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When Will You Retire?

Where Will Your Money Come From?

By Rick Kahler CFP®

The list is fairly short: Social Security, a pension, working, your assets, children, or public assistance.

According to an April 22, 2019 Bloomberg article by Suzanne Woolley, entitled “America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985“, only twenty percent of those age 65 or older are working. The rest either can’t work physically, can’t find work, or don’t want to work. According to the ADA National Network, over 30 percent of people over 65 are disabled in some manner.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security provides the majority of income for most elderly Americans. It provides at least 50% of income for about half of seniors and at least 90% of income for about one-fourth of seniors. The average Social Security retirement benefit isn’t as high as many people think. In June 2019 it was about $1,470 a month, or about $17,640 a year.

And, as per the Pension Rights Center, around 35% of Americans receive a pension or VA benefits. The greatest percentage of pensions are government. This would include retired state and federal workers like teachers, police, firefighters, military, and civil service workers. In 2017 the median state or local government pension benefit was $17,894 a year, the median federal pension was $28,868, and the median military pension was $21,441.

Working provides the highest source of retirement income for the 20 percent of those who are over 65 and are still working. According to SmartAsset.com, Americans aged 65 and older earn an average of $48,685 per year. However, in a NewRetirement.com article dated February 26, 2019, “Average Retirement Income 2019, How Do You Compare“, Kathleen Coxwell cites a figure from AARP that the median retirement income earned from employment is $25,000 a year.

About 3% of retirees receive public assistance.

This leaves around 20% of those over 65 who depend partially or fully for their retirement income on money they set aside during their working years. According to TheStreet.com, “What Is the Average Retirement Savings in 2019“, by Eric Reed, updated on Mar 3, 2019, the average retirement account for those age 65 to 74 totals $358,000. That amount will safely provide around $15,000 a year for most retirees’ lifetime. The median savings is $120,000, which will produce only about $5,000 a year. In order to retire at age 65 with an annual investment income of $30,000 to $40,000, someone would need a retirement nest egg of over $1 million.

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My conclusion from this data is that most Americans are woefully underprepared to live a comfortable lifestyle when they can no longer work. Between Social Security, pensions, and retirement savings, a retiree can expect a median income of $18,000 to a maximum of $52,000 a year. According to data I compiled from NewRetirement.com, the average median retirement income of those over age 65 is around $40,000.

What are some things you can do to increase your chances of enjoying a comfortable retirement income?

If you are under age 50, begin setting aside 15% to 25% of your income for retirement.

If you are over 60, keep working as long as you can. If you retire early, your monthly Social Security benefit is lower for the rest of your life.

Consider ways to stretch your retirement income by downsizing, sharing housing, or relocating to an area of the US or even outside the country with a lower cost of living.

Research what you can reasonably expect from Social Security and other sources of retirement income. Base your retirement expectations on informed planning, not on vaguely optimistic expectations.

Assessment: Your thoughts are appreciated.

Conclusion

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***

Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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Two Different Personal IRA Investing Strategies?

Based on Tax Considerations?

 

 

 

 

 

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

LINK: https://medicalexecutivepost.com/schedule-a-consultation/

One personal investing strategy is to place more conservative investments (those with lower expected returns) in a tax-deferred traditional IRA, 401-k, 403-b or similar, and more aggressive (higher-earning) assets in a taxable brokerage account or Roth IRA.

WHY? Each account is thus working hard but in very different ways.

HOW? The conservative funds in the traditional IRA or retirement accounts would fill any needs for safety as they grow more slowly – and the higher tax rate won’t take out as big of a bite.

Meanwhile, the more aggressive funds in a taxable brokerage accounts would grow more quickly, but be taxed at a lower rate.

Assessment: Any thoughts?

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***

Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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“Roll Out the Rollover”

More on Retirement Planning

By Rick Kahler CFP®

If your employer offers a 401(k) or other retirement plan, contributing to that plan is a foundation of your retirement savings. However, as you approach retirement age, you might consider moving some of your retirement funds out of your employer’s plan and into an IRA at a custodian like TD Ameritrade or Fidelity; etc.

Such a rollover is often done when you leave an employer, though many employers give you the option of keeping your retirement account with them. What isn’t popularly understood is that you also can do a rollover while you’re still employed, as long as you are over 59 ½.

Why Rollover?

One reason to consider leaving your employer’s plan is that most of them have higher overall fees than an IRA, especially if you choose from low-cost index mutual funds or exchange traded funds from a company like Vanguard or Dimensional Fund Advisors. It’s not uncommon to save up to 1% annually by making a rollover into these mutual funds.

However, the costs of an IRA are not always cheaper. If you have a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) through the federal government, the total costs are .03% a year. This is far cheaper than the average equity fund that charges 1.3% or even Vanguard and DFA that charge .09% on some funds.

The disadvantage with a TSP, like most employer plans, is their very limited investment options. The TSP offers about six options. Most 401(k)s will offer several times that—still a pittance compared with the 13,000 available at most discount brokers.

Another reason for a rollover is what happens when you retire and need to withdraw funds from your account. You can withdraw money from an IRA at any time without penalty after age 59 ½, but withdrawing money from a past employer’s 401(k) plan will require jumping through a few more hoops.

One issue that surprises most people is that the required minimum distributions (RMD) rules are reversed for employer plans. A RMD is never required with a Roth IRA. However, a RMD must be taken from a Roth 401(k) when you turn 70 ½. For this reason I recommend you roll over a Roth 401(k) before you turn 70 ½. The flip side of this is that when you turn 70 ½ you do have to take RMDs from a traditional IRA, but you do not from a traditional 401(k). Only a committee could have made up these rules.

The new tax code has made charitable giving less tax advantageous. However, if you are over 70 ½, you can give to charity tax-free from your IRA via a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). Employer plans don’t allow QCDs.

Another advantage of IRAs is that you can consolidate a number of employer accounts into one IRA. You can also withdraw funds from an IRA at any age without penalty for college expenses, which you cannot do from an employer plan.

Yet, another big advantage to an IRA is the ability to do Roth conversions, which cannot be done with an employer’s plan. It’s especially important to do such conversions before turning 70 ½ when your RMDs and Social Security benefits (assuming you wait until 70) kick in and raise your taxable income and possibly your tax bracket. Taking advantage of lower tax brackets prior to age 70 to convert part of traditional IRAs to Roths can lower your RMDs, which lower your tax liability, and let some of your retirement funds grow tax free forever.

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Assessment

Done properly, a rollover from an employer’s plan to an IRA is free of any tax consequences. However, it’s important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages carefully before you act.

Conclusion

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***

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“Getting Old is Better than the Alternative”

More on Retirement Planning

By Rick Kahler CFP®

At the gym where I work out it’s not uncommon to hear us old guys complaining in the locker room about our aches and pains. When the complaining subsides, inevitably someone will remark, “Well, at least getting old is better than the alternative.”

If you are fortunate enough not to die prematurely, you are going to grow old one day. As youth begins to gradually fade and health limitations increase, the reality that you will not be able to earn a living forever will present itself. At some point in time your financial support will need to come from something other than your job or business.

It’s very easy to dismiss this when we are young, because we’ve never known anything but being young. We take our health, vigor, and capabilities for granted. Just like anything that is “normal,” only when it’s gone do we tend to really appreciate it.

Normalacy

I never gave any thought to opening a door, drinking a cup of coffee, or cutting up the food on my plate—until I tore my rotator cuff and my right arm was rendered useless. A few weeks of doing without it taught me a whole new appreciation for the value and ease a functioning right arm brings to my life.

Unfortunately, many of the capabilities we lose with aging do not return after a few weeks of healing. The harsh reality is that eventually most of us will not be able to take care of ourselves in the ways we are used to.

Retirement planning

So when you think about “retirement planning,” here is what that really means: When you can’t earn an income, how will you be provided for? Where is the money for rent and utilities going to come from? How are you going to get to doctor appointments and the store when you can’t drive anymore? Who will help you pay your bills when your eyesight or your mind aren’t as clear as they once were? Who is going to help you with meal preparation or remind you to take your medications?

If you have fully funded your retirement, you can feel secure that, no matter what care and assistance you may need, you will have the means to pay for it. If you haven’t saved adequately, you will need to rely on others to take care of you financially as well as physically.

The “others”

For many people, “others” mean first spouses, then children, and finally governmental or charitable organizations. These all have limitations.

Spouses. What happens if you don’t have a partner? Or when they can no longer care for you? Or when both of you need care?

Children. Unlike many other countries and cultures, “living with the kids” is not necessarily expected or accepted in the U.S. Most children are not equipped emotionally or especially financially to become caretakers for aging parents.

According to studies I’ve read, the cost of caring for a parent who has not provided for themselves ranges from $250,000 to $700,000 in lost wages, opportunities, and out-of-pocket expenses. People may have to quit jobs to care for a parent or hire care at a cost of up to $100,000 a year. Few in American can afford that.

Government and charities. Social Security provides only a minimal income. Medicaid pays for only basic care such as shared living space. Services like public transportation, subsidized elder housing, and reliable in-home services are not available everywhere, especially in rural areas.

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Assessment

This is not a pretty picture of retirement. Unfortunately, it is reality for millions of Americans. The consequences of neglecting to prepare financially for old age are all too real.

Conclusion

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On Pre-Retirement Planning

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By Charles Schwab

A 12-Month Playbook

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retirementcountdown_r5_3

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More:

Conclusion

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***

Retirement Planning and Physicians [An Oxymoron]?

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Confidence Eluded

By Shikha Mittra MBA CFP® AIF® http://www.feeonlynetwork.com/Shikha-Mittra

Shikha-MittraAccording to a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI] and Greenwald & Associates; nearly half of workers without a retirement plan were not at all confident in their financial security, compared to 11 percent for those who participated in a plan, according to the 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS).

Retirement Money

In addition, 35 percent of workers have not saved any money for retirement, while only 57 percent are actively saving for retirement. Thirty-six percent of workers said the total value of their savings and investments—not including the value of their home and defined benefit plan—was less than $1,000, up from 29 percent in the 2013 survey. But, when adjusted for those without a formal retirement plan, 73 percent have saved less than $1,000.

Debt

Debt is also a concern, with 20 percent of workers saying they have a major problem with debt. Thirty-eight percent indicate they have a minor problem with debt. And, only 44 percent of workers said they or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they’ll need to save for retirement. But, those who have done the calculation tend to save more.

Shifting Demographics

The biggest shift in the 24 years has been the number of workers who plan to work later in life. In 1991, 84 percent of workers indicated they plan to retire by age 65, versus only 9 percent who planned to work until at least age 70. In 2014, 50 percent plan on retiring by age 65; with 22 percent planning to work until they reach 70.

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Physician Statistics

Now, compare and contrast the above to these statistics according to a 2013 survey of physicians on financial preparedness by American Medical Association [AMA] Insurance.

The statistics are still alarming:

  • The top personal financial concern for all physicians is having enough money to retire.
  • Only 6% of physicians consider themselves ahead of schedule in retirement preparedness.
  • Nearly half feel they were behind
  • 41% of physicians average less than $500,000 in retirement savings.
  • Nearly 70% of physicians don’t have a long term care plan.
  • Only half of US physicians have a completed estate plan including an updated will and Medical directives.

Assessment

More:

Conclusion

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How Physicians Prepare for Retirement?

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ME-P SPECIAL REPORT

On Physician DIY’s

[By Vicki Rackner MD]

VR MD

Dear ME-P Readers and Subscribers,

Employed physicians who use professional financial advisors v.s. physician financial do-it-yourself-ers):

Did you know the following:

  • Feel better prepared for retirement
  • Have more in emergency savings
  • Have more diverse financial investments and
  • Feel more confident about their personal financial decisions?

Did you also know:

Here are some other key survey findings:

  • 60% of practicing physicians are employed by hospitals, groups and medical schools.
  • 42% of of employed physicians are behind where they would like to be in retirement planning.
  • Employed physicians” #1 financial goal is to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Other top concerns include funding long-term care, minimizing losses and ensuring an inheritance for children/ grandchildren.
  • Half of employed physicians believe they have unique or more complex financial needs than other professionals.These finding affirm the intuitively obvious: experts get better results than dabblers.
  • Patients get the best medical outcomes when they work with physicians whom they trust; physicians get the best financial results when they work with financial advisors whom they trust.

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Product Details  Product Details

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What this means for you

These finding affirm the intuitively obvious: experts get better results than dabblers.

Patients get the best medical outcomes when they work with physicians whom they trust; physicians get the best financial results when they work with financial advisors whom they trust; as a fiduciary advisor.

Assessment

Enter the Certified Medical Planners

About the Author

Vicki Rackner MD, author, speaker and President of Targeting Doctors, helps financial advisors accelerate their practice growth by acquiring more physician clients. She calls on her experience as a practicing surgeon, clinical faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine and nationally-noted expert in physician engagement to offer a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business.

Conclusion

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How Obama’s 2015 Proposed Budget Impacts Retirement Accounts

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Fore Warned is Fore Armed!

By Lon Jefferies MBA CFP®

Lon Jeffries

President Obama recently unveiled his proposed budget for 2015. Included in the proposal were the following potential changes to investor retirement accounts:

Apply Required Minimum Distribution Rule To Roth IRAs

There are currently two main reasons to invest in a Roth IRA – to pay taxes at your current rate in anticipation of being in a higher tax bracket in the future, and to invest in an account that does not require minimum distributions when the investor reaches age 70½. However, President Obama’s 2015 budget calls for Roth accounts to be subject to the same RMD requirements as other retirement accounts.

This change would make Roth IRA accounts much less appealing for a good portion of the investment community. Additionally, if enacted, the rule would dramatically reduce the benefit for many individuals to convert their traditional retirement accounts to Roth accounts. Lastly, this rule would essentially betray all investors who already converted their accounts to Roths by taking away a benefit they were counting on.

Eliminate Stretch IRA

Non-spouse beneficiaries of retirement accounts currently have the option of either withdrawing the funds from the inherited retirement account within five years of the original IRA owner’s death or stretching IRA distributions over their expected lifetime. Stretching distributions is considered favorable because it allows the investor to spread the tax liability from the income over their lifetime and continue taking advantage of the tax-deferral provided by the retirement account. However, Obama’s proposal would eliminate non-spouse beneficiaries’ ability to stretch distributions over a period of more than five years.

If implemented, this change would have severe tax implications on people inheriting a retirement account and drastically reduce the value of tax-deferred accounts as estate planning tools.

Cap on Tax Benefit for Retirement Account Contributions

Currently, investors obtain a full tax-deferral benefit on all contributions to retirement accounts. Under Obama’s proposal, the maximum tax benefit that would be allowed on retirement contributions would be 28%. Consequently, an investor in the 39.6% tax bracket would only be able to deduct 28% and would still need to pay taxes at 11.6% (39.6% – 28%) on all contributions made.

Eliminate RMDs For Retirement Accounts Less Than $100k

Currently, investors over the age of 70½ must begin taking taxable distributions from their retirement accounts in the form of required minimum distributions (RMDs). Under Obama’s proposal, individuals whose retirement accounts have a total value of less than $100k would no longer be subject to required minimum distribution rules. This would enable retirees with less in their retirement accounts to take greater advantage of the tax-deferral benefit an IRA provides.

