Retirement Accounts

Everything Everyone Must Know About Medicare

Medicare is the single payer and social insurance health policy program in the national setting that is administered by the federal government. This has been around since 1966. It is also currently using 30 to 50 privately owned insurance companies all over the United States and is also under contract in the administration.

The Medicare in the US is funded by payroll taxes, surtaxes, and premium from the beneficiaries as well as the general revenue. It also provides the health insurance for Americans who are also over the age of 65 and are 65 years old, as long as they have worked and paid the system through the deductions in their payroll in the form of taxes. Medicare also offers health insurance to the young generation who have disability status as long as it is determined by the SSA or the Social Security Administration. They also consider the individuals who are suffering the end stages of renal diseases as well as the end stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

On average, the health policy Medicare covers half of health care plan policies and charges for those who have been enrolled. These enrollees and participants must also cover the remaining costs using their supplemental insurance or their separate insurance. There are others who even get the payments fresh from their pockets. These costs also vary and depend on the total of the health care policy that the enrollee from the Medicare needs. There might also be costs of the services that have been uncovered. For example, for the long-term policies, these include the hearing, dental as well as vision care. These also include insurance premiums that are supplemental.

It is important to know that Medicare has four Parts. Part A covers the hospice and hospital services and costs. Part B covers the costs for the outpatient services. Part D is the portion that covers the prescription drugs that are self-administered. Part C serves as the alternative to all the other parts that are allowed to experiment with structured plans that are set up differently which also reduces the costs to the government. This lets patients decide which plans to choose and they usually opt for one that has the most benefits.

History of Medicare

 Medicare has always been known as Medicare. This was the original name given to the program that has provided medical care for different families of the people who were serving in the military. They were part of the military and members of the Dependent’s Medical Care Act. This was passed in Congress in 1956. It was President Eisenhower who held the very first White House Conference on the topic of Aging. This was in January 1961. This was also the time when the program for health care that would provide social security benefits was proposed. In July 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was the president, the Congress has enacted under the benefits of Medicare as stated in Title XVIII and stated in the Social Security Act. It also provided the health insurance coverage and policies to individuals aged 65 and even older, no matter how much they earn and their medical history. Johnson then signed the bill and it became a law on July 30, 1965. This was done at the Presidential Library named after Harry S. Truman in Independence, Missouri. The first recipients of the said program were Former President Truman along with his wife, the former First Lady named Bess Truman.

Before Medicare was created, around 60% of individuals who were over the age of 65 had access to health insurance. The coverage, unfortunately, was often unaffordable and unavailable to most, simply because the older individuals paid more than thrice as much for the younger people who had health insurance. Many of this younger group have become eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare because the law was passed and this gave them the benefit.

In 1966 Medicare combatted the racial integration of many people who were in the waiting room. They also promoted desegregation in hospital floors as well as physician practices and made sure that any race is equal whenever they made payments to their health care issuers and providers.

Medicare has been operating for almost half a century and it has gone through several changes. For example, since 1965, the provisions of Medicare have already expanded and included benefits for physical, chiropractic therapy and speech in 1972. Medicare also added the beneficiaries to opt and pay for the health maintenance in the 1980s. Through the years, Congress has already expanded the Medicare eligibility to younger individuals who have been diagnosed with permanent disabilities and also received the SSDI or the Social Security Disability Insurance payments. Those who have also been diagnosed with ESRD or the end-stage renal disease are also eligible for this.

In the 1980s, the association of Medicare with HMOs has begun and it was formalized under the presidency of Bill Clinton. It started in 1997 in the form of Part C of Medicare. In 2003, under the presidency of George W Bush, the program under Medicare that covered almost every drug was submitted to the congress and was passed as the bill. It was also taken in effect in Part D of Medicare.

In the year of 1982, the government has also added the benefits to hospice in order to assist the elder policy holders but only on a temporary basis. It became permanent in 1984. Congress has also expanded this further in 2001 to include the younger individuals with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS or the scientific name being amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Administration of Medicare

 The CMS or the Centers for both Medicare as well as Medicaid Services is the component of the HHS or the Department of Health and Human Services that also administers Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP which is also the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CLIA and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments and also parts of the ACA or the Affordable Care Act. Along with the Department of Treasury and Department of Labor, CMS also looks into the implementation of the insurance reform and the provisions on the Accountability Act of 1996 which is Health Insurance Portability. This is also known as HIPAA. Most aspects and parts of the PPACA or the Patient Protection and Affordable Act. The SSA and the Social Security Administration is also responsible in determining the eligibility for Medicare, payment and eligibility for Extra Help as well as the Low Income Subsidy Payments that are related to the Part D of Medicare. It also collects the payments that are premium for the program that Medicare conducts.

The Chief Actuary of the CMS is also responsible in providing the necessary cost projections and accounting information to the Trustees of the Medicare Board. It is essential in assisting them and also assessing the financial care and health of the Medicare program. The Board is also required by the law to give out annual reports regarding the financial status of the Trust Funds of the Medicare. Those reports are also required to contain the actuarial opinion statement from the Chief Actuary.

