Category Archives: Insurance Blog

IRAs AND CHANGES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act) came into effect in 2020.  This act includes changes that simplify access to retirement accounts for Americans, which, for many of us, is the only way to reduce our taxes.  In this article, I will review the basics of IRAs and explain the latest changes.

REMINDERS ABOUT IRAS

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a tax-deferred bank account, a mutual fund or broker, which we open for ourselves in order to deposit money for retirement.  The tax benefit is that the money deposited into an IRA is a tax write-off for most people, and the money in the account grows with taxes deferred for the future, when we begin withdrawing the money (at best when we are retired), when we will be in a lower tax bracket.  Starting in 2019, deposits of up to $6,000 can be made annually, plus an additional $1,000 for those over age 50.  Married couples can deposit twice as much money.

IRAs are seemingly simple, but questions have been arising, so we will revisit the topic.  Below are the answers to frequently asked questions.

WILL I GET A TAX WRITE-OFF?

Anyone can pay into an IRA, but only people who fulfill the following requirements qualify:

  • For a single person (or if a spouse does not have a current retirement plan), deposits into IRA accounts are written off from taxes regardless of income.
  • For those who have a retirement plan at work, deposits into IRAs are tax deductible if yearly income is less than $65,000 for a single person and $104,000 for those married and filing together.  Tax write-offs are reduced income above this amount.
  • Married persons having a retirement plan through their employer can pay into an IRA and add it to their write-offs if the combined income is less than $206,000.

HOW MUCH RETIREMENT MONEY WILL MY IRA PAY OUT?

An IRA will not pay out any Social Security or disability benefits.  We only gain as much as we set aside with as much profit as the investment brings.  Many Poles in America paid some money into an IRA many years ago, then held the money in a savings account and were later disappointed with the results.  But wise investors do not establish accounts in banks but opt to establish mutual funds or in electronically traded funds (EFTs).

In the last twenty years, so from January 1, 1999, the Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) Market brought, on average, an 8.2% compounded annual growth rate (even with a few downturns); looking at the last thirty years, it brought a 12.1% return.  If our funds kept up with this indicator, $4,000 deposited systematically each year for twenty years would yield $206,000 and in thirty years, because of the snowball effect, would result in $1.1M (not taking inflation onto account).  And, slowly but surely, you can became a millionaire thanks to the compounded interest earnings added to the capital to bring additional untaxed income.  Use the investment calculator to find out for yourself:  indicator results of the S&P 500 for any time period can be found at www.moneychimp.com/features/market_cagr.htm.

WHEN CAN I MAKE WITHDRAWALS FROM MY IRA?

You can always withdraw from an IRA, but why would you want to lose the tax breaks?  It is best to go with the snowball effect to accumulate equity and take advantage of the added earnings.

Due to the fact that the money in an IRA is yours, you can do with it as you please, however, any funds you withdraw are taxable.  Additionally, if you are not yet 59½ years of age, you will have to pay a 10% penalty of the withdrawn funds.  There are, however, some alternatives to paying the fine (also found in the book, Amerykańskie Emerytury).  The SECURE Act allows you add/deposit $5,000 for a child’s birth or adoption or up to $10,000 for two parents into two accounts.

After 72 years of age, you are obligated to start taking minimum distributions from the account, which will be covered below.

HOW MUCH TAX DO I PAY UPON WITHDRAWAL FROM MY IRA?

Based on the financial status of the taxpayer, funds withdrawn from an IRA (and other retirement funds, except for the Roth IRA) are added to taxable income and taxed as income.  Taxes are dependent on various factors:  types and amount of income in a given year, taxpayer’s marital status, number of dependents, tax write-offs, and tax credits.  To avoid any surprises, it is important to calculate all other tax obligations or speak with a tax specialist before deciding to withdraw all funds from an account.

WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TAXES TWICE?

This is a common question of readers, pointing out that they have already paid taxes to their employers.  Why the taxes upon closing an IRA?

In this case, it is important to note that thanks to tax write-offs, deposits into IRA are made before being taxed.  Interest earned is also not taxed.  The IRS wants its share, so it taxes funds withdrawn from the retirement account.

Conclusion:  We pay taxes only once (or not at all if we add funds in a year in which we are in a zero percent tax bracket).  Retirees with only Social Security and little or no additional income are in the zero percent tax bracket.  In the book, „Jak oszczędzać na podatkach” (How to Save on Your Taxes), I explain the status of a retiree who has various sources of income, yet withdraws substantial amounts of money that is not taxed.

WHEN DO I BEGIN CASHING OUT MY IRA?