Retirement

Retirement Account Value Capping New Contributions

Under the new proposal, once an individuals’ retirement account value grew to a certain cap, no further contributions would be allowed. This cap would be determined by calculating the lump-sum payment that would be required to produce a joint and 100% survivor annuity of $210,000 starting when the investor turns 62. Currently, this formula would indicate a cap of $3.2 million. This cap would be adjusted for inflation.

Proposal, Not Law…

Keep in mind that these potential changes are currently just proposals and are not certain to be implemented into law. In fact, with the exception of RMDs for Roth accounts, all of these suggested adjustments were proposed by Obama last year and none were approved by congress. Consequently, history suggests that Obama may have a hard time getting these changes implemented. Still, examining the proposals provides some insight into the direction President Obama would like to proceed.

Conclusion

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Physicians and Retirement Planning

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More than Brokerage Accounts and Insurance Policies

Shikha-MittraBy Shikha Mittra; AIF®, CFP®, CRPS®, CMFC®, MBA

Many physicians think that by having a few brokerage accounts or a few insurance products, they are doing  retirement planning. Just as when a patient visits the physician with a heart condition, or a severe ailment, s/he would not rush into surgery or prescribe the most popular heart medication on the market without a detailed medical analysis.

Similarly, retirement planning is not cherry picking the best stocks or mutual funds  It’s similar to the process of diagnosing a major medical condition, finding alternatives and then charting the best course of action; through medications, surgery if required, and regular checkups. 

Integrated with Financial Planning

Retirement Planning involves an in depth analysis of your needs, wants and resources; and looking at alternative scenarios and then developing a long term strategy to achieve those goals. It takes into account all other areas of your financial planning situation such as cash flow, insurance needs, investments, taxes and estate planning. It’s based on your risk tolerance, time frame, annual savings and your prioritized goals.

And, you increase the probability of success by following this process and monitoring it on a regular basis to make sure you are on track. All assumptions made are strictly unique and there is no one size fits all retirement strategy!

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Assessment

The more time you have to plan for your retirement, the less risks you have to take near retirement, and the easier it gets to make your retirement vision a reality!

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Conclusion

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Education versus Retirement

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Not An “all-OR-nothing” Proposition

Rick Kahler CFPBy Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

I recently had the opportunity to share an evening out with some friends, new parents with six-month-old twins.

The conversation centered on birthing, breastfeeding, and burping!

Thinking Education

One topic we didn’t discuss was baccalaureate degrees. Most people might think it’s premature to consider college education while your kids aren’t even crawling.

Actually, that’s the perfect time to think about it, especially if you intend to fund all or a significant part of your children’s education. Don’t wait till kids are 17, 14, or even 11 to settle on a philosophy of “who pays what” toward their education. If you do, you risk becoming a financial burden to your children in retirement.

Most parents perceive paying their children’s college expenses as a loving act. They believe it will help give their children a good start on a career and chance to get ahead. The facts suggest it actually may accomplish just the opposite. The reason? Most American parents who fund their children’s college education underfund their own retirement.

Parents who fail to fully fund their own retirement may dearly cost their children later. Such parents often rely on their children to take care of them in their final years. Research indicates that looking after parents in their old age comes at a great financial price.

The Research

According to Alan Blaustein, the founder of CarePlanners, elderly parents who underfunded their retirement cost their children an average of 18 hours a week, $30,000 a year in hard costs, and a total of $300,000 in forfeited wages and benefits. Most studies put the total cost from $250,000 to $750,000, depending on the length of time the parents needed care.

Considering that the tuition at many four-year colleges averages around $100,000, most children would be much further ahead to pay for their own education while parents fully funded their own retirement.

Not only does paying for kids’ college education potentially hurt them financially, it also can hurt them academically. I reported last year on research  that found children whose parents pay the tab for college have lower GPA’s than those who earn scholarships, borrow, or work their way through college.

humpty-dumpty

[Retirement-OR- Educational Funding?]

The Psychology

Clearly, the logical and loving approach for parents is to focus on retirement first, even if that means letting children pay for their own education. Yet the average American parent recoils from the thought, finding it unloving, selfish, or irresponsible even in the face of clear evidence that the opposite is true.

Such “illogical” emotional responses to factual data actually make perfect sense. The Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, discovered that we make 90% of all financial decisions emotionally, not logically. Moreover, the more complex the financial decision, the higher the probability is that we rely on our emotions to make it. Sadly, evolution wired our brains to make poor financial decisions.

So, Start Early

Do yourself and your children a favor and assess your ability to save for retirement when your children are very young. Fully fund your retirement first with maximum contributions to 401(k) plans or IRAs. If there is anything left over, start 529 college savings plans when kids are babies. This will allow the tax-free earnings to grow and multiply by the time they set off to college.

Assessment

Remember, too, that college funding isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition. Many parents choose to pay some college expenses and help the kids find ways to fund the rest through scholarships, jobs, and loans.

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Conclusion

In any case, early planning is the key to supporting both your kids’ futures and your retirement. Making logical college funding decisions, rather than emotional ones, creates a win/win for everyone.

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The Baby-Boomer Retirement Crisis

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Panic or Warning?

By Rick Kahler CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFP“The world braces for retirement crisis.”

This headline caught my attention because of its tone of near-panic. It implied that the pending retirement crisis was like a hurricane or other natural disaster, striking with little warning and beyond our control. Not so. Financial columnists like me have warned for the past two decades that Baby Boomers are woefully unprepared for retirement.

The AP Piece

The article itself, an AP piece published at the end of 2013, was actually quite a good summary of the problems looming as Boomers retire worldwide. It quotes a survey done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as concluding, “Most countries are not ready to meet what is sure to be one of the defining challenges of the 21st century.”

Governmental Outsourcing 

Instead of limiting their lifestyles and saving for retirement like their parents did, Boomers around the world outsourced their retirement to government. Not only did the Boomers not save, they fostered an entire culture of spending more money than they’ve earned; a trend evident not only in their personal finances, but also in all levels of government.

The Blame Game

The financial press often blames the Great Recession of 2008 for the coming retirement crisis. Few reporters ever suggest that the personal and public overindulgences of the Boomers in the decade prior to 2008 were largely the cause of the crash. Neither the Boomers nor most of their governments have the cash to support them in retirement. Retirees need a nest egg of 25 times their desired annual income.  Most Boomers don’t have more than three or four times that income saved in retirement plans.

The Poll

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, Americans are concerned about the Social Security system but unwilling to make sacrifices in order to fix it. A majority of respondents favored raising taxes on high earners and limiting benefits to the wealthy. Otherwise, they didn’t want to limit benefits, raise retirement ages, or increase taxes for all workers. Given a choice between raising taxes OR reducing benefits, however, more respondents (49% to 40%) would opt for higher taxes.

The Dilemma

The problem with this is two-fold.

First, in many developed countries facing this problem, including the US, tax rates already exceed 50% on upper income earners, leaving little room for extra revenues.

Secondly, the AP articles notes that birth rates in most developed countries are declining “just as the bulge of people born in developed countries after World War II retires.” This means the younger taxpayers just will not be able to foot the bill.

The Solution

One possible solution has three components:

1. Lower taxes to spur economic activity, thus creating more jobs and ultimately increasing revenues to government.

2. Increase the Social Security retirement age. When Social Security was created, average Americans lived only a few years beyond age 65. Now we live into our 80’s. Increasing the retirement age to 75 or 80 would be keeping with the original intent of the program.

3. Create incentives for young Americans to save. Australia is already doing this. Allow taxpayers to save up to $75,000 a year, tax-free, and allow distributions to be tax-free.

For now, if you are a physician, medical professional or lay Boomer who has woefully underfunded your retirement plan, putting more money away now won’t make much difference unless you can save 30% to 50% of your income. Declining birth rates, however, mean fewer available skilled workers, so many Boomers will be able to work longer.

Assessment

The best retirement plan, then, might be to invest in improving your workplace skills, shedding weight, starting an exercise program, and eating healthier. The biggest assets Boomers may have for retirement are the skills and health to stay in the workforce.

But, what about doctors and other medical professionals?

MD Boomers

Conclusion

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On Target Date Retirement Funds for Physicians

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What You Haven’t Considered

By Lon Jefferies MBA CFP® http://www.NewWorthAdvice.com

Lon JefferiesAn increasing number of physician investors are utilizing target-date funds in their investment accounts and employer retirement plans.

In theory, an individual should select a target-date fund that matches their estimated year of retirement, such as the Vanguard Target Retirement 2015, or Fidelity Freedom 2020 fund. The philosophy of these funds is that as one ages, the proportion of stocks in their portfolio should decline, while their exposure to less volatile fixed-income positions increases.

My Concerns

While I agree with the concept that investors should continually make their portfolios less aggressive as they age, there are two concerns I have about utilizing these funds.

First and most obviously, an appropriate asset allocation for an individual physician investor as they enter retirement is dependent on their risk tolerance and is best not left to generalizations. At retirement, an aggressive doctor may be comfortable holding a portfolio that is 70 percent stocks while a more conservative investor may not be able to tolerate the volatility that accompanies a portfolio that has any more than 40 percent exposure to equities.

Of course, assuming these two investors retired around the same time, a target-date fund would place both in a one-size-fits-all asset mix.

Next, and perhaps less obvious but equally important is the fact that an asset allocation is better designed around when the investor will need the money as opposed to when they will retire.

Case Examples:

Consider two hospital employees who are retiring in 2015, and consequently, are invested in the Fidelity Freedom 2015 target-date fund (which is quite conservative – only 45 percent stocks and a 55 percent mix of bonds and cash). One of these employees will be taking an early retirement at age 59 and won’t be allowed to draw a Social Security benefit for at least three years.

As a result, this individual will need to draw a large amount of funds from his retirement account in order to pay for the first several years of retirement. The worst thing that could happen to a retiree is to endure a market crash shortly after leaving the workforce and suffers an excessive loss right as the funds are needed.

In such a case, the physician investor wouldn’t have time to wait for the market to recover and would be forced to sell at a loss. If money will need to be withdrawn sooner rather than later, sound financial planning says it should be invested in a conservative portfolio that is likely to limit loss, potentially similar to the 45 percent stock and 55 percent bond mix that the Fidelity Freedom 2015 fund provides.

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Financial

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Another Case Example:

Now consider that the second hospital employee invested in the Fidelity Freedom 2015 fund is age 67, will immediately be receiving a full Social Security benefit when he retires, and has a healthy pension from his employer. With two significant sources of income immediately upon leaving the workforce, this employee may not need to withdraw meaningful assets from his investment portfolio during the early years of his retirement.

Now, with a longer investment time frame before funds will be withdrawn, a more assertive portfolio is likely appropriate for this investor as he can afford to endure a full market cycle of pullbacks and advances while attempting to achieve superior gains.

Assessment

Hopefully this example illustrates the importance of considering other potential income sources and the timing of your expenses during retirement rather than simply treating target-date funds as your entire asset base. While the theory of target-date funds is sound, other factors should be considered before utilizing them as a significant portion of your investment nest egg.

Conclusion

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Will Healthcare Reform Impact a Spine Surgeon’s Retirement Plan?

Certified Medical Planner

Q&A With Dr. Brian Knabe of Savant Capital Management

Brian J. Knabe MDBy Ann Miller RN MHA

Brian Knabe MD CFP® CMP® is a former medical physician turned financial advisor at Savant Capital Management, a fee-only wealth management firm.

Here, he discusses the smartest moves for spine surgeons at various stages in their careers to ensure an enjoyable retirement.

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LINK: Will Healthcare Reform Impact a Spine Surgeon’s Retirement Plan? Q&A With Dr. Brian Knabe of Savant Capital Management

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Conclusion

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Dr. Marcinko Interviewed on Physician Retirement and Succession Planning

imba inc

 

 

Physicians Have Unique Challenges, Opportunities

By Ann Miller RN MHA

[Executive-Director]

Medical Executive-Post Publisher-in-Chief, Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™, and financial planner Paul Larson CFP™, were interviewed by Sharon Fitzgerald for Medical News, Inc. Here is a reprint of that interview.

Doctors Squeezed from both Ends

Physicians today “are getting squeezed from both ends” when it comes to their finances, according Paul Larson, president of Larson Financial Group. On one end, collections and reimbursements are down; on the other end, taxes are up. That’s why financial planning, including a far-sighted strategy for retirement, is a necessity.

Larson Speaks

“We help these doctors function like a CEO and help them quarterback their plan,” said Larson, a Certified Financial Planner™ whose company serves thousands of physicians and dentists exclusively. Headquartered in St. Louis, Larson Financial boasts 19 locations.

Larson launched his company after working with a few physicians and recognizing that these clients face unique financial challenges and yet have exceptional opportunities, as well.

What makes medical practitioners unique? One thing, Larson said, is because they start their jobs much later in life than most people. Physicians wrap up residency or fellowship, on average, at the age of 32 or even older. “The delayed start really changes how much money they need to be saving to accomplish these goals like retirement or college for their kids,” he said.

Another thing that puts physicians in a unique category is that most begin their careers with a student-loan debt of $175,000 or more. Larson said that there’s “an emotional component” to debt, and many physicians want to wipe that slate clean before they begin retirement saving.

Larson also said doctors are unique because they are a lawsuit target – and he wasn’t talking about medical malpractice suits. “You can amass wealth as a doctor, get sued in five years and then lose everything that you worked so hard to save,” he said. He shared the story of a client who was in a fender-bender and got out of his car wearing his white lab coat. “It was bad,” Larson said, and the suit has dogged the client for years.

The Three Mistake of Retirement Planning

Larson said he consistently sees physicians making three mistakes that may put a comfortable retirement at risk.

  1. The first is assuming that funding a retirement plan, such as a 401(k), is sufficient. It’s not. “There’s no way possible for you to save enough money that way to get to that goal,” he said. That’s primarily due to limits imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, which allows a maximum contribution of $49,000 annually if self-employed and just $16,500 annually until the age of 50. He recommends that physicians throughout their career sock away 20 percent of gross income in vehicles outside of their retirement plan.
  2. The second common mistake is making investments that are inefficient from a tax perspective. In particular, real estate or bond investments in a taxable account prompt capital gains with each dividend, and that’s no way to make money, he said.
  3. The third mistake, and it’s a big one, is paying too much to have their money managed. A stockbroker, for example, takes a fee for buying mutual funds and then the likes of Fidelity or Janus tacks on an internal fee as well. “It’s like driving a boat with an anchor hanging off the back,” Larson said.

Marcinko Speaks

Dr. David E. Marcinko MBADr. David E. Marcinko MBA MEd CPHQ, a physician and [former] certified financial planner] and founder of the more specific program for physician-focused fiduciary financial advisors and consultants www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org, sees another common mistake that wreaks havoc with a physician’s retirement plans – divorce.

He said clients come to him “looking to invest in the next Google or Facebook, and yet they will get divorced two or three times, and they’ll be whacked 50 percent of their net income each time. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Marcinko practiced medicine for 16 years until about 10 years ago, when he sold his practice and ambulatory surgical center to a public company, re-schooled and retired. Then, his second career in financial planning and investment advising began. “I’m a doctor who went to business school about 20 years ago, before it was in fashion. Much to my mother’s chagrin, by the way,” he quipped. Marcinko has written 27 books about practice management, hospital administration and business, physician finances, risk management, retirement planning and practice succession. He’s the founder of the Georgia-based Institute of Medical Business Advisors Inc.

