Is Your Retirement SECURE?

August 10, 2019

Welcome to Creating Richer Lives. Where living a richer life goes beyond the balance in your bank account. In fact, it’s about what you do with your dollars and how the choices you make with your money not only define your lifestyle now but impact your legacy for years to come. Whether you’re working towards retirement or seeking ways to make philanthropy your goal, there is a road to get you there. It’s time to redefine what it means to have a richer life. Welcome to Creating Richer Lives. Here’s your host, Karl Eggerss.

Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me. We appreciate it. As always. Again, this is Creating Richer Lives. I am your host, Karl Eggerss. Laryngitis is maybe 50% better than it was last week, so again, I will have my coffee. You get your coffee and we’ll do this together. Hey, just a reminder, the show is brought to you by Covenant whether you need help with lifestyle, legacy or philanthropy Covenant is there to help. Go to creatingricherlives.com, and our telephone number, as usual, 210-526-0057. Hey, as we mentioned over the past few weeks, we want to continue to give you more and more information, really help you in all areas of your financial life.

And with that being said, we’re going to bring on a guest here in a little bit. David Akright is in studio. He is a Certified Financial Planner with Covenant, and he’s going to be talking to us about the Secure Act. What is that? It’s in Congress right now. Is it going to get passed? What does it mean for you and your retirement? We’re going to ask him some of those questions coming up in just a few minutes, but first, what a week it was, huh? We come in on Monday and we had a little bit of selling, of course, two weeks ago, but we come in on Monday.

A little bit of retaliation from China regarding trades, so not only are we in a trade war, we’re in a currency war now with China. They’re manipulating their currency. They’re called a currency manipulator, which is funny because every country’s really a currency manipulator when you really get down to it. But we walk in, the Dow Jones is down about 500 at the open and the selling continued. It was down 900 points at one point during the day, kind of bounced back, but still was down 750 points, and you see on TV, “Oh, my gosh, this is the sixth-largest Dow point drop ever,” right? The media pumps that up.

But in terms of a percentage drop, there’s been over 400 daily drops that were bigger in percentage terms. So bad day, a 3% down day. But we have seen worse throughout, and so remember, this China trade war continues to escalate and it is a chess match. And so China announced they’re going to stop buying US agricultural products and they said being labeled a currency manipulator would severely damage international financial order and cause chaos in the financial markets. And so investors didn’t like that. And look, there’s a pattern here going all the way back to January of ’18, anytime tariffs are mentioned, anytime trade escalates stock market sells off, or essentially have been flat the last 18 months with extra volatility and that seems to continue for now.

Now, Tuesday was not the interesting day. Monday, of course, we got the big down day, 90% down day. That’s pretty much everything across the board, “Get me out, everything’s down.” So you would expect some type of bounce back Tuesday and we got it. The Dow Jones was up about 300 points, but it was a weak bounce. Generally, when you see these all or nothing days, I call them, where everything’s down like Monday you might get another one of those. We saw that in the fourth quarter of 2018. That should be followed pretty quickly with tremendous demand, A 90% up day, “Get me in, I don’t want to miss it. The market’s going to get away from here.” And we saw two of those types of days after the December 24th kind of peak in selling back in 2018. This bounce we got on Tuesday was a weak bounce. And we also heard on Tuesday that we had over $15 trillion now of negative-yielding debt.

So you look at country bonds around the world, various countries, $15 trillion of that has a negative interest rate on it. So think about that. Now, there is also a very tight correlation with that and gold. If you notice gold going up lately, you put the chart of the negative-yielding debt on top of gold. It’s moving very closely. So if you think that trends going to continue, gold could continue to do well and vice versa. Now, Wednesday was perhaps a more important day than Tuesday because you get a bounce after a horrible day like Monday, you get a bounce back. Wednesday though had every chance to fall and it was down, the Dow Jones was down 500 at one point roughly, but finished fairly flat on the day. So that was interesting because you could stall some buying come in, and then Thursday we had a really strong day. The Dow Jones was up 370 points and a consistent day.

So now you’ve reversed the weekly losses in just a couple of days. Interesting to watch that, so that was very important. So there’re still buyers there and it had to do some with currency, some just got … There was a little more less tweeting going on probably regarding trade. And then Friday, kind of another day it was down about 260, 280 points or so, bounces back, actually goes positive and then finishes down just a little bit. So for the week, again, we finished less than 1% down on the major indices, but a volatile week nevertheless. But here’s what’s interesting. We’ve had a 5% drop now, not quite 10 yet from the high. And this is the 25th time since March of ’09, which was the low after the financial crisis, the 25th time that we’ve had a 5% correction.

And Charlie Bilello has a great quote saying, “They all felt like the end of the world at the time,” and that’s true. They’ve all felt like that. So here we are. By the way, interesting to watch. A few days ago, the day the market was down and reversed late in the week, we did start to see bonds really go parabolic. People piling into bonds, interest rates plummeting and everyone’s screaming, “This must mean we’re in a recession,” and we put out our mid-year commentary on the economy here this week, you can go check it on our social media. But we don’t think that we are entering a recession. We think the markets are slowing. Rates will stay fairly low, but it’s still a good but not great economy and it is slowing. And we’ve been saying that I’d been saying that too on this podcast for what seems like months.

Now, having said that, interest rates went down to a low that really is it’s a 10-year treasury going down to 1.6% approximately felt very panicky. People panicking buying bonds and at some point, and we saw it intraday, a few days ago, at some point people start to take profits in bonds, short bonds and I think you’re starting to see that, and when that kind of stabilized stocks seem to stabilize. So bottom line is is that the bond market is acting as if we’re definitely going to recession. That’s how the bond market looks. I mean remember late 2015, early 2016 similar thing happened and the economy was slowing at the time too and it wasn’t technically recession, although it kind of felt like one at the time. This is kind of the same thing. It’s slowing down but we don’t think we’re going into recession based on everything we’ve seen.

So given that, bonds are pretty expensive at this point and probably due for a pretty good pullback even from a trading perspective. But if we look at what’s going on for the year right now, we still have good gains in equities across the board. Really the only laggards are going to be energy and financial, excuse me, healthcare is lagging a little bit, but energy’s really the spot that we need to watch. We need to watch oil prices because again, kind of a proxy for what’s going on in the economy to a certain degree. We do have geopolitical risk, we obviously have other supply-demand issues going on, Saudi Arabia, et cetera, but we need to watch that. We need to watch copper and see what’s going on. And so bottom line is though we don’t see a tremendous amount of inflation, but the consumer, who is over two-thirds of the economy is still in good shape and that’s really, really important.

So for right now we got a little oversold, probably not the fat pitch just yet, but again for those that are sitting there with a tremendous amount of cash, this is a time to look because you get these opportunities of two, three, 4% down sometimes and you can take advantage of it. But as I mentioned for the year, bonds are doing well, gold’s doing well, stocks are doing well. A lot of things across the board are doing pretty well this year and despite the sell-off, we’re still very close to all-time highs. All times a long time. We’re only 3% off the high. When you look at the S&P 500, roughly.

By the way, I wanted to mention, there’re some interesting stats going around that when you see interest rates fall as fast as they fallen, those who think we’re in going to enter recession and therefore we have to have the stock market fall take a look at the statistics. When you have the interest rates false fast as they fallen recently, most of the time the stock market going out one month, three months, six months, nine months, a year is higher based on a lot of evidence. So generally that’s a good thing when interest rates are falling for the stock market because again, what’s the whole point? Why is the Fed even doing this? They’re trying to grease the wheels. They’re trying to make sure that you continue to borrow

And that real estate developers continue to borrow, and that keeps the economy going. So the stock market generally react positively to that. All right, enough about the market. Let’s move on to our interview. All right. As promised, I have David Akright, who is a advisor with Covenant, and he’s been researching and looking into this SECURE Act, which if you haven’t heard is, it stands for Setting Every Community Up For Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, which is quite a mouthful, so leave it to the government to come up with a long acronym.

But this was introduced a few months ago, and once again, I will apologize for my voice, as I’ve been having some issues the last couple of weeks, but we will go through this. And fortunately, you’ll get to hear David talk more than myself.

Karl Eggerss: David, welcome to the podcast.

David Akright: Yeah, I appreciate you having me, Karl.

