The SECURE Act and Your Retirement Savings

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was enacted in December 2019 as part of a larger federal spending package. This long-awaited legislation expands savings opportunities for workers and includes new requirements and incentives for employers that provide retirement benefits. At the same time, it restricts a popular estate planning strategy for individuals with significant assets in IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Here are some of the changes that may affect your retirement, tax, and estate planning strategies. All of these provisions were effective January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Benefits for Retirement Savers

Later RMDs. Individuals born on or after July 1, 1949, can wait until age 72 to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans instead of starting them at age 70½ as required under previous law. This is a boon for individuals who don’t need the withdrawals for living expenses, because it postpones payment of income taxes and gives the account a longer time to pursue tax-deferred growth. As under previous law, participants may be able to delay taking withdrawals from their current employer’s plan as long as they are still working.

No traditional IRA age limit. There is no longer a prohibition on contributing to a traditional IRA after age 70½ — taxpayers can make contributions at any age as long as they have earned income. This helps older workers who want to save while reducing their taxable income. But keep in mind that contributions to a traditional IRA only defer taxes. Withdrawals, including any earnings, are taxed as ordinary income, and a larger account balance will increase the RMDs that must start at age 72.

Tax breaks for special situations. For the 2019 and 2020 tax years, taxpayers may deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income. In addition, withdrawals may be taken from tax-deferred accounts to cover medical expenses that exceed this threshold without owing the 10% penalty that normally applies before age 59½. (The threshold returns to 10% in 2021.) Penalty-free early withdrawals of up to $5,000 are also allowed to pay for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child. Regular income taxes apply in both situations.

Tweaks to promote saving. To help workers track their retirement savings progress, employers must provide participants in defined contribution plans with annual statements that illustrate the value of their current retirement plan assets, expressed as monthly income received over a lifetime. Some plans with auto-enrollment may now automatically increase participant contributions until they reach 15% of salary, although employees can opt out. (The previous ceiling was 10%.)

More part-timers gain access to retirement plans. For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, part-time workers age 21 and older who log at least 500 hours annually for three consecutive years generally must be allowed to contribute to qualified retirement plans. (The previous requirement was 1,000 hours and one year of service.) However, employers will not be required to make matching or nonelective contributions on their behalf.

Benefits for Small Businesses

In 2019, only about half of people who worked for small businesses with fewer than50 employees had access to retirement benefits.1 The SECURE Act includes provisions intended to make it easier and more affordable for small businesses to provide qualified retirement plans.

The tax credit that small businesses can take for starting a new retirement plan has increased. The new rule allows a credit equal to the greater of (1) $500 or (2) $250 times the number of non–highly compensated eligible employees or $5,000, whichever is less. The previous credit amount allowed was 50% of startup costs up to $1,000 ($500 maximum credit). There is also a new tax credit of up to $500 for employers that launch a SIMPLE IRA or 401(k) plan with automatic enrollment. Both credits are available for three years.

Effective January 1, 2021, employers will be permitted to join multiple employer plans (MEPs) regardless of industry, geographic location, or affiliation. “Open MEPs,” as they have become known, enable small employers to band together to provide a retirement plan with access to lower prices and other benefits typically reserved for large organizations. (Previously, groups of small businesses had to be related somehow in order to join an MEP.) The legislation also eliminates the “one bad apple” rule, so the failure of one employer in an MEP to meet plan requirements will no longer cause others to be disqualified.

Goodbye Stretch IRA

Under previous law, nonspouse beneficiaries who inherited assets in employer plans and IRAs could “stretch” RMDs — and the tax obligations associated with them — over their lifetimes. The new law generally requires a beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than the original account owner to liquidate the inherited account within 10 years. Exceptions include a spouse, a disabled or chronically ill individual, and a minor child. The 10-year “clock” will begin when a child reaches the age of majority (18 in most states).

This shorter distribution period could result in bigger tax bills for children and grandchildren who inherit accounts. The 10-year liquidation rule also applies to IRA trust beneficiaries, which may conflict with the reasons a trust was originally created.

In addition to revisiting beneficiary designations, you might consider how IRA dollars fit into your overall estate plan. For example, it might make sense to convert traditional IRA funds to a Roth IRA, which can be inherited tax-free (if the five-year holding period has been met). Roth IRA conversions are taxable events, but if converted amounts are spread over the next several tax years, you may benefit from lower income tax rates, which are set to expire in 2026.

If you have questions about how the SECURE Act may impact your finances, this may be a good time to consult your financial, tax, and/or legal professionals.

Jason C. Luders

319.266.6156

1) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

This information is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent tax or legal professional. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2020 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is a Roth 401(k)?

The arena of employer-sponsored retirement plans has been dominated by 401(k) plans that are funded with pre-tax contributions, which effectively defers taxes until distributions begin. However, Roth 401(k) is funded with after-tax money just like a Roth IRA, allowing retirees to enjoy qualified tax-free distributions once they reach age 59½ and have met the five-year holding requirement.

It might be smart to invest in a Roth 401(k) if you believe that you will be in a higher tax bracket during retirement. This is always a possibility, especially if you end up with fewer tax deductions during your post-working years. On the other hand, if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket during retirement, then deferring taxes by investing in a traditional 401(k) may be the answer for you. If you have not been able to contribute to a Roth IRA because of the income restrictions, you will be happy to know that there are no income limits with a Roth 401(k).

Employers may match employee contributions to a Roth 401(k) plan, but any matching contributions must go into a traditional 401(k) account. That is, employer contributions and any earnings are always made on a pre-tax basis, and are taxable when distributed from the plan.

If an employer offers a Roth 401(k) plan, employees have the option of contributing to either the regular (pre-tax) or the Roth account, or even both at the same time. If you do not know which type of account would be better for your financial situation, you might split your contributions between the two types of plans. It’s important to note that in 2020, your combined annual contributions to a 401(k) plan cannot exceed $19,500 (up from $19,000 in 2019) if you are under age 50, or $26,000 (up from $25,000 in 2019) if you are 50 or older. These amounts are indexed annually for inflation.

If your employer offers a Roth 401(k) plan and allows in-plan Roth conversions, you can make transfers to a Roth 401(k) account at any time. Conversion is a taxable event. Funds converted are taxed as ordinary income in the year of the conversion.

Upon separation of service, you can roll over your Roth 401(k) assets to another Roth 401(k), a Roth 403(b), or a Roth IRA. Assets cannot be rolled over to a traditional 401(k) account. If you transition from an employer that offers a Roth 401(k) account to an employer that does not, your only option would be to roll the assets directly to a Roth IRA or to leave your money in your former employer’s plan (if allowed).

The required minimum distribution guidelines of a Roth 401(k) work like those of traditional 401(k) plans. You must generally begin taking distributions after reaching age 70½, either as a lump sum or on a required minimum distribution schedule based on your life expectancy. However, unlike traditional 401(k) withdrawals, Roth distributions would be free of federal income taxes.

If you see the advantages of having tax-free income in retirement, then you might consider a Roth 401(k). It allows you to contribute more annually than you could to an IRA, and the tax-free distributions won’t add to your income tax liability. Of course, before taking any specific action, you might want to consult with your tax professional.

The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the ­purpose of ­avoiding any ­federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional ­advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the ­purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2020 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Taking a Team Approach to Retirement Savings

Now that it’s common for families to have two wage earners, many married couples accumulate assets in separate accounts. They might each have savings in an employer-sponsored plan and perhaps one or more IRAs as well.

Even when most of a couple’s retirement assets reside in different accounts, it’s still possible to craft a unified savings and investment strategy. Communication and teamwork are good for a marriage in general, and working together could help create a stronger financial future.

Mars and Venus

Research has consistently shown that men and women have different investment approaches. Individual strategies vary, of course, but in general men tend to be more aggressive and trade more frequently, while women tend to be more methodical and embrace a buy-and-hold strategy.1

Over the long term, women may be more successful investors — one study found that their returns outpaced men’s by about 0.4%, while another found a difference of 1.2%.2 But women do not invest as much or as early in their lives and may be overly cautious. A recent survey found that women keep more assets in cash than men do, which will result in the loss of purchasing power over time.3

Shared Strategies

These differences suggest that a married couple might have much to gain by discussing their goals and philosophies for savings and investments, and by considering their accounts holistically. This does not mean that every decision must be made together. But it could be helpful to look together at the larger picture.

Owning and managing separate portfolios allows each spouse to choose investments based on his or her individual risk tolerance. Some couples may prefer to maintain a high level of independence for this reason, especially if one spouse is more comfortable with market volatility than the other. Employing different investment strategies might also increase the diversification of family assets as long as the approaches are not completely contradictory.

On the other hand, coordinating investments might help some families build more wealth over time. For example, one spouse’s employer may offer a better match for employee contributions, so it might be wise to prioritize contributions to that plan in order to obtain the full match. One workplace plan might offer a broader and/or more appealing selection of investment options, while the offerings in another plan may be limited. With a joint strategy, both spouses agree on an appropriate asset allocation for their combined savings, and their contributions are invested in a way that takes advantage of each plan’s strengths while avoiding any weaknesses.

Whether you make investment decisions separately for individual accounts or share decisions for all of your accounts, keep in mind that retirement assets generally belong to both of you. You may benefit by talking as a couple with your financial advisor.

Asset allocation and diversification are methods to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Although there is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results, a professional who focuses on your overall financial objectives can help you consider strategies that could have a substantial effect on your long-term financial situation.

1–2) Investor’s Business Daily, July 16, 2018
3) Money, February 12, 2018

This information is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Doubling Your Money

How Long Will It Take to Double My Money?
Before making any investment decision, one of the key elements you face is working out the real rate of return on your investment.

Compound interest is critical to investment growth. Whether your financial portfolio consists solely of a deposit account at your local bank or a series of highly leveraged investments, your rate of return is dramatically improved by the compounding factor.

With simple interest, interest is paid just on the principal. With compound interest, the return that you receive on your initial investment is automatically reinvested. In other words, you receive interest on the interest.

But just how quickly does your money grow? The easiest way to work that out is by using what’s known as the “Rule of 72.”1 Quite simply, the “Rule of 72” enables you to determine how long it will take for the money you’ve invested on a compound interest basis to double. You divide 72 by the interest rate to get the answer.

For example, if you invest $10,000 at 10 percent compound interest, then the “Rule of 72” states that in 7.2 years you will have $20,000. You divide 72 by 10 percent to get the time it takes for your money to double. The “Rule of 72” is a rule of thumb that gives approximate results. It is most accurate for hypothetical rates between 5 and 20 percent.

While compound interest is a great ally to an investor, inflation is one of the greatest enemies. The “Rule of 72” can also highlight the damage that inflation can do to your money.

Let’s say you decide not to invest your $10,000 but hide it under your mattress instead. Assuming an inflation rate of 4.5 percent, in 16 years your $10,000 will have lost half of its value.

The real rate of return is the key to how quickly the value of your investment will grow. If you are receiving 10 percent interest on an investment but inflation is running at 4 percent, then your real rate of return is 6 percent. In such a scenario, it will take your money 12 years to double in value.

The “Rule of 72” is a quick and easy way to determine the value of compound interest over time. By taking the real rate of return into consideration (nominal interest less inflation), you can see how soon a particular investment will double the value of your money.

The Rule of 72 is a mathematical concept, and the hypothetical return illustrated is not representative of a specific investment. Also note that the principal and yield of securities will fluctuate with changes in market conditions so that the shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.The Rule of 72 does not include adjustments for income or taxation. It assumes that interest is compounded annually. Actual results will vary.

The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the ­purpose of ­avoiding any ­federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional ­advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the ­purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Roth 401(K)

What Is a Roth 401(k)?
The arena of employer-sponsored retirement plans has been dominated by 401(k) plans that are funded with pre-tax contributions, which effectively defers taxes until distributions begin. However, Roth 401(k) is funded with after-tax money just like a Roth IRA, allowing retirees to enjoy qualified tax-free distributions once they reach age 59½ and have met the five-year holding requirement.

It might be smart to invest in a Roth 401(k) if you believe that you will be in a higher tax bracket during retirement. This is always a possibility, especially if you end up with fewer tax deductions during your post-working years. On the other hand, if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket during retirement, then deferring taxes by investing in a traditional 401(k) may be the answer for you. If you have not been able to contribute to a Roth IRA because of the income restrictions, you will be happy to know that there are no income limits with a Roth 401(k).

Employers may match employee contributions to a Roth 401(k) plan, but any matching contributions must go into a traditional 401(k) account. That is, employer contributions and any earnings are always made on a pre-tax basis, and are taxable when distributed from the plan.

If an employer offers a Roth 401(k) plan, employees have the option of contributing to either the regular (pre-tax) or the Roth account, or even both at the same time. If you do not know which type of account would be better for your financial situation, you might split your contributions between the two types of plans. It’s important to note that in 2019, your combined annual contributions to a 401(k) plan cannot exceed $19,000 if you are under age 50, or $25,000 if you are 50 or older. These amounts are indexed annually for inflation.

If your employer offers a Roth 401(k) plan and allows in-plan Roth conversions, you can make transfers to a Roth 401(k) account at any time. Conversion is a taxable event. Funds converted are taxed as ordinary income in the year of the conversion.

Upon separation of service, you can roll over your Roth 401(k) assets to another Roth 401(k), a Roth 403(b), or a Roth IRA. Assets cannot be rolled over to a traditional 401(k) account. If you transition from an employer that offers a Roth 401(k) account to an employer that does not, your only option would be to roll the assets directly to a Roth IRA or to leave your money in your former employer’s plan (if allowed).

The required minimum distribution guidelines of a Roth 401(k) work like those of traditional 401(k) plans. You must generally begin taking distributions after reaching age 70½, either as a lump sum or on a required minimum distribution schedule based on your life expectancy. However, unlike traditional 401(k) withdrawals, Roth distributions would be free of federal income taxes.

If you see the advantages of having tax-free income in retirement, then you might consider a Roth 401(k). It allows you to contribute more annually than you could to an IRA, and the tax-free distributions won’t add to your income tax liability. Of course, before taking any specific action, you might want to consult with your tax professional.

The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the ­purpose of ­avoiding any ­federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional ­advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the ­purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment: Time to pick a plan

Medicare Open Enrollment is here and runs until December 7! We know many people find and compare health plans at Medicare.gov during Open Enrollment. This year we’ve made some improvements to provide you with more personalized help with your plan choices.

We’ve added a simplified log in option through your MyMedicare.gov account, for a more personalized experience. You also can still log in with your Medicare number and a little more information or do a general search of Medicare plans by entering just a ZIP code. If you’re comparing plans through your MyMedicare account and need help or have a question, you can access our new web chat feature to connect with a customer service representative online and get answers right away. Watch a video about these improvements to help you find the right plan for you.

Picking a plan is an important and personal decision. Here are some things to think about as you compare Medicare plans to find one that meets your needs:

Does the plan cover the services you need?

Think about what services and benefits you’re likely to use in the coming year and find coverage that meets your needs. If you have other types of health or prescription drug coverage, make sure you understand how that coverage works with Medicare. And, if you travel a lot, check to make see if your plan covers you when you’re away from home.

What does the plan cost?

The lowest-cost health plan option might not be the best choice for you – consider things like the cost of premiums and deductibles, how much you pay for hospital stays and doctor visits, and whether it’s important for you to have expenses balanced throughout the year.

Are the plan’s providers and rules convenient?

Your time is valuable. Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Which pharmacies can you use? Can you get prescriptions by mail? Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically? Answers to these questions may help you decide which plan is best for you.

What plans perform the best?

Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can affect your health. Open Enrollment is also a good time to ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating—the right expertise and care can make a difference.

Remember that even if you’re happy with your current plan, things change from year to year—so it’s important to take the time to compare.

Courtesy www.Medicare.Gov

What is Term Life Insurance?

Term life insurance is “pure” insurance. It offers protection only for a specific period of time. If you die within the time period defined in the policy, the insurance company will pay your beneficiaries the face value of your policy.

Term insurance differs from the permanent forms of life insurance, such as whole life, universal life, and variable universal life, which generally offer lifetime protection as long as premiums are kept current.  And unlike other types of life insurance, term insurance does not accumulate cash value. All the premiums paid are used to cover the cost of insurance protection, and you don’t receive a refund at the end of the policy period. The policy simply expires.

Term life insurance is often less expensive than permanent insurance, especially when you are younger. It may be appropriate if you want insurance only for a certain length of time, such as until your youngest child finishes college or you are able to afford a more permanent type of life insurance.

The main drawback associated with all types of term insurance is that premiums increase every time coverage is renewed. The reason is simple: As you grow older, your chances of dying increase. And as the likelihood of your death increases, the risk that the insurance company will have to pay a death benefit goes up. Unfortunately, term insurance can become too expensive right when you need it most — in your later years.

Several variations of term insurance do allow for level premiums throughout the duration of the contract. You may be able to obtain 5-, 10-, 20-, or even 30-year level term, or level term payable to age 65. An advantage of renewable term life insurance is that it is usually available without proof of insurability.

Life insurance can be used to achieve a variety of objectives. The cost and availability of the type of life insurance that is appropriate for you depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a strategy involving life insurance, it would be prudent to make sure that you are insurable. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have contract limitations, fees, and charges, which can include mortality and expense charges.

 

The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Choosing the Correct Survivor Annuity

Retirement and life insurance aren’t commonly thought of together, yet that is exactly what the survivor annuity is. The FERS survivor annuity (SA) is an option that FERS employees can elect on their retirement paperwork.

Why is a survivor annuity like life insurance?

The main purpose for a survivor annuity is for married FERS employees to have the option to leave an income stream to their surviving spouse. In other words, you can leave a benefit at your death (sound familiar?). The reason for the SA is quite simple – many spouses can’t afford to lose an income of $2,000 a month (I will repeatedly use the example of a $2,000 monthly FERS annuity in this article).

This is a VERY important subject (albeit not the most pleasant to discuss) and an important conversation to have.

There are actually three options on your retirement paperwork regarding your SA choice.

  • No survivor
  • Partial survivor
  • Full survivor

No survivor annuity

If you don’t choose a survivor annuity, your paperwork has to be signed and notarized by your spouse. The only thing your spouse would receive under this option is a refund of any unused FERS deposits (The total of the 0.8% you paid in minus the total of FERS benefits received). If you don’t choose a SA then your spouse cannot continue Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) after your death.

Partial Survivor Annuity

The partial SA will reduce your annuity by 5% in return for a spousal benefit of 25% at your death. Using our example of a $2,000 annuity, the federal retiree’s FERS annuity would be $1,900 a month and guarantee that their spouse will receive $500 a month (if the spouse is still living after the federal employee’s death).

Your spouse’s signature and notarization are required for the partial annuity as well.

The partial SA does allow your spouse to continue FEHB after your death.

Full Survivor Annuity

The full SA will reduce your annuity by 10% in return for a spousal benefit of 50% at your death. