their money if they don’t plan for a lengthy retirement. Planning on living to the average life expectancy is not enough. It is best to plan on living longer than your life expectancy, because life expectancy estimates the average time a person will live. To be certain, some people will die before their life expectancy, but some will live beyond, sometimes many years beyond, their projected life expectancy.

2. Inflation

Longevity is the catalyst for today’s retirees’ second challenge: their dollars are shrinking.

Every day, the purchasing power of the retiree is eroding as goods and services are getting more expensive. Although inflation has always existed, no previous generation has had to deal with it to the extent that today’s retiree does. Our parents and grandparents lived ten or fifteen years past retirement, inflation never had time to develop into a problem for them.

A retirement lasting thirty years or more is a game-changer. Inflation isn’t something that may happen, it will happen. In our opinion, inflation has confiscated more wealth, destroyed more retirements, and crushed more dreams than the combined effects of all stock market crashes. Historically the average inflation rate has been more than 3% annually. To put that into perspective, at a 3% inflation rate, a dollar’s worth of purchasing power today will only purchase forty-one cents worth of goods and services in thirty years from now.

Inflation poses a “stealth” threat to investors as it chips away at real savings and investment returns. The goal of every investor is to increase their long-term purchasing power. Inflation puts this goal at risk, because investment returns must match the rate of inflation just to break even. An investment that returns 2% before inflation in an environment of 3% inflation will actually lose 1% of its purchasing power. This erosion of purchasing power might seem incidental, but this type of loss, compounded over the duration of a retirement, is life-changing.

Dollars invested into money market accounts, certificates of deposits, fixed annuities, and bonds, never have, and never will, keep up with inflation. Uninformed, anxious, stock market-leery investors that depend on these types of investments for long-term growth may be insulating themselves from stock market volatility, but they are committing financial suicide, slowly but surely. To make matters worse, the paltry gains associated with these products must be taxed, which makes it that much more unlikely that they will be able to preserve purchasing power.

In the current environment of huge government budget deficits and spending, it is likely that inflation will continue to rise at least at the same pace as its historical average. Given the one-two punch of longevity and inflation, it is imperative that retirees are mindful of inflation as they invest and plan for the future.

3. Investment Management Risk

A third challenge for retirees to be aware of is the personal responsibility they now have to manage their own investments.

During the last couple of decades, a subtle transfer happened. The responsibility to provide retirement income shifted from the employers to the employees. The popular pension plans of the past, which guaranteed a lifetime of monthly income to retired employees and their spouses, are disappearing. Pensions have been replaced by 401(k)s and other similar plans that all place the burden of funding, managing, and properly distributing investments to last a lifetime, squarely on the backs of the unprepared employee. Like it or not… you, not your employer, hold the keys to your financial future.

An annual study done by DALBAR, Inc. shows that the average stock fund investor managed to capture only 60% of the return of the stock market over twenty years. Ouch! The largest contributing factor that explains this blatant underperformance was the investor’s own behavior. It appears that the typical investor followed the herd mentality, buying when stocks were high and selling in a panic when stocks were low. Seldom was the investor guided by a comprehensive investment plan. Consequently, little or no discipline was demonstrated. What is most concerning, is that for the most part, the investor failed at the easy part of investment management: the accumulation phase.

4. Retirement Income Distribution Risk

When people enter retirement, they also enter the distribution phase of investment management. In other words, they start withdrawing their investments. The distribution phase is much more difficult to manage than the accumulation phase. In the distribution phase, it is still crucial to know how to properly allocate and invest a portfolio, but additional complexity is added to the mix. Therefore, income-hungry retirees need to know how to create a distribution plan that will provide a stream of income that will last until the end of their lives. They need to create and then follow a Retirement Income Plan.

Retirees need to be kept informed in order to make the best financial decisions. It is also important to work with a financial professional that specializes in retirement issues and that is a fiduciary who puts the retiree’s best interest ahead of their own.

Are you ready to start planning your 30-year retirement? Click here to schedule a complimentary planning session to start creating your own ‘Retirement Income Plan’.

The SECURE ACT: Tax Law Changes for IRA’s that Impact Retirees

As 2019 came to a close, the president signed into law a sweeping series of changes that will affect how we save for retirement as well as the distribution of IRA proceeds. The new law is officially entitled the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, but it is more commonly known as the SECURE Act. This new law includes both welcome changes as well as some controversial elements. As I said, the changes brought about by the SECURE Act were sweeping, but I am only going to highlight those changes that impact the retiree.

First, let’s address the more controversial parts of the law. There is a change to the rules that govern inherited IRAs, or so-called stretch IRAs.

Stretch IRAs

Previously, if you inherited an IRA, you were allowed to take distributions from the retirement account over your life expectancy. That is to say, a healthy 40-year-old person who inherited an IRA from their parents or grandparents could withdraw the funds over several decades.

While there are exceptions for spouses, minor children (until they reach the age of majority), disabled individuals, the chronically ill, and those within 10 years of age of the decedent, the new law requires that you withdraw the assets from an inherited IRA account within 10 years if the decedent passed away after December 31, 2019. There are no changes to inherited IRA accounts for those who died prior to 2020.

In the past, we have commonly recommended that an IRA participant’s spouse be listed as the primary beneficiary and the children be listed as secondary beneficiaries (not the family trust). This, most likely, may still be your best option, but the new law makes listing the children individually as beneficiaries less tax advantageous than before the new tax law went into effect. We look forward to discussing alternatives with you to make sure your family has the right beneficiary designation going forward.

Long Overdue Changes:

While the law governing stretch IRAs is creating challenges, there are also big, positive changes that we believe are long overdue.

  1. If you turned 70½ after January 1, 2020, the initial required minimum distribution (RMD) for a traditional IRA is being raised from 70½ to 72. Those who turned 70½ prior to January 1, 2020, are still required to take RMDs based on the old rules.
  2. You may now contribute to a traditional IRA past the age of 70½, if you are working and have earned income. Previously you were unable to make IRA contributions past age 70½.
  3. Many of you donate to charity directly from an IRA by making a Qualified Charitable Contribution (QCD). Now, even though some of you will not have RMDs until age 72, you are still able to donate to your charities using a QCD starting at age 70½.

Hopefully, this sheds some light on the parts of the SECURE Act that most likely apply to your situation. We appreciate the trust you have placed in us and we look forward to answering any additional questions that you might have.

Peterson Wealth Advisors has taken the academically brilliant idea of time segmentation and transformed it into a practical model of investment management that we call “The Perennial Income Model™”. To get a better understanding of the Perennial Income Model™ you can request our book “Plan on Living, a Retirees Guide to Lasting Income and Enduring Wealth”. For specifics on how the Perennial income Model™ could be applied to your retirement income plan, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Certified Financial Planner™ professionals