As you age, you should progressively cash your IRA out.  The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) has changed as a result of the SECURE Act.  In the past, after reaching 70½ years of age, deposits into IRAs (and others, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457 accounts), were prohibited, and minimum distributions required, even if not needed by the owner of the account.

Recent changes:  Beginning January 1, 2020, we are required to begin taking minimum distributions out of retirement accounts at age 72.  Of course, we can withdraw the money earlier, but after our 72nd birthday, we are required to cash out the account based on our anticipated life span.  Our bank or trust fund should send written notification of such obligations.

The new rules apply to those who were born after July 1, 1949; those who are older must follow earlier regulations:  the first RMD must be made before April 1 of the year in which they reach the age of 70½ and the following distributions prior to December 31 of each subsequent year. Neglecting the minimum withdrawal results in a 50% penalty of the amount of the withdrawal.

CAN A RETIREE STILL PAY INTO AN IRA?

Anyone who has earned income, meaning a salary from working, business income, commissions or honoraria, can deposit into an IRA.  Bank interest and dividends are considered passive income and cannot be included in an IRA.

Prior to 2020, deposits were prohibited after the age of 70½, even if a person still had earned income.  Currently, deposits can be made into retirement accounts as long as you want, even until after age 72, so as long as you have income from an employer.  The age limit was eliminated so you can save as much as you wish.

You can pay into a retirement account as a nonworking spouse if you are retired but your spouse is still employed, provided that you and your spouse’s deposits do not exceed your spouse’s income.

CONCLUSION

It is well worth it to open and deposit money into various retirement funds, invest them well and allow for them to increase in value. In our old age, they’ll certainly come in handy.

Elżbieta Baumgartner

About the author

Elżbieta Baumgartner is the author of numerous books and guides, including (in Polish) „Powrót do Polski”, „Emerytura reemigranta w Polsce“ (podręcznik seniora wracającego do kraju), „Ubezpieczenie społeczne Social Security.” More information for our Polish-speaking members can be found on Ms. Baumgartner’s website: www.poradniksukces.com.

Insurance Checklist for the New Year – Prepared for 2020?

Make a resolution to review your coverage and beneficiaries!

The start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate your life insurance coverage. Changing circumstances may lead to different insurance needs. Did you have a baby? Get married? Purchase a new home or car? If so, you’ll want to check whether you have the right fit in policy protection.

Take some time to talk with your Sales Representative and review your certificates to see if they meet your current needs. Even if you haven’t experienced a life changing event, you could be eligible for discounts or new insurance products may better serve your needs.

Impact on Life Insurance and Annuities

Changes—such as a birth, divorce, remarriage or even a new mortgage or new job—are indicators that you might need to make changes to your life insurance, or at the very least, that you should review your coverage.

Read your policy carefully and answer these questions:

•What is your current amount of coverage? Is this sufficient to protect your loved ones if something were to happen to you?

•Do premiums or benefits vary from year to year?

•Is there cash value? If so, how does it grow?

•Can the certificate be converted into another form of insurance or annuity?

•Are the beneficiary designations on your life insurance or annuities current?

In the case of the birth of a child or a new marriage, you might want to consider increasing your death benefit.

Alternatively, events like paying off your mortgage, retirement or children finishing college might mean that you can lower your life insurance coverage and premiums. Your life insurance company might be able to offer “conversion privileges” from your current term life insurance policy to a new whole life insurance policy without a medical exam. You might also be able to expand your death benefits so they can be used while you are still living. Ask your PRCUA Sales Representative about these options.

Remain current on product specials and offers – read our Narod Polski, check our website and social media pages. For more information, contact us today!

