Retirement Insights

News and information for current and future retirees.

10 HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SECURE 2.0 ACT

On December 23, 2022, Congress passed the bill containing the Secure 2.0 Act retirement provisions. This Act will reshape retirement tax incentives for years to come through changing existing retirement account rules and related tax breaks. 

Here is a list of some important highlights explaining these new changes.

 1. Increased RMD Age

The age for required minimum distributions (RMD) from an IRA increased from 72 years of age to 73 years of age, effective on January 1, 2023. It will later increase to 75 years of age, effective on January 1, 2033.1

2. Reduced Penalty for RMD Failures

The penalty for failure to take RMDs from an IRA reduces from 50 percent to 25 percent, effective on January 1, 2023. If the failure is corrected on time, the excise tax on the failure reduces from 25 percent to ten percent.3

3. Early Emergency Expense Distributions

Beginning in 2024, participants will be allowed to take an early emergency expense distribution from retirement accounts up to $1,000 only once during the year. The emergency distribution won’t be subject to the usual additional ten percent tax that applies. The participant has the option to repay the distribution within three years. Emergency expenses are unforeseeable or immediate financial needs relating to personal or family emergency expenses.1,3

4. Automatic Enrollment

The Act expands automatic enrollment in retirement plans to significantly increase participation. Unfortunately, without automatic enrollment in place, many employees who are offered a retirement plan at work choose not to participate. This change requires 401(k) and 403(b) plans to automatically enroll eligible participants, who will then be able to opt out of participation if desired. The initial automatic enrollment amount is at least three percent but no more than ten percent.1

5. Higher Catch-up Contribution Limit

There will be a higher catch-up contribution limit to retirement plans. The limit increases to the greater of $10,000 or 50 percent more than the regular catch-up amount if you are 60 to 63 years of age, effective on January 1, 2025. After 2025, those amounts will be indexed for inflation.2

6. Lost and Found

A “Lost and Found” database will be housed at the Department of Labor within two years where people can search for retirement benefits they lost track of.2

7. Expansion for Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD)

Starting in 2023, those 70 1/2 years of age and older may use a one-time gift up to $50,000, adjusted annually for inflation, to a split-interest entity. The options include a charitable remainder unitrust, a charitable remainder annuity trust, or a charitable gift annuity. The annual IRA charitable distribution limit is $100,000.2,3

8. Part-time Employees

Part-time employees are eligible for an employer-sponsored 401(k) only after two years of service, which is one year less than previous law stated.3

9. Pre-death Distribution Requirement

The Secure 2.0 Act eliminates the pre-death distribution requirement for Roth accounts in employer plans, effective in 2024.3

10. Student Loan Payment Matching Contribution

The employer can make a matching contribution to a participant’s retirement plan account based on their student loan payment amount, effective in 2024. This addresses the fact that high student loan debt can keep people from saving for retirement.1

As always, your financial advisor is willing to guide you through your financial journey, especially when faced with change. At any time, reach out to your advisor with any questions or concerns you may have. 

READ @TREKINSIGHTS.COM

Biggest Social Security Changes for 2023

Social Security benefits will get their biggest boost in decades in 2023, thanks to 2022’s surging consumer prices.

Bigger benefits

Rampant inflation produced an 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2023, the biggest percentage jump since 1981. That translates into a $146 boost in the average monthly retirement benefit, from $1,681 to $1,827.

The maximum benefit for a worker who claims Social Security at full retirement age (FRA) in 2023 will be $3,627 a month, up from $3,345 in 2022. FRA is 66 years and 4 months for people born in 1956 and 66 and 6 months for those born in 1957; people born from Sept. 2, 1956, through July 1, 1957, will reach it in 2023.

No Medicare premium offset

In 2022, a 5.9 percent COLA raised the average retirement benefit by $92 a month. But a record-high hike in Medicare Part B premiums undercut that increase for the majority of Medicare enrollees whose Part B premiums are deducted directly from Social Security payments.

That won’t be the case in 2023, as the standard Part B premium declines from $170.10 a month to $164.90, leaving many beneficiaries with a few extra dollars in their monthly Social Security deposits.

Social Security taxes

Social Security benefits are largely funded from a 12.4 percent tax on work earnings, typically split between employee and employer. (If you work for yourself, you pay both shares.) The tax rate hasn’t changed in years, but the amount of income subject to it increases in line with the COLA.

In 2022, you paid Social Security taxes on work income up to $147,000. In 2023, the threshold rises to $160,200. You won’t pay into Social Security on earnings above that level, nor will your employer.

