Traditional and ROTH Contribution

Traditional and ROTH Contribution

Overview

In today’s world, many investors recognize the powerful method of deferral taxable gains under a tax sheltered environment such as a 401(k) plan or Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Both methods serve as a key component for the average Americans in terms of building wealth. Such wealth creation is based on the underlying investments, deferral amount, and taxable nature at retirement. For simplicity, Traditional and ROTH means taxable and non-taxable at retirement, respectively. Such arrangements are available in core retirement products.

 

The current maximum deferral for the 401(k) and IRA are:

  • 401(k) Plan: $18,000 elective deferral with opportunity for $6,000 in additional catch-up contribution (Age 50+)
    • Note: It is up to the employer to allow for ROTH contributions in the plan
  • IRA: $5,500 elective deferral and $6,500 elective deferral for employees age 50+
    • Note: Traditional and ROTH IRA are subject to certain restrictions based on house hold income
  • Of course, there are other retirement products in the marketplace, but for today’s post, let’s focus on the core products that touch the majority of Americans.

 

For the sake of illustration, the following sections summarize an overview of Traditional and ROTH and followed by final thoughts.  Our scenario assumes the Person’s (or example) income qualifies for the IRA.

 

Traditional 

  • Lowers taxable income in the given year
  • Investment grows tax deferred
  • Distribution is taxable at retirement
  • Must start withdrawal at age 70 ½
  • Deferrals cannot be taken out prior to age 59 ½. Unless:
    • 401(k) Plans: Generally speaking, employer sponsored plans allow for loans subject to hardship requirements
    • IRA: May allow for first time home buyer exemption to withdraw $10,000 for down payment

 

ROTH

  • Does not lower taxable income in the given year
  • Investment grows tax deferred
  • Distribution is NOT taxable at retirement
  • Deferrals cannot be taken out prior to age 59 ½. Unless:
    • 401(k) Plans: Similar to above, employer sponsored plans generally allow for loans.
    • IRA
      • May allow for first time home buyer exemption to withdraw $10,000 for down payment
      • The principal dollar amount can be taken out anytime

 

Final Thoughts

A mix bag; in other words, we need someone with a crystal ball to predict the future tax structure. For example, in my portfolio, I maintain both ROTH and Traditional mixture. This way, depending on future tax brackets, it provides greater flexibility. If tax brackets are higher at retirement, I may venture to withdraw from the ROTH portion. On the other hand, if tax brackets are lower in retirement, I will withdraw from the Traditional account. Ultimately, it depends on your cash flow income in retirement, but with options, it creates flexibility in your retirement years.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Path to Freedom – Part 3 Action and Knowledge

Path to Freedom – Part 3 Action and Knowledge

The toughest part of the path is to become complacent in your craft. It is quite common once a professional becomes an expert in his/her field and become confident. Such confidence generally leads a person to accept status quo. That is, do not rock the boat or stick to the proven formula.

The sad part of this story is that the professional loses sight of his/her Achilles heel. When you are the best, you have over achievers or hustlers gunning to de-throne you. Therefore, it is critical for you to keep learning, monitor the competition, and get better every single day. We live in a world driven by technology and innovation.

I recalled back in the mid-1990s when tech professionals preached that you must constantly learn the new codes in order to stay relevant. I thought to myself, “Boy the work never stops!”

At the age of 18, I opted to study business during my undergraduate career. I figured I can easily escape the rat race in terms of constantly learning. I thought I can remain complacent and be happy with a 9-5 job. Not so fast. I graduated in 2010 during one of the toughest economic times relative to job creation and job opportunities.  It was a smack to my face that I was incorrect. All of sudden the job candidacy market was filled with professionals from different ages, experiences, and depth of knowledge. Boy, I was in a real uphill battle for that job.

Luckily, I was priced efficiently upon graduation. I recalled my first job right out of college as an entry level stockbroker making $33,000 per year. It barely covered my rent in the Los Angeles, CA area. I rented a room in Orange County and it was one miserable experience. Talk about cup noodles, McDonalds, and sandwiches every single day.

I remembered sitting there in the office. It was about 4:00 P.M. The market was already closed and I noticed trading volume and foot traffic into my branch was slow. It dawned on me. Technology disrupts and I must find a job that is irreplaceable. What jobs are out there?

I sat there on my desk and decided to Google those types of jobs. I realized that professional services that caters to institutions are irreplaceable. Next, I took the leap of faith and picked up books to learning about investment banking, management consulting, and sales. To be quite frank, I was bit a lazy in school and thought that work ethic would take me places.