Since Medicare programs started, CMS has always been the institution that was contracted with the insurance companies that are privately owned in order to operate the intermediaries between the medical providers and the government to be responsible for administering Part B as well as Part A benefits. The processes that are contracted also include the claims and the processing payment along with clinician enrollment, call center services as well as fraud investigation. In 1997, other insurance and policy plan companies started administering Part C. In 2005, other insurance plans started administering Part D.

The RUC or the Relative Value Update Committee or what is also known as the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee is composed of a group of physicians that are associated with the AMA or the American Medical Association. This institution advises the policy holders as well as the government regarding the pay standards for the insurance plan of Medicare as well as the procedures that patients should be performed by professionals as well as doctors under Part B of Medicare. A similar yet difference CMS system that also determines the rates that are paid for hospitals along with acute care. This also includes nursing facilities that are under Part A of Medicare.

Financing of Medicare

 Medicare has also several sources where it gets its finances. The inpatient under the portion Part A can be admitted in skilled nursing and hospital coverage and this is largely funded from 2.9% of the revenue and payroll tax. The law also provided a maximum amount when it comes to the compensation of the Medicare tax as well as its being imposed every year. The social Security tax also works in the similar way. On January 1, 1994, the government removed the compensation limit. Employees who are also self-employed are required to pay the full 2.9% on the net earnings of the self-employed individual because they are for the employer as well as the employee. They can also deduct half of the taxes from their income through calculating the income tax.

Starting 2013, the portion of Part A and its taxes from the earned income has exceeded $200,000 for every individual plan. As for married couples that filed jointly, this reached to $250,000. It also rose an additional 3.8% so that the portion of the subsidies can also be paid and mandated by the PPACA.

Parts D as well as Parts B are funded partially by the premiums that have been paid by the Medicare enrollees and these are also considered as the general revenue fund. In 2006, Medicare started adding surtax on the premium of Part B. This was targeted to seniors who earned a higher income in order to fund Part D partially. In the PPACA legislation of the income tax year 2010, Medicare added surtax to the premium portion of Part D and also targeted these to the seniors who were earning lots of income. This is also conducted so that the PPACA can be partially funded along with the beneficiaries from Part B and subject to the double surtax. There is a double amount so that it can also partially fund PPACA.

Parts A, B and D all use trust funds that are separate from one another so that there can be a reimbursement of both the receipt and disbursement of the funds that are mentioned. Part C utilizes all these trusts funds in proportion to one another so that it can be determined by the CMS and reflect that all the beneficiaries of Part C are complete in the full parts of Part A and Part B. Medicare as well as the medical needs for each capita are regarded as fee for service or what is also known as FFS.

Medicare and its spending amounted to 15% of the whole federal spending of the United States. Research all show that this can even exceed 17% by the year 2020.

The retirement of individuals who are called the Baby Boom generation is expected to increase its enrollment by 2030 and reached up to 80 million because that was how the number of workers who are enrolled in the program has declined. The figures dropped from 3.7 and to a low of 2.4. There are the rising and total health care costs that also pose the financial challenges that are substantial to the program. Medicare spending is also projected to even get higher and reach $1 trillion by the year 2020.

It is important to note that for every three dollars, one dollar is spent on Medicare as part of the cost-reduction program. The cost reduction is also influenced by the various factors that include the reduction in unnecessary and inappropriate care through the evidence-based practices of evaluation along with reducing the total amount of duplicative health care. The cost reduction can also be affected by the medical errors that are done when administrative agency increases and the development of clinical guidelines reach the quality standards

Continuing Care Facilities and the Benefits Received from These

Continuing care facilities or what is also known as continuing care retirement communities, CCRCs for short, provide the residents the lifetime care that they need. They also assure that the care that the recipient receives is provided in the best way possible which also includes nursing assistance, especially when this is needed. This kind of living arrangement can also be useful specifically to couples who are financially stable and in need of different kinds of care and prefer to maintain their togetherness, even if the usual CCRC resident is a financially and physically independent, highly educated, single 80-year-old female.

Although the CCRCs have already gained a negative reputation during the 1980s due to some closed financial difficulty, the total number of the CCRCs available in the US has reached a high of 1,200 and it even continues to increase every year. There are around 350,000 residents residing in the not-for-profit as well as the for-profit facilities This number is predicted to increase because more and more people are expected to qualify and meet the requirements that are set for the CCRCs. The entrance restrictions do specify a specific minimum age, along with a certain statute of finances and health. CCRCs also look for the candidate who:

  • Has an annual earning of 1.5 to 2 times the monthly fee that they usually charge.
  • Will not cost more financially in their contributions especially when they become a resident.

Entrance lists for the qualified beneficiaries are for years and sometimes months. These are long-term residents in the facilities, therefore, it is suggested that individuals begin looking at care facilities that are long term and continue especially for their loved ones.

Levels of Continuing Care

 Most of the CCRCs offer three different levels of continuing care: these are the ILUs or the independent living units, the skilled nursing care and the assisted living. There are cases wherein the individual progresses through all these levels of care. For example, they require little care at the beginning and then as the days progress, they require more and more attention. There are also cases when the residents need additional care for a certain period and then they return to assisted or independent living over time.