Social Security earnings limits

People receiving retirement, survivor and family benefits who have not yet reached full retirement age may have a portion of their Social Security payments temporarily withheld if they continue to work and have earnings above a certain level.

This earnings test changes annually in line with national wage trends. In 2023, the threshold is $21,240 for beneficiaries who will not reach full retirement age until a later year (up from $19,560 in 2022). For every $2 in annual work income above that limit, the SSA withholds $1 in benefits.

If you will reach FRA in 2023, Social Security withholds $1 in benefits for every $3 in earnings above $56,520 (up from $51,960 in 2022) until the month when you hit the milestone. At that point, the earnings test goes away — there’s no benefit deduction, no matter how much you earn. In addition, the SSA adjusts your benefit upward so that over time, you recoup the prior withholding.

There’s a separate earnings rule for those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Because this benefit is intended for people who are largely unable to work for an extended period due to a serious medical condition, you can lose it if your income exceeds a threshold for “substantial gainful activity,” as the SSA calls it.

READ MORE @AARP.ORG

7 Top Scams to Watch Out FOR

Scammers are like viruses: They continually evolve in response to the latest news and trends, using them for new ways to separate us from our cash.

These criminals “are so adaptable, they’re going to just follow the headlines,” says Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support for AARP.

As she and other anti-fraud experts note, scammers have proved ingenious when it comes to updating traditional criminal operations such as the romance scam or the Ponzi scheme with new twists to make them more convincing and effective. And like the rest of society, scammers are increasingly going online.

“Most con artists have taken a digital-first approach to scamming,” says Josh Planos, vice president of communications and public relations for the Better Business Bureau (BBB). He notes that the vast majority of today’s scams originate through a digital on-ramp, such as social media or email.

Here are seven emerging scams that anti-fraud experts are tracking in 2023, along with tips on how to thwart the crooks.

1. Cryptocurrency-romance scam

Crooks combine crypto scams with old-fashioned romance scams, posing as internet love interests so they can cajole their targets into downloading an app and investing in fake crypto accounts. “They claim that they’re even putting some of their own money into your fund,” explains former Federal Trade Commission official Steve Baker, who publishes the Baker Fraud Report. While the app displays data that seems to show your wealth growing, criminals are just taking your money.

How to stay safe: Carefully scrutinize any investment opportunity, even if you think you’re a sophisticated investor. “People think it’s not going to happen to them, but it is happening to many, which is why you have to keep your guard up,” Nofziger says.

2. Payday loan scam

Criminals exploit the inflation squeezing workers by offering fake payday loans that they claim will help people settle their bills, according to Nofziger. Loan applicants are told they’ll need to prepay a fee. The money goes into the crooks’ pockets, and the applicant gets nothing.

How to stay safe: Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay any sort of loan fee with a gift card or some other nontraceable form of payment.

3. One-time password (OTP) bot scam

Credit reporting company Experian warns that scammers utilize bots — automated programs — to trick people into sharing the two-factor authentication codes sent to them via text or email from financial institutions (or from companies such as Amazon). The bot will make a robocall or send a text that appears to come from a bank, asking you to authorize a charge, then it asks you to enter the authentication code you’ve just been sent if the transaction isn’t yours. It’s actually the bot that’s trying to log into your bank account, and it wants the code that the bank sent to you as a precaution, so it can get in.

How to stay safe: Never share authentication codes, or provide other information, in response to an unsolicited phone call or text.

4. Puppy purchase scam

Scammers try to exploit dog lovers by offering cute puppies for sale on the web. In one instance documented by the BBB, a woman paid $850 for a Dalmatian puppy, only to receive additional requests for money — first $725 for travel insurance for the dog, then $615 for a special crate. In the end, the buyer lost $2,200 and never got the puppy — which didn’t actually exist.

How to stay safe: Go to an animal shelter and check out the dogs available there, before you search online. If you spot a puppy you like on a website, do a reverse image search to make sure it’s not a photo stolen from some other site. Insist on seeing the pet in person before paying any money.

5. Check washing scam

Though other payment modes are replacing them, checks are still used often enough for scammers to exploit. One trick is “check washing,” in which crooks steal checks from mailboxes and bathe them in household chemicals to erase the original name and dollar amount, leaving blank spaces they can fill in. It’s possible to convert a $25 check to one for thousands of dollars.