That was false. Work ethic translates to actionable results, but without knowledge, it is the blind leading the blind and you relying on sheer luck. I worked too hard to rely on luck; therefore, I had to learn. I made it an effort to read the news every day one book once a month. This way, I can expand on my intellectual capital at the interviews and working with clients.

Before I digress further, let’s get back to my point as I was sitting in my branch searching for jobs. I applied to over 50 jobs in order to find a career change. I managed to get into consulting due to the books (i.e. knowledge) and work ethic that I had. I outworked the competition once in the work force and never stopped learning.

It is quite interesting in the corporate environment because many of your competition will work a typical 9-5, clock in, and clock out. They are like robots trained to the job. In order to establish good habits, you need to take it a step further. I would dedicate 30-60 minutes after work to learn more about my industry and business. Further, I took initiative to identify areas of improvement in terms of what was missing in my team. For example, I hated sales, but opted to take on a business development role because I knew if I can bring in new clients, it would propel me to the top. If I failed, at least I learned something at a very young age.

You see, knowledge does not mean just reading books and getting smarter. It means taking risk and action in the corporate or entrepreneurial environment. This way, you learn through hands on experience coupled with textbooks.  I challenged myself to never, ever, ever, and ever pick up a fictional book again. All the books that I read were self-help to get me to the next level.

I was able to incorporate these habits early on in my career. This was six years ago. As a result, I was able to accomplish all my goals before age 30. I recalled I wanted to buy a house and make six figures before I was 30 years old. I was able to accomplish all these goals by age 27.

Action and knowledge should be applied to your job, career, investments, and most importantly, financial freedom plan.

I will leave you with this quote, “Always outwork your peers and competition. Train like your opportunity will end tomorrow. Keep learning. Keep working hard. You will inch and finally sprint closer to your goals”.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel learning and work ethic adds to your success?

Path to Freedom – Part 4 Appreciation

Path to Freedom – Part 4 Appreciation

I am filled with energy. I love the feeling of accomplishments.

I remembered one of my online mentors (i.e. people I follow online for motivation and advice), once said, “You need to kill it and drag it home”, something along those lines. To me, it means, it is up to the individual to take action in his/her own hands in order to hunt for the food and drag it home to feed the family. In our modern world, that food is money. That food is your job, career, or business. The drag part is your work ethic and engine that keeps you going. It is your psychological, emotional, and physical component that enables you to perform such act.

This engine that keeps on going sometimes will take a toll on you. Often times, I find myself working like a sprint. In a sprint, you run as fast as you can, then you slow down, then you run again, and so on. The sprinter typically feels burnt out after continuous effort at 100 percent. Then he/she takes time to walk it out before sprinting again. As a side note, I hate the “It is marathon, not a sprint” saying. Why? You see, while you are young (GenWeFinance is currently under 40), why waste the countless energy? If you do not sprint, you will become tired, lazy, and slower as you become older. I rather channel the unlimited supply of energy while I am young to accomplish my goals and then have the luxury to slow down the engine later in life. To keep a balance life, I try to “tune-up” my mind and self during the “walking out phase”.

During this time of walking it out, professionals with strong obsession for success, money, or financial freedom must take the time to reflect. Listen, I am guilty of this as well. I sprint, but during the walking out phase, my Zen or balance is all out of whack. I feel disinterested as if the sacrifice and hustle is not worth it. I start to compare myself to my peers and friends who opt for complacency for a 9-5 job to come home and “have fun”.  To be quite frank, you must put in work, you must delay gratification, and you must sacrifice in order to achieve financial freedom, success, or your own personal goals. Often times, I slow down and start to reflect. Is this the right path? Why am I working so hard? Look at John Smith, he is able to enjoy his life, why can’t I?

These are doubt questions. These are questions you ask yourself when you are at exhaustion. It is quite obvious that you have channeled your entire life and efforts towards your goal. In my personal life, I channel all my effort, breath and life to achieve financial freedom. Financial freedom requires capital. The only capital I have is through my job. In order to achieve financial freedom, I must take the capital from my job to invest in assets that will pay dividends 10-15 years down the line. This luxury or freedom allows a person to quit the rat race and pursue their dreams if they wanted to.

At these moments, I try to reflect and appreciate the journey. It makes me feel better and really proud of the sacrifice. Here are four key steps when you feel burnout is on the way. Remember, you must incorporate this part in your overall well-being. This way, you can stay sane and focused to accomplish your goals. They are:

  • Reflect – Reflect on the journey
  • Appreciate – Appreciate the results so far
  • Time Off – Take time off to unplug from the world
  • Change – Change your ways to fine-tune your balance. For example, if this is recurring theme, try to find ways to change your mind-set. GenWeFinance found an outlet through blogging, building side businesses, and investing. This helps GenWeFinance stay balance because the hard work at the corporate job is paying off via the investing and businesses.

