The Business Cycle

What has upswings and downturns, troughs, peaks, and plateaus? Though such terms could easily describe a roller coaster ride, they are also commonly used to describe the business cycle.

The business cycle – also known as the economic cycle – refers to fluctuations in economic activity over several months or years. Tracking the cycle helps professionals forecast the direction of the economy. The National Bureau of Economic Research makes official declarations about the economic cycle based on specific factors, including the growth of the gross domestic product, household income, and employment rates.

Recovery & Recession

An upswing, or recovery, occurs when the economic indicators improve over time. A recession occurs when the same indicators go through a contraction. A particularly long or severe recession is referred to as a depression.

Despite being called a cycle, it’s important to understand that the business cycle is not regular or even cyclical. Its’ pattern resembles the movement of waves, and those waves don’t consistently undulate at set, periodic intervals. Some recoveries have lasted several years, while others are measured in months. Recessions, too, can last for a number of years or be as short as a few months.

Stages of Cycle

So, how should investors look at information about the business cycle?

Investors who understand that the economy moves through periods of recovery and recession may have a more balanced perspective on the overall cycle. During recovery, understanding whether the economy is at an early or late stage of the cycle may cause undue influence on certain investment decisions. Conversely, during a recession, deciphering whether the economy is passing through a shallow or deep cycle may be influential as well.

The business cycle will transition from recovery to recession – and recession to recovery – over time. Understand that the economy will travel through these cycles, and that this is part of a larger process of the economy rebalancing itself. This awareness can help inform you, and your qualified financial representative, as you create your own financial plan, and as it withstands the pressure of time and change.

 

Investment Answers LLC is a financial advisory firm. Investment Advisory Services offered by Investment Answers Capital LLC. For the most updated Registered Investment Advisory disclaimer, please visit our website. The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material references content developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest, not in affiliation with Investment Answers. Edits to the original content are made by Investment Answers. These are the general views and understanding of Investment Answers and should not be construed as personalized investment or tax advice. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation, or used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Consult a qualified financial professional before making any financial decision. Original content and image, Copyright 2022 FMG Suite, used with permission by Investment Answers LLC.

 

Important Birthdays Over 50

Most children stop being “and-a-half” somewhere around age 12. Kids add “and-a-half“ to make sure everyone knows they’re closer to the next age than the last.

When you are older, “and-a-half” birthdays start making a comeback. In fact, starting at age 50, several birthdays and “half-birthdays” are critical to understand because they have implications regarding your retirement income. 

We are discussing numbers as of 2022. Annually, these numbers are subject to change.

Age 50

At age 50, workers in certain qualified retirement plans are able to begin making annual catch-up contributions in addition to their normal contributions. Those who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans can contribute an additional $6,500 per year in 2022.  Those who participate in Simple Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Simple 401(k) plans can make a catch-up contribution of up to $3,000 in 2022. And those who participate in traditional or Roth IRAs can set aside an additional $1,000 a year. 1,2

Age 59 1/2

At age 59½, workers are able to start making withdrawals from qualified retirement plans without incurring a 10% federal income-tax penalty. This applies to workers who have contributed to IRAs and employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans (457 plans are never subject to the 10% penalty). Keep in mind that distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k) plans, and other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income.

Age 62

At age 62 workers are first able to draw Social Security retirement benefits. However, if a person continues to work, those benefits will be reduced. The Social Security Administration will deduct $1 in benefits for each $2 an individual earns above an annual limit. In 2022, the income limit is $19,560. 3

Age 65

At age 65, individuals can qualify for Medicare. The Social Security Administration recommends applying three months before reaching age 65. It’s important to note that if you are already receiving Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (medical insurance) without an additional application. 4

Age 65-67

Between ages 65 and 67, individuals become eligible to receive 100% of their Social Security benefit. The age varies, depending on birth year. Individuals born in 1955, for example, become eligible to receive 100% of their benefits when they reach age 66 years and 2 months. Those born in 1960 or later need to reach age 67 before they’ll become eligible to receive full benefits. 5

Age 72

In most circumstances, once you reach age 72, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from a traditional Individual Retirement Account and other defined contribution plans. You may continue to contribute to a traditional IRA past age 70½ as long as you meet the earned-income requirement.

