IRS Announces 2017 Pension Plan Limitations

The Internal Revenue Service announced cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2017. The IRS issued technical guidance detailing these items in Notice 2016-62. The income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the savers credit all increased for 2017.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If, during the year, the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced or phased out until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (The phase-outs of the deduction don’t apply if the taxpayer and their spouse are not covered by a retirement plan at work.) Here are the phase-out ranges for 2017:

  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $62,000 to $72,000, up from $61,000 to $71,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $99,000 to $119,000, up from $98,000 to $118,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $186,000 and $196,000, up from $184,000 and $194,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
  • The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $118,000 to $133,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $117,000 to $132,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $186,000 to $196,000, up from $184,000 to $194,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
  • The income limit for the savers credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $62,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $61,500. $46,500 for heads of household, up from $46,125. and $31,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $30,750.
  • The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal governments Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $18,000.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal governments Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.
  • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
  • Detailed description of adjusted and unchanged limitations
  • Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Secretary of the Treasury annually adjust these limits for cost‑of‑living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under Section 415. Under Section 415(d), the adjustments are to be made following adjustment procedures similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under Section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Effective January 1, 2017, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) is increased from $210,000 to $215,000. For a participant who separated from service before January 1, 2017, the limitation for defined benefit plans under Section 415(b)(1)(B) is computed by multiplying the participants compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2016, by 1.0112.

Many Consumers Miss LTC Planning

A study by Lincoln Financial Groups finds that the majority of people who are 40 to 70 have not taken the necessary steps to prepare for a long-term care event. Only 45% of those with a financial advisor have discussed long-term care with their advisor, and few are aware of the wide range of solutions. Among those who have spoken with a financial advisor about long-term care, the most common resource discussed is long-term care insurance (82%). Retirement savings are the second most common resource (61%). Among the least discussed resources are hybrid products that combine long-term care benefits with a life insurance policy or annuity. Hybrid products are rapidly gaining traction in the market and outsell traditional long-term care insurance products, according to LIMRA. Only 28% of those surveyed own a financial product that can help address potential long-term care expenses. The top reasons for purchasing the product are to avoid depleting assets and for peace-of-mind, each cited by 92% of product owners followed by the desire to get the care one needs (86%).

Primary barriers for purchasing an LTC product are competing financial priorities and concerns over paying for something that may never be used – each reason cited by 57% of respondents. While some types of long-term care coverage products are use it or lose it, many hybrid products provide a benefit whether or not care is ever needed. Andrew Bucklee of Lincoln said, “As we head into Long-Term Care Awareness Month, its a perfect time for those who have not planned for potential care needs to begin conversations with their family and financial advisor. During these discussions, its critical that advisors help their clients identify their care preferences and other potential needs while ensuring they understand the differences among the many types of financial solutions available and the distinct advantages of each when building a tailored strategy that includes the right mix of solutions.” Respondents ranked these financial concerns in order:

  • Healthcare expenses (62%)
  • Retirement planning – having enough to live comfortably (59%)
  • Value of investments declining (58%)
  • Costs associated with nursing home or adult day care (54%)
  • The event of outliving their money (48%)

For more information, visit www.whatcarecosts.com/Lincoln/2016.