How to stay safe: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends depositing your outgoing mail in blue collection boxes before the day’s last pickup, so it doesn’t sit for as long. At home, avoid leaving mail in your own mailbox overnight, and have your mail held by the post office or picked up by a friend or neighbor if you’re going to be away.

6. Free-gift QR code scam

This is a variation on a basic QR code scam that the FBI warned about: Scammers put fake codes over real ones to exploit the convenience of the barcodes people scan into their phones to see restaurant menus or make payments. Experian’s Bruemmer says scammers may call and say they’re going to send a QR code to your phone, so you can receive a free $100 gift card. In reality, the QR code may take you to a malicious website.

How to stay safe: If you receive a QR code out of the blue, contact the person or company that supposedly sent it, to make sure it is for real. Use a phone number you know is authentic.

READ MORE @AARP.ORG

New Survey Shows Top 20 Bucket List Travel Experiences

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Mark Twain.

The Northern Lights is the most wanted experience in a new survey conducted by travel experts Bucket List Travels. The study of over 2,000 British travelers also shows that their biggest regret at the end of their lives will be not having explored enough of the world. The poll by Bucket List Travels, a new specialist travel inspiration website dedicated to the discovery of the world’s greatest “bucket list” travel, has shown that most of us have a travel bucket list. Of the other bucket list top five, an American road trip came second, followed by a safari in Africa, exploring the Great Barrier Reef and cruising Norway’s Fjords.

Over 50% polled said they’d like to see at least five more different countries in their lifetime, with over a third doing bucket list travel whenever they get a chance. Not surprisingly, this is highest among singles and the younger age groups.

Roman philosopher Seneca said “travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” A third of those in the Bucket List Travels survey said that travel refreshes their mental perspective on their lives, focusing back on the positives and less on the negatives. Medical studies indicate that there are many holistic, physical and mental benefits of travel that are significantly enhanced when going somewhere new. We feel a sense of achievement having been somewhere new. People also say travel helps them build closer relationships with their family and friends, appreciate what they have, gain an increased sense of mindfulness and even enjoy better sleep.

Matt Roach, Founder of Bucket List Travels, says: “the world’s greatest light show, it’s no wonder the Northern Lights came out on top. A remarkable, ethereal light display that’s one of nature’s greatest spectacles.” Also featured in the top ten most coveted experiences are seeing the Niagara Falls, visiting the Eiffel Tower, marvelling at the Pyramids of Giza, visiting the Great Wall of China and whale watching. The full top 20 bucket list travel experiences, as per the survey was:

  1. See the Northern Lights
  2. American Road Trip
  3. Safari in Africa
  4. Great Barrier Reef
  5. Safari in Africa
  6. Cruise Norway’s Fjords
  7. See Niagara Falls
  8. Eiffel Tower & Louvre
  9. Pyramids of Giza/Cruise Nile
  10. Great Wall of China
  11. Go whale watching
  12. Machu Picchu
  13. Alaskan Cruise
  14. Visit Grand Canyon
  15. Swim with dolphins
  16. Ride the Bullet Train
  17. See the Statue of Liberty/Empire State
  18. Visit Taj Mahal
  19. Visit Galapagos islands
  20. Petra (Jordan’s Lost City)
  21. Visit the Amazon Rainforest

Bucket List Travels currently features over 2,200 carefully selected recommendations from leading, specialist travel writers from around the world, complemented by more than 25,000 images of destinations. It includes most of the world’s signature and famous travel experiences with more being added regularly, alongside many lesser known, but equally, if not more, rewarding places. An advanced search engine allows travel-seekers to quickly search these recommendations and filter the results down to their specific needs and desires – a huge time saving.

READ MORE @FORBES.COM

Some large employers suspended matching contributions to retirement plans last year, but this was only temporary for many of them. Studying 260 such companies, consulting firm Towers Watson reports that 75% have already restored employer matches, with 74% matching at the same level they did before the arrival of the pandemic.*

Source: MarketWatch, December , 2020

Did you know?

Looking for the longest beach in America? Try over 70 miles long!

The longest beach in the U.S. is Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina stretching 70.4 miles in length. Cape Hatteras National Seashore protects parts of three barrier islands: Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island. Beach and sound access ramps, campgrounds, nature trails, and lighthouses can be found and explored on all three islands.*

Source: NPS.gov, July 18, 2022

On the Bright Side

Investment Advisory Services offered through Trek Financial LLC., a (SEC) Registered Investment Adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered specific investment advice, does not take into consideration your specific situation, and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. For specific tax advice on any strategy, consult with a qualified tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. DISCLOSURES