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Life Insurance and Charitable Giving

November 6, 2017

John Jastremski Presents:

 

Life Insurance and Charitable Giving

 

Life insurance can be an excellent tool for charitable giving. Not only does life insurance allow you to make a substantial gift to charity at relatively little cost to you, but you may also benefit from tax rules that apply to gifts of life insurance.
Why use life insurance for charitable giving?

Life insurance allows you to make a much larger gift to charity than you might otherwise be able to afford. Although the cost to you (your premiums) is relatively small, the amount the charity will receive (the death benefit) can be quite substantial. As long as you continue to pay the premiums on the life insurance policy, the charity is guaranteed to receive the proceeds of the policy when you die. (Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.) Since life insurance proceeds paid to a charity are not subject to income and estate taxes, probate costs, and other expenses, the charity can count on receiving 100 percent of your gift.

Giving life insurance to charity also has certain income tax benefits. Depending on how you structure your gift, you may be able to take an income tax deduction equal to your basis in the policy or its fair market value (FMV), and you may be able to deduct the premiums you pay for the policy on your annual income tax return. When an insurance contract is transferred to a charity, the donor’s income tax charitable deduction is based on the lesser of FMV or adjusted cost basis.
What are the disadvantages of using life insurance for charitable giving?

Donating a life insurance policy to charity (or naming the charity as beneficiary on the policy) means that you have less wealth to distribute among your heirs when you die. This may discourage you from making gifts to charity. However, this problem is relatively simple to solve. Buy another life insurance policy that will benefit your heirs instead of a charity.
Ways to give life insurance to charity

The simplest way to use life insurance to give to a charity is to name a charity to receive the benefits of your life insurance policy. You, as owner of the policy, simply designate the charity as beneficiary. Designating the charity as beneficiary may allow you to make a larger gift than you could otherwise afford. If the policy is a form of cash value life insurance, you still have access to the cash value of the policy during your lifetime. However, this type of charitable gift does not provide many of the income tax benefits of charitable giving, because you retain control of the policy during your life. When you die, the proceeds are included in your gross estate, although the full amount of the proceeds payable to the charity can be deducted from your gross estate.

Another alternative is to donate an existing life insurance policy to charity. To do this, you must assign all rights in the policy to the charity. You must also deliver the policy itself to the charity. By doing this, you give up all control of the life insurance policy forever. This strategy provides the full tax advantages of charitable giving because the transfer of ownership is irrevocable. You may be able to take an income tax deduction equal to the lesser of your adjusted cost basis or FMV. The policy is not included in your gross estate when you die, unless you die within three years of the transfer. In this case, your estate would get an offsetting charitable deduction.

A creative way to use life insurance to donate to a charity is simply for the charity to insure you. To use this strategy, you would allow the charity to purchase an insurance policy on your life. You would make annual tax-deductible gifts to the charity in an amount equal to the premium, and the charity would pay the premium to the insurance company.

One final method is to use a life insurance policy in conjunction with a charitable remainder trust. This strategy is relatively complex (it will require an attorney to set up), but it provides greater advantages than other, simpler methods. You set up a charitable remainder trust and transfer ownership of other, income-producing assets to the trust. The income beneficiary of the trust (you or whomever you designate) will get the income from the assets in the trust. At the end of the trust term (which might be a certain number of years or upon the occurrence of a certain event, such as your death), the property in the trust would pass to the charity. You’ll receive a current tax deduction when you establish the trust for the FMV of the gifted assets, reduced according to a formula determined by the IRS. Life insurance can then be purchased (usually inside an irrevocable life insurance trust to keep the proceeds out of your estate) to replace the assets that went to the charity instead of to your heirs.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, Jeremy Keating, Erik J Larsen, Frank Esposito, Patrick Ray, Robert Welsch, Michael Reese, Brent Wolf, Andy Starostecki and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com,  access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

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First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

November 1, 2017

Introduction

The first-time homebuyer tax credit was originally established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The credit was subsequently extended and modified by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009.

Home purchases made April 9, 2008 through December 31, 2008

A temporary refundable credit equal to 10-percent of the purchase price of a principal residence, up to $7,500 ($3,750 if married filing separately) was available to first-time homebuyers who purchased a home on or after April 9, 2008, and before January 1, 2009. Generally, to qualify as a first-time homebuyer, you (and your spouse if you were married), could not have owned any other principal residence during the three-year period ending on the date of purchase.

The credit was phased out for individuals with higher incomes. Specifically, the credit was reduced for individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $75,000, and was eliminated for individuals with MAGI equal to or exceeding $95,000. For married individuals filing a joint federal income tax return, the credit was reduced if MAGI exceeded $150,000, and was eliminated for those with a MAGI of $170,000 or more.

The credit at this time was effectively an interest-free loan. Individuals who claimed the credit for purchases made during this period of time are required to pay back the credit over fifteen years in equal installments. The fifteen year repayment period begins two years after the credit was claimed. So, if an individual claimed a $7,500 credit on his or her 2008 federal income tax return, he or she would start paying $500 a year back, beginning with his or her 2010 return.

Caution:  If an individual claimed the credit for a home purchase made during this period of time, and sells the home during the fifteen year repayment period, or the home ceases to be the principal residence of the individual during the fifteen-year repayment period, repayment of the credit is accelerated. Repayment is generally not accelerated if the home remains the principal residence of the individual’s spouse.