Understanding key birthdays may help you better prepare for certain retirement income and benefits. But perhaps more importantly, knowing key birthdays can help you avoid penalties that may be imposed if you miss the date.

 

1. If you reach the age of 50 before the end of the calendar year.
2. IRS.gov, 2022
3. SSA.gov, 2022
4. SSA.gov, 2022. Individuals can decline Part B coverage because it requires an additional premium payment.
5. SSA.gov, 2022

 

 

Investment Answers LLC is a financial advisory firm. Investment Advisory Services offered by Investment Answers Capital LLC. For the most updated Registered Investment Advisory disclaimer, please visit our website. The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material references content developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest, not in affiliation with Investment Answers. Edits to the original content are made by Investment Answers. These are the general views and understanding of Investment Answers and should not be construed as personalized investment or tax advice. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation, or used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties.. Consult a qualified financial professional before making any financial decision. Original content and image, Copyright 2022 FMG Suite, used with permission by Investment Answers LLC.

 

Women Need Strategies for Retirement

In generations past when someone retired, living to age 75 amounted to a life full of longevity. Social Security benefits were often supplemented by a pension, allowing for multiple streams of income in retirement.

But over time, as longevity increased, the government encouraged retirees to begin investing in their own retirement accounts, rather than relying on an employer to do so on their behalf.

Many retirees, including women, did not mange to set aside enough funds for retirement while in their working years, leading to them rely more heavily on Social Security as their primary form of income once retired. With costs of living skyrocketing, and the vast majority of retirees taking Social Security the year they become eligible, living on on a budget becomes essential for most women as they age.1     

Funding retirements with longevity

The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that today’s average 65-year-old woman will live to age 86½.2

According to the 2020 Census, 13.5% of all working-age-persons between the age of 15-64 have a pension. Only 43.5% of women own a retirement account of any kind.3

Employer-sponsored retirement plans 

For most retirement plans in the 21st century, individuals must personally contribute to their employer-sponsored retirement plans (ie-IRA, Keogh, 401(k), 403(b), 503(b), Thrift Savings Plans). The value of the plan is based off of the individuals total contributions, company matches, and investment returns.     

Pension plans

Pensions, (defined-benefit plans or cash-balance plans), are different. They guarantee a specified monthly-benefit at retirement, based on salary history and length of service, rather than total contributions and investment returns.4

Pensions funded by someone else other than the future retiree are becoming more and more rare, meaning that retirement savings are now up to each of us individually.

Given these projections of longevity, and the personal responsibility to accrue retirement assets and incomes, it appears that affording a retirement of 20 years or longer could be in your future.

Are you prepared for a 20-year retirement?

How about a 30-year or even 40-year retirement? Don’t laugh; it could happen. The Society of Actuaries predicts that an average healthy woman that reaches age 65 has a 44% chance of living past 90, and a 22% chance of living to be older than 95.5

Start with good questions.

How can you draw retirement income from what you’ve saved? How might you create other income streams to complement Social Security? What unnecessary expenses do you have that can be eliminated or reduced? And what are some ways you can build strategies to help safeguard your retirement savings and other financial assets?

Enlist a financial professional.

Enlisting the services of a qualified financial advocate with whom you have a good rapport and understanding, can help to share appropriate strategies that address your circumstances.

It is especially profound when your financial professional understands the unique challenges that women face when working to save for retirement. These may include income inequality, opportunity bias, time out of the workforce due to childcare or eldercare, providing financial support to another when they are in need. It could also mean helping you to maintain financial equilibrium in the wake of divorce or the death of a spouse.

The fifties are a fine time to develop a plan forward.

If you are in your fifties, you likely have less time in the workforce to make back any big investment losses than you once did. So, helping to protect what you already have may be a priority. At the same time, the possibility of a retirement lasting up to 30 or 40 years will require a good understanding of your expenses, liabilities, assets, risk tolerance and overall goals.

Consider extended care coverage.

Women have longer average life expectancies than men and may require significant periods of eldercare. Medicare is no substitute for extended care insurance. It only covers a few weeks of nursing home care, and that may only apply under special circumstances. Extended care coverage can help provide financial relief if the need arises.6

Claim Social Security benefits carefully.