Having the Conversation

At an early age, I decided that funeral service was my calling. The mysteries that surrounded the care of the deceased and those that care for the dead were compelling to me. After attaining the necessary education, my life-long work began. What was to follow over the next 33 years has been a fulfilling profession that helps the living to mourn and move forward with hope and promise of the Resurrection. In the Catholic faith, we have the Sacraments to help fulfill these promises. We also have days of commemoration that bring special attention to those who have died – the feasts of saints and all faithful departed – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. We pray for those who have left us, honor them and remember them. In doing so, their memory is kept safe and the prayers help bring them to the fullness of heaven. We have these special liturgical days to help us commemorate our dead, yet we often find it awkward to talk about death in our own lives. Not having this difficult conversation can unnecessarily burden our families when we pass. Many families have had to deal with unexpected loss and find themselves not financially prepared. Maybe the funds were available. Maybe not. We plan in advance for the things we look forward to, such as that once-in-a-lifetime vacation, the kitchen remodel or sending the young ones to college. It takes responsibility and planning to set aside for those expenditures we know will happen. We know that one day we will not be here with our loved ones. Planning for when we’re gone requires as much responsibility as planning for the events that we look forward to. Taking responsibility for such an important decision shows that you are looking out for your family’s future. So many times, when unexpected death occurs, the survivors are left to scramble for the necessary funds for final arrangements. In some situations, a proper funeral may be jeopardized or not held because funds are not available. Yes, the cost of funerals and graves can be costly. Could the funds be available, even when the unexpected occurs? Of course. Having a life insurance or final expense plan can significantly lessen the financial burden placed on our families. When is a good time to talk to your spouse or children about the subject of dying? The best time to have that discussion is not when you need it – it is before it’s necessary. Even when death is unexpected, making final arrangements in advance, whether they be life insurance or final expense plans, provides peace of mind and creates fewer financial worries for loved ones during an already difficult time. Have the discussion that no one wants to have. Life may be smooth and anxiety-free now. That is the perfect time to prepare your family for when life does change.

Leonard Zieliński, Funeral Director (Chicago, IL)

For more information please visit www.northwestfuneralcare.com  or www.ccfda.com ( Cook County Funeral Directors Association)

It’s Not for You, It’s for Them

Life Insurance Awareness Month is here – let’s talk about life insurance! Too many people are taking an unnecessary risk by not protecting their loved ones with life insurance.

Did you know that 1 in 3 households would have immediate trouble paying living expenses if the primary wage earner died, according to the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA? And the study also found that 40% haven’t bought life insurance or more of it because they’re unsure of how much or what type to buy. That’s why September was declared Life Insurance Awareness Month. PRCUA joins the industry-wide campaign “It’s Not for You, It’s for Them” that is aimed at educating Americans about the importance of life insurance and helping them get the coverage they need.

Gift of Life from Grandma and Grandpa!

By Agnieszka Bastrzyk, PRCUA Secretary -Treasurer 

A safer future

As a grandparent, you can help ensure that the grandchildren who mean so much to you will enjoy practical insurance benefits that can be a big help to them later in life.

Insurance: a caring and thoughtful gift for your grandchild

Like most grandparents, you probably enjoy buying your grandchildren gifts. But toys and other presents can only bring short term happiness. Why not consider a gift that can give your grandchildren an advantage for life and leave your legacy?

Help provide a lifetime of security with PRCUA permanent insurance

For less than it costs to buy a few toys a year, you could give your grandchild a much more heartfelt and long-lasting gift. Giving grandchildren a whole life insurance policy from the PRCUA is an affordable way to help protect their future security.

When you buy your grandchildren life insurance, you are giving them a powerful head start on their future. With whole life insurance, your grandchildren can receive lifelong protection regardless of any future changes in their health, hobbies, occupation, or any other situation that could prevent coverage from being approved. As long as premiums are paid, PRCUA’s whole life insurance policies also build “cash value” that your grandchild can borrow from or cash in if future circumstances dictate.

Purchase while premiums are low; Adult-size coverage with child-size premiums

Believe it or not, this gift of financial security can cost as little as $1 a day! That’s because your grandchild is eligible for low childhood premiums. Because premiums are based on your grandchild’s age at the time you submit your application, the sooner you apply, the lower the rates will be. You can start your grandchild with a whole life policy and lock in a low childhood premium that will never increase. Parents, grandparents, and permanent legal guardians may apply.

Purchasing this caring and lasting gift is easy

As a grandparent, you can apply for this gift yourself. There are only a few simple questions to answer to request a free, no-obligation quote. After approval, you’ll receive all the information you need to decide if a PRCUA permanent insurance certificate would make an important contribution toward your grandchild’s future security.

145 years of PRCUA history

As the oldest Polish organization in the United States, the PRCUA has been serving its membership since 1873, helping grandparents just like you provide the loving gift of whole life. Once you purchase whole life insurance for your grandchild, they immediately become a member of PRCUA with access to our member benefits, such as ability to participate in local Polish language or dance schools, sports tournaments, educational scholarships and loans, and much more!

Learn more about the ways that a whole life certificate through the PRCUA can give your child an advantage for a lifetime.

Sample quotes for a 5 Year Limited Pay Whole Life certificate:

A variety of plans and insurance amounts for children and adults are available for every budget!
Ask about the PRCUA Family Plus Plan and possible 10% off premiums.

Contact us today to receive a quote for your grandchild! 1-800-772-8632 ext. 2631 or 2632.

Feel good knowing that you have helped secure their future.