Tip:  If the principal residence is sold during the fifteen-year repayment period, then the remaining credit amount would be due from the gain on the home sale. If there is insufficient gain, then the remaining credit payback is forgiven. Also, if an individual dies during the repayment period, the balance is forgiven.

Caution:  Although the repayment amount is limited to the gain realized upon the sale of the home, if the home is sold during the payback period, that gain is determined by reducing the basis in the home by the amount of the remaining unpaid credit.

Caution:  The tax credit could not be combined with the mortgage revenue bond (MRB) homebuyer program or the DC first-time homebuyer credit.

Tip:  The credit could also be applied against the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Home purchases made on or after January 1, 2009 and before November 7, 2009

A temporary refundable credit equal to 10-percent of the purchase price of a principal residence, up to $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately) was available to first-time homebuyers who purchased a home on or after January 1, 2009, and before November 7, 2009. Generally, to qualify you (and your spouse if you were married), could not have owned any other principal residence during the three-year period ending on the date of purchase.

The income phaseout ranges for the credit remain the same as the amounts that applied to qualifying 2008 purchases: Specifically, the credit is reduced for individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $75,000, and is eliminated for individuals with MAGI equal to or exceeding $95,000. For married individuals filing a joint federal income tax return, the credit is reduced if MAGI exceeds $150,000, and is eliminated for those with a MAGI of $170,000 or more.

While any credit claimed as a result of a qualifying purchase in 2008 had to be paid back over a fifteen year period, there is no such requirement for qualifying purchases made on or after January 1, 2009. However, if the home ceases to be an individual’s principal residence within thirty-six months of the purchase, the individual must pay the credit back. If married at the time of purchase, the home must remain the principal residence of either spouse for the thirty-six month period to avoid repayment. If repayment is required, it is reported and paid on the federal income tax return for the year in which the home ceased being a principal residence.

Tip:  The credit can be applied against the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Caution:  No District of Columbia first-time homebuyer credit is allowed with respect to the purchase of a residence after December 31, 2008, if the first-time homebuyer tax credit described here is allowable to such individual (or the individual’s spouse) with respect to such purchase.

Home purchases on or after November 7, 2009 and before October 1, 2010

A refundable credit equal to 10-percent of the purchase price of a principal residence, up to $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately) is available to first-time homebuyers who purchased a home on or after November 7, 2009 and before May 1, 2010. Homes purchased on or after May 1, 2010 and before October 1, 2010 can qualify for the credit if a binding written contract to complete the purchase was entered into prior to May 1, 2010. Generally, to qualify you (and your spouse if you were married), could not have owned any other principal residence during the three-year period ending on the date of purchase.

A refundable credit equal to 10-percent of the purchase price of a principal residence, up to $6,500 ($3,250 if married filing separately) is available to individuals who have maintained the same principal residence for at least five consecutive years in the eight year period ending at the time the new home is purchased during the time period described above.

For purchases during this time period, the credit is phased out for individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $125,000, and is eliminated for individuals with MAGI equal to or exceeding $145,000. For married individuals filing a joint federal income tax return, the credit is reduced if MAGI exceeds $225,000, and is eliminated for those with a MAGI of $245,000 or more. The credit is not available for any home with a purchase price exceeding $800,000.

Additionally:

  • The credit is not allowed unless the individual claiming the credit is eighteen years of age as of the date of purchase. An individual who is married is treated as meeting the age requirement if the individual or the individual’s spouse meets the age requirement.
  • The credit is not allowed if the principal residence is acquired from a person who is closely related to the individual or the spouse of the individual.
  • No credit is allowed if the individual is a dependent of another taxpayer.
  • No credit is allowed unless the individual attaches to the relevant tax return a properly executed copy of the settlement statement used to complete the purchase.
  • The credit is not available to nonresident aliens

Caution:  If the home ceases to be an individual’s principal residence within thirty-six months of the purchase, the individual must pay the credit back. If married at the time of purchase, the home must remain the principal residence of either spouse for the thirty-six month period to avoid repayment. If repayment is required, it is reported and paid on the federal income tax return for the year in which the home ceased being a principal residence.

Caution:  No District of Columbia first-time homebuyer credit is allowed to any taxpayer with respect to the purchase of a residence after December 31, 2008, if the first-time homebuyer tax credit described here is allowable to such taxpayer (or the taxpayer’s spouse) with respect to such purchase.

Tip:  The credit can be applied against the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Special rules apply to members of the uniformed services

Special rules apply to an individual who receives government orders (or whose spouse receives such orders) for qualified official extended duty service. If such an individual disposes of a principal residence after December 31, 2008 (or no longer uses the home as a principal residence) in connection with the government orders, no recapture of the first-time homebuyer credit applies by reason of the disposition of the residence. Any 15-year recapture with respect to a home acquired before January 1, 2009, ceases to apply in the taxable year the disposition occurs.

In addition, the qualifying time period for the first-time homebuyer credit is extended for one year. Specifically, In the case of any individual (and, if married, the individual’s spouse) who serves on qualified official extended duty service outside of the United States for at least 90 days during the period January 1, 2009 through April 30, 2010, the qualifying time period for the first-time homebuyer credit is extended for one year, through April 30, 2011 (through June 30, 2011, in the case of an individual who enters into a written binding contract before May 1, 2011, to close on the purchase of a principal residence before July 1, 2011).