  • At the beginning of these levels, especially the independent living units, the resident can choose to reside in his or her own place or residential unit. There are occupancy units that are for married individuals. The majority of this kind of care are for single individuals so they come in the form of single units like a studio apartment, a one-bedroom. For the residents who are married, two bedroom and larger units are also offered. During their stay, the residential services that the patient can acquire include laundry services, meals, and housekeeping. There’s the acute treatment through physical therapy and skilled nursing and the professionals nearby are there to assist them with their personal needs when needed. Most facilities include gardening areas, recreational facilities, swimming pools, walking trails, tennis courts, golf courses and craft rooms which must be taken advantage of especially when residents will stay there for the long run.
  • The assisted living is also a kind of intermediate level of care for residents that prefer to experience the balance between skilled nursing care along with independent living. It is during this period when residents who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses and require assistance are attended medically and assisted in their personal tasks such as dressing, eating, and bathing.
  • Finally, the skilled nursing care set-up is offered in most CCRCs through short-term and long-term rehabilitative services and nursing care. These mentioned services are offered on the site and there are some facilities that are near these nursing homes, just in case they do not have this specific kind within the vicinity.

Under almost every circumstance mentioned, the individual that is a resident must reasonably independent and also healthy in order to be admitted to continuing care facilities. The levels of care that the resident requires is assessed initially and there is a process that must be explained in the contract. Usually, a group assesses the individual and also checks in with the family members and medical advisers of the individual. The residents are also re-assessed regularly – especially when their circumstances require them to change their level of continuing care over a period of time.

Here are some services that continuing care facilities:

  • Educational programs
  • Gardening space
  • Laundry services
  • On-site health care and nursing
  • Personal conveniences such as banks, haircutters and library)
  • Security Systems
  • Transportation
  • Processing of Medicare as well as insurance reimbursement forms
  • Organized social and recreational activities
  • Meal services
  • Housekeeping
  • Exercise classes
  • Craft and woodworking activities

 Fees and Payment of Continuing Care Services

 The activities mentioned in the previous part of this article are the reasons why there are continuing care facilities that are more expensive than the rest. All fees indicated must be detailed and clear even if it is just the initial contract for an individual who will be residing in the facility. Before the individual or a loved one, on behalf of the future resident, signs the contract, he or she should seek the advice of his or her financial advisor to check the finances so that it is possible to meet all the terms as stated in the contract through the years, since this is a continuing care facility. Additionally, financial advisors should check the finances of the continuing care facilities as well in order to decide whether it is a practical financial investment to make in the future.

There are three kinds of payments that exist for the continuing care facilities. This also include the plan with the monthly and entry fee as well as plan with the rental fee and the plan that is based on the equity of the

  • The monthly and entry fee plans are widely used the most. It is under this coverage that the resident is required to pay an expensive entry fee upfront and most of the time, this is non-refundable. If it is, then it is refundable but it decreases over time. It can also be partially refundable or completely refundable. The policies that concern most residents are the initial fee for entry because it really varies between the different continuing care facilities out there. It is strongly advised that individuals check the contract so that they can go for the specific facility that they feel worth paying for. On average, the entrance fees for these CCRCs range from $60,000 to as much as $120,000. Therefore, the monthly fees can be as much as $1,000 to $1,6000 and these are also charged in order to cover the expenses that are associated with the units that the residentials live in, the assistance services and the medical care.
  • Rental plans as stated on the contract resort to the monthly fee that comes in the form of rental to cover the services as well as the housing that the residents receive. There are times when health care is not included in these services so it is better to check carefully especially when looking at the said plans.
  • The equity based plans allow the individuals to buy their own residential areas. When they do this, the individuals can gain money all for their appreciation of the resident that they are living in. They can also resell the unit when they are deemed qualified to do so. When this is the case, then the owner’s association is the institution that governs the health care and the residential services, which the residents can purchase aside from the living area that they already are in.

No matter what kind of payment plan that the residents opted for the costs actually vary depending on the age, marital status, gender and location of the facility. Individuals must expect their loved one to pay even more than the average rate if he or she is:

  • Young and secure on the financial aspect and capable of consistently paying the monthly rate for a long period of time.
  • Female because it is believed that they live longer
  • Married because there is a higher possibility that the spouse will eventually become ill and both of them will move to a smaller unit, therefore increase the turnover in the residential area of the resident.
  • Looking for units in the West, South, Northeast regions of the United States.

Individuals are also greatly encouraged to have their lawyers review the contract of the CCRCs before signing this. The document because it is a contract legally binds the resident to the CCRCs for the remainder of his or her life.

The payment contracts of continuing care facilities are prepared in one of these three ways:

  • These are contracts that are quite comprehensive and completely cover the residential services, long-term nursing care, amenities and shelter and not increase the monthly payments that the resident has already signed up for. There is an excepti0on though and that is for the inflation adjustments if the situation calls for it. The set-up of this kind of contract spreads the risk in health on the residents in order for no resident would experience any form of financial ruin. A majority of the CCRCs offer this kind of agreement.

 Modified contract covers the residential services, shelter, and amenities of a specific amount of nursing care. After the period when the stated kind of nursing care has been utilized, then the resident pays for the required services on a monthly or even a daily basis.

 The fee-for-service kind of contract covers residential services, shelter, and amenities, as well as short-term nursing care and emergencies. Residents must then pay these fees in the long run but at a number of daily rates.

The overall fees for each kind of contract decrease for every kind of service provided and it decreases as well. It is very crucial to note the resident that a number of CCRCs are also participants of Medicaid and Medicare and sometimes even both of these programs.

Finding the Right Continuing Care Facility

 Since no federal regulations for the CCRCs get in the way, it is possible for everyone to look for their local or state guidelines. It is also crucial that they check which facilities are accredited by the CCAC or what is called the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission. This is an accrediting body that is independent and is also sponsored by what is called the Association for the Home and Services of Aging Individuals. The accreditation of the CCAC is required to submit all the financial statements that were incurred yearly and must also be renewed every fifth year of the resident in that said facility.

The same with all the residential communities, the loved ones should also sign the continuing care community facility once they have already checked the facilities. When interviewing prospective facilities, it is very important to have a long list of questions to ask. Here are examples of questions that can be asked especially when a loved one is investing in continuing care. These questions must be asked along with the basic questions regarding the facility.

  • Is it accredited by CCAC?
  • What kinds of recreational activities can residents engage in? How often are the activities conducted?
  • Can the residents have pets?
  • How much is the upfront entry fee? Is it refundable?
  • How do you calculate the monthly fees?
  • What kind of health care do you provide to the residents when they are in your facility? How often are the residents reassessed?
  • Do you provide long term or short-term health care?
  • Are there limits on the fees?
  • Will there be changes on the monthly rates? If so, why?

Once the individual has found the right facility for their loved ones and these fit the needs that they require then it is a good investment to let their beloved elderly stay there and be assured that the latter will be taken care of and looked after in the best way possible.

Where is Your Tax Home?

If your job requires you to travel from time to time, some of the expenses that you incur while traveling away from home may be entitled to tax deductions. In this sense, however, home does not necessarily refer to the place where you live but the place where you work. This is what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to as your tax home.

Determining where your tax home is is the first and most fundamental thing that you need to do if you want to determine if you are really traveling away from home.

Basically, your tax home refers to the general area of your workplace, regardless of where you actually live. So, if you work in New York, your tax home is New York.

Do not be confused if the place where you work is different from the place where you lay your head at night, because your tax home designation has nothing to do with where you live. In fact, you may travel miles from your permanent residence to your workplace every day, but your workplace will still and always be your tax home.

 Why You Need to Determine Your Tax Home

Often, when you attend a cocktail party and are asked where your home is, your answer is your current place of residence. However, that is not necessarily the case if the one asking you is from the IRS.  While their tax home is the same as their personal home for some taxpayers, the story is different for those who frequently travel for work or business. Don’t think that your tax home doesn’t deserve a thought, because it does matter especially for taxpayers like you.

According to the IRS, your travel can be considered deductible if your work or business requires you to be away from home longer than your normal work hours. Given that, it is clear that the key criterion in determining if your travel expenses are deductible is if your travel takes you away from your tax home.

Differentiating your tax home from your personal home is crucial because only those expenses incur while you are away from your tax home are considered by the law as deductible.

Your Tax Home, As Per the IRS

 IRS’ definition of tax home is plain and simple—Your tax home is your regular place of business or post of duty, regardless of where you maintain your family home.

Basically, your tax home covers the general area or the entire city where your business or workplace is located. If your office is somewhere in Cortlandt Street in New York, then your tax home is New York. If you travel to Louisville every week for your business but return to your permanent residence in Nashville on weekends, your tax home is still Louisville even if you call Nashville home.

 Why Your Workplace Must Be Your Tax Home

There is a reason the IRS requires every taxpayer to know their tax home, and there is a reason the tax home designation exists in the IRS law. The purpose of the tax home designation is for the deduction of travel expenses associated with work or business. This explains why in the eyes of the tax-collecting agency, your workplace is your home and not your apartment.

Imagine living miles outside Louisville but working in the city. If there is no tax home designation, then you must also be counting your house in Nashville out as your tax home. If that is the case, then theoretically, you can declare each and every expense you spend in Nashville as a business or work-related expense. The IRS is wise enough not to fall for such tricks.

When You Have More Than One Regular Place of Business

 Some taxpayers find it hard to determine their tax home because they have multiple places of business. Should that be your case, then your tax home must be your main place of business or the place where you conduct majority of your business. So, if you have offices in Nashville, Louisville and Franklin, then you must declare the place where you do most of your work as your tax home. In this case, the IRS expects you to consider the following in determining your tax home:

  • How much is the total time that you normally spend in each workplace?
  • How much work do you usually accomplish in each workplace?
  • How much money do you make in each workplace? Is the income you earn from conducting business there significant or insignificant?

Of the above mentioned criteria, the first one is the most important since the IRS states that the place where you conduct most of your business should be your tax home. Logically, the workplace where you spend most of your time is the same place where you conduct majority of your business.

Take this as an example. You reside in Birmingham since you have a seasonal job there for nine months each year. Annually, you earn around $50,000 from your seasonal job there. For the rest of the year which is equivalent to three months, you work in Atlanta where you earn $20,000. In that case, you may consider Birmingham as your main place of business since you spend most of your time there and you earn most of your significant income there.

When You Do Not Have a Regular or Main Place of Business

 Taxpayers who have more than one regular place of business and those who do not have a regular or main place of business usually have the same dilemma in determining their tax home. According to the IRS, for taxpayers whose nature of work causes them to not have a regular or main place of business, their tax home must be the location of their residence or where they regularly live.

Say you are a freelance web designer and do not have a regular office where you conduct business. Since your job requires you to visit offices of your clients to discuss business with them, and since you do not really have a workplace of your own, then your tax home is your house.

Freelance workers and travel bloggers are perfect examples of taxpayers who do not have a regular workplace, since they do not have a fixed place where they conduct business. In this case, you do most of the work at home so your tax home may be your actual home or your personal residence.

Take a look at these factors which the IRS considers in determining your tax home if you do not have a regular place of business:

  • You at least perform part of your business in the area of your personal residence and use it for lodging while conducting business.
  • There are living expenses in your personal residence that you are compelled to duplicate because your job or business needs you to travel away from home.
  • You do not abandon the area of both your place of lodging and personal residence are located, members of your family live with you in that residence, and you use that home for lodging most of the time.

Remember that you need to meet all the three criteria so you can consider your personal residence as your tax home. If you meet all the three factors, then any travel expense that you may incur away from your personal home can be considered deductible since they meet the “away from home” requirement for business travel deductions.

Unfortunately though, if you only meet one of the three factors, then the IRS can consider you as not having a true tax home so you can write off none of your travel expenses.

For example, your family residence is located in Indianapolis. In that city, you work 15 weeks a year. For the rest of the year, you work for the same employer in Cincinnati, where you dine in expensive restaurants and sleep in a rented apartment. For you, it doesn’t really matter whether you are in Indianapolis or in Cincinnati because your salary is the same whether you are in one city or the other. However, since you conduct most of your business in Cincinnati, that city is considered your tax home. That means that even if your expenses there are bigger than when you are in Indianapolis, you cannot deduct any of your expenses for meals and lodging while you are there. When you return to your family home in Indianapolis, you are away from your tax home so you can deduct the cost of your round trip between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, as well as part of your family’s living expenses for meals and lodging while working in your personal home.

When You Do Not Have a Fixed Workplace and a Fixed Home Address

 In determining your tax home, there is something much worse than having more than one regular workplace or not having a regular workplace at all– Not having a regular place of business or post of duty and no personal residence at the same time.

While determining your tax home is not that easy if you have more than one regular workplace, it becomes easy when you finally determine which among your workplaces is your tax home. And while determining your tax home is not that easy when you do not have a regular workplace, it becomes easy when you have a personal residence which you can call your tax home.

However, things become a bit complicated when you do not have a regular place of business and you do not have a place where you regularly live at the same time. In that case, the IRS considers you as an itinerant.

The IRS law states that the tax home of an itinerant or a transient is wherever he works. If you belong to this category, then you are not entitled to travel expense deductions because no matter where you work, you are never considered to be traveling away from home.

Since as an itinerant, everywhere you work is your tax home, you are never really away from home, which means that you cannot write off any of your travel expenses.

An outside salesman is an example of an itinerant. Say you are an outside salesman whose sales territory covers different states. The main office of your employee is in Memphis but you do not work or conduct any business there. Your work assignments are relatively temporary and you have no idea about the locations of your future assignments. Your sister is renting out a room somewhere in Saint Louis so you stay there for a couple of weekends each year, but you do not conduct any business in that area. You do not pay for your accommodation there either. Since you do not satisfy any of the previously mentioned factors that will make your regular home your tax home, then you are considered an itinerant and therefore have no deductible travel expenses.

 When Traveling is Considered Traveling Away from Your Tax Home

 Regardless of which of the abovementioned categories you fall under, all the said criteria boil down to the fact that determining your tax home is critical in determining your tax liability when traveling. Once you have already identified your tax home, it will become easier for you to know which of your travel expenses you should write off and which you should not.

It is also worth mentioning that these tax home rules are the same whether you are an employee or a self-employed individual, although there are certain instances when the degree to which you can write off your business travel expenses may differ.

For instance, employees can only deduct work-related expenses that they have not reimbursed from their employers, while self-employed individuals can deduct the full amount of their travel expenses as long as they are incurred away from their tax homes. In any case, remember to keep well-organized records like receipts, checks and other documents to support your deduction claims.

Why You Should Have A Pension Plan?

If you are worried about your retirement, the time to get everything organized is now. First consider the options that are available. Your pension plan is the security of your retired life. I is obvious that you don’t want any kind of financial burden after retirement, so the earlier you plan the better. There are lots of plans authorized by US government, and you can select any one of them suiting your needs. Before that you need to know the basic things involved in retirement planning.

Two types of pension plans

There is a policy known as cash balance pension plan. According to this plan, you can go for two different pension plans i.e. defined benefit plan and defined contribution plans. In the first plan, you will get a perfect amount  of money after your retirement and in the second plan you will have to deposit a set amount of money every time and according to the other terms and conditions you will get the amount of money against your deposit. The second plan can be beneficial in case your account gains more. Otherwise you can simply opt for the first plan if you do not want to take any kind of risk.

Fixed date pension plan

Investment can also be categorized in other ways. There is a term known as 401(k) plans. A policy known as target date retirement refund comes under the 401(k) plan. This is basically long term investment planning, and you can only opt for this pension plan when retirement time is fixed. However, there are also lots of options and categories in a single date target plan. You may get options like target 2030 plan. Furthermore, there may also be lots of different types of plans in 2030 plan itself. You will need to choose according to your risk taking capacity.

You can also try to understand few things before going for this plan. Check the investment strategy and see how much of your involvement is required or is it mainly the bank that gets involved, and then compare these things with your requirement. Try to understand where your money will be invested. If there is option of changing the invested plans then also you need to check where, when and how you can change. You should also clearly know when you can access your money.

Tax payment issues

Another major fact is tax payments. You should have a clear picture on the amount of tax that you need to pay on the retirement pension plan, and also the cost of the plan. There are also some important facts stated in The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 which protects the plan users from different problems. Considering all of this now will also help in your current tax deduction, and will ensure your future is secure.

 

 

Am I Going To Have To Work Forever Because I Am Self-Employed?

When you are self-employed you rely on yourself to pay your paychecks and insurance. Without any employer, retirement funding and saving falls on you entirely. That can be a lot to take on all by yourself. Unfortunately, more than 70% of self-employed people are not saving regularly for their retirement.

Irregular income is one or the largest challenges for self-employed people; therefore, opening up a retirement savings account is not always top priority.

The first step is to set up your retirement foundation. You should open up a retirement account as soon as you know which type of retirement account would be best for you. Just because you have an account open does not mean you have to start putting money in it right away. Having an open account will make it easy for you to be able to contribute money when you find yourself with extra cash flow.

Retirement Tips

Financial advisors offer several retirement tips that will help get self-employed people started with their retirement savings.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP-IRAs): Simplified Employee Pensions have a higher limit for contributions in comparison to Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs. The contribution limits are calculated by a percentage of your net profit. It is a good option for small businesses and partnerships that are closely held because every participant will have the exact same benefits. These plans are very easy to maintain, have flexible funding options and a variety of investment choices. You can contribute up to 25% of your compensation up to $52,000.

Individual 401(k)s: Individual 401(k)s are best suited for self-employed people that do not have any other employees. You are able to make the employer and the employee contributions for yourself allowing you to maximize your business tax deductions and your personal contributions to your retirement. If your business experiences irregular patterns of profits, you should consider this retirement plan type. Depending on your business’ net profit, the contribution limit is up to $52,000.

Savings Incentive Match Plan For Employees (SIMPLE IRAs): If your business has a steady flow of income and the employees would like to make contributions to save for their retirement, this plan might work for you. It allows employees to have salary deferral contributions and you can match a percentage of their contribution. Using a SIMPLE IRA, you can offer employees an incentive and avoid tons of administrative work that is required with a traditional 401(k)

Profit Sharing Plans: A profit sharing plan may be a good option for business owners that have variable profit but they want to reward employees by giving employees a percentage of the profits. These plans are extremely flexible. Every year, you can decide how much you want to contribute or skip a year if necessary.

Take Control Of Your Retirement Future: Self-employed people face many decisions every day but they often do not make themselves a top priority. The decisions you make are just as important as the ones you do not make. You can take control of your future by deciding right now to start your retirement foundation so you do not have to work forever. The only person that you hurt by putting it off is yourself.

What Is The Average American’s Easiest Tax Shelter?

What Is The Average American’s Easiest Tax Shelter?

The majority of people associate tax shelters with extremely wealthy taxpayers because they think they are expensive and complicated strategies to cut tax bills. What they do not know is that United States savings bonds are easy to understand and simple investments that have attractive tax attributes and can produce savings on your tax return.

Taxes Do Not Have To Be Paid On The Interest Incurred Until You Cash The Savings Bond In

Many people use retirement accounts such as 401(k)s to avoid paying capital gains and taxes until they need to use the money during retirement. With savings bonds, you can get the same tax deferral as these retirement accounts even before retirement. This makes them much different from more conventional investments.

Normally, the IRS requires taxes be paid on any interest income received from an interest baring asset. There are even some cases where you have to pay taxes on the interest that you do not receive such as with inflation protected bonds or zero coupon Treasury bonds.

With savings bonds, you do not have to pay taxes on the interest until you cash the bond in. The maximum, maturity period for savings bonds is 30 years. You can defer taxes on the interest for decades.

You Do Not Ever Have To Pay State Income Tax On U.S. Savings Bonds

After you cash in your savings bond, you will generally be required to pay federal income tax on the accrued interest. You do not have to pay state income tax on U.S. savings bonds and other United States government obligations because they are tax free at the state level. Most other investments are subject to state income tax reducing the amount of your return after tax.

If You Use Savings Bond Interest For Educational Purposes It Can Be Tax Free

Another benefit of U.S. savings bonds is you might be able to exclude federal taxes on the interest income if you use the interest from your savings bonds for qualified expenses for education. This means you could effectively pay no tax. In order to qualify, you must be at least 24 years old when the savings bond was issued, you must pay educational tuition and fees for a dependent, a spouse or yourself and your total income must be below the limit. In 2013, this benefit starts to phase out when income is above $74,700 for single filers and $112,050 for those married filing jointly. The benefit completely disappears at $89,700 for single filers and $142,050 for those married filing jointly.

The Downside Of U.S. Savings Bonds

Currently, U.S. savings bonds have low interest rates and the amount of income you can get is limited. Series I savings bonds are a low risk investment that helps to protect your savings from inflation by earing interest based on a fixed rate and an inflation rate. Currently series I bonds are paying .2 percentage points above inflation which equals to about 1.38% for the first 6 months. The interest rate changes 2 times a year. Series EE savings bonds pay .1%.

Nevertheless, U.S. saving bonds are still worth considering. You can find out more information on the U.S. Treasury’s website – www.savingsbonds.gov.

Self Employment Income Needs To Be Turned Into Pension Plan

For people who are self employed, had a great year and want to save for retirement, it is advised that they start a defined benefit plan by the end of the year. You are funding the pension plan: you can deduct and contributed the most and build up your benefits significantly in a relatively short time (often only 5-10 years). If you combine your defined benefit plan with a 401(k) plan, you will be able to shelter your income from taxes with a tax deduction that could reach a couple hundred thousand dollars each year.

 How Do I Get The Tax Deduction For This Year?

To get this year’s deduction, you will have to start the plan before the 31st of December but the good news is you do not have to fund it fully until the following year before your tax filing deadline. The exact amount that you will be able to contribute is based on actuarial calculations that consider your income, years until you retire and age. Generally speaking, the older a person is, the more they can contribute. These defined benefit plans are perfect for those individuals who would like to contribute more money than they are allowed under many retirement plans including 401(k)s or SEP-IRAs.

Defined benefit plans are best for small practices and owner-only businesses. Think architects, doctors, software developers or sales reps. If you are married to your business partner, you could put away large amounts of money for your retirement. These plans are also perfect for employees that have a side business for extra income and spouses that are self employed but they are not the partner that has to contribute to the living expenses of the family.

 Do I Have To Make Contributions To The Defined Benefit Plan Every Year?

Once your defined benefit plan is set up, you will be required to add the minimum contribution that has been recalculated for the year. It is important that you only sign up for a defined benefit plan if you are expecting 3-5 steady years with good income. Only put in the amount you feel comfortable with. Do not let any advisors push you over that amount. Many people want to put the maximum amount in because they want to get the most take benefits; however, they need think about the future. If your business goes out of business, you are able to close the plan.

If you are not sure if you will have steady income over the next few years, you should consider contributing a smaller about to the plan and open a 401(k). This way, in good years you can contribute to the 401(k) plan after you have made the defined benefit plan’s minimum contribution.

Now is the time to start your defined benefit plan. Remember, if you want to take advantage of the tax advantages for this year’s taxes, you need to open your plan by December 31st. You have until the filing deadline to fully fund your plan and it will still count for this year’s tax return.

Self Directed IRA – Caution

Self directed IRA schemes have a great chance of being involved in prohibited transaction and hence the owner of these retirement benefits face the potential danger of their IRA account being disqualified. This was discussed and decided in the Peek V. Comr. Case. The details of this case are explained below.

A fire safety business was considered a potential investment opportunity by two taxpayers. A broker, who was facilitating the sale, connected these tax payers to a third party agent who managed the process further. This agent explained a technique to the tax payers which involved them to set up a self directed IRA, move funds from their existing IRA schemes to the self directed schemes, set up a company, sell shares of the company and direct the funds into the self directed IRA scheme and finally use these funds to buy a business interest.

The paperwork for this scheme suggested that any prohibited transaction undertaken would prove harmful for the whole objective of this strategy. The paperwork was also accompanied by a letter from the firm’s accountant explaining the prohibited transaction rules clearly, though no personal guaranties were specified.

The scheme went as per plan and the transferred funds were used to purchase the assets of the fire safety business. This transaction included a promissory note from the company to the sellers for one fifth of the total sales price. A couple of years later, the tax payers moved to Roth IRAs from their original IRAs and hence when the company was finally sold, the payments were finally transferred to Roth IRAs.

The taxpayers’ income was fully adjusted to include the capital gains acquired from company stock sales by the IRS and the justification provided by them was that personal guaranties were equivalent to prohibited transactions. The assets from the IRA were deemed to have been distributed to these guaranties. The IRS reasoned that section 4975©(1) (B) disallows tax payers from creating loans or loan guaranties indirectly to their IRAs. The Roth IRAs discontinue its existence if it is funded by company owned stock.

The tax payers had to suffer additional burden of 20% in penalties for not declaring the sales of the company. Their tax advisers could not be trusted upon, because they were the promoter of this sales strategy. The advisers were not given full information either because they were not transparent with the advisors and did not inform them about their decision to personally guarantee their loans.

This is a good example for investors to understand the prohibition rules clearly and what transactions to proceed with and what transactions to avoid. It becomes doubly complicated when dealing with investment in retirement funds as the rules pertaining to the IRA accounts are more comprehensive than the other funds. This case also explains the needs to be fully transparent with the tax advisers as they are the ones who represent a particular tax strategy and no transaction should be carried out without their knowledge.

IRA and Roth Tax perks get better

There were some changes introduced in January, by the American Taxpayer Relief Act. These changes brought some good news for the investors of IRA (Individual Retirement Account) and Roth IRA. Workers in the US, now find it very easy to switch from the IRA to the Roth IRA provided their companies have the latter type of account.

One of the major changes that took place was the benefits that the workers got, from donating a part of their IRA account. These donations to charity were eligible for tax deduction. This benefit was traditionally setting off to nil benefits for workers. Michael S. Jackson, partner in tax services with Grand Thornton LLP, Philadelphia, further explained that there were two methods of doing it initially.

One was the where the employee used to withdraw his contribution fully, pay the tax component, donate to charity and then claim the charitable deduction for that particular amount. The second method was where the employees used their Individual Retirement Accounts directly to make the donation to charity, thereby not incurring any tax component at all. These benefits were considered to yield no benefits because the income claimed and the deduction made were netting off to zero.

This is where the recent law changes come into play. The important change in this law is that the deductions towards charity were kept under control based on the gross income of the employee. This law was designed with the top tax payers ‘benefits in mind. This change was announced by Jackson in the MarketWatch , which was hosted by the editor of Market Watch’s Retirement e-Newsletter, Robert Powell.

Jackson also clarified that this adjusted gross income based tax rate slabs are going to help the worker save some extra money, if the calculation and donations to charity are carried out in a very accurate way. This change found positive reviews among all the attendees of the MarketWatch Retirement event, including Mary Kay Foss, a director with Sweeney Kovar Financial Advisors Inc. Foss also explained that this change, which is called charity rollover rule, is beneficial in a way that it does not increase the gross income even if there is no charitable deduction. Hence the amount that is left in the Social Security tax is lesser prone to tax.

In cases of charitable donations, it is still beneficial because the deductions are not itemized and the employee ends up getting the tax benefit. This scheme is hugely welcomed by all as it is a mutually beneficial solution both for the employer and the employee. The conditions to avail these benefits are; the person must be minimum 70.5 years old when making the donation and the amount is fixed at a maximum of $100,000. The limits can be discussed locally with the IRA custodian and checked for transfers of small amounts, as some of the firms think twice while dealing with small transfers. This changed scheme helps the employee to make donations to more than one charitable organization.

Should you delay Social Security Benefits

The Social Security is a scheme in which employees are encouraged to retire later than their actual tenure. There was a legislation that got passed in the year 1983 which had allowed the retirement age to be fixed at 67 for people who were born after the year 1959. Delaying the Social security benefits has been under the scanner for long and researches were conducted by many to check if this scheme was beneficial to the aged people.

One idea that came up during analysis was to offer lump-sum amounts to employees who retire later than their actual term. The idea of this bulk payment might motivate the aged people to extend their tenure, without having to compromise on their benefits. This research was conducted by four researchers- Jingjing Chai, Raimond Maurer, Ralph Rogalla (from the Goethe University, Germany) and Olivia Mitchell (from the Wharton School).

The basic finding from their research was that the lump-sum payment option did motivate the workers to extend their retirement by 2 years, on an average. The number crunching concept behind this research was simple. It was calculated that a person who retires at 66 years instead of 65 years, would get 1.2 times more benefits than he would have got at 65 years in addition to the normal benefits that he is entitled to, at his actual retirement age.

The amount that is calculated as the bulk payment is the expected current value of the extended retirement package. There would not be any increased costs to the society or decreased benefits for the worker. Hence this system was found out to be “cost-neutral” to the society. The workers reacted well to this delayed social security scheme as results proved that the workers who extended their retirement age rose by 49%. Workers who were lured by this delayed social security package were the ones who gave priority to work than vacations, were risk takers and who were keen to invest in the stock market for increased returns.

Another factor in favor of the delayed social security scheme was that the lump-sum payment paid out by the extended tenure did not directly relate to giving away to legal heirs. This amount was mostly used by the people to take care of them as they grow older. This was the motive of the Social security scheme; to be of help to the retired people as they step into their relaxed lifestyles.

Social security schemes are considered as the primary source of retirement fund by around 42% people whose annual income is less than $30,000 and around 33% people whose annual income is between $30,000 and $75,000. However people who earned more than $75,000 did not see Social security as one of the top retirement funds. Around 65% of these people used the options of 401K or IRA, which the workers used to deposit their lump-sum payments in. Delaying the retirement benefits was helpful for people who with low class or middle class income levels.