401K GettyImages 157562528 573f6a885f9b58723dea3f33 e1553398394816

How Does Your Employer’s Retirement Plan Compare?

Each year, the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) surveys employers to gauge trends in retirement plan features and participation. These vital results are used by employers and plan participants to benchmark their plans against overall averages. How does your plan compare to the most recent survey results, released at the end of 2018?(1)

Participation and savings rates

Plan participation (that is, the percentage of participants contributing to the plan) was on the rise, increasing from 77% in 2010 to 85% in 2017. Employees in the financial, insurance and real estate, manufacturing, and technology and telecommunications sectors were most likely to contribute (more than 85% of eligible employees), while those in the transportation, utility, and energy sectors (75.6%) and wholesale distribution and retail trade sectors (59.7%) were least likely.

The average amount participants contributed to their plans rose from 6.2% of salary in 2010 to 7.1% in 2017. Participants in the health-care sector contributed the most (8.7%), while those in durable goods manufacturing contributed the least (6.3%).

Roth option on the rise

Roth contributions are growing in popularity among 401(k) plans. Unlike traditional pre-tax contributions that are deducted from a paycheck before income taxes are assessed, Roth contributions are made in after-tax dollars. The primary benefit is that “qualified” withdrawals from a Roth account are tax-free. A withdrawal is qualified if the account has been held for at least five years and it has been made after the participant reaches age 59½, dies, or becomes disabled.

The percentage of plans allowing participants to make Roth contributions rose from 45.5% in 2010 to nearly 70% in 2017. Almost 20% of eligible employees made Roth contributions.

Company contributions

Nearly all employers surveyed contributed to their employees’ plans through matching contributions, non-matching contributions, or a combination of both. And it appears that employers have become more generous over time, as the average company contribution rose from 3.5% in 2010 to 5.1% in 2017. Moreover, many employers impose a vesting schedule on their contributions through which plan participants earn the right to keep the company contributions over time. In 2017, less than 40% of companies allowed their employees to become immediately vested in the company contributions.

Investment options

When it comes to your retirement plan, how many options would you prefer on your investment menu? Too few funds could limit the opportunity for an appropriate level of diversification, while too many funds might cause an overwhelming decision-making process without the vital guidance. So what’s the “right” number?

According to an article in InvestmentNews, an appropriate number of investment options (typically mutual funds) is 15 to 20.(2) And according to the PSCA, employers seem to be following this guideline, as the average number of funds offered among survey respondents was 20.

The most common types of funds offered were indexed domestic equity funds (84.6% of plans), followed by actively managed domestic equity funds (83.6%), actively managed domestic bond funds (78.9%), and actively managed international/global equity funds (77.9%). Target-date funds — those that offer a diversified mix of different types of investments based on a participant’s target retirement date — were offered in 70.6% of plans.

Overall, the two most popular types of funds, based on percentage of assets invested, were target-date funds and actively managed domestic equity funds.(3)  Information from Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc.

1PSCA, 61st Annual Survey
2 InvestmentNews, February 16, 2018
3The return and principal value of mutual funds fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. A bond fund is a mutual fund that comprises mostly bonds and other debt instruments. The mix of bonds depends on each fund’s focus and stated objectives. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest rate, and credit risks as their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund’s performance. Investing internationally carries additional risks such as differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, as well as economic and political risk unique to the specific country; this may result in greater share price volatility. The target date is the approximate date when an investor plans to withdraw money. The mix of investments in the target-date fund becomes more conservative as the date grows closer. The further away the date, the greater the risks the fund usually takes. The principal value is not guaranteed at any time, including on or after the target date. There is no guarantee that a target-date fund will meet its stated objectives. It is important to note that no two target-date funds with the same target date are alike. Typically, they won’t have the same asset allocation, investment holdings, turnover rate, or glide path.
College Fund Investing e1553026389629

Rules on Opening a 529 Plan Account for College

Year over year, participation in 529 plans continues to rise.1 Anyone can open an account, lifetime contribution limits are typically over $300,000, and there are tax benefits if the funds are used for college. Here are some vital guidance to common questions on opening an account.
Can I open an account in any state’s 529 plan or am I limited to my own state’s plan?
Answer: It depends on the type of 529 plan you have: college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan. With a college savings plan, you open an individual investment account and direct your contributions to one or more of the plan’s investment portfolios. With a prepaid tuition plan, you purchase education credits at today’s prices and redeem them in the future for college tuition. Forty-nine states (all but Wyoming) offer one or more college savings plans, but only a few states offer prepaid tuition plans.
529 college savings plans are typically available to residents of any state, and funds can be used at any accredited college in the United States or abroad. But 529 prepaid tuition plans are typically limited to state residents and apply to in-state public colleges.
Why might you decide to open an account in another state’s 529 college savings plan? The other plan might offer better investment options, lower management fees, a stronger investment track record, or better customer service. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that some states may limit certain 529 plan tax benefits, such as a state income tax deduction for contributions, to residents who join the in-state plan.
Is there an age limit on who can be a beneficiary of a 529 account?
Answer: There is no beneficiary age limit specified in Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, but some states may impose one. You’ll need to check the rules of each plan you’re considering. Also, some states may require that the account be in place for a specified minimum length of time before funds can be withdrawn. This is important if you expect to make withdrawals quickly because the beneficiary is close to college age.
Can more than one 529 account be opened for the same child?
Answer: Yes. You (or anyone else) can open multiple 529 accounts for the same beneficiary, as long as you do so under different 529 plans (college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan). For example, you could open a college savings plan account with State A and State B for the same beneficiary, or you could open a college savings plan account and a prepaid tuition plan account with State A for the same beneficiary. But you can’t open two college savings plan accounts in the same 529 plan in State A for the same beneficiary.
Also keep in mind that if you do open multiple 529 accounts for the same beneficiary, each plan has its own lifetime contribution limit, and contributions can’t be made after the limit is reached. Some states consider the accounts in other states to determine whether the limit has been reached. For these states, the total balance of all plans (in all states) cannot exceed the maximum lifetime contribution limit.
Can I open a 529 account in anticipation of my future grandchild?
Answer: Technically, no, because the beneficiary must have a Social Security number. But you can do so in a roundabout way. First, you’ll need to open an account and name as the beneficiary a family member who will be related to your future grandchild. Then when your grandchild is born, you (the account owner) can change the beneficiary to your grandchild. Check the details carefully of any plan you’re considering because some plans may impose age restrictions on the beneficiary, such as being under age 21. This may pose a problem if you plan to name your adult son or daughter as the initial beneficiary.
What happens if I open a 529 plan in one state and then move to another state?
Answer: Essentially, nothing happens if you have a college savings plan. But most prepaid tuition plans require that either the account owner or the beneficiary be a resident of the state operating the plan. So if you move to another state, you may have to cash in the prepaid tuition plan.
If you have a college savings plan, you can simply leave the account open and keep contributing to it. Alternatively, you can switch 529 plans by rolling over the assets from that plan to a new 529 plan. You can keep the same beneficiary when you do the rollover (under IRS rules, you’re allowed one 529 plan same-beneficiary rollover once every 12 months), but check the details of each plan for any potential restrictions. If you decide to stay with your original 529 plan, just remember that your new state might limit any potential 529 plan tax benefits to residents who participate in the in-state plan.
1 Strategic Insight, 529 Data Highlights, 3Q 2018
Brandon Copeland e1552716406449

NFL Brandon Copeland Investing For A Better Future

We hear stories all the time about pro athletes finding a way to lose tens of millions, and even hundreds of millions, of dollars that they have made during their career. Therefore, it’s always interesting to hear about an athlete that understands how to manage his finances.

New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland is one such player and it is his knowledge of the real estate market that has helped set him up for life after football. Copeland was not a player who entered the NFL with high expectations or one of the huge contracts that comes with being a high round draft pick. While the 6-foot-3, 263 pounder certainly has the size to play as an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid in the league, the perceived lack of competition that he faced while playing at Penn saw Copeland go undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft.

After initially spending time on the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens, Copeland landed a job with the Detroit Lions in 2015, before moving on to the Jets for the 2018 season. All that bouncing around is part of what made real estate investing so appealing to the Ivy Leaguer.

Copeland’s collegiate experience was one that seems to have set him up well to avoid the money pitfalls of most athletes. The Wharton School graduate spent a pair of summers while in school interning at an investment bank. He also spent his 2017 off-season working on Wall Street. All of those moves were made so that Copeland could get vital guidance about investing, more about real estate, and more about how to use money to make money.

It is real estate which is one of Copeland’s key focus areas when it comes to saving and investing. He opened a company in the real estate sector with his wife in 2018, a decision they came to together after spending time and energy flipping houses for profit. By expanding that hobby into a company, Copeland is able to take care of all aspects of house buying, selling, renovating, and flipping.

Despite his money smarts, it is actually some of Copeland’s relative failures that have pushed him to where he is today. A number of money mistakes in his early 20s, mistakes he share with a teammate with the same issues, have seen the linebacker go back to the classroom to teach a class called Life 101 to students. His class details how he lives on 10 to 15 percent of his NFL salary with the rest of his money dropping into long term investments like real estate.

While we may not all have the disposable capital of an NFL player, we can all learn something from Copeland and his journey. Invest smartly now, using long term strategies, to live better in the future.