Tip:  Qualified official extended duty service means service on official extended duty as a member of the uniformed services, a member of the Foreign Service of the United States, or an employee of the intelligence community.

Tip:  Qualified official extended duty is any period of extended duty while serving at a place of duty at least 50 miles away from the taxpayer’s principal residence or under orders compelling residence in government furnished quarters. Extended duty is defined as any period of duty pursuant to a call or order to such duty for a period in excess of 90 days or for an indefinite period.

Tip:  The uniformed services include: (1) the Armed Forces (the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard); (2) the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and (3) the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service. The term “member of the Foreign Service of the United States” includes: (1) chiefs of mission; (2) ambassadors at large; (3) members of the Senior Foreign Service; (4) Foreign Service officers; and (5) Foreign Service personnel.

Tip:  The term “employee of the intelligence community” means an employee of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or the National Reconnaissance Office. The term also includes employment with: (1) any other office within the Department of Defense for the collection of specialized national intelligence through reconnaissance programs; (2) any of the intelligence elements of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Energy, and the Coast Guard; (3) the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State; and (4) the elements of the Department of Homeland Security concerned with the analyses of foreign intelligence information.

Electing to treat purchase as if made in prior year

If an individual purchases a principal residence in 2009 and qualifies for the first-time homebuyer credit, he or she can elect to treat the purchase as if it occurred on December 31, 2008, claiming the credit on his or her 2008 federal income tax return (amending the return to claim the credit if necessary). Similarly, individuals who purchase a principal residence in 2010 can elect to treat the purchase as occurring on December 31, 2009 for purposes of the first-time homebuyer credit.

Tip:  For individuals who purchase a principal residence in 2010 but elect to treat the purchase as if it occurred on December 31, 2009, 2009 modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is used to determine whether the credit is reduced or eliminated.

Allocating the credit between individuals who aren’t married

The first-time homebuyer credit can be allocated when two or more unmarried individuals purchase a principal residence. IRS Notice 2009-12 explains that when two or more individuals purchase a qualifying principal residence and otherwise satisfy all requirements, the first-time homebuyer tax credit can be allocated among the individuals using any reasonable method, provided the method does not allocate any portion of the credit to an individual who is not eligible to claim that portion. Reasonable methods include allocating the credit based on individuals’ contributions toward the purchase price, and allocating the credit based on individuals’ ownership interests.

Caution:  The total first-time homebuyer tax credit allowed for all individuals cannot exceed $8,000 ($6,500 if qualification for the credit is based on prior ownership of a principal residence for a period of at least five years).

Summary of general rules (table)

Summary of general rules for first-time homebuyer tax credit
When was the home purchased? 4/9/08 through 12/31/08 1/1/09 through 11/6/09 11/7/09 through 4/30/10 (through 9/30/10 if binding written contract before 5/1/10)
Maximum credit $7,500 ($3,750 if married filing separately) $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately) $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately)
Reduced credit available to existing homeowners? No No Yes– homeowners who have maintained the same principal residence for 5 of 8 years ending on the purchase date eligible for maximum $6,500 credit ($3,250 if married filing separately)
Does credit have to be paid back? Yes–generally over 15 years in equal installments No, provided the home remains your principal residence for 36 months No, provided the home remains your principal residence for 36 months
Credit claimed on tax return for what year? 2008 Can elect to treat purchase as if it occurred on 12/31/08, claiming credit on 2008 return; otherwise claimed on 2009 return. Purchase in 2009 can be treated as if it occurred on 12/31/08; otherwise claimed on 2009 return. Purchase in 2010 can be treated as if it occurred on 12/31/09; otherwise claimed on 2010 return.
Income phase out $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000 to $170,000 if married filing jointly) $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000 to $170,000 if married filing jointly) $125,000 to $145,000 ($225,000 to $245,000 if married filing jointly)
Maximum purchase price No maximum No maximum $800,000

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) Plans

October 30, 2017

Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) Plans

A nonqualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plan is an arrangement between an employer and one or more employees to defer the receipt of currently earned compensation. You might want to establish a NQDC plan to provide your employees with benefits in addition to those provided under your qualified retirement plan, or to provide benefits to particular employees without the expense of a qualified plan.

NQDC plans vs. qualified plans

A qualified plan, such as a profit-sharing plan or a 401(k) plan, can be a valuable employee benefit. A qualified plan provides you with an immediate income tax deduction for the amount of money you contribute to the plan for a particular year. Your employees aren’t required to pay income tax on your contributions until those amounts are actually distributed from the plan. However, in order to receive this beneficial tax treatment, a qualified plan must comply with strict and complex ERISA and IRS rules, and the plan must generally cover a large percentage of your employees. In addition, qualified plans are subject to a number of limitations on contributions and benefits. These limitations have a particularly harsh effect on your highly paid executives.

In contrast, NQDC plans can be structured to provide the benefit of tax deferral while avoiding almost all of ERISA’s burdensome requirements. There are no dollar limits that apply to NQDC plan benefits (although compensation must generally be reasonable in order to be deductible). And you can provide benefits to your highly compensated employees without having to provide similar benefits to your rank and file employees.

Funded vs. unfunded NQDC plans

NQDC plans fall into two broad categories–funded and unfunded. A NQDC plan is considered funded if you have irrevocably and unconditionally set aside assets with a third party (e.g., in a trust or escrow account) for the payment of NQDC plan benefits, and those assets are beyond the reach of both you and your creditors. In other words, if participants are guaranteed to receive their benefits under the NQDC plan, the plan is considered funded.

