Tag Archives: IRA

How Do I Choose the Right Investments for Me?

Q: I’m ready to invest in my future, but I need some help getting started. How do I choose the investments that are right for me?

A: Investing your funds is a great way to grow your money and secure your financial future; however, choosing a first investment can be tricky.

Here’s all you need to know about the most common beginner investments and how to choose the path that best suits your needs:

Retirement plans

If you are employed, you likely already have a retirement plan through your workplace. There are many ways to maximize this account, or even open additional retirement options. Here are some of the most common retirement plans:

A. 401(k) is an employee-sponsored retirement plan. It allows eligible employees to save and invest for their own retirement on a tax-deferred basis. Employees can decide how much money they want deducted from their paycheck and regularly deposited into their 401(k), as long as contributions fall within IRS limits. Sometimes, an employer will offer to match all contributions, which is essentially free money with a guaranteed return.

Goal: Save for retirement.

Pros: Contributions are tax-free and there is generally no minimum for contributions.

Cons: Fewer investment options than other retirement accounts, may have high account fees and early withdrawal penalties.

Best choice for: All employees with a W-2, especially employees who have an employer offering to match contributions.

Best age to invest: As soon as you start working at your first job.

B. Traditional IRAs are retirement accounts that offer most individuals an upfront tax break.

Goal: Save for retirement.

Pros: Contributions and investment earnings aren’t taxed. Contributions may be tax-deductible and significantly lower your taxable income. There are no income limits for contributors.

Cons: Withdrawals during retirement are taxed at your tax rate during that time. At age 70½, you are no longer allowed to make contributions. Also at age 70½, you must begin taking distributions even if you are still employed (and therefore, possibly in a high tax bracket).

Best choice for: Individuals who are currently in a higher tax bracket than what they anticipate being in during retirement and employees who don’t have access to a workplace-sponsored retirement plan.

Best age to invest: Age 18, or the minimum age allowed in your state.

C. Roth IRAs are retirement plans that do not allow for tax-deductible contributions, but feature tax-free withdrawals during retirement.

Goal: Save for retirement.

Pros: Withdrawals are tax-free. There is no age limit for making contributions.

Cons: Contributions and growth are both taxed and are not tax-deductible. There are

also income limits for eligible contributors.

Best choice for: Individuals who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket during retirement and individuals who may need to access some of their savings before they retire.

Best age to invest: Age 18, or the minimum age allowed in your state.

529 plans

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs.

The SECURE Act,  passed in 2019, expanded tax-free 529 withdrawals to include registered apprenticeship program expenses and up to $10,000 in student loan debt repayment for account beneficiaries and their siblings.

There are two primary types of 529 plans:

529 savings plans offer a place for tuition savings to grow, tax-deferred. The money in the account is usually invested in a mutual fund.

Goal: Save up for tuition costs and related expenses, like room and board.

Pros: Contributions and growth are tax-free. Withdrawals are also tax-free, as long as  they’re used for qualified education expenses. Can be used for K-12.

Cons: May have high fees and can impact the beneficiary’s eligibility to receive financial aid for college.

Best choice for: Parents looking for a safe investment for their child’s college tuition.

529 prepaid tuition plans allow the account holder to save for future tuition payments.

Goal: Prepay tuition costs at designated universities and colleges.

Pros: Lock in lower tuition rates. Make high tuition payments more manageable by spreading them over a number of years.

Cons: May have high fees and can impact the beneficiary’s eligibility to receive financial aid for college.  Tuition payments are only accepted by a limited number of states and specific higher education institutions. Can only be used for tuition expenses.

Best choice for: Parents of students who know which college they will be attending and  want to lock in lower tuition rates.

Best age to invest: It’s best to open any kind of 529 as soon as the child is born.

Annuities

An annuity is a contract between a contract holder, or annuitant and an insurance company. The contract stipulates that the insurer promises to pay the annuitant a predetermined amount of money on a periodic basis for a specified period, in exchange for regular contributions.

Many people purchase annuities to serve as retirement-income insurance, which guarantees them a regular income stream even after they’ve left the workforce, often for the rest of their life.

There are two primary categories of annuities:

Immediate annuities require the annuitant to give the insurance company a lump sum immediately and then begin receiving payments right away. The payment amount may be fixed or variable.

Deferred annuities allow the annuitant to make contributions throughout their working life which can be converted into an income stream when the annuitant reaches retirement. They can also be purchased with a lump sum.

Within these broad categories, there are several types of annuities from which to choose:

  • A fixed annuity provides a specific amount of money every month for the rest of the annuitant’s life, or for the period of time chosen, regardless of how the annuity performs.
  • Indexed annuities blend the features of fixed annuities with the potential for additional growth, depending on how the markets perform. The annuitant is guaranteed a minimum return along with a return that is directly linked to any rise in the relevant market index.
  • Variable annuities provide a return based on the performance of a portfolio of mutual funds that the annuitant has selected. The insurance company may also guarantee a minimum income stream if stipulated in the contract.

While each specific annuity will have its own pros and cons, all annuities share commonalities:

Goal: To guarantee a regular income stream even after retirement.

Pros: Generally, during the accumulation phase of an annuity contract, earnings grow tax-deferred. Withdrawals are taxed at the same tax rate as the annuitant’s income. Contributions to annuities funded through an IRA may be tax-deductible.

Cons: May have high fees. There is generally a minimum age for allowable withdrawals without penalty.

Best choice for: Immediate annuities can be a good choice for individuals who have had a one-time windfall, or who are close to retirement and have significant retirement savings they’d like to invest. All annuities can be a beneficial addition to a retirement plan, especially if the annuitant is afraid they will outlive their retirement savings.

Best age to invest: In general, the best age range for purchasing annuities is between 40-70.

Life insurance

Life insurance is an agreement between a policy holder and an insurance provider that the insurer will pay a sum of money to a designated beneficiary when the insured passes on, in exchange for monthly premiums.

Goal: Ensure that one’s family will be provided for after their passing. The payout can also be used to cover funeral expenses and related costs, and to pay off any outstanding debts the policyholder may have had.

Best choice for: Anyone looking to secure the financial future of their children, spouse and family members.

Best age to invest: Individuals in their 20s and 30s will likely get the best rates on a life insurance policy.

There are two primary kinds of life insurance:

Term life insurance only covers the insured for a set term, generally between 10 and 30 years.  The benefit is paid out only if the insured passes away during the term.

Pros: Cheaper premiums and more flexibility.

Cons: No cash value; may not serve its purpose if the policy holder outlives the term.

Permanent life insurance covers the insured for life as long as the premiums are paid. Some permanent life insurance policies also allow the policyholder to accumulate a cash value.

Pros: Tax-deferred growth, lifetime coverage and cash value for loans.

Cons: Costly premiums and less flexibility.

Your Turn: Do you have another beginner investment to add to our list? Share it with us in the comments.


Are you looking for a place to start investing in your future? Connect with us today at 503-275-0300 or email info@usacu.org for more information!