If your career and health permit, delaying Social Security can be a wise move. If you wait until full retirement age to claim your benefits, you could receive larger Social Security payments as a result. For every year you wait to claim Social Security past your full retirement age up until age 70, your monthly payments get about 8% larger.7

Retire with a strategy.

As you face retirement, a qualified financial advocate, who understands your unique goals and circumstances, can help you design an approach that can serve you well, for years to come.

 

1. TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies: 20th Annual Survey
2. SSA.gov, 2021
3. Census.gov, 2022
4. Census.gov, 2022
5. LongevityIllustrator.org, 2021. Life expectancy estimates assume average health, non-smoker, and a retirement age of 65.
6. Medicare.gov, 2021
7. SSA.gov, 2021

 

This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite for Investment Answers, LLC to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with Investment Answers, LLC. Any edits made to the original content were written by Investment Answers. This information is intended for entertainment or educational purposes only. Opinions, rules, regulations and laws expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as individualized investment or tax advice. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for any purchase or sale. Past performance does not predict or guarantee future results. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.  These are the general views and understandings of Investment Answers, LLC, and should not be construed as personalized investment or tax advice. Consult a qualified financial professional before making any financial decision. Copyright 2022 FMG Suite.

 

Investment Answers Summer 2021 News

It has been a wonderful summer so far, connecting with so many of you in appointments and at our events. We have been updating all of our presentations with new information and post-Covid data and writing new ones, as well!

We are curious to learn if you are interested in having virtual webinars of our events. We know many of you have challenges attending events in person. If we receive interest from multiple households, we are happy to create those and send links to view the events virtually. Please let us know if this is of interest to you!

If you are not receiving our weekly Market Update email but would like to, or if you need to update your email address with us, please let us know. As always, we do not share or sell your information. We often have limited capacity for venues, so the email is a great way to get in a quick RSVP. In addition to events, our email includes office updates, motivational quotes, and pertinent financial topics of which you should be aware. Hit “reply” as an easy way to email us, and, as always, we encourage you to forward them to friends, co-workers, and loved ones, as well, so they can also stay informed.

 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

 

Beneficiary Designations Override Wills

When was the last time you looked at your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, insurance policies, annuities, and bank accounts? If you marry, divorce, or have other changes to your family situation, you need to update your beneficiaries. Some people think their will or trust is all they need to ensure their assets go to the desired recipients. A beneficiary designation is a legally binding document that supersedes a will or trust. That means that regardless of your current family status or what your will or trust says, the assets will go to the beneficiary you named when you last updated it. And if you don’t have anyone named as your beneficiary on these types of accounts, state laws will determine who receives the benefit.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of reviewing them on an annual basis to help ensure your assets will be distributed based on your wishes.

 
 
 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

6 Signs You Need a Financial Plan

A clear financial plan helps you prepare for the future, brace yourself for the unexpected, and positions you to pursue your goals. Below are six signs it may be time for you to get a financial plan or amend one you have in place.

You’re Planning (or Just Had) a Big Life Change

New job. New baby. New house. All of those milestones and more are signs you should take a big picture look at your finances. When your life changes in big ways, it often brings with it changes in how you approach money.

You’re Worried About Your Finances – and Your Future

If money worries keep you up at night, a financial plan can help ease your mind. Whether you have immediate worries or are just feeling uneasy about what tomorrow may hold, you can regain control over your life by having a clear direction.

You’re Making Good Money, but You’re Not Sure Where It Goes

If you want to turn today’s income into tomorrow’s wealth, you need a financial plan. That way, you’ll be able to take the money you’re bringing in today and use it to create a secure future for yourself and your family.

You Have Financial Goals, but You’re Not Sure How to Make Them a Reality

Does retirement seem like a distant dream? Do you wish you could upgrade to a bigger home, send your kids to college without taking on debt, or start a business? With a financial plan, you’ll know what you need to do financially to make those dreams a reality.

You and Your Partner are Fighting About Money

If you and your partner can’t see eye-to-eye on money issues, a financial plan might be part of the solution. Meeting with an objective third party can help you both recognize where you stand when it comes to your finances, and then negotiate a path forward that works for both of you.

Your Investments and Finances are Getting So Complicated, It’s Difficult for You to Keep Track of Everything

Many people start out managing their investments and finances on their own. That often works for a time, but as your money and life get more complex, it can be difficult to manage all the details or realize your plan’s shortcomings without help.

Reach out to the team at Investment Answers to get started on your financial plan today!

 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

 

Do You Have a Rainy Day Fund?

None of us know when a crisis is going to hit, and a job loss or sudden disability can be financially devastating. A common financial planning rule-of-thumb suggests you should have at least six months of living expenses readily available to meet urgent short-term needs.

If you haven’t established a cash reserve, here are some steps you can take to build that rainy day fund:

  • Budget a savings amount as part of your regular household expenses.
  • Use payroll deductions, so the money automatically goes into your savings account.
  • If you get a raise or bonus, put some (or all) of it into your savings fund.
  • Reduce your discretionary expenses and put them toward your fund.
  • Consider banking earnings from investment dividends.
  • Set up a money jar where change and small bills are put in at the end of each day.
  • Open a savings account at a different institution, so you are less likely to spend the money.

You’ll want to make sure that your cash reserve is readily available when you need it. Considering loans as part of your cash reserve strategy is disadvantageous. When absolutely necessary, look at other loan sources, such as a home equity or personal line of credit, as these often have lower interest rates than credit cards.

 
 
 
 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

Overcoming 5 Retirement Fears

We’ve all heard stories about people losing their retirement money in a stock market crash, outliving their money, or incurring unexpected medical expenses that force 80- year-olds back into the workforce. At times, these stories can seem overwhelming — even to the point of deterring people from planning for retirement. Are these fears likely to become realities? The truth is that they can happen. Are any of these your concerns?

Outliving Your Money

There’s a financial rule of thumb designed to decrease the odds of outliving your money over a 25-year retirement. By the time you’re ready to retire, the theory suggests that you should have saved eight times your annual salary. This is where starting early can be a lifesaver. To get there, gradually work up to it. For example, at age 35, it helps to budget for having one times your current salary saved, then three times by 45, 5 times by 55, and so on. For many, this plan wasn’t realistic at age 34 or 45, and their saving may be far less than this rule of thumb at each of the age thresholds. This is where we can provide tremendous value for you.

The amount of money you need to have saved by the time you’re ready to retire depends on a huge range of individual factors: What are your plans for retirement? How old are you? Will you still have a mortgage? Do you have long-term-care insurance? To truly decrease the odds that you’ll outlive your money, work with a qualified financial advisor to develop a robust retirement plan. Stick to the plan and revisit it often to help ensure the plan—and your spending—remains in alignment with your goals and your circumstances.

High Inflation

What if inflation went up to 12–14% like in the 1970s? What would you do? The Federal Reserve is saying that present-day high inflation is transitory. However, because it has happened before, you’ll want to be prepared. This is where an annual review of your financial strategy can be wise. In periods of very high inflation, you may need to adjust your investment strategy. It may be wise for your portfolio to include investments that move opposite each other—so when one asset class or subclass is down, another is up.

Unexpected Medical Expenses Before Retirement

Unexpected medical expenses you may incur while you are still working could totally derail your retirement. To prepare for them, it’s important to have insurance in place. Disability insurance can help to ensure that if you lose your income due to a disability, you will still be able to take care of your basic necessities. Life insurance will protect your family in the event of your death. This is especially important if your income was the key to your spouse’s retirement.

Unexpected Medical Expenses During Retirement

For most people, healthcare is one of the largest (often the largest) expenses incurred during retirement. There are a few ways to prepare for medical emergencies: private health insurance to fill the gaps in Medicare, long-term-care insurance, and rainy-day savings. For today’s retirees, Medicare takes care of most medical expenses. However, you’ll need savings to cover what insurance won’t — like copays and expenses exceeding your insurance limit. And just as you save before retirement for unexpected expenses, ideally, you should continue your rainy day fund in retirement. Even if you are adequately insured, copays can be significant if you have a medical emergency.

Market Crash

As with high inflation, the key to surviving a market crash often is diversification. (To be clear: there is no way to insulate yourself completely from the effects of economic turmoil. But you can take steps to help ensure that turmoil doesn’t completely ruin your retirement plans.) This is an area where we can make valuable, personalized recommendations for you.

Need guidance planning for your retirement? Investment Answers is here to help.

 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

Pump Up Your Retirement Savings

Have you reached middle age without accumulating much in retirement savings? Don’t stay stagnant. It’s time to make a plan that you can live with now, so that you can live your idealized lifestyle in retirement. While it may be more challenging to reach your retirement goals than if you had started in your 20s or 30s, there are some strategies to consider:

Reanalyze Your Retirement Goals

First, it’s important to thoroughly analyze your situation. One of our areas of greatest acumen is helping you to calculate how much you realistically will need for retirement, what income sources you may need to draw from, how much you have saved and invested, and how much you likely need to save monthly/annually to reach your goals. If you’re unlikely to save that amount, it may be time to change your goals.

If you have delayed beginning your retirement planning and saving, it is realistic to assume that you may need to consider postponing your retirement start-date so that you have more time to accumulate savings, as well as delay withdrawals from those savings. While leaving your job may be your primary motivator, you may find that you don’t want to leave the workforce altogether. Many retirees work after retirement at least part-time and many return to their company or field as consultants. Even a modest amount of income or workplace health benefits after your initial retirement can substantially reduce the amount you need to save and/or spend.

Depending on how long you delayed saving for retirement, it’s realistic to assume you will need to lower your lifestyle expectations for a while to bridge that gap — possibly traveling less, gifting less, or moving to a less expensive city or smaller home. One important caveat: If you have already started your Social Security benefit, or you are considering it, you’re going to need to do some financial planning before you implement employment and your benefit together.

Contribute the Maximum to Your 401(k) Plan

Your contributions, up to a maximum of $19,500 in 2020 and 2021, are deducted from your current year’s gross income. If you are age 50 or older, your plan may allow an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution, bringing your maximum contribution to $26,000. Find out if your employer offers a Roth 401(k) option and ask your accountant if you qualify. Even though you won’t get a current-year tax deduction for your contributions, qualified withdrawals can be taken free of income taxes.

If your employer matches contributions, you are essentially losing money when you don’t contribute enough to receive the maximum matching contribution. Matching contributions can help significantly with your retirement savings. For example, assume your employer matches 50 cents on every dollar you contribute, up to a maximum of 6% of your pay. If you earn $75,000 and contribute 6% of your pay, you would contribute $4,500, and your employer would put in an additional $2,250.

Look Into Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

In 2020 and 2021, you can contribute a maximum of $6,000 to an IRA, plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if you are age 50 or older. Even if you participate in a company-sponsored retirement plan, you can make contributions to an IRA, provided your adjusted gross income does not exceed certain limits.

Reduce Your Preretirement Expenses

Typically, you’ll want a retirement lifestyle similar to your lifestyle before retirement. Become a big saver now, and you enjoy two advantages. First, you save significant sums for your retirement. Second, you’re living on much less than you’re earning, so you’ll need less for retirement to maintain your lifestyle. For instance, if you live on 100% of your post-tax income, you’ll have nothing left to save toward retirement. At retirement, you’ll probably need close to 100% of your post-tax income to continue your current lifestyle. When saving 10% of your income, you’re used to living on 90% of your income. Remember, at retirement, your taxable situation changes, but your expenses are unlikely to go down significantly, if at all.

Move to a Smaller Home

As part of your efforts to reduce your preretirement lifestyle, consider selling your home and moving to a lower-cost one, especially if you have significant equity in your home. If you’ve lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years, you can exclude $250,000 of gain if you are a single taxpayer and $500,000 of gain if you are married filing jointly. At a minimum, this strategy will reduce your living expenses so you can save more. If you have significant equity in your home, you may be able to use some of the proceeds for savings.

Substantially Increase Your Savings as You Approach Retirement

Oftentimes, your last years of employment are your peak earning years. Instead of increasing your lifestyle as your pay increases, consider saving pay raises. Anytime you pay off a major bill, such as an auto loan or your (grand)child’s college tuition, take the money that was going toward that bill and put it in your retirement savings.

Restructure Your Debt

Check whether refinancing will reduce your monthly mortgage payment. Find less costly options for consumer debts, including credit cards with high interest rates. Systematically pay down your debts. And most important — avoid incurring any new debt when possible. If you can’t pay cash for something, don’t buy it. Large purchases often loom on the horizon. Opening a savings account for those types of purchases and making monthly deposits to address those needs when they arise helps to mitigate paying for those on credit.

Stay Committed to Your Goals

It’s imperative to initiate and maintain your commitment to saving. If you are planning to eliminate or at least reduce your debt or are wondering if you can afford to retire, we are happy to help you set a strategic plan in place.

 

Copyright © 2021. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. Professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material. 

 

Small Tax Change Makes Big Impact on Permanent Life Insurance

Typically, when Congress passes a bill, it has many additional items in the small print that can be quite impactful. Late in December 2020, federal lawmakers’ gigantic year-end spending package included a barely noticed tax code revision which is of enormous benefit to those who have, or are planning to purchase, permanent life insurance (Source: Wall Street Journal, 2021).

Life insurance is one of the most profoundly beneficial financial planning tools that money can buy. Life Insurance transfers financial risk upon death (i.e. loss of income, future earning potential, loss of benefits, and more), off of an individual, and onto the financial institution that holds your life insurance policy. It has many tax advantages to other financial products, and it is a cornerstone of a balanced estate.

There are two types of life insurance of which you may be aware: term life insurance and permanent life insurance.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is often the most affordable option and it is limited by a specific amount of time—the term of your policy—be it 20, 30 years, etc. You make your payments to the policy on a regular basis, either monthly or annually. The price is fixed for the policy and during that term, you immediately have built an estate for yourself upon death, which is equal to the death benefit you purchased with your policy. The stated policy’s death benefit is transferred to the policy beneficiaries income tax-free. If you do not pass away during the term, the policy expires, and other than having insured yourself in case of the worst-case scenario, you will not receive further benefit at the end of the term.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance is a different beast—and it is the beneficiary of the recent tax code changes, for which you should be aware.

Permanent life insurance includes Whole Life Policies and Universal Life Policies. These two options are typically more expensive than term life insurance. Once purchased, as long as premiums are paid according to your payment schedule, these policies last the duration of your life. You make your payments to the policy on a regular basis, either monthly or annually. The price is fixed for the policy and upon its inception, you immediately have built an estate for yourself upon death, which is equal to the death benefit you purchased with your policy. Whole life insurance builds up a cash value inside of the policy, while universal life insurance generally does not. Owners of permanent life insurance policies defer the taxes on their investment gains inside of the policy, and their stated beneficiaries receive the death benefit income tax-free. Choosing a whole life insurance policy is usually based on the benefits your estate is looking for, and the amount of premium that you can afford. However, once in place, the policy does not expire.

Many things have changed in insurance since the 1980s, including interest rates. Life insurance is an estate planning tool—quite powerful, indeed. In 1984, Congress sought to identify investment products disguised as life insurance, as life insurance receives a favorable tax treatment. They hoped to find policyholders who were stuffing large sums of money into these tax-advantageous policies, in hopes of bypassing tax billings from the government. In this rule—Section 7702—the 1984 tax code adopted an assumption of a guaranteed 4% growth rate in cash value for a permanent life insurance policy to enjoy its tax advantages.

As you may be aware, the life insurance world has changed substantially- not only in the types of products available for consumers, but also in the interest rate environments in which these policies have resided in, since the 1980s. This 4% assumption has been particularly problematic for whole life insurance policies, which is a very popular type of policy for middle class families and small business owners—the bedrock of America.

Life insurers earn part of their profits by investing customer’s premiums until they are needed for a payout. Many profitable life insurance companies are heavily invested in high-quality bonds. These portfolio yields peaked in the 1980s at nearly 16%, whereas the 10-year Treasury yield is currently just over 1%.

After the recent pandemic-related promise of continued low interest rates, life insurance trade groups lobbied Congress to switch that floating interest rate, saying that without the change, whole life insurance policies would likely go extinct. This law lowers the minimum interest rate used to determine whether combination savings and death benefit policies inside of permanent life insurance are too much like investments to qualify for the tax advantages granted to insurance.

Because of this rule change, companies that offer these policies are likely to continue to offer permanent life insurance policies, and this lowered threat to such products is likely to lead to a resurgence in quality permanent life insurance options, with greater benefits for consumers who want to take advantage of one the most powerful financial vehicles available.