ECON

Succession Planning for Doctors

Succession planning, Marcinko said, ideally should begin five years before retirement – and even earlier if possible. When assisting a client with succession, Marcinko examines two to three years of financial statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements, statements of earnings, and profit and loss statements, yet he said “the $50,000 question” remains: How does a doctor find someone suited to take over his or her life’s work? “We are pretty much dead-set against the practice broker, the third-party intermediary, and are highly in favor of the one-on-one mentor philosophy,” Marcinko explained.

“There is more than enough opportunity to befriend or mentor several medical students or interns or residents or fellows that you might feel akin to, and then develop that relationship over the years.” He said third-party brokers “are like real-estate agents, they want to make the sale”; thus, they aren’t as concerned with finding a match that will ensure a smooth transition.

The only problem with the mentoring strategy, Marcinko acknowledged, is that mentoring takes time, and that’s a commodity most physicians have too little of. Nonetheless, succession is too important not to invest the time necessary to ensure it goes off without a hitch.

Times are different today because the economy doesn’t allow physicians to gradually bow out of a practice. “My overhead doesn’t go down if I go part-time. SO, if I want to sell my practice for a premium price, I need to keep the numbers up,” he noted.

Assessment

Dr. Marcinko’s retirement investment advice – and it’s the advice he gives to anyone – is to invest 15-20 percent of your income in an Vanguard indexed mutual fund or diversified ETF for the next 30-50 years. “We all want to make it more complicated than it really is, don’t we?” he said.

QUESTION: What makes a physician moving toward retirement different from most others employees or professionals? Marcinko’s answer was simple: “They probably had a better shot in life to have a successful retirement, and if they don’t make it, shame on them. That’s the difference.”

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Conclusion

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Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™
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An Rx for Physician’s Financial Health

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Fundamental Principles for all Medical Professionals

Donald M. Roy CFP® CFS www.newealthadvisors.com

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The demands on medical practitioners today can seem overwhelming. It’s no secret that health-care delivery is changing, and those changes are reflected in the financial issues that health-care professionals face every day. You must continually educate yourself about new research in your chosen specialty, stay current on the latest technology that is transforming health care, and pay attention to business considerations, including ever-changing state and federal insurance regulations.

Like many, you may have transitioned from medical school and residency to being on your own with little formal preparation for the substantial financial issues you now face. Even the day-to-day concerns that affect most people–paying college tuition bills or student loans, planning for retirement, buying a home, insuring yourself and your business–may be complicated by the challenges and rewards of a medical practice. It’s no wonder that many medical practitioners look forward to the day when they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Unfortunately, substantial demands on your time can make it difficult for you to accurately evaluate your financial plan, or monitor changes that can affect it. That’s especially true given ongoing health care reform efforts that will affect the future of the industry as a whole. Just as patients need periodic checkups, you may need to work with a financial professional to make sure your finances receive the proper care.

Maximizing your personal assets

Much like medicine, the field of finance has been the subject of much scientific research and data, and should be approached with the same level of discipline and thoughtfulness. Making the most of your earning years requires a plan for addressing the following issues.

Retirement

Your years of advanced training and perhaps the additional costs of launching and building a practice may have put you behind your peers outside the health-care field by a decade or more in starting to save and invest for retirement. You may have found yourself struggling with debt from years of college, internship, and residency; later, there’s the ongoing juggling act between making mortgage payments, caring for your parents, paying for weddings and tuition for your children, and maybe trying to squeeze in a vacation here and there. Because starting to save early is such a powerful ally when it comes to building a nest egg, you may face a real challenge in assuring your own retirement. A solid financial plan can help.

Investments

Getting a late start on saving for retirement can create other problems.

For example, you might be tempted to try to make up for lost time by making investment choices that carry an inappropriate level or type of risk for you. Speculating with money you will need in the next year or two could leave you short when you need that money. And once your earnings improve, you may be tempted to overspend on luxuries you were denied during the lean years. One of the benefits of a long-range financial plan is that it can help you protect your assets–and your future–from inappropriate choices.

Tuition

Many medical professionals not only must pay off student loans, but also have a strong desire to help their children with college costs, precisely because they began their own careers saddled with large debts.

Tax considerations

Once the lean years are behind you, your success means you probably need to pay more attention to tax-aware investing strategies that help you keep more of what you earn.

Using preventive care

The nature of your profession requires that you pay special attention to making sure you are protected both personally and professionally from the financial consequences of legal action, a medical emergency of your own, and business difficulties. Having a well-defined protection plan can give you confidence that you can practice your chosen profession without putting your family or future in jeopardy.

Liability insurance

Medical professionals are caught financially between rising premiums for malpractice insurance and fixed reimbursements from managed-care programs and you may find yourself evaluating a variety of approaches to providing that protection. Some physicians also carry insurance that protects them against unintentional billing errors or omissions.

Remember that in addition to potential malpractice claims, you also face the same potential liabilities as other business owners. You might consider an umbrella policy as well as coverage that protects against business-related exposures such as fire, theft, employee dishonesty, or business interruption.

Disability insurance

Your income depends on your ability to function, especially if you’re a solo practitioner, and you may have fixed overhead costs that would need to be covered if your ability to work were impaired. One choice you’ll face is how early in your career to purchase disability insurance. Age plays a role in determining premiums, and you may qualify for lower premiums if you are relatively young. When evaluating disability income policies, medical professionals should pay special attention to how the policy defines disability. Look for a liberal definition such as “own occupation,” which can help ensure that you’re covered in case you can’t practice in your chosen specialty.

To protect your business if you become disabled, consider business overhead expense insurance that will cover routine expenses such as payroll, utilities, and equipment rental. An insurance professional can help evaluate your needs.

Practice management and business planning

Is a group practice more advantageous than operating solo, taking in a junior colleague, or working for a managed-care network? If you have an independent practice, should you own or rent your office space? What are the pros and cons of taking over an existing practice compared to starting one from scratch? If you’re part of a group practice, is the practice structured financially to accommodate the needs of all partners? Does running a “concierge” or retainer practice appeal to you? If you’re considering expansion, how should you finance it?

Questions like these are rarely simple and should be done in the context of an overall financial plan that takes into account both your personal and professional goals.

Many physicians have created processes and products for their own practices, and have then licensed their creations to a corporation. If you are among them, you may need help with legal and financial concerns related to patents, royalties, and the like. And if you have your own practice, you may find that cash flow management, maximizing return on working capital, hiring and managing employees, and financing equipment purchases and maintenance become increasingly complex issues as your practice develops.

Practice valuation

You may have to make tradeoffs between maximizing current income from your practice and maximizing its value as an asset for eventual sale. Also, timing the sale of a practice and minimizing taxes on its proceeds can be complex. If you’re planning a business succession, or considering changing practices or even careers, you might benefit from help with evaluating the financial consequences of those decisions.

Estate planning

Estate planning, which can both minimize taxes and further your personal and philanthropic goals, probably will become important to you at some point. Options you might consider include:

  • Life insurance
  • Buy-sell agreements for your practice
  • Charitable trusts

You’ve spent a long time acquiring and maintaining expertise in your field, and your patients rely on your specialized knowledge. Doesn’t it make sense to treat your finances with the same level of care?

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Doctors Shouldn’t Wait Till Retirement To Act On Travel Dreams

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By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

What’s at the top of your retirement bucket list? If you are like most folks that I help prepare for retirement, travel is high on that list.  As I’ve grown older, my views on retirement travel have changed. I used to buy into the dream of retirement as the “Golden Years.” I thought of it as the time in life when people are free to do what they want, when they want, with whom they want.

Working with older clients has taught me that my younger views of the glory of retirement were a bit naïve. While certainly some people do experience years of unlimited and unfettered travel, many more don’t find it so easy. Doing “what you want, when you want, with whom you want,” assumes three things we often take for granted: good health, adequate finances, and meaningful relationships.

This seems especially true for command-control type medical professionals.

The Three Legs of Retirement Lifesyle

1. Health. When it comes to travel, good health may not be essential, but it will make your experience more fulfilling and enjoyable. Of course, we aren’t typically in either “good” or “poor” health, but fall somewhere on a continuum. With limited mobility, you may be able to shop at the bazaar in Istanbul, but chances are you won’t hike the Grand Canyon or explore the Acropolis.

Like most things, good health typically requires a conscious intention to create and maintain it. Someone who has a money script of, “When I retire I’ll have the time and money to take better care of myself” may be in for a surprise. Most people who chose not to take care of their health before retirement won’t do so in retirement. As one retired friend said, “If you didn’t have the energy to work out when you were young, you sure won’t have it when you retire!”

What’s even more uncontrollable is the health of those with whom you wish to share your travel adventures. Even if you’ve taken care of yourself, your significant other may be unable to travel. Instead of strolling a beach in the Bahamas, you could end up at home being a caretaker.

2. Money. On average, baby boomers have saved less than $100,000 for retirement. That won’t pay for many around-the-world cruises. If you want to travel after you retire, you need a serious commitment during your working years to live frugally and invest as much as you can. Otherwise, you may end up with just barely enough to cover your basic living expenses.

3. Relationships. If you spend your career working 80-hour weeks, you may accumulate enough assets to fund plenty of retirement travel—but by then you may be traveling alone. Saving for the future is out of balance if it’s done at the expense of enjoying life and close relationships today.

Assessment

By now you may think I’m suggesting you have no better choice than to spend your retirement years at home. Not at all. Here’s one possibility: If travel is one of your dreams, what would happen if you did some of it now? Use your vacation time while you can enjoy yourself. Take that motorcycle trip through Europe or go scuba diving in Belize while you’re in top shape. Do the international travel now when you can better negotiate airports, handle travel delays, and power through jet lag. To save on expenses, plan ahead, use a credit card that awards frequent flyer miles (which you pay off monthly), and use cost-saving options like home swaps and off-season travel.

Then, after you retire, when you need more access to medical care and less demanding travel, you can stay closer to home and enjoy the opportunities in your own back yard.

More: http://www.mississippimedicalnews.com/retirement-and-succession-planning-cms-1524

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Why Doctors Must Consider Fees When Building A Retirement Nest Egg

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Understanding Mutual Fund Share Classes and Costs

[By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM]

www.KahlerFinancial.com

Doctors – Do you want to add $500,000 or more to your retirement nest egg? Pay attention to the fees that mutual funds charge you for investing your money. Few physicians or small investors understand that the same mutual fund can charge a wide range of fees, depending on the share class you select.

For many medical professionals and most Americans, the best way to build wealth is to live on less than you make and invest 15% to 35% of your paycheck into mutual funds. It’s essential to find funds that are diversified among five or more asset classes.

The Choice After Mutual Fund Selection

Once you’ve found a mutual fund with a mix of appropriate asset classes, there’s one more choice to make. What class of shares should you buy? The most popular classes are A, B, and I shares; however, many funds offer even more classes like C, F, and R shares.

The difference between the classes has nothing to do with the underlying management or structure of the mutual fund. All share classes own the same stocks or bonds. The difference lies in the fees you pay the mutual fund for their services and for commissions to brokers who sell the funds.

Types of Share Classes

Many A shares and almost all B, C, F, and R shares impose sales commissions, often called “loads,” which are based on the amount you invest. For example, A shares usually charge you a one-time commission ranging from 4.0% to 5.75% of your initial investment. With B shares there is no up-front commission, but they will charge you a stiff penalty to sell the funds in the early years and will impose an additional annual commission often ranging from .25% to 1.00% a year. Some discount brokers will waive the upfront commission on A shares for their customers.

Typically the best shares to purchase are the I class, which don’t have any commissions associated with them and offer the lowest management fees of any other share class. The downside is that I shares often require a minimum investment ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000. Financial advisors often have relationships with discount brokers that allow them to purchase the shares for clients in smaller amounts.

Fee Comparisons

It pays to compare fees.

For example, a comparison of fees available at the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (finra.org/fundanalyzer) shows that a $10,000 investment in the Invesco S&P 500 Index fund’s A shares will cost you $129 a year, while the same investment in the C shares will run $163. If instead you invest in the Fidelity Spartan 500 Index fund you will pay just $11.50 annually, which is over 1% less than the Invesco A shares.

The Savings

It’s surprising what a 1% savings means to your retirement nest egg. According to a study by the Vanguard Group reported by Jack Hough in SmartMoney.com, if a 25-year old saves 9% of his pay in a mutual fund, paying .25% a year in expenses versus 1.25% amounts to having an additional $500,000 by age 65.

Assessment

With all that said, most investors don’t have either the knowledge or the time to construct a diversified portfolio of mutual funds that will carry them through to retirement. Paying a fee or commission for advice can ultimately save you a lot of money. There are advisors who will help smaller investors select investments for an hourly or flat fee. Others charge fees based on the size of your portfolio, which normally range from .3% to 1.5%.

Conclusion

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Will Retirement Be a Bust for [Doctor] Boomers?

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Are Doctors Different?

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM

www.KahlerFinancial.com

If you’re a lay or medical professional Baby Boomer, or your parents are, here’s a ray of sunshine to brighten your day: Boomers have so severely underfunded their retirements that Congress may turn to their children to bail them out.

Dr. Basu Speaks

This is the gist of an article in the April issue of Financial Advisor magazine, by ME-P “thought-leader” Dr. Somnath Basu PhD, professor of finance at California Lutheran University. He notes, “The problem could be as big, if not bigger, than the 2008 financial crisis.”

The Study

A new study by the Center For Retirement Research, Boston College, detailed on CNBC.com, finds the retirement years for Boomers will be much leaner than for their parents. An estimated 51% of them will be unable to maintain their current lifestyles in retirement.

Ironically, one major contributor to this bleak picture is the Boomer generation’s own optimism and positive thinking. Raised in a society of abundance with expectations of prosperity, Boomers have over-spent and under-saved for decades. Many of them assume they will receive ample inheritances. They see increased life expectancy as a wonderful thing, forgetting to factor in the higher medical costs that will come with it. They expect to work well into their 70′s, disregarding statistics that show many of them will be forced to retire sooner due to health problems or job layoffs.

The Numbers

Let’s look at some decidedly pessimistic numbers from the Center For Retirement Research study. The median 401(k) and IRA balance for Boomers nearing retirement is $78,000. Only around half can expect to inherit from their parents, with the median inheritance amount $40,000. That adds up to a total nest egg of $118,000, which at a 4% withdrawal rate provides less than $400 a month for life. Combining that with the average Social Security check of $1,077 means retiring on an income just above the poverty level.

What’s the Solution?

Many Boomers say they plan to never quit working. Unfortunately, this is delusional. According to a new survey by the Society of Actuaries, “The 2011 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey,” over one-third of Boomers think they will never retire and only 10% say they will retire by 60. Statistics show, however, that 50% have actually retired before age 60. The main reasons are health and downsizing, which boomers discount. Well over 90% of them maintain they have a healthy lifestyle and won’t get sick. Boomers are so out of touch with reality I wonder how many, if asked, “Will you ever die?” would answer, “No,” or “Maybe.”

Sadly, only one-third of Boomers have a plan for financing their retirement, other than planning to work until the day they die. What’s the solution for the remaining two-thirds who are unprepared?

Unfortunately, for many older Boomers it is already too late. Their lack of planning for their retirement years may mean forcing their children and grandchildren to decide whether taxpayers can afford to pick up the tab.

Assessment

Younger Boomers can take control of their retirement by radically downsizing their lifestyles and increasing their income. This means selling expensive homes, cars, and toys and living as frugally as possible. The resulting savings should first go to pay off high-interest debt, then to fund to the max every available retirement plan. Another possibility is to consider various employment options, including government jobs which offer pension plans unavailable in most private sector jobs.

Conclusion

Wise Boomers will also encourage their own children to emulate the frugality and money skills of their grandparents. The kids will need those skills for their own futures—especially if they have to help their Boomer parents pay the bills.

But, are doctors the same as the rest of us – or do they differ on this issue?

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Seven Ways to Stretch Retirement Income

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Back to Basics

Assessment

Read more: 7 ways to stretch your retirement income http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/7-ways-to-stretch-your-retirement-income-infographic.aspx#ixzz1qLZ0z5Ua

Conclusion

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Physician’s Update on Dividend-Paying Stocks

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But Some Doctors Ask – Why All the Hype?

By David K. Luke MIM CMPcandidate [www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com]

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In an effort to help the US economy recover, the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates to historically low levels. Furthermore, the Fed has announced its intent to keep interest rates low until 2014. Classic income-producing investments such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit pay next to nothing.

Borrowing Good – Saving Bad!

Borrowers are being rewarded, but savers are being punished. Low interest rates may have spurred the economy somewhat, but they have been devastating for retired people who have a low tolerance for risk. Physicians, other investors and their advisors are turning toward alternatives that pay higher returns, but these vehicles necessarily carry more risk. Among these alternatives, some investors are considering the purchase of stocks that pay reliable dividends.

Assessment

But, is this an appropriate strategy for mature doctors and similar retirees? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks?

Conclusion

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PIMCO Interviews Somnath Basu PhD MBA on Retirement Planning

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A “Worried Sick” Encore Presentation

By Staff Reporters

Retirement is one of the most important life events many of us will ever experience; for doctor, nurse, FA, consultant or layman alike.

From both a personal and financial perspective, realizing a comfortable retirement is an incredibly extensive process that takes sensible planning and years of persistence. Even once reached, managing your retirement is an ongoing responsibility that carries well into one’s golden years.  While all of us would like to retire comfortably, the complexity and time required in building a successful retirement plan can make the whole process seem nothing short of daunting.

However, it can often be done with fewer headaches (and financial pain) than you might think – all it takes is a little homework, an attainable savings and investment plan, and a long-term commitment.

And so, in this encore presentation, Dr. Basu breaks down the process needed to plan, implement, execute and ultimately enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Assessment

During this DC Dialogue of late 2010, PIMCO talked with Dr. Somnath Basu, professor and Director of the California Institute of Finance at California Lutheran University,  and ME-P “thought leader”, on retirement planning issues of concern to us all

Link: http://www.agebander.com/pdf/DCD048-080310_SomnathBasu_FINAL-1.pdf

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For Financial Success – Doctors Must Outsmart their Brains

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On Behavioral Economics 101

By Rick Kahler CFP® MS ChFC CCIM http://www.kahlerfinancial.com

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

How’s this for a convincing excuse not to save for retirement? “I can’t help it. The human brain is programmed for financial failure.”

Why?

Emotional Decisions

An estimated 80 percent of our decisions are made emotionally. As all doctors are aware, our brain is divided into three sections. The upper brain, or cerebral cortex, is where we reason. The middle brain, or limbic system, is where we react to emotional impulse. The lower brain – basal ganglia – is what regulates the operations of the body.

Limbic System

The limbic system, where our emotions reside, functions to move us toward pleasure or away from danger. Feelings like fear or anger can cause us to move away from a perceived danger, while feelings of joy or pleasure can impel us toward a perceived benefit or reward. This aspect of our brain serves us very well when it comes to physical danger or life-enhancing decisions like choosing a mate. It isn’t quite so much help when we need to make financial decisions.

The Scenario

Suppose you and your spouse are talking about spending $5,000 on a trip to the Bahamas. Your middle brain lights up. It sees you sitting on a beach, it feels the light breeze twirling your hair, it hears the sound of the waves rolling onto the sand, and it can practically taste the Piña Colada you’re sipping.

Now, suppose you’re discussing putting that $5,000 into an IRA instead. What does your limbic system see, hear, feel, or smell? You writing a check? A brokerage statement? There’s no particular pleasure response for your emotional brain to get excited about. No wonder it’s going to urge you away from the IRA and toward the trip to the Bahamas.

Decision Making

When we’re faced with decisions, the option with the greatest emotional payoff tends to win. This is how our brains are wired to make financial decisions in favor of our short-term pleasure rather than the delayed gratification that is in our long-term best interest.

The secret to overcoming that self-defeating programming is to give our limbic system something to get excited about that supports saving for the future. Successful savers and physicians and all investors learn to link emotional rewards to their financial goals.

On Choices Revisited

Let’s take another look at the choice between an immediate tropical vacation and putting money into an IRA. Someone committed to investing for the future may imagine the same tempting beach scene. What they do, however, is see it happening once a year, or even every day—in the future. They imagine themselves enjoying that beach as one of the rewards of saving for their financial independence.

It’s also possible to trick the limbic system with negative images. Another saver might vividly imagine her-self as a bag lady, living out of garbage cans and sleeping on park benches, if she doesn’t write that check to her IRA. This isn’t nearly as much fun as imagining situations that reward investing, but it has the same effect of adding emotional impact to a financial decision.

In either case, the goal is to create an emotional charge from imagining the IRA contribution that is stronger than the image of spending the money today. The scene with the greatest emotional impact wins.

This is one reason it’s important for us to spend some time defining our life aspirations. Having clear images of what we want in the future makes it easier to imagine ourselves there. It helps us link strong emotional rewards to mundane activities like writing a check to an IRA.

Assessment

The human brain may be programmed for financial failure, but we have the ability to change that programming. With a little effort, we can rewire our brains for financial success.

Conclusion

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How Much Money to Retire [The Number]?

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Conclusion           

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The Challenge of Un-Expected [Physician] Retirement

Just a Word -or- Much More?

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By Rick Kahler; MS ChFC CCIM CFP®

Retirement is a word I’ve tried to purge from my professional vocabulary. Few people – even physicians and medical professionals – really know what it means anymore.

Instead, I like to think of retirement as being a stage in life where you get to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it, and with whom. It can also be that time when you attain financial independence and no longer intend or need to earn an income to support your lifestyle.

Early Retirement

Sometimes, however, “early retirement” can throw us a curve ball before we’re prepared for it or ready to become financially independent.

This often comes in the form of a job layoff, termination, or health issues that require we no longer work for an income. So, here are some action steps for an unexpected early retirement [applicable to doctors and laymen, alike]:

Some Tips

1. Immediately become aware of your monthly expenses. If you don’t track expenses, now would be a good time to go back over the last 12 months of expenditures and set up a cash flow tracking program like mint.com or quickbooksonline.com.

2. Create a spending plan for the next 12 months. Don’t forget to include savings for large purchases (cars, repairs, travel, Christmas, etc.) as a part of your annual expenses. Make sure you reduce or eliminate past expenses related to your work life and add expenses that come as a part of retirement, like increased travel or health care.

3. Estimate your sources of income. Include Social Security, employer pensions or severance packages, and your personal investments. For personal investments, use an income estimate of 4% of the principal. One million in investments will give you $40,000 a year in income.

4. Match your estimated annual retirement income with your spending plan expenses. If the expenses exceed your income, begin deciding where you can cut your spending. It is often helpful to enroll another person to help with ideas on reducing expenses. This is an area where we all have “blinders” on, and others can suggest creative cost savings we would never have thought of ourselves.

5. Don’t give up on finding part time employment [public clinics, part-time private offices, locum tenens, substitutes, hospitals, or even pro-bono work, etc].  There are many opportunities to create some income in retirement, and even a little paycheck can go a long way to preserving your investment savings. Check your ego at the door—this is not the time to let false pride keep you from taking a part-time job that’s less “professional” than what you’ve been doing.

6. Consider reducing monthly expenses by using savings or investments to pay off debts like car loans or credit card bills. Often your best investment is paying off debt. This can be especially true when your savings is earning 0.5% and your credit card is charging you 15% on the outstanding balance.

7. Consider downsizing by selling your house. This can be an especially good move if you have enough equity to pay cash for something smaller or at least end up with no mortgage or a smaller mortgage payment.

8. For couples, talk seriously about what both of you want, separately and together, in the next few years. Brainstorm creative ways—volunteering at state parks, for example—to carry out retirement plans inexpensively.

9. Take time to deal with the emotional side—anger, fear, depression, etc. It’s especially important to surround your-self with supportive friends and family and to talk about what’s going on.

Assessment

Unexpected retirement can be a life-changing blow, both emotionally and financially. Coping with it will require resiliency, courage, persistence, creativity, and support. You’ll be most successful when you take advantage of not just your financial resources, but all the resources at your disposal.

The Author

Rick Kahler, Certified Financial Planner®, MS, ChFC, CCIM, is the founder and president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, South Dakota. In 2009 his firm was named by Wealth Manager as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. A pioneer in the evolution of integrating financial psychology with traditional financial planning profession, Rick is a co-founder of the five-day intensive Healing Money Issues Workshop offered by Onsite Workshops of Nashville, Tennessee. He is one of only a handful of planners nationwide who partner with professional coaches and financial therapists to deliver financial coaching and therapy to his clients. Learn more at KahlerFinancial.com

Conclusion

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Investing Behaviors That Leave Money on the Table

Are Physicians Guilty, Too?

By Rick Kahler, CFP®, MS, ChFC, CCIM

If you had half a million dollars for your retirement fund, and invested it in mutual funds, chances are you would leave $25,000 a year of potential income on the table. Over 20 years, that underperformance could cost you over $1,000,000 when you include reinvestment.

The Dalbar Study

This conclusion is based on a recent study by Dalbar, Inc. It found that mutual fund investors (individuals and investment advisors) consistently earn below-average rates of return. This group’s average annual rate of return for 20 years underperformed the average by over 5%.

The Results

The study concluded most of this underperformance has little to do with sound investment strategy and everything to do with psychological factors. It outlined several behaviors that contribute to poor investment decisions such as badly-timed buying and selling.

Lack of Diversification – Many investors try to reduce risk through diversification, but very few do it properly. They try to diversify by having several advisors, many brokerage companies, or different mutual funds. Using these strategies creates a false sense of security that one’s portfolio is diversified. Real diversification is having investments in many different asset classes, i.e., stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, commodities, absolute return, and international equivalents.

Anchoring – This is relating something to a familiar experience that isn’t necessarily true. For example, a financial salesperson may compare investing in an equity mutual fund to growing a tomato plant. You put in a little seed and watch your plant grow and grow, until one day you have a bushel basket of luscious tomatoes. It’s an appealing image, but it sets an unrealistic expectation of an equity mutual fund. Neither stocks nor tomato plants grow that steadily. Some don’t grow at all. Others grow overnight and then die just as suddenly. Some get wiped out by hail. And some thrive.

Media Reporting – Reacting to the financial news without a more in-depth examination can ruin the most sound investment strategy. Very few financial reporters have degrees in economics or finance. Most financial reporting is faddish, trendy, sensational, and shallow. Research suggests investors who shun or limit their intake of financial news do better than those who don’t.

Herding – This is the concept that the herd knows best. Few people want to be going east when the whole herd is heading west. This is especially true when the herd is panicking: selling out of fear that their investments are going to nothing or buying out of fear of being left behind. The most successful investors avoid stampedes.

Loss Aversion – This is placing more emphasis on avoiding loss than on the possibility of gain. It results in investors wanting their cake and eating it too by searching for an investment with a high return and low or no risk. Such investments don’t exist. When they discover this, many investors don’t invest at all. Others go into an investment expecting it won’t go down, then sell out at precisely the wrong time when it does.

Delusion – This is an attitude that “bad things only happen to others, but not me.” A deluded investor is one who holds onto an investment even when it’s apparent that it’s never coming back.

Narrow Framing – This is making a quick decision without gathering or being aware of all the facts and considering the implications. Usually, the investor doesn’t uncover “the rest of the story” until it’s too late and the financial damage is done.

Assessment

And so, are you guilty of any of the above investing behaviors? No one – not even doctors and medical professionals – wants to leave a sizeable amount of potential retirement income on the table. 

The best tool for getting more of that income into your pocket isn’t necessarily studying investment philosophy. It may be more important to learn more about your own behavior.

The Author

Rick Kahler, Certified Financial Planner®, MS, ChFC, CCIM, is the founder and president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, South Dakota. In 2009 his firm was named by Wealth Manager as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. A pioneer in the evolution of integrating financial psychology with traditional financial planning profession, Rick is a co-founder of the five-day intensive Healing Money Issues Workshop offered by Onsite Workshops of Nashville, Tennessee. He is one of only a handful of planners nationwide who partner with professional coaches and financial therapists to deliver financial coaching and therapy to his clients. Learn more at KahlerFinancial.com

Conclusion      

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Financial Independence Guidelines for Medical Professionals

A Common Sense Approach

By Rick Kahler; MS ChFC CCIM CFP®

Someday, the time will come to retire from medical practice and actively earning a living.

But, for many newbie physicians, it’s way out there in the future, something to plan for – “someday.” You’re often too busy with your lives, families and professional careers to pay much attention to it.

Late Starters

In some cases, that in-attention lasts until the 50’s or even 60’s. All of a sudden it hits you that “someday” is getting closer faster, and you aren’t ready. You don’t have anywhere near enough in savings and investments to provide a sufficient income when no longer practicing medicine, dentistry, podiatry, osteopathy, or optometry etc. Or, working as a nurse, medical technician, hospital or clinic administrator; or office manager, etc.

General Guidelines

If you’re in this situation, it’s time to get serious about planning for financial independence. But, don’t panic. Before you start pricing cat food at the grocery store, and hinting to your kids about moving in with them, try these strategies first:

1. Cut back now so you can be more comfortable later. Make saving and investing to become financially independent your primary goal. This means no new cars, no new toys, no expensive vacations, and no funding college educations for kids or grandkids. Take an inventory of your spending, then go over it together with your spouse to find all the places you can cut expenses. Create a spending plan focused on freeing up funds to invest for your future.

2. Consider downsizing now instead of later, but only if you can live more cheaply by doing so. If you can sell your house for, say, $550,000, buying something smaller for maybe $250,000, and investing the difference might be a smart move. This works best if you have substantial equity in your house, meaning it is paid for or your mortgage is small.

3. Get rid of debt. Stop using credit cards unless you pay the bill in full every month. Pay off credit card balances and any other personal debt.

4. If you and your spouse are both working, pretend one of you loses your job and you have to live on one income; then put the second income toward saving and investing to become financially independent. A spouse who isn’t employed might consider getting a job solely for saving and investing.

5. Accept the reality that you’re probably going to need to postpone retiring from practice. If you enjoy your work, you might be happy to stay employed for a few more years. If you don’t, look into possibilities for changing careers now. This blog will help. Or, you might make plans for a second non-clinical career after you retire from your current one.

6. Take an inventory of your assets. Include your savings accounts, investments, and retirement plans. Don’t forget to include your Social Security income (yes, it will be there if you are over 55) and assets like a paid-for house or valuable personal property. Add in hobbies, skills, or interests that might bring in some part-time income. Also, include intangible assets like health, family, and friends. These may not affect your finances directly, but they have a great deal to do with your well-being.

7. Remember to enjoy the present. You may be cutting back on your spending, but don’t discourage yourself by cutting back so much that life – in the here and now – is bleak. Find creative and inexpensive ways to stay involved in activities that are important to you and enjoy time with friends and family.

Assessment

Don’t waste time and energy beating yourself up because you didn’t start saving earlier. Instead, give yourself credit for what you are doing now. Remember, you aren’t depriving or punishing yourself. You’re investing in yourself in order to build a more comfortable future.

The Author

Rick Kahler, Certified Financial Planner®, MS, ChFC, CCIM, is the founder and president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, South Dakota. In 2009 his firm was named by Wealth Manager as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. A pioneer in the evolution of integrating financial psychology with traditional financial planning profession, Rick is a co-founder of the five-day intensive Healing Money Issues Workshop offered by Onsite Workshops of Nashville, Tennessee. He is one of only a handful of planners nationwide who partner with professional coaches and financial therapists to deliver financial coaching and therapy to his clients. Learn more at KahlerFinancial.com

Conclusion                

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Capital Market Expectations, Asset Allocation and Safe Portfolio Withdrawal Rates

By Staff Reporters

From: Munich Personal RePEc Archive [MPRA]

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Economist Wade Donald Pfau has just finished a new article called, “Capital Market Expectations, Asset Allocation, and Safe Withdrawal.

Abstract

Most retirement withdrawal rate studies are either based on historical data or use a particular assumption about portfolio returns unique to the study in question.

But, financial advisors and planners may have their own capital market expectations for future returns from stocks, bonds, and other assets they deem suitable for their clients’ portfolios. These uniquely personal expectations may or may not bear resemblance to those used for making retirement withdrawal rate guidelines. The objective here is to provide a general framework for thinking about how to estimate sustainable withdrawal rates and appropriate asset allocations for clients based on one’s capital market expectations, as well as other inputs about the client including the planning horizon, tolerance for exhausting wealth, and personal concerns about holding riskier assets.

The study also tests the sensitivity of various assumptions for the recommended withdrawal rates and asset allocations, and finds that these assumptions are very important. Another common feature of existing studies is to focus on an optimal asset allocation, which is expected either to minimize the probability of failure for a given withdrawal rate, or to maximize the withdrawal rate for a given probability of failure. Retirement withdrawal rate studies are known in this regard for lending support to stock allocations in excess of 50 percent.

Assessment

This study shows that usually there are a wide range of asset allocations which can be expected to perform nearly as well as the optimal allocation, and that lower stock allocations are indeed justifiable in many cases.

Link: MPRA_paper_32973

About MPRA: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/information.html

NOTE: Wade Donald Pfau is an Associate Professor of Economics at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Japan. His PhD in economics was from Princeton University.

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Dr. Somnath Basu on Retirement Happiness [Video Clip]

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By Staff Reporters

A PodCast Clip

This brief podcast clip features Dr. Somnath Basu, director of the California Institute for Finance [CIF].

Dr. Basu, a popular ME-P thought-leader, shares his insights on what makes people happy in retirement.

Assessment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTrtmW831Xk

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Financial Planning Handbook for Physicians and Advisors

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Why Classic Retirement Planning Often Fails Doctor Colleagues?

Monitor the Money – Not the Returns

Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

[Publisher-in-Chief]

While taking my certified financial planner courses to earn the CFP® designation, almost two decades ago at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, I learned that in classic retirement planning engagements the financial planner or advisor determines the client’s retirement income needs, the assets already earmarked for the retirement portfolio, the desired retirement date, how distributions will need to be made, the assumed inflation rate, and life expectancy, etc.

Then, if a shortage develops, the advisor changes the asset allocation, increases the savings rate, proposes postponing retirement, or suggests reducing retirement income expectations, etc.

However, later in business school I learned that even when the inflation rate and investment returns prove to be accurate; this approach often fails doctors and all investors.

Geometry not Arithmetic

Why? Most planners focus on the wrong thing when monitoring portfolios. Possibly, there is confusion between compounding investment returns and compounding wealth. Planners tend to compound the arithmetical average return in projecting ending wealth over multi-period horizons. But, the accumulation of wealth is determined by the geometric compounding of actual returns.

Law of Large [Small]  Numbers

Still later on in B-school, I learned of the LoLN [normal distributions, parametric equations and cohorts], as well as Poisson distributions [non-normal or asymmetric distributions, and non-parametric equations and cohorts] or Law of Small Numbers.

Planners and Advisors often believe in the former Law of Large Numbers, and eschew [or are unaware of] the later — that is, that over time, average annual returns will approach ever more closely the expected return. The longer the investment horizon, the further the portfolio can wander from its expected dollar value despite the fact that it is approaching its expected return. The future value of each portfolio is determined by the unique and unpredictable pattern of compounded returns and inflation it suffers.

IOW: The longer the period over which this pattern can exercise its effects, the greater the potential divergence from its required return. In fact, while the expected range for the annualized rate of return narrows over time, the expected range for the terminal value of the portfolio diverges over time.

Assessment

Today, forward thinking advisors use “portfolio sufficiency monitoring” to adjust nominal performance results for inflation by establishing benchmarks for performance objectives, setting triggers for reevaluation of the portfolio when it wanders too far from established benchmarks, and monitoring and adjusting portfolio risk to maximize the probability of meeting retirement portfolio objectives.

It answers the question: “Will I have sufficient assets to meet my retirement income needs?” while investment performance monitoring answers the question, “Is my retirement portfolio performing well relative to other portfolios?” My doctor clients retire; not others!

Note: Monitoring Retirement Portfolio Sufficiency,” by Patrick J.Collins, Kristor J. Lawson, and Jon C. Chambers, Journal of Financial Planning, February 1997, pp. 66–74, Institute of Certified Financial Planners.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. How do you monitor your portfolio? And, how do FAs perform same for their physician and other clients. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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Unveiling the Retirement Myth

Review by: Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

[Publisher-and-Chief]

Jim Otar is a certified financial planner in Canada. He wrote the book: Unveiling the Retirement Myth on retirement income planning: how to make your retirement portfolio last as long as you do when you are living off your savings and investments in retirement.

The Print Version

The print version costs $49.99 on Amazon. But, for a limited time only, Jim Otar is offering a PDF version of this 525-page, 45 chapter book for FREE on his website retirementoptimizer.com.

The e-Book

Here’s the download link until January 10th, 2011:

http://www.retirementoptimizer.com/downloads/URMG/URMGreem.pdf

Assessment

This is a very worthwhile e-book offered at an excellent price-point. Its’ subtitle is advanced retirement planning based on market history, and that is exactly what is presented – much historical review although not especially of an advanced nature. But, it is voluminous. Additionally, since the past is no indication of the future – and current events like the potential of a “new economics normal” are not explicitly entertained – the treatise lacks a feeling of modernity!

Fortunately, the author does include many figures, graphs, illustrations and tables for ease of understanding. The mini case-examples also help keep it from trending to the boorish. This is an important point I have painfully learned after almost four decades of writing, editing and publishing [i.e., readability and interest]. Moreover, if the reader was not familiar with time-value of money calculations and concepts before reading, s/he will surely be after.

While mostly generic in nature – containing little tax, insurance, risk management and accounting information  – and not written for a physician or medical professional audience; the book represents a worthwhile review for doctor colleagues and/or those laymen unfamiliar with the ever widening topic. However, those physicians seeking healthcare specificity should look elsewhere for assistance www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com and http://www.springerpub.com/Search/marcinko

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Tax Strategies for Retiring Medical Professionals

Some Valuable Tips for 2011

By Sean G. Todd, Esq., M. Tax, CFP©, CPA 

www.EMCAdvisors.com

We need to start this ME-P with the famous quote made by Benjamin Franklin almost 300 years ago and yet still rings true: 

Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.”

I believe physicians and all individuals better be formulating a tax-efficient investment and distribution strategy. Here is why: as a physician retiree or planning-to-be retired, with an effective tax strategy, you will keep more of your hard-earned assets for yourself and your heirs. Here are a few items for consideration which just might help with your money management during your later years.

The General “Rules”

1.  Utilize Tax Efficient Investments

Municipal bonds or “munis” have long been appreciated by retirees seeking a haven from taxes and stock market volatility. In general, the interest paid on municipal bonds is exempt from federal taxes and sometimes state and local taxes as well. The higher your tax bracket, the more you may benefit from investing in munis. This is not the “silver bullet” to retirement income planning. Yet, we see unknowing investors being exposed to a significant downside risk which could result in significant losses of their assets.

2.  Utilize Tax Efficient Mutual Funds/Index Funds

A more acceptable point is that all mutual funds are not created equal. A prudent move might be to reallocate part of your portfolio to start investing in tax-managed mutual funds. Managers of these funds pursue tax efficiency by employing a number of strategies. For instance, they might limit the number of times they trade investments within a fund or sell securities at a loss to offset portfolio gains. Equity index funds may be even more tax-efficient than actively managed stock funds – having the ability to identify which index fund(s) are being more tax efficient is where we come in.

It’s also important to review which types of securities are held in taxable versus tax-deferred accounts. Why? Because in 2003, Congress reduced the maximum federal tax rate on some dividend-producing investments and long-term capital gains to 15%. In light of these changes, many financial experts recommend keeping real estate investment trusts (REITs), high-yield bonds, and high-turnover stock mutual funds in tax-deferred accounts. Low-turnover stock funds, municipal bonds, and growth or value stocks may be more appropriate for taxable accounts.

A Comparison Chart

Just for ease of comparison on a pure return basis, I thought the following chart would make a great reference.  Would a tax-free bond be a better investment for you than a taxable bond? Compare the yields to see. For instance, if you were in the 25% federal tax bracket, a taxable bond would need to earn a yield of 6.67% to equal a 5% tax-exempt municipal bond yield.

Federal Tax Rate 15% 25% 28% 33% 35%
Tax-Exempt Rate Taxable-Equivalent Yield
4% 4.71% 5.33% 5.56% 5.97% 6.15%
5% 5.88% 6.67% 6.94% 7.46% 7.69%
6% 7.06% 8% 8.33% 8.96% 9.23%
7% 8.24% 9.33% 9.72% 10.45% 10.77%
8% 9.41% 10.67% 11.11% 11.94% 12.31%

*The yields shown above are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to reflect the actual yields of any investment. 

3.  A question we get frequently: Which Security to Tap First?

A successful retirement plan is largely based on a sustainable income stream. This type of financial planning requires a specific set of skills. To facilitate a consistent income stream, another major decision is when to liquidate various types of assets.  The advantage of holding on to tax-deferred investments is that they compound on a before-tax basis and therefore have a greater earning potential than their taxable counterparts.

Consideration must also be given to making qualified withdrawals from tax-deferred investments which are taxed at ordinary federal income tax rates up to 35%, while distribution, in the form of capital gains or dividends, from investment in taxable accounts are taxed at a maximum 15% [Capital gains on investments held for less than one year are taxed at regular income tax rates].

This reason makes it beneficial to hold securities in taxable accounts long enough to qualify for the 15% rate.  When the focus is on estate planning, long term capital gains are more attractive because the beneficiary will receive a step-up in basis on appreciated assets inherited at death.
Another consideration when developing the sustainable retirement income plan is the timeframe for tapping into tax-deferred accounts.  Keep in mind, the deadline for taking required annual minimum distributions (RMDs) and have you taken into account the possible impact of the proposed tax law changes on your retirement income distribution plan?

4.  The Ins and Outs of RMDs

The IRS mandates that you begin taking an annual RMD from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans after you reach age 70 1/2. The premise behind the RMD rule is simple — the longer you are expected to live, the less the IRS requires you to withdraw (and pay taxes on) each year. RMDs are now based on a uniform table, which takes into consideration the participant’s and beneficiary’s lifetimes, based on the participant’s age. Failure to take the RMD can result in a tax penalty equal to 50% of the required amount.

Inside Tip: Why you should not wait until you retire to develop a sustainable retirement income plan: If you’ll be pushed into a higher tax bracket at age 70 1/2 due to the RMD rule, it may pay to begin taking withdrawals during your sixties. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not require you to begin taking distributions by age 70 1/2. In fact, you’re never required to take distributions from your Roth IRA, and qualified withdrawals are tax free. For this reason, you may wish to liquidate investments in a Roth IRA after you’ve exhausted other sources of income. Be aware, however, that your beneficiaries will be required to take RMDs after your death. 

Estate Planning and Gifting

Attaining proper investment counsel and advice has to answer the question—-“What happens when I die?”  Many strategies can be implemented by clients to address the various ways to make the tax payments on your assets easier for your heirs to handle. Who is the proper beneficiary of your money accounts?  If you do not name a beneficiary, your assets could end up in probate, and your beneficiaries could be taking distributions faster than they expected.

In most cases spousal beneficiaries are ideal, because they have several options that aren’t available to other beneficiaries, including the marital deduction for the federal estate tax, and the ability to transfer plan assets — in most cases — into a rollover IRA.

Also consider transferring assets into an irrevocable trust if you’re close to the threshold for owing estate taxes based on the sunset provisions.  Best estate tax avoidance plan today – die in 2010 as there is no limit on the amount you can pass to the next generation estate tax free.  Assets in this type of arrangement are passed on free of estate taxes, saving heirs tens of thousands of dollars.

Inside Tip: If you plan on moving assets from tax-deferred accounts do so before you reach age 70 1/2, when RMDs must begin.

Finally, if you have a taxable estate, you can give up to $13,000 per individual ($26,000 per married couple) each year to anyone tax free.  If you need my contact information, please let me know.  Also, consider making gifts to children over age 14 as dividends may be taxed — or gains tapped — at much lower tax rates than those that apply to adults.

Inside Tip: You may want to consider a transfer of appreciated securities to custodial accounts (UTMAs and UGMAs) to help save for a grandchild’s higher education expenses.

Market Focus

As individuals, especially doctors living in mini-mansions, come to grips with not being able to sell their homes for a value they once thought possible, we are apt to suggest that we might see increased activity in the home improvements sector as individuals just decide to make the upgrade to their existing home while they wait this whole real estate mess out. 

How can all this help you financially?  You are seeing exactly why you cannot base your investment decisions on the latest headline or try to time the market  Single and doubles in the investment world will score more runs than trying to to hit a home run (timing the market). What is your singles and doubles strategy? 

Summary

  • Formulating a tax-efficient investment and distribution strategy may allow you to keep more assets for you and your heirs.
  • Consider tax-efficient investments, such as municipal bonds and index funds, to help reduce exposure to taxes.  It’s what you keep that counts.
  • Tax-deferred investments compound on a before-tax basis and therefore have greater earning potential than their taxable counterparts. However, qualified withdrawals from tax-deferred investments are taxed at income tax rates up to 35%, whereas distributions from taxable investments held for more than 12 months are taxed at a maximum 15%.
  • You must begin taking an annual amount of money (known as a required minimum distribution) from some tax-deferred accounts after you reach age 70 1/2.
  • Review how your assets fit into a comprehensive estate plan to make the most of your money while you’re alive and to maximize the amount you’ll pass along to your heirs.
  • Before selling appreciated investment assets, be sure that you have owned them for at least one year. That way, you’ll qualify for lower capital gains taxes.
  • If you’re considering placing assets in a trust or custodial account, think carefully about which assets would be most appropriate to transfer.
  • Schedule a meeting with a financial professional to review your tax management strategies.
  • Remember to begin taking required minimum distributions from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement accounts after you reach age 70 1/2 in order to avoid costly penalties.

Conclusion

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Doctors – Are You Preparing for Retirement [A Voting Opinion Poll]?

ME-P Voting Poll with Survey

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko FACFAS,  MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

As a physician-focused financial advisor, I know that for those medical professionals between the ages of 45 to 54, the thought of retirement should be popping up a few times these days.

And, for doctors between ages 55 and 64, the thought may be taking on urgent tones about now!

In fact, many of us are reconciling to the idea that it may be a fact that we have to either postpone our retirements or live a much simpler life during retirement. Whatever the thoughts may be, what’s driving them is our preparedness to retire.

And so, we’d appreciate your vote and comments, too!

Disclaimer: I am a reformed Certified Financial Planner®, Series 7 [stock-broker], 63 and 65 license holder, and RIA representative who also held all applicable insurance and security licenses.

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On Medical Practice [Business] Succession Planning

A Process of Financial Steps

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko, MBA CMP™

[Editor-in-Chief]

http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Succession planning is a dynamic process requiring current ownership and management to plan the medical practice or company’s future, and then implement the resulting plan. As a financial planner and advisor myself, I see many doctors and clients approach business [practice] succession planning initially through retirement planning. Once they understand the issues and realities of the tax laws, they are much more amenable to working out a viable succession plan. Many doctors and other clients have not clearly articulated their goals, but have many pieces of the plan that need to be organized and analyzed by the financial planner to meet their objectives, including both personal and financial issues.

A Step-Wise Process

The steps necessary for successful succession planning are as follows:

• Gathering and analyzing data and personal information

• Contacting the doctor [client’s] other advisors

• Valuing the medical practice or business

• Projecting estate and transfer taxes

• Presenting liquidity needs

• Gathering additional corporate information

• Identifying dispositive and financial goals

• Analyzing the needs and desires of nonfamily key employees

• Identifying potential ownership, physician-executive and/or management successors

• Making recommendations, modifying goals, and providing methodologies

• Assisting the doctor-client in implementation

Gathering and Analyzing Data and Personal Information

The first step in data collection is talking to the doctor or client, and explaining the process of gathering data. Most successful financial planners use a questionnaire to be sure to address all important information. The planner should gain an understanding of the interrelationships between the practice, family and the business and address each of these areas as separate parts of the same equation. Finding out how the practice or business operates and why it operates that way can help the planner determine whether change is necessary and how to go about implementing it. Other important elements to address include the environment in which the practice [business] operates, potential flaws in the current structure and operations, appropriate levels of key-person life insurance coverage, investment asset diversification, prior estate planning efforts, and existing legal contracts that may need modification.

A Timely Process

It may take some time, from weeks to months, for the client to gather the required information. The planner should be encouraging and should periodically check on the doctor-client’s progress. If it appears that the client may not be motivated to complete the questionnaires independently, the planner should schedule an appointment to help the doctor-client finish. The client may create obstacles because he or she does not want to talk about death or relinquish control of the practice or business. These are delicate topics, and the financial planner cannot force the client to face them. Still, the consequences of not carrying out personal financial and estate planning can be explained.

Understanding the Practice or Business

To be most helpful to the doctor-client, the financial planner must understand the client’s medical practice or business. Reviewing the history of the company, getting acquainted with its current operations, and becoming familiar with the industry is important. By reviewing financial statements, income tax returns, business plans, and all pertinent legal documents, the planner will be able to identify key areas to focus on during the engagement. Understanding the patient or customer base of the business is also important. For example, exploring the impact of the principal’s death on the patient [customer] base helps the financial planner understand what changes could occur in the business after the physician-owner’s death.

Fair Market Valuation

Next, the planner must translate the balance sheet to current fair market values and analyze the debt, capital structure, and cash flows. A review of accounts receivable, inventory, and any fixed assets should be included to determine whether there is sufficient collateral for a leveraged buy-out or other estate planning technique for succession planning. Also, the cash flow should be reviewed to see if new fixed payments such as debt repayments or dividend distributions could be made.

Contacting the Doctor-Client’s Other Advisors

After gathering the documents, it’s a good idea for the planner to contact the client’s attorney, accountant or tax advisor, bank or trust officer, insurance advisor, investment advisor, stockbroker, and other business advisors. As many key advisers as possible should be contacted early in the engagement to create a spirit of cooperation. A planner will benefit by creating team harmony and establishing himself or herself as the team leader. Additionally, a planner could be engaged by these professionals in the future, and a planner is a valuable source of referrals.

Valuing the Medical practice of Business

The next step in the succession planning process is computing the value of the practice or business. It may surprise the planner to hear what the doctor or client perceives as the value of the [practice] business at the beginning of the engagement. Likewise, the client may be surprised to hear what value could be placed on the business for estate tax purposes. The goal in valuation is determining the price at which the business would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, assuming:

• The buyer is not under any compulsion to buy.

• The seller is not under any compulsion to sell.

• Both parties have reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.

Revenue Ruling 59-60 (1959-1, CB 237

The IRS issued Revenue Ruling 59-60 (1959-1, CB 237), which lists several factors to be used in valuing a business:

• Nature and history of the practice or business

• Economic outlook and condition of the healthcare industry

• Book value and financial condition of the practice or business

• Earning capacity of the practice or business

• Dividend-paying capacity of the practice or business

• Value of any goodwill or other intangibles

• Value of similar stocks traded on open markets

• Degree of control represented by the size of the block of stock interest

Highest and Best Use

The IRS computes a value based on the “highest and best use” of the practice or business. This means that the business will be valued by the IRS at the highest possible value that can be reasonably justified. Valuation methods include the asset approach, income approaches, and market approach.

• Asset approach:  This is primarily used for a business that is worth more if it is sold in pieces rather than as a whole. The tangible asset value is added to the intangible goodwill value.

• Income approaches:  A business as a going concern has value in its ability to produce profits in the future. These profits represent a return on the investment. The value of the business is a function of expected profits and desired rate of return.

— Discounted future earnings method:  Projected future earnings are discounted to present value.

— Discounted cash flow method:  Cash that the owner can withdraw from the business is discounted to present value.

— Capitalization of earnings method: Expected earnings are divided by the capitalization rate.

— Capitalization of excess earnings method.  Expected earnings that are not needed in the business are divided by the capitalization rate.

• Market approach: A business is worth what similar businesses sell for. Referred to as the comparable method of business valuation, this method should be used only when the comparable business is truly comparable.

Each of these primary methods has numerous variations that may provide a more desirable or justifiable value.

Assessment

When reviewing potentially taxable estates, the planner should analyze the opportunity to use favorable valuation discounts for loss of a key employee, lack of marketability, or possibly a minority discount for lack of control. Alternatively, planning recommendations can be made to avoid exposure to valuation premiums for control. The physician-owner may avail himself or herself of many of these discounts by reducing holdings to less than 50% prior to death.

Conclusion

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Financial Planning and Risk Management Handbooks from iMBA, Inc

For Doctors and their Financial Advisors

[By Staff Reporters]

For more on these topics, see the handbooks below:

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Conclusion

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Mental and Physical Well-Being for [Physician] Boomers and Their Retirement Plans

By Somnath Basu PhD MBA

President – AgeBander
Thousand Oaks, CA

A  Pew Research Center study[1] on the effects of financial stress on health finds 42.4% of respondents in a survey on the subject indicated that their health had been affect by financial problems. The study also found that 1 in 8 baby boomers were raising children, planning for retirement and at the same time caring for their elderly parents. This is the unfortunate reality for many baby boomers who face the implications of being a sandwich generation.

The Boomer Spectrum

For boomers across the spectrum of age (1945-64) financial stress has also contributed significantly to relational strife and has exacerbated many medical conditions. It has been linked to depression and sleep disorders and has been known to negatively affect the autoimmune and digestive system. For retirees who find themselves on a limited income with few options for augmenting that income the additional stress of financial problems has certainly  been detrimental to their mental, emotional and physical well being.  For such retirees who had an improper perception of their retirement needs the realization of the truth is definitely overwhelming. For others, who had thought they had planned ahead and were diligent, are now wrestling with guilt and remorse over their failure to provide for their retirement years. These individuals too are likely also facing fairly severe mental health conditions related to retirement security. Additionally these retirees will likely look back on the sacrifices they did make and feel these were in vain further exacerbating the state of their mental health. This in turn leads them also to resist reasonable advice because their fears make them more suspecting of any advice including the reasonable ones.

The Emotional Culprits

Two of the chief culprits have been the tendency of boomers (as a solace, all other generations suffer from these same problems though boomers have been most affected) to overestimate and have overconfidence about their financial knowledge and understanding of key financial concepts. Their lack of knowledge about overestimating themselves and being overconfident about their understanding of key financial concepts has proved to be detrimental to many a boomer’s health and well being in retirement. This is mainly due to these weaknesses leading them to not having enough funds for their retirement expense needs. A national collaborative strategy initiative on this problem has identified five action areas needed to help alleviate this problem – the need to educate consumers on the areas of financial policy, education, practice, research, and coordination. The reality is that when retirees are affected mentally, physically and emotionally (leading to overconfidence and over optimism), their financial decisions become faulty due to acting on their perceptions of retirement risk. This makes them tend to drastically under-estimate their retirement expenses. In such cases they experience or will experience significant reductions in their quality of retirement life. To ensure that expectations of retired life are realistic and risk perceptions are aligned to realistic and achievable goals are the first steps for boomers to ascend in order to improve the quality of their overall mental and physical health in retirement.

Objective Retirement Planning

An objective of planning for retirement thus becomes the need to find some kinds of lifelong guaranteed pensions since it is well known and understood that retirees who have such luxuries are many times more satisfied in retirement than their peers. The more satisfied in retirement the better mental and financial well-being one has. The main thrust in achieving such a mental state is to understand the importance of a secure and assured income that arrives in the bank consistently every period (such as monthly or bi-weekly).  

Perception too plays a big role in mental health as does the security of regular income. However, those receiving Social Security as their regular income are known to be less satisfied than others. Studies show that Social Security benefits carry a “hand-out stigma” for those who rely on them for their well being. From the boomers perspective, living a simpler life but funding retirement from a disciplined pension fund approach (using 401(k) funds, IRAs, personal financial portfolios, etc.) ensures the chances that their mental and physical well-being in retirement will not be reduced in any way by their financial well-being. Now is the time for boomers to exact such a lifestyle and bring in a certain semblance of stability in the vision for the rest of their lives.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. What are your retirement plans and how does this essay impact on them; if at all? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Notes: [1] http://personalfinancefoundation.org/research/efd/Negative-Health-Effects-of-Financial-Stress.pdf

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Creditor and Asset Protection Strategies for Medical and Other Professionals

IRAs, Education IRA [Coverdell Accounts], 529 Plans, Qualified and Non-Qualified Annuities and Insurance – in the State of Ohio

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By Edwin P. Morrow III, J.D., LL.M., MBA, CFP®, RFC®
Wealth Specialist – Manager, Wealth Strategies Communications
Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist, Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law – Key Private Bank – Wealth Advisory Services
10 W. Second St.
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(937) 285-5343 direct phone
(937) 422-8330 cell phone

Hi Ann and All ME-P Readers

Would you be interested in posting this article on creditor and asset protection and planning for retirement accounts and similar? It is highly useful for physicians and other professionals

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=retirement+planning&iid=8453241″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8453241/investments-ira-401k-and/investments-ira-401k-and.jpg?size=500&imageId=8453241″ width=”353″ height=”484″ /]

Assessment

Link: Creditor Protection for IRAs Annuities Insurance August 2010 NBI CLE[1]

Conclusion

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Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

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Why Physicians Need to Deal with Debt

Understanding the Impending Retirement-Planning Crisis

[By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA]

A serious retirement-planning crisis is looming in the US with many Baby Boomer physicians, and others, having already spent a portion of their nest egg and undermining any hope for a comfortable lifestyle unless they continue to work. Notwithstanding medical professionals, look no further than an annual “retirement confidence” survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates in each of the past 17 years. Nearly two in five of working Americans responding to the latest survey indicated that they have taken no action in the face of reductions in their employer-provided retirement benefits.

Consumption Equals Happiness?

The population is constantly told that consumption equals happiness. At the same time they are not being asked to understand about the implications of borrowing to fund for such consumption. Before we can expect to effect a change in the ensuing pattern of a vicious cycle, the population mass must have a clear understanding of the difference between needs (e.g., retiring with peace of mind) and desires (e.g., cruises or living the high life).

Negative Savings Rate

When savings first dipped into negative territory during the Great Depression in 1932 and 1933, people didn’t have enough to eat, whereas there has been no such urgency to raid nest eggs since the repeat of this performance in 2005 when the rate fell to minus 0.5 percent. Our grandparents were shining stars in the way they worked hard to build this country’s infrastructure and manufacturing sector, saved every red cent they could get their hands on and created affluence on a mass scale. Today we’re able to enjoy the fruit of their labor. But, somehow their values were lost on future generations.

Changing American Culture

Many of the nation’s top engineers and scientists now hail from China, India and other Asian countries as American culture has undergone a dramatic change to the point where jocks and cheerleaders are more valued than computer geeks and science nerds in our schools. We inherited so much affluence that it made us lazy as a society. The seeds of our destruction have been sown, but it’s up to our politicians, educators and other leaders, including financial advisors, to help reverse this disturbing pattern before it’s too late.

Many people fall into the trap of rushing through dinner and unwinding in front of the TV where a big part of the problem lies in slick and subtle, and hard to resist, primetime advertising and marketing messages (prime time for subtle messages) that seduce viewers into purchasing luxury cars or flying to far-flung resorts where they can sip umbrella-clad cocktails alongside affluent vacationers.

Americans in Debt

A recent wave of foreclosures has put Americans deeper in debt, with the sub-prime crisis exposing despicable predatory lending practices. But, research has shown the wreckage also could be found strewn across in the mid-prime and prime markets as middle-class borrowers struggled to pay adjustable rate mortgages. High hopes have been pinned on the stock market helping people crawl out from this crisis just like when the real estate market had softened the blow when the tech-bubble burst at the turn of this century. So far, this has happened, to an extent. But, if the stock market starts reeling again, then it will spell even bigger trouble. Add to this the international trade imbalance, which implies foreign governmental funding of our conspicuous consumption, and which comes with high interest rates that need to be paid to the lenders, again to such countries as China, India and other emerging economies, and a bigger, worse picture emerges.

Personal Bankruptcies

Personal bankruptcies have an even more devastating effect on an individual’s ability to plan for the future, particularly since the laws pertaining to this area were toughened to a point where reckless spenders will need to muster fiscal and financial discipline as never before. The doomsday scenario is that children now run the risk of inheriting debt instead of wealth, and it’s unconscionable to think future generations would have a standard of living that’s worse than their parents or grandparents.

Assessment

The true grit associated with being an American is to rise up in the face of adversity – a frontier spirit that drew me this remarkable country. We’ve weathered numerous storms and can do it again. But, it requires a serious commitment to stopping mindless consumption of goods and services, as well as understanding there’s a difference between basic needs and pie-in-the-sky desires.

NOTE: Dr. Somnath Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance. He is also the creator of the innovative AgeBander technology www.agebander.com for planning retirement needs.

Conclusion

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A New Model for Planing Physician Retirement Needs

Understanding Age Banding

By Ann Miller RN, MHA

[Executive Director]

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From time to time, our readers send in e-books, files or e-chapters, pamphlets or other material they have created for client, educational or marketing use. Some of it may be worthwhile; some not so. Nevertheless, these publications are often a good place to start the conversation, or thought-process on related topics.

They will be occasionally offered as a complimentary membership feature of the Medical Executive-Post.

  • Age Banding [author]
  • Somnath Basu PhD, MBA  [www.clunet.edu/cif]
  • [Director California Institute of Finance]

Link: AgeBander

 

 

Disclaimer

No advice offered. We make no copyright claim to these works. Veracity and information should be considered time sensitive. Always consult a professional for your situation.

Assessment

Feel free to send in your own material for the benefit of all Medical Executive-Post readers and subscribers.

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Current Retirement Investment Options for Physicians

Understanding Build America Bonds

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA [www.clunet.edu/cif]

[Director California Institute of Finance]

There is heartening news for those of us in retirement or approaching it. There’s a new type of bond called the Build America Bond or BAB. The BAB, along with an older and often ignored retirement investment, is viewed as positive developments for those saving for retirement. But, before a doctor, or any investor, jumps into these investments, some background information is required.

The Accumulation Phase

When people in their early careers save, their primary objective should be that their money grows healthily. They generally should invest in stocks which provides for longer run growth. This phase of our financial life can be called the “Accumulation Phase.”

The Preservation Phase

However, people in their mid- to end-careers (roughly between the ages of 40 – 65) start switching their objectives towards a more conservative future growth in their current savings, especially those associated with emergencies and retirement. This phase is usually identified as the “Preservation Phase” where individuals should begin switching their investments towards more fixed-income securities, such as bonds and bond funds. This idea of how reasonable people “should” behave is commonly known as the life-cycle hypothesis of investments.

The Decumulation Phase

Finally, people in retirement, those who are in the phase termed as the “Decumulation Phase,” should have a healthy dose of bond-type investments in their retirement portfolios.

Strange as it may be to some, this opinion about the investment life-cycle actually contains a lot of truth. If most people followed this basic rule, we would be better off this way than by any other method and especially in times like the recent financial tsunami that hit us. Those hit especially hard were people between the ages of 55 and older who held unhealthy amounts of stocks in their portfolios. Following this simplified version of retirement investments is both easy and effective.

All we do as we age is reduce our stock investments and increase our bond investments. While such a strategy reduces the growth of our wealth it also protects us from large to calamitous losses.

Unfortunately, the last 10 years or so have not been good for bond investments because bond prices have been at or near all-time highs and their returns near all-time lows. The following picture shows the rates one would earn by investing in the government’s (highest safety) 10-Year Treasury Note. Many bonds and mortgages (and subsequently the respective funds) use the 10-Year rate as the benchmark rate.

Graph: 10 T Year Note

As can easily be seen, these rates have come down steadily. A result has been the difficulty, of late, to find (the safer type) bond funds because they have been so expensive. However, one recent development in this field is worth mentioning: that is the emergence of a class of (stimulus-related) bonds known as the “Build America Bonds” or BABs, which for the first time in many years offers investors a very suitable entry to convert stocks into bonds. BABs, which were introduced in April 2009, are an innovative new tool for municipal financing created by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. BABs are taxable bonds for which the U.S. Treasury Department pays a maximum of 35 percent direct subsidy to the issuer to offset borrowing costs.

The second issue of note is that at this point, it is quite expensive to hold cash in money market type funds because of the dismal rates offered on very short-term products. An alternative that physicians and all investors should contemplate purchasing instead of CDs, and money market deposits, is a class of bonds, issued by the Government and known as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS. These investments sold directly by the government to you (at http://www.TreasuryDirect.gov) are excellent vehicles for holding funds as they guarantee that your money will hold its buying power over time and a bit more. TIPS are a great way to hold the capital you will need in the short term. The following picture shows the stability of the TIPS rate; a much safer and more stable investment opportunity than short term Bank CDs, recent money market funds, etc.

Graph: TIPS Rate

Build America Bonds [BAB]

The Build America Bonds program, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allows state and local governments to obtain much-needed financing at lower borrowing costs for new capital projects such as construction of schools and hospitals, development of transportation infrastructure, and water and sewer upgrades, according to a recent U.S. Treasury Department press release. Under the Build America Bonds program, the Treasury Department makes a direct payment to the state or local governmental issuer in an amount equal to 35 percent of the interest payment on the bonds.

Here’s how BABs work according to the Treasury Department:

“The bonds, which allow a new direct federal payment subsidy, are taxable bonds issued by state and local governments that will give them access to the conventional corporate debt markets. At the election of the state and local governments, the Treasury Department will make a direct payment to the state or local governmental issuer in an amount equal to 35 percent of the interest payment on the Build America Bonds. As a result of this federal subsidy payment, state and local governments will have lower net borrowing costs and be able to reach more sources of borrowing than with more traditional tax-exempt or tax credit bonds. For example, if a state or local government were to issue Build America Bonds at a 10 percent taxable interest rate, the Treasury Department would make a payment directly to the government of 3.5 percent of that interest, and the government’s net borrowing cost would thus be only 6.5 percent on a bond that actually pays 10 percent interest.”

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Assessment

According to the Treasury Department, Build America Bonds have had a very strong reception from both issuers and investors.  From the inception of the program in April 2009 to March 31, 2010, there have been 1,066 separate Build America Bonds issuances in 48 states for a total of more than $90 billion. Read more about BABs at this site

http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/docs/BuildAmericaandSchoolConstructionBondsFactsheetFinal.pdf

Now, until the general level of interest rates go back to their normal states, it will be difficult to find another opportunity such as this one. This is especially true of investments that are made to local governments through their taxable investments. Municipal bonds are typically considered less risky. Add to this the partial guarantee of the Govt. and you have the makings of a very safe Bond fund providing an average yield of nearly 6% for medium-term duration. There has been a dearth of such fixed income investments in the Bond markets for quite a while. Thus, for doctors and all of us at or nearing retirement age, an exploration and investigation of BABs is an absolute must.

 

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

 

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[Doctor’s] Guide to Roth IRAs

Get Rich Slowly

By Ann Miller RN, MHA

[Executive Director]

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From time to time, our readers send in e-books, files or e-chapters, pamphlets or other material they have created for client, educational or marketing use. Some of it may be worthwhile; some not so.

Nevertheless, these publications are often a good place to start the conversation, or thought-process on related topics. They will be occasionally offered as a complimentary membership feature of the Medical Executive-Post. We trust they are beneficial to you.

Guide to Roth IRAs [author]

  • JD Roth

Link: The GRS Guide to Roth IRAs

Disclaimer

No advice is offered. We make no copyright claim to these works. Veracity and information should be considered time sensitive. Consult a professional for your situation.

Assessment

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Modern Retirement Planning and “Banding” for Physicians

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The “AgeBander” Approach Presents a More Accurate Portrayal

[By Somnath Basu, PhD, MBA]

A convergence of mega-trends will forever change the face of retirement planning and raise its importance in the pantheon of physician retirement planning and most all employee benefits. Chief among them: longer life expectancy, advances in medicine, healthier lifestyles and mounting concern about years of abysmally low savings rates.

What it all Means in Practical Terms

What this means in practical terms for future retired physicians and most all retirees is the need for employers, service providers and financial advisers [FAs] to plot a more accurate and thoughtful course to planning for retirement that acknowledges the necessity of pursuing an “age-banded” approach. The idea behind this new approach is that individuals undergo various changes in lifestyles during retirement that last for finite or “age-banded”, periods.

Example:

For example, doctors like most people spend more time and money on leisurely activities early on in retirement, while health care needs dominate the latter years. Further, the costs associated with these lifestyles also change at differential inflation rates than from the basic inflation rate. While the basic inflation rate is about 3%, the U.S. Census Bureau noted that annual recreation costs increased at 7.14% though most of the 1990s. Health care costs also increased by much higher rates than the basic rate. Since the traditional model bundles all costs (including leisure, health care, basic living, etc) and extrapolates at the basic rate, it tends to underestimate retirement expenses. The traditional model’s “static” approach to retirement can have dangerous implications since it may lead to under-funded retirement plans, especially those earmarked for the critical years.

A Flawed Model?

In a research paper published by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, I detailed the reasons why an age-banded approach is superior to the traditional view of retirement planning. This new model provides for a more accurate portrayal of retirement expenses and an algorithm to calculate the income-replacement ratio, as well as smaller resource requirements and greater flexibility in managing risk. It also allows easier incorporation of long-term care insurance (LTCI) and significantly reduces funding needs. Indeed, the funding needs of a husband and wife who are both age 60 and presumably five years away from retirement are reduced by more than 16% and contributions for a 35-year-old single woman are reduced by 42% compared with previous approaches.

Traditional Retirement Planning Weaknesses

There are five inherent weaknesses to the traditional approach to retirement planning. They include the assumption that all living expenses will increase at the overall rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), bundling all expenses together and not allowing them to change based on the life-cycle, estimating those expenses as a fixed percentage (replacement ratio) of pre-retirement costs, investing in low-return assets and failing to consider contingencies such as LTCI benefits, which can have a significant impact on the amount of funding required for retirement.

Financial Advisory Estimates

When financial planners estimate how much income a client needs in retirement, the calculation hinges on their income just prior to retirement. The pre-retirement income is adjusted downward by 10% to 35%. This adjustment reflects the income necessary to maintain one’s standard of living and incorporates reductions in taxes and other work-related expenses that cease upon retirement. Unfortunately, there’s no objective way to estimate the replacement ratio. Aggressive financial planners typically use large ratios and conservative planners use smaller ones.

30-year Retirement Window

Under the age-banded model, an individual typically lives about 30 years in retirement (e.g., age 65 to 95) and experiences a lifestyle change every 10 years at 65, 75 and 85. Of course, both the retirement period and the width of the age bands are arbitrary but can be subjectively changed to fit each retiree as closely as possible. In addition, a number of steps are taken to produce a clearer picture of retirement costs by categorizing them based on taxes, living expenses, health care and leisure, as well as calculating anticipated expenses using the appropriate rate of inflation for each category, which is adjusted to reflect post-retirement lifestyle changes.

Those expenses are extrapolated through 30 years of retirement and the present value of post-retirement expenses are calculated at an amount deemed sufficient to finance the three following decade (each age band). Instead of discounting these values to the year of retirement (the traditional model), the age banding considers them to be three retirement portfolios that require funding.

Since the portfolio required to fund the expenses during the years 86 to 95 is 20 years behind the first band (66 to 75), investors can seek marginally higher rates of return to reflect the longer terms. Contributions toward these amounts can now be calculated.

Example:

For example, the couple mentioned earlier is able to seek higher rates of return for longer-term investment portfolios which more than mitigate the effects of escalating health care costs. In the case  of the 35-year-old single woman, since the funds required for these three portfolios are 30, 40 and 50 years away she should be willing to take on more risk since she has ample time to manage the portfolio risk.

The expenses for the age-banded method become considerably higher at the latter stages of retirement as compared to the traditional model. This is desirable since the over-funding is associated with an age at which one cannot afford to be out of funds. The higher estimate of the age band comes from higher inflation rates for health care and the incorporation of lifestyle changes that imply accelerated costs such as increased leisure spending upon retirement and higher health care costs in the latter years.

Thus, these higher costs are not only more realistic but they incorporate the dynamics of a retired life, unlike the traditional model. Incredible as it might seem, the ability to assume a marginally higher risk leads to an actual decrease in the funding requirements versus the traditional plan.

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Assessment

One caveat that doctors need to know, and that financial planners will need to keep in mind, is that their clients may be reticent to buy equities when markets are underperforming. Clear explanations are required regarding why it may still be beneficial for the long run and that the risk will be managed on an ongoing basis. But, the results will be well worth the effort for the multiple stakeholders involved in assuring that tomorrow’s retirees are able to live more comfortable after their working years. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind associated with knowing retirement expenses will be portrayed more accurately and plan participants will be afforded greater flexibility in managing their risk.

Table [Comparison of growth in retirement expenses]

Link: Age-Banded Retirement Planning FINAL[1]

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

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The DB[k] Pension Plan

A New Combination Plan

By Staff Reporters

Did you know that The Pension Protection Act of 2006 will provide for a new kind of hybrid pension plan for employers with 500 or fewer employees?

What it is – How it works

According to PensionRights.org, until now, employee contributions to traditional pension plans have not been tax deferred. For that reason, few pension plans require or permit employee contributions. Instead, many employers supplement their pension plans with separate 401(k) plans which permit employees to defer taxes on their contributions.

The DB/K Plan

The new “DB/K plan” will combine a traditional defined benefit pension plan with a 401(k) savings plan. The plan will provide a low employer-paid guaranteed lifetime monthly retirement benefit that could be supplemented by voluntary tax deferred contributions by employees. The minimum pension benefit, payable to employees who work 3 or more years for the employer, will be equal to the lesser of 1 percent of average pay during the last five years of work multiplied by the number of years of service with the employer, or 20 percent of the average pay in the employee’s consecutive highest 5 years of earnings.

Assessment

The 401(k) component of the plan requires the employer to match at least 50% of an employee’s contributions up to 4% of the employee’s salary. The provision will take effect in 2010.

Read Section 903 of The Pension Protection Act of 2006 Public Law 109-280

Visit: www.PensionRights.org

Conclusion

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Current Milestones in Retirement Planning For Physicians

What if You Are Behind Your Target Goals?

By: Alexander M. Kimura; MBA, CFP®

By: Robert J. Greenberg; CFP®

By: Richard P. Moran; CFP®fp-book

The stock market has been in a terrible place for your money and retirement planning, since October 2007. Perhaps even the last decade or so for some physicians. But, if none of your assumptions have changed and you feel that you can make up the difference in the next year, you probably can use the same retirement cash flow plan. As a rule of thumb, if you’re less than 10 percent off of your goal, you may not need to do anything. This is rare in the investing climate today!

So, if you have fallen so far behind that each year’s target seems unachievable, you will probably need to make some changes. However, before you change your planning and investing, you need to see why you’re behind.

Examine Expenses

If you haven’t saved as much as you expected, take a look at your expenses [personal and office] and see where you can cut down. Remember, you need to pay yourself first before you spend on luxuries. Contribute as much as possible to your qualified retirement plan at work, too.

Examine Returns

Next, you need to look at your investment returns. Since the stock market has been in one of its inevitable “corrections” for several years, this can significantly impact your balances. Remember, your return assumptions are based on averages that should include the bad and good years. If you’re close to retirement and have a large shortfall, then you may need to increase the risk in your investment portfolio in order to meet your goals. If the market falls more, or stays down for some time, increasing risk by buying more stocks forces you to “buy low” which should pay off over time.

Assessment

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As a doctor, you can always delay retirement and work a few more years. Fortunately, medicine is one profession where experience earns an economic premium.

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Paradigm Shift to “Defined Health Contributions” from “Defined Health Benefits” Plans

What it is – How it Works

By Staff Reporters

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In the past, according to Robert James Cimasi MHA AVA CMP™ of Health Capital Consultants LLC in St. Louis MO, many employers had defined retirement benefits for employees. Today, most retirement benefits are in the form of 401K plans where companies make defined contributions, effectively shifting the financial risk of paying for retirement to employees.

Defined Health Contributions

Defined health contributions are similar to employer-funded defined retirement contributions like 401K plans. Currently, employers pay for some portion of about half of Americans’ health insurance. Traditional employer-funded plans are those for which the employee simply fills out a form; that is, an employer will offer one or possibly two health insurance plans, and the employee fills out application paperwork. The employer administers the plan and may charge the employee a portion of the monthly premium or pay the entire premium themselves. A defined contribution plan allows companies to shift the financial risk of paying for rising health insurance costs.

Defined Health Benefits

Although part of the “benefit” of a health benefit plan is that the employer also takes care of all the administrative paperwork related to the insurance, companies are increasingly uninvolved in the administration process, opting instead to let the employee decide which plan out of many choices suits them best. For example, if an employer typically spends about $5,000 per employee per year on health benefits, the employer would use that money as a “defined contribution.” The employee then has $5,000 to spend per year on benefits, but instead of using the employer-defined health plan, the employee may choose from a variety of HMOs, preferred provider organizations PPOs, or other health plans. If the insurance premiums rise above this amount, the employee must make up the difference.

dhimc-book24Defined Contribution Package

Many employers are currently offering a defined contribution package to their employees. The definition of “defined contributions,” however, can range from one in which employers are completely uninvolved in the administration of benefits and simply give their employees cash or vouchers for the amount contributed that they can use to buy coverage, to a more “defined choice model” where employers offer a variety of health options at differing price levels along with a premium dollar contribution, and a variety of other options in between.

Risk Shifting

Thus, defined contributions shift the financial risk from the employer to the employee. Defined care is not a replacement for managed care, but will probably cause managed care to adapt under these new systems. That is, HMOs, PPOs and other managed care plans still appear to be the main choices in a defined care environment, so they are in fact a part of the system.

Assessment

Another challenge with a defined health benefit program is that the concept of risk-pooling becomes more difficult. In traditional employer-sponsored plans, rates are usually based on the pool of employees; a chronically ill employee who tries to find insurance independently may face rates drastically higher than if they had participated in an employer-sponsored plan.

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About Healthcare Employee Cash-Balance Plans

What they Are – How they Work

By Staff Reportershuman-drones

Motivated by cost savings, an increasing number of hospitals, healthcare systems and large healthcare organizations are converting their traditional legacy defined benefit pension plans to cash balance plans. While the trend seems sudden, it is not surprising. Healthcare related companies are reaping substantial savings from cash balance plans. And for the most part, younger doctors and other employees are enthusiastic about the plans.

However, older employees (age 50 or above) realize  that in switching from a traditional defined benefit [legacy] plan to a cash balance plan, their retirement benefits decreased, initiating an onslaught of overwhelmingly negative publicity. Indeed, several years ago, Congress rushed to pass legislation requiring employers to provide benefits computations to affected employees.

Overview

Even though many defined-benefit plans are under/over-funded, they are calculated on an actuarial basis and are quite costly to maintain. And because plan costs can vary from one year to the next, budgeting is difficult.

However, if a healthcare company terminates a pension plan, replacing it with a defined contribution plan such as a profit sharing plan, all employees must be 100% vested, any surplus is subject to income tax, and a portion of the surplus is subject to an additional excise tax even if all of it is transferred to a succession plan. A cash balance plan is a pension plan, so the change is viewed as an amendment to the pension plan. This is true even though in many respects the cash balance plan operates like a defined contribution plan.

The Cash Balance Planfp-book13

A cash balance plan works in the following manner: The sum accrued in a hospital’s employee’s defined benefit plan is converted to a lump sum cash value; the employer agrees to make specified contributions to the employee’s account based on compensation; and the account earns a specified rate of interest, say 5%. The employee receives regular statements showing the current cash value of his or her account. [The amount is listed as a lump sum amount even though it is usually paid as an annuity].

If the hospital or other employer already has a defined benefit pension plan and converts it to a cash balance plan, there is no tax on the surplus. The reason, as noted above, is that a cash balance plan is treated as a pension plan. Thus, the employer merely amended its pension plan and can use the existing surplus to provide the required contributions, which are usually less than the actuarial costs of maintaining a traditional pension plan. And, in the former bull market this recent decade, many employers did not have to make contributions at all. Today, of course, the opposite may be true.

Example

Let’s say the average earnings on an investment is 15%, and the rate of interest payable to the plan is 5%. In recent years, many funds have earned 15% or more if they invested in an index fund. It was thought that, if continued, it would be quite some time before some employers are required to make any contributions out of their own funds. Not so today, however.

Clearly, the savings can be substantial, and the costs of maintaining the plan are easily budgeted for. These advantages convinced some public utilities, telephone companies, financial, hospitals and healthcare institutions to convert their plans to cash balance plans.  

Impact on Employees

The cash balance plan is actually a hybrid plan—a cross between a traditional defined benefit pension plan and a defined contribution plan. But one of the key differences between the cash balance plan and a defined benefit plan is the manner in which the benefits are calculated. In a traditional defined benefit plan, an employee’s retirement benefit grows slowly in the early years and more rapidly as he or she approaches retirement. By contrast, a cash balance plan increases growth in the early years and decreases growth in later years of employment.

Youngsters

Younger healthcare employees usually liked the change; before the recent financial meltdown. Their accounts were portable; they grew quickly; and could be rolled over into an IRA or into a new employer’s plan. And, their account balances were listed as lump sums, so they know precisely how much they’ve accumulated. Today unfortunately, they have mostly been decimated.

Oldsters

Older healthcare employees initially liked the concept because the values of their pensions (on an actuarial basis) were converted to dollar amounts so they could see how much had accrued in their accounts without having to calculate an anticipated pension award. But, after further review, it was evident that upon retirement the cash bonus plans would yield smaller pensions than the defined benefit plans. Opinions differ today?

Health Workers in the Middle

When a hospital or similar entity converts from a defined benefit plan to a cash balance plan, employees their late 40s may see their pensions reduced by 25% or more while older employees see reductions of up to 50%. If the formula for calculating benefits under the defined benefit plan is 2% times years of service, and high-five compensation, then each year of service increases an employee’s pension. More importantly each time high-five compensation increases, the amount is accrued back to the employee’s original date of employment. So, as a hospital employee gets older, the high five-has tremendous impact. An employee who is age 60 can actually accrue most of his or her pension in the last five years of employment.

www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

dhimc-book5

No “Mo”

Cash balance plans don’t have that type of momentum [“Mo”]. The company contributes a certain amount based upon compensation and a specified interest rate. Usually, the interest rate is based on the 30-year treasury rate (approximately 2.5%).

Closing the Gap

Some employers are offering a grandfathered benefit designed to reverse the penalty for older workers. For example, employees within 10 years of retirement (usually age 65) will receive the greater of the cash balance plan or the pension under the original plan. This reduces the cost savings for the company.

Some employers increase the contribution percentage for employees based on age (i.e., 7% of compensation is contributed for employees aged 40—rather than the standard 5%—and 9% of compensation for those aged 50).

Assessment

Finally, some hospital employees are offered special “sweetners” in the form of additional lump sum credits when converting from an existing plan to a cash plan. The best benefit provides that all existing employees will receive the greater of the old plan or the new plan upon retirement. Only a small number of employers typically adopt this approach.

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Physician Retirement Threats and Opportunities

Investing Vehicle Updates for Modernity

By Steven Podnos; MD, MBA, CFP®

coins

Most physicians count on their retirement plans for the bulk of their financial security. Yet, few of us understand the intricate workings of these plans, and are therefore misled or at the least miss out on a number of cost savings and benefits. Here are some examples to consider, especially during this time of financial upheaval:

1. Jim L, an endocrinologist in private practice, works with his wife as office manager and has four other employees.  Jim had a “free” prototype profit sharing plan with a well known brokerage and has been putting 15% of his total employee compensation away every year in order to fund about $35,000 dollars a year into his own plan.  He pays his wife $60,000 dollars a year in order to get a $9,000 dollar annual contribution for her, but at a social security cost of the same $9,000 dollars.  His plan is invested in a variety of “loaded” mutual funds and stocks at the brokerage, and he was not really sure how it was doing in terms of performance.

Change:

The plan was changed to a customized 401k/profit sharing plan using a Third Party Administrator at a cost of 2500 dollars.  Jim’s wife lowered her salary to $20,000 dollars, which saved over $5,000 dollars a year in social security taxes.  Yet Jim and his wife were now able to contribute over $65,000 dollars in pretax money (rather than $44,000 dollars in prior years.  His employee cost for the plan dropped from 15% of a $100,000dollar payroll to 6%, another annual savings of $9,000 dollars. 

2. Statewide Healthcare medical group had an insurance based “retirement” plan.  All of the investments allowed were wrapped in variable annuity/insurance wrappers with an annual expense ratio of between 2 and 4% annually. The plan was “free” to the group but did not allow any differentiation in benefits or contributions between the physicians and their employees

Change:

An unbundled 401k/profit sharing plan was designed that allowed physicians to contribute the maximum in salary deferral and profit sharing contributions. Using an age-weighted contribution formula, the physicians were able to put away 14% of their salary in the profit sharing plan as compared with a 5% contribution for employees.  The new investment portfolios carried an annual cost well below 1% annually and were actively monitored by a fee only fiduciary advisor, mostly relieving the group from the fiduciary responsibility for the fund investments.

3. Kirk L, an orthopedic surgeon employed his wife and 5 employees in a busy practice.  He is 55 years of age and looking towards retirement in ten years.  He had a reasonably well designed 401k/profit sharing plan advisor which let him and his wife put away about 70-75 thousand dollars a year with an employee cost of about 15 thousand dollars. He was beginning to worry about not having enough savings to make his retirement goal.

Change:

Kirk and two of his younger employees were switched to a new Defined Benefit plan, but also continued in the 401k salary deferral plan. Kirk’s wife and the remaining employees stayed in the old plan and his wife’s salary was reduced to lower Social Security costs.  With the new plan, Kirk and his wife are now putting away about $200,000 dollars in pretax contributions annually at a marginally higher cost for the employees.

Poorly Designed Retirement Plans

None of these stories are unusual, in fact they are typical.  Most physician retirement plans are poorly designed, expensive and misunderstood.  Few existing plans are updated to capture the many positive changes made in tax law over the last decade.  Many plans are shoddily designed to catch the “quick” dollar, with financially terrible consequences to the physicians.

Qualified Plans

And so, I’ll review the most common types of retirement plans available to medical practices and discuss the pros, cons and specific opportunities each type for most practices. Note that most of these plans are considered “qualified” plans by the US Government.  Being qualified means that contributions to the plans are allowed to be deducted as business expenses and that the plan assets are generally protected from creditors.  In exchange, the government requires extensive paperwork and mandatory contributions for employees on the lower end of the salary scale. 

1. SEP-IRA

The SEP-IRA allows a fixed percentage of salary (up to 25% of W2 income) to be contributed to individual IRAs of most employees (including the physicians). There can be no discrimination in what percentage of compensation is used between owner/managers and lower paid employees, making this a relatively expensive plan in terms of employee funding. There is no component of salary deferral by employees, and all plan funding is immediately “vested” (belongs to the employee immediately if they leave employment).

The advantages of the SEP plan include a minimum of paperwork and ease of setup. Generally, SEP-IRA plans are used by small family owned businesses with few to no outside employees. It does work well for physicians that act as Independent Contractors (no employees) such as many Emergency Room physicians.  However, an individual contractor with an income of less than around $170,000 dollars can actually put more pre-tax money away in a Self-Employed 401k plan.

2. SIMPLE-IRA

This plan is another relatively easy one to set up and administer. It allows companies that have less than 100 employees to open individual IRA accounts for employees. The employees may defer salary in amounts of $10,500-$13,000 (depending on age), and the employer supplies a “match.” All money in the plan is immediately vested. The match is generally (but not always) a dollar for dollar matching contribution of up to 3% of the employee’s compensation.

For example, a company owner with a compensation of 100,000 dollars would be able to defer salary in an amount of up to $13,000 (if age 50 or older), and then have the company “match” 3% or $3,000 more. A SIMPLE IRA plan is a good choice for small businesses in which the owners are highly compensated, and few employees wish to defer salary. The disadvantages of the SIMPLE-IRA are immediate vesting for the matched funds, and relatively low total amounts of contributions compared to other qualified plans. 

NOTE:

I have seen these plans work well in small practices that wish to avoid paperwork, have few to no employees that wish to defer salary, and who don’t mind the limited ability to make contributions.  Note one unusual feature of this plan, in that the 3% match has no limits. I have seen one physician with a small group of employees and an income of $600,000 dollars per year put away 13,000 in salary deferrals and another ($600K X 3%) 18K in the match at no employee cost!

3. 401k/PROFIT SHARING PLAN

This is by far the most common type of qualified plan in existence.  These plans actually have three components:

 

a)       401k salary deferral-In 2008, employees may defer between 15,500 and 20,500 dollars. This money and earnings on it are not subject to Federal income tax until withdrawn in retirement, and are immediately vested.

b)       A “match”-this is an optional part of the plan in which an employer may offer to contribute a matching amount of dollars to give employees an incentive to participate.  Matching funds are usually subject to vesting on a time schedule.

c)       Profit sharing-like the match, this is a discretionary contribution by the employer of up to 25% of payroll and usually subject to vesting.

 

It is crucial to have a skilled plan designer customize a 401K plan for your individual practice.  The most common abuse of these plans is the use of “cookie cutter” prototype plans used by brokerages and insurance companies. These prototype plans are for the convenience and profit of the person “selling” the plan, and are a solid negative for the practice. Customization allows the physicians to have maximal participation at the lowest employee cost.

There is also a self employed 401k option for small practices that have no full time employees other than the physician and spouse. They operate in much the same way, but with little expense and much less paperwork.

4. DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN

Once common, these plans are now rarely used by most companies. They are based completely on company contributions to a fund (no salary deferral) that are actuarially designed to produce a set benefit amount at retirement. All the risk for providing the promised benefit is the responsibility of the employer, which is an advantage when the major beneficiary is the physician. Defined Benefit plans work best for practices in which the physician/employee ratio is low and the physician(s) is approaching age 50 or older. The advantage of this plan is allowing much higher contributions on a pretax basis, with the disadvantage of higher administrative costs. These plans work extremely well for high income businesses employing one individual (plus or minus a spouse) who is nearing age 50 or over. However, physician practices that employ a spouse or physicians of different ages can often use a Defined Benefit Plan in conjunction with a 401k/profit sharing plan to great benefit as in example three.

Assessment

Doctors have a tremendous opportunity to review and enhance the retirement plan options. Although the article focuses on these medical professionals and related occupations, much of the material applies to other professional and business clients.  A relationship with a good Third Party Administrator [TPA] and some independent study are invaluable to your ability to perform this function well.

Conclusion

Dr. Podnos is a fee-only financial planner and the author of “Building and Preserving Your Wealth, A Practical Guide to Financial Planning for Affluent Investors” (available at Amazon.com and bookstores). He can be reached at Steven@wealthcarellc.com And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

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