You might consider establishing a funded plan if your employees are concerned that their plan benefits might not be paid in the future due to a change in your financial condition, a change in control, or your change of heart. Because the assets in a funded plan are beyond your reach, and the reach of your creditors, these plans provide employees with maximum security that their benefits will eventually be paid. Funded plans are rare, though, because they provide only limited opportunity for tax deferral and may be subject to all of ERISA’s requirements.

Unfunded plans are by far more common because they can provide the benefit of tax deferral while avoiding almost all of ERISA’s requirements. With an unfunded plan, you don’t formally set aside assets to pay plan benefits. Instead, you either pay plan benefits out of current cash flow (“pay-as-you-go”) or you earmark property to pay plan benefits (“informal funding”), with the property remaining part of your general assets and subject to the claims of your general creditors. You can set up a trust (“rabbi trust”) to hold plan assets, but those assets must remain subject to any claims of your bankruptcy and insolvency creditors. A rabbi trust can protect your employees against your change of heart or change in control, but not against a change in your financial condition leading to bankruptcy.

In order to achieve the dual goals of tax deferral and avoidance of ERISA, your NQDC plan must be both unfunded and maintained solely for a select group of management or highly compensated employees. These unfunded NQDC plans are commonly referred to as “top-hat” plans.

While there is no formal legal definition of a “select group of management or highly compensated employees,” it generally means a small percentage of the employee population who are key management employees or who earn a salary substantially higher than that of other employees.

Income tax considerations

Generally you can’t take a tax deduction for amounts you contribute to a NQDC plan until your participating employees are taxed on those contributions (which can be years after your contributions have been made to the plan).

Employees generally don’t include your contributions to an unfunded NQDC plan, or plan earnings, in income until benefits payments are actually received from the NQDC plan. The taxation of funded NQDC plans is more complex. In general, your employees must include your contributions in taxable income as soon as they become nonforfeitable (i.e., as soon as they vest). The taxation of plan earnings depends on the structure of the plan; in some cases employees must include earnings in taxable income currently, and in some cases they aren’t taxed until they’re actually paid from the plan.

Who can adopt a NQDC plan?

NQDC plans are suitable only for regular (C) corporations. In S corporations or unincorporated entities (partnerships or proprietorships), business owners generally can’t defer taxes on their shares of business income. However, S corporations and unincorporated businesses can adopt NQDC plans for regular employees who have no ownership in the business. NQDC plans are most suitable for employers that are financially sound and have a reasonable expectation of continuing profitable business operations in the future. In addition, since NQDC plans are more affordable to implement than qualified plans, they can be an attractive form of employee compensation for a growing business that has limited cash resources.

Types of plans

Because a NQDC plan is essentially a contract between you and your employee there are almost unlimited variations. Most common are deferral plans and supplemental executive retirement plans (also known as SERPs). In a deferral plan your employee defers the payment of current compensation (e.g., salary or bonus) to a future date. A SERP is typically designed to supplement your employee’s qualified plan benefits (for example, by providing additional pension benefits).

How to implement a NQDC plan

An ERISA lawyer can guide you through the maze of legal and tax requirements, and draft the plan document. Often the board of directors or compensation committee must approve the plan. Your accountant or consulting actuary can help you decide how to finance the plan. If you choose an unfunded plan, almost all that ERISA requires is that you send a simple statement to the Department of Labor informing them of the existence of the plan, and the number of participants.

Advantages of NQDC plans

  • Easier and less expensive to implement and maintain than a qualified benefit plan
  • Can be offered on a discriminatory basis
  • Can provide unlimited benefits
  • Allows you to control timing and receipt of benefits
  • Enables you to attract and retain key employees

Disadvantages of NQDC plans

  • Employee taxation controls timing of your tax deduction
  • Lack of security for employees in an unfunded plan
  • Generally, not appropriate for partnerships, sole proprietorships, and S corporations
  • Generally, more costly to employer than paying compensation currently

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.  Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice.  The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services.  If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional.  Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and can be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

The Retirement Income Gender Gap: Dealing with a Shortfall – by John Jastremski

September 7, 2017

When you determine your retirement income needs, you make your projections based on the type of lifestyle you plan to have and the desired timing of your retirement. However, you may find that reality is not in sync with your projections, and it looks like your retirement income will be insufficient to meet your estimated expenses during retirement. This is called a projected income shortfall.

There are many reasons why women, on average, are more likely than men to face a retirement income shortfall. Because women’s careers are often interrupted to care for children or elderly parents, they may spend less time in the workforce. When they’re working, women tend to earn less than men in similar jobs, and they’re more likely to work part-time. As a result, their retirement plan balances and Social Security benefits are often smaller. Compounding the problem is the fact that women often start saving later, save less, and invest more conservatively than men, which decreases their chances of having enough income in retirement.1 And because women tend to live longer than men, retirement assets may need to last longer.

If you (or you and your spouse) find yourself facing a shortfall, the best solution will depend on several factors, including the severity of your projected deficit, the length of time remaining before retirement, and how long you need your retirement income to last. In general, you have five options–save more now, delay retirement, find new sources of retirement income, spend less during retirement, and/or seek to increase the earnings on your retirement assets (but by doing so you could also increase your risk of loss).