2017 IRA Contribution Deadline Quickly Approaching!

By Agnieszka Bastrzyk

The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday – April 16. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation.

Don’t let taxes sneak up on you this year.

This also means that the final deadline this year for making a 2017 IRA contribution is April 17theven if you plan to extend your 2017 tax return.

You may be able to claim a credit for contributions to your traditional IRA.
If you plan to make an IRA contribution for 2017 anytime after January 1, 2018 (but before April 17, 2018), be sure to clearly state whether the contribution is for the 2017 or 2018 tax year. If you do not specify which tax year the contribution applies to, it may be considered to apply to the year in which it was received – i.e. 2018.

Taxpayers will be able to track the status of their refunds using a “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the www.IRS.gov web site.

2017 and 2018 Combined Traditional and Roth IRA Contribution Limits – Information from IRS.gov

If you are under 50 years of age at the end of 2017 – the maximum contribution that can be made to a traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $5,500 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2017. This limit can be split between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but the combined limit is $5,500.

If you are 50 years of age or older before the end of 2017 – the maximum contribution that can be made to a traditional or Roth IRA is the smaller of $6,500 or the amount of your taxable compensation for 2017. This limit can be split between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but the combined limit is $6,500. 

Our competitive annuity portfolio can be viewed online: PRCUA.org/annuities

Contact a PRCUA Sales Representative or call 1-800-772-8632 ext. 2631 or 2632 now to open or contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) annuity. The minimum amount required to open most PRCUA Traditional or Roth IRA annuities is only $300.

 ** Please contact your tax advisor for more information regarding tax law changes or if you have questions regarding this year’s IRS deadline to file Federal tax returns and to determine which type of IRA would best fit your financial situation.

Financial Goals & Life Insurance

Written by Anna Marrah

2018 has kicked off and many of us are committing ourselves to New Year resolutions and goals. Financial goals, such as paying off debt, building your credit score, or starting a Roth IRA to begin saving for retirement, are incredibly important objectives to set. One financial cornerstone that you may not have considered a worthy goal is life insurance. However, this is a truly vital financial tool that should not be overlooked when resolving to build your financial portfolio.

Why should life insurance be a financial goal?

Cash flow and the monetary nest you build often steer how you and your family live life. Your income sets your life-style. As your net wealth grows, larger and larger risk is introduced to your way of life. Think about it – if your cash flow suddenly vanishes, the world you have built vanishes too.

This is what often happens to uninsured families after the unexpected loss of the bread winner. Their cash flow stops and the painstakingly built savings deplete in the face of funeral, legal, and living expenses. Savings could dry up entirely before the family has managed to find another source of income. Coupled with the loss of a beloved family member, this loss of stability and financial security can be devastating to families.

Your family needs a financial safety net.

The proper life insurance coverage is there to protect you and your family from the giant “what ifs” of life. It is the safety net that protects your way of life when it is threatened by tragedy and loss. This makes it of huge importance to have life insurance as a financial cornerstone, supporting your carefully built nest egg and providing protection for your real treasures.

As your family grows, as your financial wealth increases, so does your need for a safety net. Insure your family’s way of life, insure your financial stability, by making proper life insurance coverage a prominent financial goal for 2018.

 

 

Whole Life Insurance – 5 Reasons to Consider

By Robert Fattore, PRCUA Director of Sales

As a licensed life insurance agent, I can tell you that the single biggest attraction to life insurance is the general income tax exemption. Life Insurance benefits, paid to the beneficiary, are always tax-free.

Life insurance should be a foundation of any serious financial, retirement, or estate plan, but it is not used nearly enough, According to LIMRA’s 2016 Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study, more than 37 million American families are completely uninsured and at financial risk if their primary wage earner dies unexpectedly. In this blog, I’m focusing on permanent or what is also called Whole Life Insurance. We will discuss term insurance at a later date.

The Advantages of whole life insurance are:

  • Guarantees lifelong protection as long as premiums are paid
  • Generally, premium costs are fixed
  • Develops cash values, which can be borrowed against; loans must be paid back, otherwise death benefit will be reduced by the amount of the loan balance at time of death
  • Cash values can be surrendered, in total, or in part, for cash or to convert to an annuity
  • Cash values can be used to pay future premiums or provide paid-up insurance
  • Generally dividend participating – can be used to reduce the amount of future premiums needed or purchase additional paid-up insurance

Disadvantages:

  • High initial premium levels may make it hard to buy enough protection
  • Is more costly than term

But besides the tax free death benefit, here are five points for considering whole life insurance to enhance long-term financial security.