IRS Increases Tax Deductions for Traditional Long Term Care Insurance

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The IRS increased tax deductible limits for traditional long-term care insurance premiums paid in 2017. Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) said, “The tax deductibility of premiums…provides a real incentive for consumers, especially after retirement.” Only traditional long-term care insurance policies may be tax-deductible to an individual. Special tax advantages are not available for linked-benefit products, such as life insurance or annuity policies that provide a long-term care benefit. According to the AALTCI, in 2016 more people will purchase combo products than those who purchase traditional LTC insurance policies. IRS reports for 2014 reveal that nearly 5.1 million tax filers with incomes of $40,000 to $100,000 reported medical expenses that exceeded adjusted-gross income limits. Starting in 2017, all individuals can deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income for the year. The limit is 7.5% of adjusted gross income for 2016, for individuals 65 and older. The IRS allows individuals to deduct medical expenses including preventative care, dental and vision care, prescription medications, glasses, contacts and hearing aids. Traditional long-term care insurance premiums can be included in the term “medical care.” “For retired seniors,…reduced income and increased medical costs means that the cost of traditional long-term care insurance can be all or mostly tax deductible. Many seniors have medical expenses that don’t meet the adjusted gross income limit. But they exceed the limit when the cost of long-term care insurance is included, which provides a significant tax deduction. This is a real benefit for the 23 million individuals age 65 or older who file federal tax returns,” said Slome. The following are the just announced 2017 limits:

Attained Age
Before Close of
Taxable Year               2017 Limit                  2016 Limit
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
40 or younger             $410 (+ 5.1%)             $390
40+ to 50                    $770                            $730
50+ to 60                    $1,530                         $1,460
60+ to 70                    $4,090                         $3,900
70+                             $5,110 (+4.9)               $4,870

Source: IRS Revenue Procedure 2016-55 (2017 limits) and 2015-53 (2016 limits)

For more information, visit www.aaltci.org or call the organization at 818-597-3227.

Making the Most Out of Open Enrollment

OpenEnrollment

Nearly half of employees are stressed by the open enrollment process and only half are confident about the benefit decisions they made last year, according to a study by MetLife. Millennials are the most stressed and confused. When asked about the most effective benefit resources, respondents ranked one-on-consultations well above other resources. In fact, Millennials led their generational counterparts in valuing one-on-one consultations. However, only half of employers offer one-on-one consultations. Sixty percent of Millenials consult with their families and friends on benefits. MetLife says that employers need to help their employees connect the value of non-medical benefits to their day-to-day lives. Employers should also do the following:

  • Make sure that employees fully understand key terms such as “deductible,” “premium,” “PPO,” and “HMO.”
  • Have employees ask themselves, “Do I have a big life event coming up, such as marriage or retirement?” It’s critical to choose benefits based on present and future needs.
  • Make sure that employees review their benefits and fully understand them. Only half of employees said they thoroughly reviewed their benefits choices last year.

The survey also reveals how employees feel about their benefits:

  • Financial uncertainty: In contrast to decreasing unemployment numbers, American workers remain pessimistic about their financial future. Less than half feel in control of their finances. Even fewer expect their situations to improve in the next year (46% in 2015, compared to 52% in 2014). More than half are concerned about having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs as well as meeting monthly living expenses and financial obligations. These worries that have increased every year since 2012.
  • Job Satisfaction: More than half of employees are satisfied with their jobs and are committed to the organizations’ goals. An increasing number plan to be with their companies a year from now.
  • Financial Benefits: 71% of employees consider work to be the foundation of their financial safety net. Sixty-two percent of employees want more financial security benefits. Millennials are more financially vulnerable compared to their counterparts. Gen Xrs say they are less secure than other generations.
  • Appreciation of benefits: Half of employees agree strongly that their benefits help them worry less about unexpected health and financial issues. Seventy percent of employees say that having customizable benefits would increase their loyalty to their employer.
  • Supplemental benefits: Employees continue to ask for a range of solutions, especially for more common benefits, such as medical, prescription, 401(k), dental, life, and vision care. Employers are keeping pace with many of their employees’ top benefit requests. However, there are large gaps in accident insurance, critical illness, and hospital indemnity. Most employers understand how non-medical benefits can provide financial protection, such as offsetting out-of-pocket medical expenses. Yet, only 47% of employees believe that supplemental health benefits can help close these gaps.
  • A streamlined plan design: Plan design, claims management, and implementation rank highly as advantages of streamlining the number of carriers that employers use.
  • Use of enrollment firms: Three-quarters of employers have positive attitudes towards enrollment firms. Seventy-one percent of employers say that working with an enrollment firm helped them improve benefit communications.
  • Wellness plans: More than two thirds of employees are interested in physical well-being programs that reward healthy behavior. This is especially true among Millennials (75%) and female employees (72%).
  • Retirement Benefits: Forty percent of employees say that having retiree benefits is a key reason to stay with their employer. Millennials feel the most strongly about this, probably due to their lack of financial confidence. About a third of employees plan to postpone retirement, an increase of 5% over 2015. Almost 6 in 10 employees plan to work or consult once retired. Of this 60%, 44% plan to work part-time.
  • Older workers: With today’s workers redefining what it means to be a retiree, employers must also redefine what retiree benefits look like in order to appeal to this rich reservoir of talent. For example, 63% of employees say that dental is a must-have retiree benefit while only 42% of employers offer it. Similar gaps can be found across other critical non-medical benefits, such as vision and life insurance. More than half of employees say that their employer does not offer any employer-paid non-medical benefits. With retiree benefits being such an important loyalty factor for many employees, employers have an opportunity to keep pace in 2016 and beyond.

Younger Consumers Favor Income Stream Life Insurance Benefits

Forty percent of consumers under 40 prefer a monthly life insurance income benefit while about 30% favor a lump-sum payment, according to a LIMRA survey. Scott Kallenbach of LIMRA noted that life insurance is most often paid as a lump sum. But the study reveals that products offering monthly income would have strong appeal among younger and middle class consumers. Offering these products could be a way to reach these consumers more effectively. Sixty-one percent of all consumers own life insurance to replace lost income, and 44% own life insurance to supplement retirement income. When consumers were asked about a policy that could change with their needs, 70% expressed interest with one third being very or extremely interested in these flexible products.

How Far Are Adult Kids Willing to Go to Help Aging Parents?

businesssecrets

A study by Fidelity Investments reveals that adult children have their parents’ backs and far more than parents may think, although 93% of parents say it would be unacceptable to become financially dependent on their children; only 30% of children feel the same. Nearly four in 10 families disagree as to roles and responsibilities as parents get older. Among the other communication gaps:

  • 92% of parents expect one of their children to assume the role of executor of the estate, but 27% of the kids who are expected to be the executor don’t know that they are expected to do so. Fifty-five percent of parents expect the oldest child to be executor.
  • While 72% of parents expect one of their children will assume long-term caregiver responsibilities in retirement if need be, 40% of the kids identified as filling this role didn’t know this. Of those that do, 58% are women. One surprising trend is that a growing number of Millennials are providing care giving support for a parent.
  • While 69% of parents expect one of their children to help manage their investments and retirement finances, 36% of the kids identified as filling this role didn’t know this.

John Sweeney, executive vice president of Retirement and Investing Strategies at Fidelity said, “Many families need to do a better job of being on the same page when it comes to financial planning, as there are real emotional and financial consequences when family conversations don’t happen or lack sufficient depth. At some point every family will face issues related to aging, which is why it’s important to take the time to sort through the details related to care giving responsibilities and estate planning, before declining health forces the issue. Doing so can lead to far better emotional and financial outcomes for everyone.”

Why aren’t these conversations taking place? Part of it seems to be a matter of timing, since only 33% of parents and their children agree when it’s appropriate to initiate these conversations; that is, whether to have them well before retirement, upon entering retirement or closer to when health and finances become an issue. Part of it may be that families don’t realize the importance of talking these topics through: a significant portion of those surveyed have yet to discuss retirement plans (38% of parents, 43% of adult children) say it’s because the subject never comes up! Even if conversations are taking place, the depth and extent of the conversations is often inadequate, as the study uncovered significant gaps in the following areas:

  • Long-term care: 43% of parents say they have not had detailed conversations with family members about long-term care and elder care. An additional 23% have not had any conversations at all. While 72% of children think their parents should be tackling the issue of long-term care/elder care, only 41% of their parents say they actually are. As healthcare costs have risen in the past few years, this has become an increasingly important topic. According to the latest Fidelity Investments Retirement Health Care Cost Estimate, the average couple can expect to spend an estimated $245,000 on health care throughout retirement.
  • Will and estate planning: Sixty-nine percent of parents say they’ve had detailed conversations with their children on this subject, 52% of children say they haven’t.
  • Living expenses in retirement: Thirty-four percent of parents say they have not had detailed conversations with family members about covering their living expenses in retirement. An additional 16% have not had any conversations on the topic at all.
  • Shelter from the Storm: With conversation comes greater peace-of-mind.

One thing is certainly clear: having detailed conversations around finances can help families avoid panic when it matters most. In fact, 93% of children who say they have had any detailed conversation with their parents are significantly more likely to have greater peace-of-mind around these issues. Likewise, 95% of parents reported feeling greater peace of mind as a result of estate planning conversations.

One-third of parents and their children say frank conversations should occur after retirement and when health and finances have become an issue—at which point, it may be too late. These conversations should begin taking place before retirement, and certainly well before any challenges arise. “It’s actually a good idea for conversations about finances to be taking place among families no matter what your age, whether you are in your twenties and looking to build a strong financial foundation or in your sixties and transitioning into retirement,” added Sweeney.

Ask as many detailed questions as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask even the most seemingly obvious questions. Three out of 10 families surveyed disagreed as to whether or not the children knew where to find important family documents such as wills, power of attorney and health care proxies. (For those looking for a safe, electronic storage location, Fidelity recently introduced FidSafe®, a secure digital place to store, access and share all of a families’ most important documents.)

When having discussions, follow the “voice not vote” rule. While family members should have a role in the planning process, make sure the ultimate decisions made are consistent with the wishes of the parents, who are charting the course of the rest of their lives. If a financial advisor is already involved in planning, having these discussions with the advisor can be a good place to start.

Define family roles. Advanced planning can help define roles and choose when and how different people will be involved. For example, who will have power of attorney or be the executor of your estate? It’s important to consider the personalities of each child, as well as their proximity, relationship with parents and other nuances that play into long-term decision making.

Commit to follow-up conversations to keep the dialogue going. These conversations are not “one and done.” Keep the momentum going and schedule as many get-togethers as needed—and revisit those plans at least annually, to make sure they still make sense.

An Update on 401(k) Plan Asset Allocations

Sixty-six percent of 401(k) assets were invested in stocks at year-end in 2014, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Investment Company Institute (ICI). Participants’ assets were invested in equity securities through equity funds, the equity portion of balanced funds, and company stock. Twenty-seven percent of assets were in fixed-income securities, such as stable-value investments, bond funds, and money funds. The reports also reveals the following:

  • More 401(k) plan participants held equities at year-end 2014 than before the financial market crisis (year-end 2007), and most had the majority of their accounts invested in equities. For example, about three-quarters of participants in their 20s had more than 80% of their 401(k) plan accounts invested in equities at year-end 2014, up from less than half of participants in their 20s at year-end 2007. More than 90% of 401(k) participants had at least some investment in equities at year-end 2014.
  • More than 70% of 401(k) plans included target-date funds in their investment lineup at year end 2014. At year-end 2014, 18% of the assets were invested in target-date funds, and 48% of 401(k) participants in the database held target-date funds. Also known as life cycle funds, these funds are designed to offer a diversified portfolio that automatically re-balances to be more focused on income over time.
  • A majority of new or recent hires invested their 401(k) assets in balanced funds, including target-date funds. For example, at year-end 2014, two-thirds of recently hired participants held balanced funds in their 401(k) plan accounts. Balanced funds comprised 42% of the account balances of recently hired 401(k) plan participants. A significant subset of that balanced fund category is invested in target-date funds. Thirty-five percent of the account balances of recently hired participants were invested in target-date funds.
  • 401(k) participants’ investments in company stock continued at historically low levels. Only 7% of 401(k) assets were invested in company stock at year-end 2014, the same share as in 2012 and 2013. This share has fallen by 63% since 1999 when company stock accounted for 19% of assets. Recently hired 401(k) participants are less likely to hold company stock. At year-end 2014, less than 30% of recently hired 401(k) plan participants in plans offering company stock held company stock, compared to about 44% of all 401(k) participants.
  • 401(k) participants were less slightly likely to have loans outstanding at year-end 2014 than at year-end 2013. At year-end 2014, 20% of all 401(k) participants who were eligible for loans had loans outstanding against their 401(k) plan accounts, down from 21% at year-end 2013, although up from 18% at year-end 2008. Loans outstanding amounted to 11% of the remaining account balance, on average, at year-end 2014, down 1% from year-end 2013. Nevertheless, loan amounts edged up a bit in 2014.
  • The year-end 2014 average 401(k) plan account balance in the database was 5.4% higher than the year before, but may not reflect the experience of typical 401(k) participants in 2014.
  • The average 401(k) plan account balance tends to increase with participant age and tenure. For example, participants in their 30s with more than two to five years of tenure had an average 401(k) plan account balance of close to $25,000, compared to an average 401(k) plan account balance of nearly $275,000 among participants in their 60s with more than 30 years of tenure.

New Law Voids Life Insurance Suicide Exclusion for Terminally Ill

dignity

The End of Life Option Act, Assembly Bill X2-15 (Eggman) is now in effect. Under the new law, if a terminally ill Californian, who meets the criteria in the law, takes medication to end their own life, it is not considered a suicide, so life insurance policy exclusions for suicide do not apply. Under the Death with Dignity law, patients of sound mind who who have a terminal illness and meet certain qualifications can request aid-in-dying medication. Commissioner Jones said, “Terminally ill patients in California now have a choice when facing end-of-life decisions and do not have to worry that the choice will cause them to lose their life or health insurance or annuity policy…This law will make it possible for those who meet the protections in the new law to have the option to get a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug from their physician.” Consumers and their families with questions about the new law or its application are encouraged to contact the department online or 800-927-4357. 

No-Exam Life Insurance Policies Soar in Popularity as Prices Drop to All-Time Lows

LifeQuotes.com has good news for those who want to skip the traditional medical examination: An increasing number of highly-rated life insurers now offer no-exam underwriting up to $500,000, which dramatically simplifies and speeds up the purchase process for life insurance shoppers. Some no-exam plans offer instant-decision underwriting, depending upon the applicant’s age and state of residence. LifeQuotes.com founder and CEO, Robert Bland said, “A sea change of product improvement is under way in the U.S. life insurance market, and the news could not be better for middle market consumers. More and more life insurers are adding no-exam plans up to $500,000 that offer instant underwriting at unheard-of rates, which puts high quality life insurance within reach of every American adult who has dependents and a need for life insurance.” Rob Goss, executive vice president said, “The new generation of no-exam plans offer a full suite of initial rate guarantee periods, typically ranging from 10 years to lifetime and there is very competitive pricing available for individuals who have non-life threatening health conditions.” Underwriting for most no-exam plans involves e-signatures and/or recorded telephone interviews. The no-exam insurers typically require U.S. citizenship, a valid Social Security number, and a valid U.S. residence. In some cases, coverage may be available to U.S. residents who are temporarily living abroad.

Survey: Access to retirement plan inspires confidence

A survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute says 21% of people in the workforce consider themselves very confident about funding a comfortable retirement. “There is a clear dichotomy between those who have some sort of retirement plan — that is, a defined-benefit or defined-contribution plan or [an] individual retirement account ­­– and those who do not,” said Craig Copeland, senior research associate at EBRI. “Those with a retirement plan are more likely to be very confident about their financial prospects in retirement compared with those who do not have a retirement plan.” Employee Benefit News (3/24)

Last Updated 10/09/2019

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