As college graduates embark on their professional careers, they should consider the following savings strategies to help prepare them for a sound financial future. Like most things in life, the earlier you start planning and preparing, the more likely you will achieve your goals.
While retirement may seem like a long way off for recent college grads, initial entry into the workforce is an ideal time to take advantage of compounding interest. Even with a modest first-year salary, recent grads should not forgo the opportunity and ease with which they may begin saving through employer-sponsored 401(k) and/or a Roth 401(k) retirement plans.
For 2021, the maximum amount an employee may contribute to either plan is $19,500. Both plans may also be supplemented with an employer “match,” which can be compared to free money. For example, if you contribute 3 percent of your salary to a workplace plan in 2021 and you receive a 3 percent company match, you will ultimately yield 6 percent of savings for the future.
In contrasting these plans, the main difference comes down to taxes. With traditional 401(k)s, contributions are made via salary deferral with pre-tax dollars and allowed to grow tax-deferred until account owners reach retirement age (59 ½), when distributions are treated as taxable income. By contrast, annual contributions to Roth 401(k)s are made with after-tax dollars that grow tax-free and can be withdrawn free of tax at retirement age.
If your employer does not offer a retirement-savings plan, you are not out of luck. You can establish an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and make annual pre-tax contributions of up to $6,000 in 2021 and defer taxes on earnings, including income and gains. Withdrawals taken in retirement, including those required after age 72, would be taxed as ordinary income.
Alternatively, you may establish a Roth IRA and make annual after-tax contributions of up to $6,000 in 2021. After turning age 59½ and owning the Roth IRA account for at least five years, your withdrawals will be free of tax. Withdrawals taken before this age generally are subject to tax and a 10 percent penalty. However, depending on the reason for your early withdrawal, you may be able to avoid the penalty.
If you have a high deductible health plan with equally high out-of-pocket costs, your employer may offer a health savings account (HSA) that is like a personal bank account funded with pre-tax dollars to pay for qualifying medical expenses today and in the future. However, unlike the money you hold in a regular bank account, the funds saved in an HSA earn tax-free interest. Moreover, unused account balances roll over from one year to the next, allowing you to accumulate a significant amount of savings, which you may choose to invest in the equity markets to yield potentially higher returns. For 2021, the maximum amount an individual may contribute to his or her HSA is $3,600.
Tax-advantaged retirement accounts are critical to achieving long-term financial plans, but they do come with a broad range of limitations and restrictions. For greater flexibility and cash flow before you reach retirement age, you may also consider investing in the markets through a traditional investment account for which you may be liable for taxes on market gains and investment income. These types of investments, also referred to as brokerage accounts, lack the contribution limits and distribution requirements of retirement savings plans, allowing account owners to withdraw their money at any time, for any reason, without penalty (but not without tax liabilities).
Working with experienced advisors, you can establish a diversified portfolio designed to reap the rewards of strong market performance while aiming to minimize risk, based on your unique needs and goals. The taxes you would pay on capital gains in a given year may be less than those imposed on ordinary income, and you may even be able to use a capital loss to reduce your tax liabilities for those years.
About the Author: Brendan T. Hayes is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an Independent Registered Investment advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. He can be reached in the firm’s Boca Raton, Fla., office at (561) 361-2001 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), 515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.
Brendan T. Hayes is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs. PWA is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment Advisory Services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc., and Provenance Wealth Advisors.
This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of the advisors of PWA and not necessarily those of Raymond James. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.
401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.
Roth IRA owners must be 59½ or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. Additionally, each converted amount may be subject to its own five-year holding period. Converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA has tax implications. Investors should consult a tax advisor before deciding to do a conversion. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact on each person’s situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.
Posted on September 16, 2021