Save more, spend less now

Save as much as you can. Take advantage of IRAs, employer plans like 401(k)s, and annuities, where investment earnings can potentially grow tax deferred (or, in the case of Roth accounts, tax free). Utilize special “catch-up” rules that let you make contributions over and above the normal limits once you’ve reached age 50 (you can contribute an extra $1,000 to IRAs, and an extra $6,000 to 401(k) plans in 2017). If your employer matches your contributions, try to contribute at least as much as necessary to get the maximum company match–it’s free money.

If you don’t have enough discretionary income to save more for retirement, try adjusting your spending habits to free up more cash. Depending on how many years you have before retirement, you may be able to get by with only minor changes to your spending habits. However, if retirement is only a few years away, or you expect to fall far short of your retirement income needs, you may need to change your spending patterns drastically to save enough to cover the shortfall. You should create a written budget so you can easily see where your money goes and where you can reduce your spending.

Delay retirement

One way of dealing with a projected income shortfall is for you (or your spouse, or both of you) to stay in the workforce longer than you had planned. This may allow you to continue supporting yourself with a salary rather than dipping into your retirement savings.

Delaying retirement might allow you to delay taking Social Security benefits (which may increase your benefit) and/or delay taking distributions from your retirement accounts. The longer you can delay tapping into your retirement accounts, the longer the money will last when you do begin drawing down those funds. Plus, the longer you delay retirement, the longer you may be able to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or earn additional pension benefits.

While you might hesitate to start on a new career path late in life, there may actually be certain unique opportunities that would not have been available to you earlier in life. For example, you might consider entering the consulting field, based on the expertise you have gained through a lifetime of employment.

Consider investing more aggressively

If you are facing a projected income shortfall, you may want to revisit your investment choices, particularly if you’re still at least 10-15 years from retirement. If you’re willing to accept more risk, you may be able to increase your potential return. However, there are no guarantees; as you take on more risk, your potential for loss (including the risk of loss of principal) grows as well.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to make the mistake of investing too conservatively for their retirement goals. For example, if a large portion of your retirement dollars is in low interest earning fixed-income investments, be aware that the return on such investments may not outpace the rate of inflation. By contrast, equity investments–i.e., stocks and stock mutual funds2–generally expose you to greater investment risk, but may have the potential to provide greater returns.

Your investment portfolio will likely be one of your major sources of retirement income. As such, it is important to make sure that your level of risk, your choice of investment vehicles, and your asset allocation are appropriate considering your long-term objectives. While you don’t want to lose your investment principal, you also don’t want to lose out to inflation. A review of your investment portfolio is essential in determining whether your current returns are adequate to help you meet your goals.

Use your home

There are a number of ways you can use your home to help you spend less, and free up cash to save more. Consider using home equity financing to consolidate outstanding loans and reduce your interest costs or monthly payment (but be careful–increasing your debt could put you at risk of losing your home if you can’t make the increased payments). If you’re still paying off your home mortgage, consider refinancing your mortgage if interest rates have dropped since you took the loan.

You may also be able to use your home as a source of income during retirement. If you’re willing to move, you may be able to free up a large amount of cash by selling your home. How much you’ll realize depends on the amount of equity you have and where you’ll live when the “sold” sign appears in front of your house. You could rent, live with your children, buy a smaller home or a condominium, or move into a retirement community. If you don’t want to sell your home, and you have extra space, you might consider renting out a room.

Reevaluate your expectations

If your projected income shortfall is severe enough or if time is too tight, you may realize that no matter what measures you take, you will not be able to afford the lifestyle you want during your retirement years. You may simply have to accept the fact that your retirement will not be the jet-setting, luxurious, permanent vacation you had envisioned. In other words, you will have to lower your expectations and accept a more realistic standard of living. Recognize the difference between the things you want and the things you need, and you’ll have an easier time deciding where you can make adjustments. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reduce your housing expectations. Perhaps you’ve always planned to live out retirement in a luxury beachfront community. If you are facing a significant income shortfall, you might have to shop around for a more affordable housing option in a less exclusive location.
  • Cut down on travel plans. If you’d always planned an extended tour of Europe or a cruise around the world to celebrate your retirement, you may have to downgrade these plans to a driving trip to visit relatives or a train trip across the Rockies. Simple trips can be just as much fun as extravagant vacations, and they don’t put as big a dent in your retirement funds.
  • Consider a less expensive automobile. You may dream of driving a shiny new car off the dealer’s lot right after you collect your retirement gift from your employer, but shiny new cars come with big, thick payment books. Consider purchasing a used car of the type you want. If you must have a new car, think about buying a less expensive model.
  • Lower household expenses. There are numerous ways to decrease your everyday expenses. You might find that simply cutting back on your spending (for example, eating out less often) will help stretch your retirement dollars.

As a woman, you face special retirement planning challenges, but with careful planning you’ll hopefully be on track to a secure, fulfilling retirement.

 

 

 

Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC . Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement
Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp.Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Five Key Benefits for Military Families – by John Jastremski

September 5, 2017

Military families face plenty of financial challenges. If you’re saving for college or retirement, buying a home, or wondering how to help secure your family’s financial future, don’t overlook these five important benefits.

