You have insurance on your home, your car, your health.
How about your retirement plan?
“People have homeowners insurance to protect against fires and floods,” notes independent financial planner Stephen Ng, founder and president of Stephen Ng Financial Group. “They buy insurance to replace their car if it gets wrecked and they buy health insurance to protect themselves from medical costs.
“But for many people, their biggest material asset is their retirement portfolio. When I look at a new client’s portfolio and ask, ‘Where’s your insurance?’ they look at me like I’m crazy!”
Insure your retirement fund by taking steps to safeguard at least a portion of it, Ng says. As you get closer to retiring, the amount you safeguard will be what you need to rely on for your retirement income.
“Your retirement income should be derived from guaranteed sources, such as Social Security benefits and your pension plan,” says Ng, a licensed 3(21) fiduciary advisor, certified to advise companies about their 401(k) and other retirement plans. “It’s the amount you need to pay the bills and do the other things you hope to do in retirement, so your retirement income needs to be a guaranteed source of income.
“Then you look for your ‘play checks.’ That’s the money you don’t absolutely have to have, so you can still try to grow it, and take risks with it, in the market.”
Ng offers these tips for insuring your retirement plan:
• Invest a portion of your portfolio in annuities.
Annuities are long-term investment options through insurance companies that guarantee you payments over a certain rate of time, which could be the rest of your life or the life of your spouse or other survivor. Note: The guarantee is subject to the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
• If you leave your job, quickly roll your employer-sponsored 401(k) into an IRA.
While 401(k)s are a great tool for saving, particularly if your employer is providing matching funds, if you were to die, the taxes your survivors would pay on your 401(k) would be much higher than on an IRA. That’s because they would have to inherit the money in a lump sum – that could easily take 35 percent right off the top. The lump-sum rule does not apply to IRAs. While your spouse would have the option to inherit your 401(k) as an IRA, your children would not. So, take advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k), but if you leave the company, convert to an IRA or ROTH IRA. You can also begin transferring your 401(k) funds to an IRA at age 59½.
• Consider converting your IRA to a ROTH IRA.
For protection from future income tax rate increases, you should consider slowly converting your tax-deferred IRA funds into a ROTH IRA. Yes, you’ll have to pay the taxes now on the money you transfer, but that will guarantee that withdrawals in your retirement are not taxed – even as the money grows. If you plan to leave at least part of your IRA to your children, they’ll benefit from a fund that continues to grow tax-free.