Let me leave you one last quote that came to mind, “Everything is a sprint, not a marathon. Why let go the inner-fire that is currently burning?” Check out my motivational quote with picture here (https://twitter.com/genwefinance/status/814897408370872320)

How do you cope with stress? Do you feel my key steps will help you? Feel free to comment below.

 

 

Life Insurance: Term or Permanent Life?

Permanent Life vs. Term Insurance: Which is better?

Often times, we hear the financial experts on the radio or television advising to buy term and invest the difference. Better yet, the majority of bloggers advise the same concept without knowing each person’s financial situation. Today, we want to breakdown the type of life insurance out in the marketplace along with detailed analysis on when a whole life policy or regular term life might make sense for your financial situation.

Permanent Life Insurance

Generally speaking, there are three common types of life insurance in the marketplace. They are:

  • Traditional Whole Life: These type of policies offer a fixed premium. That means, the policy holder pays the same annualized amount year of over year. In theory, the policy will become “paid-up” sometime in the near future. These policies may provide a dividend and policy owners must pay the premiums on-time. There is a portion of cash value that accumulates overtime with a guaranteed and projected amount. It is a safer slow and steady growth when compared to other life insurance products. The downside is that you have to keep the policies for 12-20 years in order for it to pay for itself. The main comparison for these type of policies is that they are similar to buy a home vs. renting (term insurance). The policy has fixed payments with a guaranteed insurance and cash value. Lastly, participating contracts allow for the insured to receive dividends, which can boost returns on the policy.
  • Universal Life Insurance: The policies provide a fixed interest for the cash value. The insurance side of this policy will renew annually based on your age. As such, although there is a guaranteed fixed return, the policyholder may experience an expensive renewal as he/she gets older. The insurance portion can eat into your cash value due to its more expensive renewal as you age. However, the upside to these policies is flexibility. You have the luxury to terminate the policy anytime and cash out a higher cash value when compared to traditional whole life since it takes longer to breakeven. Cost of insurance will increase and can alter payments. Thus, payments are not fixed, insurance will increase as the insured ages, and cash value will grow based on the fixed return.
  • Variable Life Insurance: These policies are similar to Universal Life in terms of renewal based on age. However, the cash value portion can be invested in the stock market. Imagine the life insurance portion renews every year, but the cash value portion will fluctuate. If you decide to terminate the policy during a peak of the stock market, it can be higher than the policies explained above. Thus, payments are not fixed, insurance will increase as the insured ages, and cash value will grow based on the market return.

The cash value are able to grow tax deferred since they are structured under a life insurance product.  This component is the most common pitch amongst life insurance agents.

Term Life Insurance

Term life is simple insurance. You purchase the policy for a given period and are insured that timeframe. For example, a person can purchase a policy for 20 years to ensure his/her children will be out of the house; thus, free-of-expense.  It is the cheapest form of insurance and the buyer is essentially “renting” coverage to insure against a potential life event (i.e. death).

You have probably heard all over the radio, “Buy term, and invest the difference”. If you truly follow this strategy, it may serve you well.  Overall, you pay less when compared to permanent life insurance. Plus, you get to keep an individual investment account that is constantly being invested.

Conclusion

What is the right strategy? It depends.

For most people, term life insurance is the most cost effective option that protects the income of the insured given potential life event. The majority of Americans should probably opt for term insurance and invest the difference. This way, they are not overpaying for insurance, but yet, protect their love ones in case the insured passes. Further, the majority of permanent life insurance policy owner’s end up cancelling before the policies actually reaps its value. In other words, it takes 12-20 year for a traditional whole life policy to breakeven.

What about permanent life insurance? When is it a viable option? Permanent life insurance should be considered once the person has exhausted all qualified retirement options (i.e. 401(k), IRAs, 529, HSAs, etc.). These traditional retirement and savings accounts allow the investor to take advantage of tax deferred growth and reduction in taxable income for the given year. Upon exhausting such traditional options, permanent life insurance could make financial sense.

Example

GenWeFinance has maxed out the 401(k), IRA, and Health Savings Account (HSA) options.  He has saved for an emergency fund and still has extra money to invest. Therefore, he opted to purchase a traditional whole life insurance policy for tax deferred growth that is almost risk-free and leave a legacy behind with the insurance protection. GenWeFinance decides to only purchase an affordable policy that will allow him to ensure proper payments for 20+ years. This way, there will be a guaranteed risk-free return once the policy hits a certain point.

GenWeFinance opted not to purchase the universal and variable life insurance products because the insurance portion gets more expensive as the policyholder ages. The biggest fear is that the potential underperforming cash value will not be able to pay for the cost of insurance later in life. Thus, the policy will implode and become worthless.  Therefore, he has opted for the traditional whole life that will guarantee fixed payments, insurance, and cash value. It will serve as another retirement or legacy vehicle for his overall financial planning.

What are your thoughts on permanent life insurance, term insurance, or buy term and invest the difference?

Path to Freedom – Part 2: Execution

Path to Freedom – Part 2: Execution  

As mentioned in Part 1: Foundation, today’s post discusses the critical component of execution. I will share my life experience and how execution led me to this stage of my career and financial standing.

People dream. Everyone dreams. You dream. I dream. Dreams can be financial success, corporate executive, or starting a billion dollar company/idea. During your dream stage, you feel motivated and want to capitalize on that vision. You are possessed with such willpower and know you can accomplish anything. The high feels great. Unfortunately, reality takes a toll on this dream. This negative thought of “How” or “Failure” kills your dream. Then you are back to reality. You continue the same routine and the dream has been thrown to the back burner. The dream itch comes back, but like an old pair of jeans, it remains in the closet. Never fully utilized again. Does not sound familiar?

It saddens me that the majority of us never take action on our dreams. We do not have the guts to leave our comfort zone or the nest. I was once guilty of it. However, let’s be realistic, what if you are not cut out like the majority of us to execute on a dream. I mean fully leave everything behind and execute. It is scary right?

Let me share with you an experience that changed my life. Upon graduation, I managed to get an hourly job at a financial services firm. I was comfortable because it was often preached during 2010 that “You should be thankful you have a job” or “Take a stable salaried job”.  It was a tough job market because job demand was high and supply of jobs were low. As such, employers had the luxury to underpay prospective employees with minimal wage increases. This helped companies protect their bottom line in an event another crash occurred. The majority of recent graduates were complacent during this time. That means, take any job and stay with it.

It dawned on my early on that the first job should not be your last job. In today’s world, employers can cut an employee at-will. Therefore, employees must also protect themselves. My true dream was to make six figures by age 30. My first job did not provide a proven roadmap for me to reach such goal. I can easily stay comfortable in my job and retire with a decent nest egg, but I was not me.  I know that I can achieve. I had a dream to make six figures and own a house by age 30.

I started to read and learn about industries that paid employees well (or at least provided a roadmap to a six figure salary). I came across retail versus institutional. Keeping it simple, institutional clients will pay you more than retail. Therefore, I took a leap of faith an applied for jobs in the professional services industry that catered to institutional clients.

I applied to over 30 jobs via company website and career websites. I took a step further because I knew traditional applicants would go through the website method. Therefore, I sent hard copy of my resume along with a cover letter to the region’s executives and partners of the prospective companies. It worked! Somehow, one of the executives forwarded my resume to the appropriate person. That person ended up hiring me, serving as my mentor, and becoming one of my good friends today.

You see, instead of sitting around and hoping an opportunity would fall on my lap, I knew I had to execute. Execution can apply in your everyday life. I wake up every morning knowing that I need to execute on something. For example, during Christmas, I wanted to read an entire book in self-help finance. I read the entire book. Another example, I wanted to make six figures by age 30, I took every opportunity in front of me and challenged the status quo by stepping outside of my comfort zone; as result, and I did it by age 27.

There are three key values of execution that should be applied to your goals and dreams. They are:

  • You inch closer to your dreams and goals from execution
  • You learn from execution
  • RESULTS only happen with execution

By repetition, execution leads to you capturing your dream. Dream big, but do not forget to execute.

 

Path to Freedom – Part 1: Foundation

Before diving into some of the financial discussions. I feel it is critical to discuss the key habits required for financial freedom. Part of financial freedom requires years of building good habits, establishing value/purpose, and staying diligent with your life/financial/career goals. This first post is a four part series of the foundation that inspired me to pursue financial freedom.

Spring 2007. I sat there in my dorm room at the age of 19. The economy was coming to a major correction (or depression). The job market outlook was bulimic. In other words, the outlook was not promising for an undergraduate college student graduating in the next 3-5 years. For some reason, I had this instant light bulb in me. That inner voice told me to work hard, not at school, but create balanced inner skillset that can stand out in a job competitive environment.

For some reason, I sat there and said to myself, “I need to pad my resume with experience, with or without pay”.  Of course, as a freshman college student, internships were nonexistence since employers prefer juniors over sophomores and freshmen. It was silly to me. What if the freshman student can out work his/her upper classmates? What if that freshman student had the desire and purpose at an early age? What if that intern was going to be your future unicorn employee? These were the questions I asked myself when I was applying for internships.

The effort. I sat there in my dorm room and drafted my resume over a weekend. Next, I scheduled a meeting with my career center and had the career counselor review my resume. To be quite frank, it was pointless, as many career advisors took the cookie cutter approach to draft a resume. The person only provided feedback to format, nothing else. At least, it helped the presentation aspect of my resume. Now, I was ready to apply for internships. The first part of my internship application process was to “apply”. That was tough because as a first-generation college student in my family, I had no direction, but pulled the trigger (Heck, I did not know any better). I applied to over 50 internships on my college’s career website and other company websites (i.e. I located companies with internships within 50-60 miles).

The result. Rejection after rejection. I recalled after 50 applications sent, I received two interviews. The first interview was for an accounting internship at a large utilities company. The two interviewer’s peppered questions and I felt it went well. Next, the rejection letter came, but I was curious and asked, “Why”. I mean, why would someone reject me after I sensed good vibes from the interview process? Well, one of interviewers told me something along the lines of, “We liked you, but we are looking for a junior. Maybe reapply when you are junior.” It shattered me.

I drove 50 miles back to my dorm room. Shattered, hopeless, and “quitting” was on my mind. I mean, why push so hard when my peers were out having fun during the summer. But the “inner-me” said I needed to push forward. Luckily, I received another interview at Fortune 500 financial services firm. It appears that the two partners/advisors were looking for interns to grow their regional office. The downside, it was unpaid (not truly unpaid, it was a $250 stipend, but you get the point). The in-person interview went well and I ended up getting the internship!

It felt great, but it was unpaid. I had to pick up a second job on-campus to pay my bills for that summer. But the internship taught me the foundation of insurance and investments. Further, it was a sales internship, which forced me out of my comfort zone (I am naturally an introvert). Surprisingly, I exceled at the internship and scheduled the most appointments. I recalled my peers would work the minimum 10-15 hours a week; however, I worked 20-30 hours a week in order to schedule more appointments and prove to my boss that they should hire me on as a full intern who can earn commissions, etc. By sheer hard work, it paid off! My boss recommended me for the commission paid intern position while managing their book of business for a chance to earn additional commissions. My boss ended up taking me under his wing and I learned about sales, life, financial services, and relationship management. I ended up staying at the internship for two years (more than any of my peers in terms of employment tenure). This critical moment of my life taught me three key elements that I still carry today. See below:

  1. Work like no other so your chances of success is higher than your peers
    • Personal Note: The more you put into work or anything you are passionate about, it will pay off. Not immediately, but it will pay dividends down the line. My unpaid internship did not pay off immediately, but it taught me the craft to open doors for interviews and new business opportunities. It paid dividends because I would not be at my current situation in terms of career success without this foundation.
  2. Incorporate the positive assets from your mentor, boss, or manager in order to build your craft
    • Personal Note: Work hard for your mentor, boss, and manager. He/she will like an employee with grit who gets things done. In return, ask to learn from them. Ask them to mentor you or teach the business. In most cases, my managers and mentors taught me the business and life. I copied every element of their life, habits, and rituals that played a key component to my success today. Observe the positive assets that these people carry and incorporate it into your craft. Think of your craft as a treasure chest with abundance of storage space. The more you put in there, the more the chest is valued by others. No wonder people search for treasures?
  3. Get better every day and repeat the first two elements above.
    • Personal Note: My internship was painful. I was awful in sales, but changed as a person within six months. That first summer I closed more than $6,000 in net commissions/stipend. Not bad for me when compared to my college peers who had to work traditional 40 hours a week in order to clear $4,000 for the summer. This moment taught me that in order to be good at something, you need to get better every day. For instance, I did not have a warm leads or book of clients; instead, I borrowed a list from my boss and cold called my way through to success. It was a failure by all means since cold call conversions were slim to none, but it taught me the value of persistence and adaptation. In other words, I had to get better to increase my percentage of close.

There you have it. A brief story about my initial taste of success. Not by financial terms, but from a life and habitual standpoint. Everyone needs to hit rock bottom at some point in their life. It is the journey to crawl out of that hole that will determine your success in life. In my case, my rock bottom was finding an internship during one of history’s great depression. The two-year experience provided me with a foundation that still fuels my drive today.

Have you had a similar experience? What drives you and what is your foundation for success/drive? Feel free to comment below.