1. Thrift Savings Plan

Retirement is something you need to plan for, whether it’s far away or just around the corner. Even if you can rely on a military pension because you’ve stayed in the service for 20 years or more, it’s probably not going to provide all the retirement income you’ll need, and neither is Social Security. That’s why it’s important to save for retirement on your own. One option you have is to contribute to the government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

The TSP is a retirement savings plan for federal employees, including servicemembers. When you make traditional contributions to the TSP, you get the same types of savings and tax benefits as you would if you contributed to a 401(k) plan offered by a private-sector employer. Contributing to the TSP is simple–your regular contributions are deducted from your paycheck before taxes (which can lower your taxable income for the year), and your contributions and any earnings accumulate tax deferred until withdrawn in retirement. You can also opt to make after-tax Roth contributions. They won’t reduce your current tax liability, but qualified withdrawals in retirement will be tax free (assuming IRS requirements are met).

You can enroll, change, or cancel your contributions whenever you’d like. You can contribute as little as 1% or as much as 100% of your basic pay (or a designated dollar amount) each pay period, up to what’s called the elective deferral limit for the year. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000; if you’re age 50 or older and are making catch-up contributions, you can contribute up to $24,000.

If you’re contributing a percentage of your basic pay, you can also contribute a percentage of your incentive pay, special pay, or bonus pay (but you can’t make catch-up contributions from these types of pay). And if you’re deployed and receiving tax-exempt pay (i.e., pay that’s subject to the combat zone exclusion), you can also make contributions from that pay, and your contribution limit for the year is even higher; the limit for total contributions from all types of pay is $54,000 for 2017.

When you leave the military, you can’t continue to contribute to the TSP, but you have the option of keeping your money in the TSP or rolling it over to another retirement account, such as a traditional or Roth IRA or an eligible employer plan.

For more information on the TSP, visit tsp.gov.

2. Savings Deposit Program

Are you trying to save money to buy a vehicle or make a down payment on a home? Do you need to set aside money for a rainy day? If you’re deployed to a designated combat zone for at least 30 days, you have a unique chance to save for your goals at a guaranteed interest rate by participating in the Defense Department’s Savings Deposit Program (SDP).

The SDP pays you 10% interest on deposits up to $10,000 while you’re deployed, and you’ll earn this interest rate on your money for up to 90 days after your return. You may deposit all or part of your unallotted pay. Interest compounds quarterly and is taxable.

Generally, you can withdraw funds and close your account only after you leave the combat zone and are no longer eligible to participate in the SDP, although emergency withdrawals while you’re deployed are allowed in some cases.

To find out more or begin participating in the SDP, contact your local military finance office.

3. Post-9/11 GI Bill

Education benefits are one of the most valuable benefits available to servicemembers. If you’re entitled to benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay up to the full cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges for up to four years, or up to a certain maximum per academic year if you attend a private college or foreign school. The maximum for the 2016 academic year (August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017) is $21,970.46.

But if you don’t need to use your entitlement, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can provide a great way to pay for your family’s education. Servicemembers who make a long-term service commitment have the opportunity to transfer unused education benefits (up to 36 months’ worth) to their spouses and children.

To transfer your unused benefit entitlement to your spouse, you must have served at least 6 years, and generally commit to serving 4 additional years from the date a benefit transfer is approved (some exceptions to this added service requirement exist). Once the transfer is approved, your spouse may begin using benefits immediately and has 15 years after your last separation from active duty to use up the benefits.

If you opt to transfer your unused entitlement to your dependent children, they can use the benefits only after you’ve completed at least 10 years of service. In addition, they must have attained a secondary school diploma or equivalency certificate or have reached age 18, and they can use the benefit entitlement only until age 26.

If both your spouse and your children are attending school, you can opt to split your benefit entitlement among them.

To learn more about GI Bill benefits for you and your family members, visit benefits.va.gov.

4. VA Home Loan

Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. Fortunately, military families can often benefit from the no-down-payment requirement of a VA loan. This type of loan, which can only be used to finance a primary residence, also features another money saving benefit: borrowers aren’t required to pay mortgage insurance.

Despite its name, the VA loan isn’t handled by the government. Like other home loans, VA loans are offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, which may make it easier for you to obtain a loan or qualify for more favorable terms, including lower closing costs and appraisal fees. Not all lenders offer VA loans, so you’ll need to ask potential lenders whether they are VA-approved lending institutions.

One lesser known feature of the VA loan program is the opportunity to do a cash-out refinancing. If you have substantial home equity, this feature allows you to refinance an existing home loan (including a non-VA loan) while borrowing extra money, which you can use to pay off debt or make home improvements, for example.

A VA loan is often a good choice for military families, but it’s not the only game in town. You should compare the terms, interest rate, closing costs, and fees against other mortgage options. One drawback of a VA loan is the funding fee that’s generally required. This funding fee which you pay at closing (it can be financed into the loan) is a percentage of the amount you’re borrowing.

For more information on VA loans, including how to qualify and how to apply, visit benefits.va.gov.

5. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

Knowing that your family will be protected is extremely important, and affordable term life insurance coverage is available through the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program. Eligible servicemembers are automatically enrolled in SGLI, and spouses and dependent children are generally automatically insured through a related program, Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI).

When you leave the military, you can apply to convert your policy to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), which provides renewable term coverage. An SGLI policy may also be converted to an individual policy sold by a participating commercial company. (Deadlines apply to both types of conversions.) However, you should carefully evaluate your options to determine whether VGLI will meet your life insurance needs. Points to consider include premium costs, plan features, and whether term insurance is your best option.

For more information about these and other life insurance programs for servicemembers, visit insurance.va.gov.

If you’re married, make sure that you and your spouse understand what financial challenges you face and what benefits you’re entitled to. Regularly discussing financial matters can help ensure that both of you are prepared to handle family finances whenever the need arises.

Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC . Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement
Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement?- by John Jastremski

August 30, 2017

You can use a variety of strategies to pay off debt, many of which can cut not only the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt but also the total interest paid. But like many people, you may be torn between paying off debt and the need to save for retirement. Both are important; both can help give you a more secure future. If you’re not sure you can afford to tackle both at the same time, which should you choose?

There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone, but here are some of the factors you should consider when making your decision.

Rate of investment return versus interest rate on debt

Probably the most common way to decide whether to pay off debt or to make investments is to consider whether you could earn a higher after-tax rate of return by investing than the after-tax interest rate you pay on the debt. For example, say you have a credit card with a $10,000 balance on which you pay nondeductible interest of 18%. By getting rid of those interest payments, you’re effectively getting an 18% return on your money. That means your money would generally need to earn an after-tax return greater than 18% to make investing a smarter choice than paying off debt. That’s a pretty tough challenge even for professional investors.

And bear in mind that investment returns are anything but guaranteed. In general, the higher the rate of return, the greater the risk. If you make investments rather than pay off debt and your investments incur losses, you may still have debts to pay, but you won’t have had the benefit of any gains. By contrast, the return that comes from eliminating high-interest-rate debt is a sure thing.

An employer’s match may change the equation

If your employer matches a portion of your workplace retirement account contributions, that can make the debt versus savings decision more difficult. Let’s say your company matches 50% of your contributions up to 6% of your salary. That means that you’re earning a 50% return on that portion of your retirement account contributions.

If surpassing an 18% return from paying off debt is a challenge, getting a 50% return on your money simply through investing is even tougher. The old saying about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush applies here. Assuming you conform to your plan’s requirements and your company meets its plan obligations, you know in advance what your return from the match will be; very few investments can offer the same degree of certainty. That’s why many financial experts argue that saving at least enough to get any employer match for your contributions may make more sense than focusing on debt.

And don’t forget the tax benefits of contributions to a workplace savings plan. By contributing pretax dollars to your plan account, you’re deferring anywhere from 10% to 39.6% in taxes, depending on your federal tax rate. You’re able to put money that would ordinarily go toward taxes to work immediately.

Your choice doesn’t have to be all or nothing

The decision about whether to save for retirement or pay off debt can sometimes be affected by the type of debt you have. For example, if you itemize deductions, the interest you pay on a mortgage is generally deductible on your federal tax return. Let’s say you’re paying 6% on your mortgage and 18% on your credit card debt, and your employer matches 50% of your retirement account contributions. You might consider directing some of your available resources to paying off the credit card debt and some toward your retirement account in order to get the full company match, and continuing to pay the tax-deductible mortgage interest.

There’s another good reason to explore ways to address both goals. Time is your best ally when saving for retirement. If you say to yourself, “I’ll wait to start saving until my debts are completely paid off,” you run the risk that you’ll never get to that point, because your good intentions about paying off your debt may falter at some point. Putting off saving also reduces the number of years you have left to save for retirement.

It might also be easier to address both goals if you can cut your interest payments by refinancing that debt. For example, you might be able to consolidate multiple credit card payments by rolling them over to a new credit card or a debt consolidation loan that has a lower interest rate.

Bear in mind that even if you decide to focus on retirement savings, you should make sure that you’re able to make at least the monthly minimum payments owed on your debt. Failure to make those minimum payments can result in penalties and increased interest rates; those will only make your debt situation worse.

Other considerations

When deciding whether to pay down debt or to save for retirement, make sure you take into account the following factors:

  • Having retirement plan contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck eliminates the temptation to spend that money on things that might make your debt dilemma even worse. If you decide to prioritize paying down debt, make sure you put in place a mechanism that automatically directs money toward the debt–for example, having money deducted automatically from your checking account–so you won’t be tempted to skip or reduce payments.
  • Do you have an emergency fund or other resources that you can tap in case you lose your job or have a medical emergency? Remember that if your workplace savings plan allows loans, contributing to the plan not only means you’re helping to provide for a more secure retirement but also building savings that could potentially be used as a last resort in an emergency. Some employer-sponsored retirement plans also allow hardship withdrawals in certain situations–for example, payments necessary to prevent an eviction from or foreclosure of your principal residence–if you have no other resources to tap. (However, remember that the amount of any hardship withdrawal becomes taxable income, and if you aren’t at least age 59½, you also may owe a 10% premature distribution tax on that money.)
  • If you do need to borrow from your plan, make sure you compare the cost of using that money with other financing options, such as loans from banks, credit unions, friends, or family. Although interest rates on plan loans may be favorable, the amount you can borrow is limited, and you generally must repay the loan within five years. In addition, some plans require you to repay the loan immediately if you leave your job. Your retirement earnings will also suffer as a result of removing funds from a tax-deferred investment.
  • If you focus on retirement savings rather than paying down debt, make sure you’re invested so that your return has a chance of exceeding the interest you owe on that debt. While your investments should be appropriate for your risk tolerance, if you invest too conservatively, the rate of return may not be high enough to offset the interest rate you’ll continue to pay.

Regardless of your choice, perhaps the most important decision you can make is to take action and get started now. The sooner you decide on a plan for both your debt and your need for retirement savings, the sooner you’ll start to make progress toward achieving both goals.

 

 Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC .

Deciding When to Retire: When Timing Becomes Critical – by John Jastremski

August 28, 2017

Deciding when to retire may not be one decision but a series of decisions and calculations. For example, you’ll need to estimate not only your anticipated expenses, but also what sources of retirement income you’ll have and how long you’ll need your retirement savings to last. You’ll need to take into account your life expectancy and health as well as when you want to start receiving Social Security or pension benefits, and when you’ll start to tap your retirement savings. Each of these factors may affect the others as part of an overall retirement income plan.

Thinking about early retirement?

Retiring early means fewer earning years and less accumulated savings. Also, the earlier you retire, the more years you’ll need your retirement savings to produce income. And your retirement could last quite a while. According to a National Vital Statistics Report, people today can expect to live more than 30 years longer than they did a century ago.

Not only will you need your retirement savings to last longer, but inflation will have more time to eat away at your purchasing power. If inflation is 3% a year–its historical average since 1914–it will cut the purchasing power of a fixed annual income in half in roughly 23 years. Factoring inflation into the retirement equation, you’ll probably need your retirement income to increase each year just to cover the same expenses. Be sure to take this into account when considering how long you expect (or can afford) to be in retirement.

Men Women
At birth 76.3 81.2
At age 65 83.0 85.6

Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 267, December 2016

There are other considerations as well. For example, if you expect to receive pension payments, early retirement may adversely affect them. Why? Because the greatest accrual of benefits generally occurs during your final years of employment, when your earning power is presumably highest. Early retirement could reduce your monthly benefits. It will affect your Social Security benefits too.

Also, don’t forget that if you hope to retire before you turn 59½ and plan to start using your 401(k) or IRA savings right away, you’ll generally pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty plus any regular income tax due (with some exceptions, including disability payments and distributions from employer plans such as 401(k)s after you reach age 55 and terminate employment).

Finally, you’re not eligible for Medicare until you turn 65. Unless you’ll be eligible for retiree health benefits through your employer or take a job that offers health insurance, you’ll need to calculate the cost of paying for insurance or health care out-of-pocket, at least until you can receive Medicare coverage.

Delaying retirement

Postponing retirement lets you continue to add to your retirement savings. That’s especially advantageous if you’re saving in tax-deferred accounts, and if you’re receiving employer contributions. For example, if you retire at age 65 instead of age 55, and manage to save an additional $20,000 per year at an 8% rate of return during that time, you can add an extra $312,909 to your retirement fund. (This is a hypothetical example and is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any specific investment.)

Even if you’re no longer adding to your retirement savings, delaying retirement postpones the date that you’ll need to start withdrawing from them. That could enhance your nest egg’s ability to last throughout your lifetime.

Postponing full retirement also gives you more transition time. If you hope to trade a full-time job for running your own small business or launching a new career after you “retire,” you might be able to lay the groundwork for a new life by taking classes at night or trying out your new role part-time. Testing your plans while you’re still employed can help you anticipate the challenges of your post-retirement role. Doing a reality check before relying on a new endeavor for retirement income can help you see how much income you can realistically expect from it. Also, you’ll learn whether it’s something you really want to do before you spend what might be a significant portion of your retirement savings on it.

Phased retirement: the best of both worlds

Some employers have begun to offer phased retirement programs, which allow you to receive all or part of your pension benefit once you’ve reached retirement age, while you continue to work part-time for the same employer.

Phased retirement programs are getting more attention as the baby boomer generation ages. In the past, pension law for private sector employers encouraged workers to retire early. Traditional pension plans generally weren’t allowed to pay benefits until an employee either stopped working completely or reached the plan’s normal retirement age (typically age 65). This frequently encouraged employees who wanted a reduced workload but hadn’t yet reached normal retirement age to take early retirement and go to work elsewhere (often for a competitor), allowing them to collect both a pension from the prior employer and a salary from the new employer.

However, pension plans now are allowed to pay benefits when an employee reaches age 62, even if the employee is still working and hasn’t yet reached the plan’s normal retirement age. Phased retirement can benefit both prospective retirees, who can enjoy a more flexible work schedule and a smoother transition into full retirement; and employers, who are able to retain an experienced worker. Employers aren’t required to offer a phased retirement program, but if yours does, it’s worth at least a review to see how it might affect your plans.

Age Don’t forget …
Eligible to tap tax-deferred savings without penalty for early withdrawal 59 ½* Federal income taxes will be due on pretax contributions and earnings
Eligible for early Social Security benefits 62 Taking benefits before full retirement age reduces each monthly payment
Eligible for Medicare 65 Contact Medicare 3 months before your 65th birthday
Full retirement age for Social Security 66 to 67, depending on when you were born After full retirement age, earned income no longer affects Social Security benefits

*Age 55 for distributions from employer plans upon termination of employment

Check your assumptions

The sooner you start to plan the timing of your retirement, the more time you’ll have to make adjustments that can help ensure those years are everything you hope for. If you’ve already made some tentative assumptions or choices, you may need to revisit them, especially if you’re considering taking retirement in stages. And as you move into retirement, you’ll want to monitor your retirement income plan to ensure that your initial assumptions are still valid, that new laws and regulations haven’t affected your situation, and that your savings and investments are performing as you need them to.

 

 

The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA / SIPC . Investment advisory services offered through The Retirement Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor which is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corp. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials.