Retirement Planning with SYM
Retirement planning involves understanding your current financial situation and aligning it with your future goals. One must consider future income and expenses, investments, risks, Social Security benefits — and then make a plan that incorporates all those elements, plus several more, including taxes. Many individuals already take important steps (like contributing to a 401(k) and IRA) during their working years to build the foundation of a successful retirement. Most times, simply having savings is not enough, and more planning is needed. We believe an individual or a family should work with a financial professional to create a comprehensive plan for funding a successful retirement that includes how to invest retirement assets and in what order to draw them down.
When is the best time to start retirement planning?
An old Chinese proverb tells us, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.” That is also true about saving and investing for retirement. A great thing about today’s corporate environment is that companies often instruct young professionals to invest early, whether through a Target-Date Fund or other investment options, within a 401(k) account. Starting young is important. The key is to build strong saving habits that will bear fruit over the lifetime. Saving for retirement is like building a snowman – the ball starts out small, then grows over time. Good habits will compound as years progress, improving your chances for a safe, secure, and rewarding retirement.
What are the steps in retirement planning?
There are several key steps toward building a solid retirement plan.
Understanding the time factor: Albert Einstein called compounding returns the eighth wonder of the world. The longer you can allow your investments to grow, the better shape you will be in when you blow out the candles on your retirement cake.
Determining spending needs: This one is a bit trickier because no one really knows what their spending situation will look like decades from now. That is why we believe it’s important to work with SYM Financial Advisors. A professional financial planner can help you forecast your retirement spending based on information today to see what may lie ahead.
Calculating after-tax return rate: Taxes play a huge role in retirement planning. We want you to minimize taxes throughout your life. SYM Financial Advisors can use strategies and experience to analyze your income today, project likely income in retirement, and best position resources to pay (or potentially minimize) taxes. Many investors do not realize that the bulk of their retirement assets are in pre-tax accounts, meaning those assets will be taxed as income when they get distributed.
Assessing risk tolerance: SYM Financial Advisors can help you determine your ability and willingness to accept risk. Everyone is different. Some investors are comfortable with riskier investments in exchange for the promise of higher returns. Others prefer lower-volatility investments that provide a more moderate level of risk and reward. When it comes to risk tolerance, we approach each client individually to uncover what’s right for them — typically through discovery conversations that are supplemented with risk assessment technology. Our goal is to find the optimal balance of risk and return for your situation and personality.
Staying on top of estate planning: Building and protecting an estate is paramount to ensuring a legacy within a family. Changing estate tax legislation can provide challenges in preserving wealth. Working alongside an attorney, we help our clients safeguard their assets through careful planning.
Understanding retirement planning
Financial advisors at SYM strive to help clients invest their retirement assets the right way. Not only can they help you position funds in the right type of accounts, they can also help determine which investments may be the best fit. Today’s investment landscape features thousands of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). While all those investments can be used effectively, the sheer volume of options quickly becomes overwhelming. SYM Financial Advisors is here to help. Our experienced retirement specialists show clients the proper way to invest for their goals.
What types of retirement plans are there?
We mentioned that the investment universe is, well, expansive. The same is true of the array of account types that someone could use to accumulate his or her retirement savings. Let’s quickly explore the alphabet soup that is retirement planning account types.
401(k) – Most workers in America know about this employer-sponsored retirement account. An employee sets aside a portion of his/her paycheck before taxes and directs it into a 401(k)-retirement account. That money gets invested (typically in a mutual fund). What is great about the 401(k) is that it sometimes comes with free money through employer matching programs. That is a tremendous benefit that ensures that your retirement savings grow even before they get invested.
Solo 401(k) – Small business owners, namely sole proprietors, can take advantage of this often-overlooked retirement account. The Solo 401(k), or Individual 401(k), allows a business owner to contribute to a pre-tax account. It works similarly to a regular 401(k), although the maximum annual contribution is higher. SYM Financial Advisors can help small business owners optimize their retirement plans using this retirement saving strategy.
403(b) – Do you work for the government, a hospital, or a school? You might have access to a 403(b) account. A 403(b) works in similar fashion to a typical 401(k) in that you contribute pre-tax dollars, and then the assets grow tax-deferred until you begin distributions in retirement. The distributions are considered taxable income. Let SYM Financial Advisors help you avoid those pitfalls!
457(b) – A 457(b) is a plan type offered to some employees of government and non-government non-profits. What is exciting about a 457(b) plan is that you can have both a 403(b) and 457(b). That means you can contribute the annual maximum to BOTH accounts. If you can do that, you are officially a Super Saver (no, that’s not a technical term!)
IRA – An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) comes in pre-tax (traditional IRA) and after-tax (Roth IRA) forms. It takes some strategy to determine what contribution level and account type is right for your circumstance. SYM Financial Advisors can help you with this process.
Roth IRA – A Roth IRA, named after Senator William Roth of Delaware, is an IRA where you contribute after-tax money and then allow the investment to grow tax-free. It can be a great thing when used the right way. A Roth IRA also provides what we financial planning nerds call “tax diversification”. A good retirement plan manages and minimizes risk and having assets in pre-tax accounts like a 401(k) and after-tax accounts like the Roth IRA can help reduce tax-related risks.
SIMPLE IRA – A SIMPLE IRA(Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) is a small business retirement plan. It allows employees and employers to contribute to retirement without having to jump through all the legal hoops of establishing a more traditional 401(k) program.
SEP IRA–A SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension Plan) is another small business retirement plan that works like a Traditional IRA. A SEP IRA allows self-employed individuals and small business owners to access a tax-deferred retirement account at a low cost. It is one of the easiest small business retirement accounts to manage.
Last but not least, the HSA – A Health Savings Account (HSA) gets financial planners like us excited. This is the only account that features the ‘triple-tax advantage’ whereby, when used the most effective way, an investor can avoid paying taxes today, over time, and in the distribution phase. The trick is to save your qualifying health-related receipts during your life, then ‘reimburse’ yourself late in life.
Other Aspects of Retirement Planning
Home & Property – Your home might be your biggest financial asset. Managing it through the right legal structures can position you to potentially avoid estate tax and probate procedures — and is a key part of sound estate planning. SYM Financial Advisors can work with your attorney to put the right plan into place for your family.
Estate Planning – SYM Financial Advisors work alongside attorneys to help clients manage an estate over multiple lifetimes. Leaving a legacy through children and charity is important to many of our clients.
Tax efficiency –Managing taxes is a critical job of a good financial planner. We use accounts like the Roth IRA and HSA, and other retirement saving strategies to minimize taxes today and potentially avoid higher tax rates in the future. SYM Financial Advisorsunderstand that paying taxes is a part of life, but we don’t want to give Uncle Sam an unexpected windfall!
Insurance – Risk management is a critical component of a well-rounded financial plan. The proper amount of life insurance can provide income and debt protection while also supporting estate funding goals. SYM Financial Advisors can walk through your options to determine what makes the most sense for you.
What is the best option for retirement planning?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to retirement planning. The best software and simulations are great tools in our toolbox, but a computer does not know the individual, family, or small business owner. SYM Financial Advisors get to know our clients so we can, qualitatively and quantitatively, assess your situation. It is all about creating a financial plan that is right for you. If you are wondering about the best place to start, give us a call!