  1. Life insurance is a good asset.

Most people have their retirement savings in IRAs and 401(k)s. These plans are completely opposite of life insurance because they are tax-deferred. The tax will one day have to be paid, creating a growing debt on these retirement savings.

This makes traditional retirement accounts an inexact and lessening asset over time. Replacing these accounts gradually with whole life insurance can turn these tax-deferred funds into tax-free savings. People should consider a program of systematic IRA withdrawals to decrease their IRA balance and direct those funds into permanent/whole life insurance.

The tax on most IRAs will have to be paid beginning at age 70 ½ so it may be attractive to deal with this now.

  1. Life insurance is an investment, not an expense.

People will say life insurance costs too much. But most don’t know over time it can be an attractive asset. Moving funds either from IRAs to permanent life insurance is not an expense; it’s an investment into a better long-term asset. Yes, if the funds are withdrawn from an IRA, there will be a tax to pay, but that tax will have had to be paid at some point anyway.

Once the funds are in a permanent/whole life insurance policy, they are simply located in a different and far better long-term asset than an IRA or 401(k). The funds in the life insurance policy remove the tax risk in most instances.

  1. Life insurance has lifetime benefits.

Most think of life insurance for the death benefit, but many don’t know about the powerful lifetime retirement and tax benefits. Funds in a permanent life insurance policy can double as a retirement savings account, but without the worry about what future tax rates will be.

If these funds are needed in retirement for nursing home issues, medical bills or other unexpected event, they are accessible, generally tax- and penalty-free. That is a big deal, because funds in an IRA, that are distributed would be taxable (in a traditional IRA).

Accessing funds from a life insurance policy are tax-free (up to cost-basis i.e., what you paid into the life product; and thereafter if taken as policy loans against the tax-free death benefit) so they don’t increase income. The withdrawals keep taxable income and taxes lower in retirement. These are valuable lifetime benefits, in addition to the death benefit.

  1. You get more control with life insurance.

IRAs are subject to annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 70 ½, whether the money is needed or not (Roth IRAs are exempt from lifetime RMDs). This causes forced distributions and additional taxes, though the client may not need or want to withdraw those funds.

These forced withdrawals remove the control aspect, while withdrawing from the value in a life insurance policy can be done at any time, or not. Clients control retirement savings in a life insurance policy.

  1. Leverage is a powerful tool for wealth creation.

Life insurance creates more long-term wealth than any other investment. And because this wealth is income tax-free, it is much more valuable than tax-deferred retirement savings that are at the mercy of future higher tax rates.

It’s the leverage that creates the wealth. Life insurance is the only investment where one dollar can do the work of many dollars and the result is guaranteed and generally tax-free. For example a 40 year old male that has $10,000 can get a life insurance face amount of over $36,000, almost $3.60 of life insurance for every one dollar paid.

Taking the same funds that were in an IRA and investing them (after-the tax was paid on the IRA distribution) in a permanent/whole life insurance policy, would produce many multiples of that original IRA balance, and it would be generally tax-free, not only for use during life but especially if there were an early death.

These are only five considerations, but they need to be known to non-life insurance people, like many, and better understand the power and security of an investment in whole life insurance, for life and beyond.

True Costs

When it comes to life insurance, people offer a lot of reasons as to why they don’t have sufficient coverage. The expense of premiums is the number one stated reason why Americans are either under insured or don’t have life insurance at all. However, a 2015 study asked participants to estimate the cost of life insurance and the findings were astounding.

According to the study, 80 percent of consumers misjudged the price of term life insurance. Breaking that number down into demographics, Millennials overestimated the true cost of life insurance by 213 percent and Gen Xers, by 119 percent.

This is a huge number of people with a grossly inflated idea of premium costs. Unfortunately, with this many people overestimating costs, there are consequences. In this instance, the result is that the majority of Americans do not have the insurance coverage needed to protect their families.

This study also discussed the two road blocks that stand between consumers and the coverage they need. The first road block the study indicated was simply priorities.

  • 29 percent of Millennials cited saving for vacation as a priority over purchasing life insurance;
  • 23 percent of Gen Xers said paying for recreational activities, such as going out to eat, going to the movies, or shopping, was a priority over purchasing life insurance;
  • 49 percent of seniors and 60 percent of Millennials cited paying for expenses such as Internet, cable, and cell phones as a priority over purchasing life insurance.

The second road block discussed is a lack of financial literacy in regards to how life insurance premiums are determined. Understanding the pricing mechanisms allows consumers to take simple steps to lower the cost of their policies. Healthy living, lifestyle choices, and purchasing coverage in younger years can all lead to savings.