Karl Eggerss: Folks know that we wanted to… This podcast has always brought people information, and the idea is to bring them the most relevant information, and really information that’s going to impact them. And this SECURE Act, which isn’t finalized yet, is something that really will impact pretty much most everybody concerning their investments and planning. And so why don’t you just kind of briefly give us the background of what the SECURE Act is, kind of where it is, and not necessarily where the odds are of it passing, but if it does go through, what does this look like for the listener?

David Akright: Sure, yeah, absolutely. As you mentioned, what it stands for is Setting Every Community Up For Retirement Enhancement Act. So it has mostly to do with retirement, and a lot of the different savings vehicles that people are using when it comes to retirement. This is actually a piece of bipartisan legislation, which is actually pretty encouraging. I feel like we don’t hear that often out of Washington.

Karl Eggerss: Very rare, very rare.

David Akright: Yeah, so it’s good. Currently as it stands right now, it has passed through the House, almost unanimously. And so it’s currently in the Senate. But from what I hear, most people expect it to pass almost as it’s written today. Maybe a little bit… A few tweaks here and there.

Karl Eggerss: You think if it does, is it something slated for voting in 2019?

David Akright: That’s right, yeah. They do expect it to be signed into law by President Trump at the end of the year. Now that could always change, but that’s what signs are pointing to right now.

Karl Eggerss: And then would it go into effect in 2020?

David Akright: It would.

Karl Eggerss: Okay.

David Akright: Yeah. That’s how it’s written today. So it would start in the beginning of 2020.

Karl Eggerss: So what are some of the main highlights? Because obviously the name implies that it’s trying to help people for their retirement. So is it?

David Akright: Yeah, I think for the most part it is. Yeah, I’ll touch on just a few of the highlights of the piece of legislation, as it’s written today. So the first part is, is more access to employer plans. Most Americans, they save for retirement in their 401k plan, that’s how most people build up their retirement savings as they’re working. And so what this bill is trying to do was make them more accessible for all employees, and employers as well too.

David Akright: 401k plans can be somewhat costly on an administrative cost. And so it may deter small businesses away from using these 401k plans. One of the parts of this bill is making it more affordable for small businesses to set up these 401k plans. So there’s a small business credit to help defray some of the startup costs for these 401k plans, so I think that’s generally a good thing.

David Akright: Another thing is that in terms of automatic enrollment, so this is something that’s become more and more popular, is as employees start, they’re automatically enrolled in that 401k.

Karl Eggerss: It’s like an opt out, as opposed to an opt in. Yeah.

David Akright: Exactly, exactly. And I think for the most part, people don’t opt out. I think a lot of times 401k’s are thought of as just set it and forget it. And if your contributions are automatically going in there, and they’re invested based on your risk tolerance, and everything like that, you may wake up one day and be glad that you didn’t opt out.
Karl Eggerss: Sure, sure.

David Akright: So I think the really positive pieces of this bill has to do with these 401k plans.

Karl Eggerss: Okay.

David Akright: Yeah.

Karl Eggerss: Good. So there’s been a lot of talk about something, I believe it was probably in ’96 or ’97, as far as I can recall, when stretch IRAs or inherited IRAs came in. Prior to that, somebody dies, father, mother dies, kids inherit the IRA and they had to distribute it, and pay all the taxes, bump them up potentially into another bracket, high bracket. And in the late ’90s, that changed, and they allowed a stretch, which essentially allowed the child, we’ll call it in this example, to stretch those distributions out over their lifetime.

David Akright: Correct.

Karl Eggerss: Something’s changing with that if this bill goes through.

David Akright: That’s right. Yeah. As you mentioned, so let’s just as an example, let’s just say, a 30 year old inherits an IRA from their parents.

Karl Eggerss: Right.

David Akright: So the second one passed away, the 30 year old inherits it. They got to stretch that out, maybe over 50 years, based on their lifetime.

Karl Eggerss: Sure.

David Akright: And so they’re benefiting from a lot of tax deferral of that inherited IRA. And so in order to pay for this bill, they established what’s called the elimination of the stretch IRA. And so what that does is once you inherit an IRA from a non-spouse, you are required to fully distribute that IRA within 10 years of inheriting it.

Karl Eggerss: Which again, dependent on somebody’s age, like you said, you could have been stretching this out over 40, 50, 60 years potentially.

David Akright: That’s right.

Karl Eggerss: So that is a big deal. But what that does, like you said, to pay for it, IRS gets their money faster to help fund the benefits of this SECURE Act.

David Akright: That’s right. And I think the reasoning behind that is the IRS does not view an inherited IRA as a retirement vehicle. They want you to actually distribute that money, pay taxes on it, and then go spend that through consumption, which will ultimately help boost the economy. That’s the thought there. But they don’t want that to be a retirement savings tool for people. They want that to be, pay taxes on that and consume it.

Karl Eggerss: Which rarely does an IRA fully get… I mean, it’s supposed to distribute based on their life expectancy. That’s what the required minimum distribution actuarial tables are based on is somebody’s life expectancy. So it’s supposed to be exhausted theoretically by the time you die. Because it grows over time, rarely do you see that, but that is the principle behind it. So changing the stretch IRA to 10 years is one of the key components. What’s another one?

David Akright: Yeah, so I think more of a positive one is that most people know that you have to start taking your required minimum distributions from your IRA accounts once you turn age 70 and a half. Well,
that was established decades ago. And so actuarial tables have changed since then. So they’ve made a modification that, if this were to pass, that RMDs would actually start at age 72 now.

Karl Eggerss: Which makes sense. I mean, you’re going to see probably social security, the normal age, full retirement age go up. You should be seeing this go up as well, but to your point, people are living longer, but that 70 and a half was put in decades ago.

David Akright: Sure, sure. And top of that is once you reached age 70 and a half, you were no longer allowed to contribute to an IRA as well too. They’re also going to take that away. Because it’s not uncommon to see people working past age 70 and a half, and if they’re eligible to contribute to an IRA, that’s something that they’re… They want to encourage people to continue to save for retirement.

Karl Eggerss: Sure. No, that makes sense.

David Akright: That’s another piece of that legislation.

Karl Eggerss: Yeah. I see you have something with 529’s, that you had mentioned, or we talked about kind of off before the show started. How does this impact 529’s? Which are of course a pretty big educational savings plan, very popular one.

David Akright: Yeah. So with the new tax law that went actually into place in beginning of 2018, they expanded what a 529 can be used for. Before it was only secondary education, and with the new tax law that’s already in place, it allowed it for K through 12 education expenses.

Karl Eggerss: Sure, private schools.

David Akright: Correct. Up to $10,000 per beneficiary. And so they’re just expanding that a little bit more, and they’re allowing it for homeschooling as well too. So it just is expanding the use of that savings tool.

Karl Eggerss: IRAs, pretty much that was the 70 and a half going to 72 and a half, or 72?

David Akright: 72.

Karl Eggerss: 72. Stretch IRA coming down to 10 years, 529’s, what else is in this act as far as a big highlight?

David Akright: Well, yeah, I think just going back to that employer plan, they want to make it a little bit simpler. Some of the safe harbor rules that can get fairly complex, in terms of when you can contribute and things along those lines, they’re trying to simplify that a little bit more.

Karl Eggerss: Again, the crux of it is to make things better for retirees.

David Akright: Sure.

Karl Eggerss: But as you said earlier, it has to be paid for in some way and that’s where the stretch IRA comes in. From a planning standpoint, obviously the goal of this podcast is to educate people. Our new podcast title is Creating Richer Lives. And that can mean a lot of different things to different people. So from a planning standpoint, what are some things to think about with this potentially coming into play in the next few months?

David Akright: Sure, yeah, that’s a great question. And I think there’s going to be a lot more planning opportunities as it pertains to this piece of legislation. And really to kind of quickly summarize it, is it makes the IRAs a less valuable estate planning tool.

David Akright: I’d say just as a general rule of thumb, the larger the IRA, the more it’s going to be effected by this piece of legislation. Because the larger the IRA, generally the wealthier an IRA owner can be. And so there tends to be more that’s passed down to their children, once they inherit an IRA. And so the larger that balance that they’re inheriting, the more that they could be subject to taxes, and even some protection from that IRA money as well too.

Karl Eggerss: Well, and again this is why we emphasize planning so much because this dramatically changes the game for large IRAs. Especially in an inherited situation, to have to distribute it over 10 years, versus a lifetime. That’s going to impact a lot of people, and so projecting out potentially what your taxes might look like, your cash flows, very, very important. And again, the more you plan, the more you can try to reduce those taxes, try to accomplish what you want in a more efficient manner.

David Akright: Exactly. And so I think really, it probably should go without

David Akright: But a lot of the planning opportunity is going to take place while the IRA owner is still living. Once they pass away and it’s been inherited, there’s some planning in terms of how you distribute it out within that 10 years, once you’ve inherited the IRA. But for the most part, the bulk of the planning is going to be done while the IRA owner is still alive.

Karl Eggerss: Right. I mean one thing we do a lot of is Roth conversions when people retire and they don’t have any income. They go, oh my gosh, I don’t have any income. And we go, this is great you don’t have any income. If you have assets saved up, there’s a lot of things that can be done with that and the timing of that. But how much you do is critical, because you can do too much, and obviously bump you in another tax bracket. So again, it all goes back to planning.

David Akright: Yeah. And I think Roth conversions is going to be one of the more important planning opportunities as it pertains to the Secure Act.

Karl Eggerss: Now we did hear prior to President Trump being elected, there was talk about elimination of the Roth, or probably a grandfathering, you know the ones that were in place stayed. That’s not in here.

David Akright: That’s not now.

Karl Eggerss: And I mean have you heard any talk about that? Because it’s such a great tool, especially inside of 401ks, by the way.

David Akright: Correct. So there hasn’t been any talk about that as it pertains to the Secure Act. Now the elimination of the stretch IRA would also apply to Roths as well too. So it will have an effect there. So if husband and wife have a Roth IRA and they both pass away and child inherits that Roth IRA prior to this legislation, or as it is today, you could stretch the Roth IRA out over your life.

David Akright: And so that’s a long time period of tax free investment performance. And so with the elimination of that, and you have to distribute it within 10 years, it will go away. Now there’s still not going to be any taxes due when you distribute it, because that’s the benefit of the Roth IRA. But now it’s sort of getting pulled out of that tax-free Roth wrapper, if you will.

Karl Eggerss: Yeah. No, that’s an excellent point because it’s very critical. So what else from the planning side should people be thinking about? I mean, is there any prep, if we know this is … let’s just say it was going to go through January 1st, 2020. anything people need to be doing now or thinking about now? Obviously talking very general, we don’t know people’s specific situations, but what things should people be thinking about? Other than obviously circling back to that financial plan, and maybe once we know this goes through to update the plan and take some of those things in consideration.

David Akright: Sure, yeah. I’m always going to caution people to not do anything too serious until it’s actually signed into law, because a lot can happen between now and then. But it’s good to be aware of, and that’s the point of this particular discussion. I think a lot of the planning opportunities today, you know, we mentioned Roth conversions, I think you’re going to see a lot more of that. If somebody’s in their 70s and 80s and their income is much lower because they’re no longer working, they may have some social security and they’re taking RMDs and things like that, but they could be in a much lower tax bracket today.

David Akright: And once you distribute out of the IRA, you’re locking in that lower tax bracket compared to what your children when they inherit it, they may still be working and in a higher tax bracket and things like that. So I think you’re going to see a lot more of of Roth conversions. Again, I would probably wait until it’s signed into a law before we started doing that, but-

Karl Eggerss: And there was a misconception regarding Roth conversions versus contributions, not to go off on a tangent, but I actually had a question this week from a client who said, am I even allowed to do that? I said, yes, you’re allowed to do that. The contributions is where they look at your income, et cetera. Conversions, not so much. So yeah, again, you can do some planning around that.

David Akright: Yeah, exactly. That’s a great point, because I’ve dealt with that before too, when can they do a conversion. And so it’s much more liberal on when you can do that versus a contribution. Another thing I’ll point out is how your charitable contributions, how you deal with those with your IRA. It’s pretty common to see clients use their IRAs as a charitable gifting tool. So you can either do what’s called a qualified charitable distribution. Once you’ve reached age … well it’s 70 and a half now, it’s going to be 72. Once you’ve reached that age, you can make donations directly to a charity from your IRA account and it won’t be counted as income.

Karl Eggerss: And there are limits to that, but essentially what you’re saying is, somebody’s given their church X dollars per week. They potentially could not do that in a year, use their distribution that was already going to be taxed to them. It goes straight to the church and neither party pays taxes on it. It’s a very efficient way … and from a cashflow perspective, you get to keep that cash that you were giving to the church. Everybody wins except the IRS.

David Akright: Exactly. Yeah. And another benefit that I often bring up is it reduces your adjusted gross income when you do that. And oftentimes, things like Medicare premiums are tied to your adjusted gross income. And so this is just a great way to just directly reduce your AGI. So there are other benefits of that as well too.

Karl Eggerss: Yeah, but again, see if you take these things in isolation without a comprehensive plan, you wouldn’t see that, what you’re talking about. You would say, oh, I know I have this benefit in isolation, but you know, you need to take in consideration your social security income, your capital gains, your Roth conversions. Put it all into the hopper and go, oh, I see if I, if I move this dial, it has a direct impact over here, either positive or negative. And that’s when you start optimizing it.

David Akright: That’s exactly right. And even on top of that, things that we’ve been talking to our clients about is with the increased standard deduction, we see prior to … when the standard deduction was much lower prior to this tax law, with charitable contributions and no cap on property taxes, things like that, it was pretty unusual to see a client using the standard deduction. Especially in Texas when property taxes are higher than other states.

David Akright: And now that there’s a cap on 10,000 on property taxes, and deductions … certain, or got phased out and things like that. We’re seeing more clients utilize a QCD, a qualified charitable distribution, for their charitable contributions and now using the standard deduction. So there’s some tax savings to be had there as well too.

Karl Eggerss: Could somebody do the QCD if they were 50 years old?

David Akright: No, they can’t.

Karl Eggerss: No, they got to be-

David Akright: Exactly.

Karl Eggerss: This is to replace the RMD essentially.

David Akright: Exactly. That’s a great point.

Karl Eggerss: Required minimum distribution.

David Akright: That’s right. And another thing with as it pertains to charity, is you can also leave a charity charity as the beneficiary of your IRA as well too. So if you have husband and spouse, spousal rollovers are not changing. So if you know husband passes away, it can be rolled over to the wife’s IRA, and she takes RMDs based on her life expectancy. So the Secure Act does not change any of that. It has to do with, now that non spouse beneficiary. And so by leaving it directly to a charity, that’s money that you got a deduction on when you put it in the IRA, and now it’s going directly to charity from there.

Karl Eggerss: A lot of people listen and do have trusts set up for various purposes. How are trusts impacted, or at least people with trusts, should they be thinking about that right now? Should they be changing anything?

David Akright: Yeah. Again, I would not recommend you go out and change any of your legal documents right now because that can get expensive, obviously. But if the Secure Act does pass, which it’s looking like there’s a good chance that it will, there’s going to be some impact as it pertains to a trust being an IRA beneficiary.

David Akright: So in today’s current tax law and as it’s been in the past, it’s not uncommon to see an IRA being left to a trust for the benefit of children, for many different reasons. You know, often it’s a spendthrift issue, you want to have trust protection. There’s also some creditor protection benefits from the trust as well too. And so long as the trust was written correctly as an IRA beneficiary, it would actually look through, and RMDs required distributions were based on the oldest beneficiary’s age.

David Akright: So again, if it’s a 20 year old beneficiary of the trust, it can be stretched out over 50 years. Well, now with that stretch going away, and you have to make those distributions within 10 years, trusts really aren’t as effective of an IRA beneficiary.

Karl Eggerss: Yeah. No, that makes sense. So again, I mean … and people should be checking their beneficiaries every year. This may force some of those people that had trusts on their … and maybe they don’t even know, they did it years ago, to update that. And of course all of this should be updated yearly. Your trust, your beneficiaries, [crosstalk 00:30:36] your plans. Yeah, precisely. And oftentimes, you know when the government does introduce some bill, there’s domino effects. And some of it’s for some people’s benefits, some of it’s detrimental to them, but it does take more planning.

Karl Eggerss: So, appreciate you joining us, David Akright, who is a certified financial planner with Covenant. Thanks for coming in and talking about this, and we’ll have you back soon.

David Akright: Yeah, appreciate it Karl. Thanks so much.

Karl Eggerss: All right. And everybody else, don’t forget, creatingricherlives.com is the new website. We will continue to add more and more things to that particular site. So thank you for joining us. If you need our help, (210) 526-0057. Have a wonderful weekend. Take care, everybody.

 

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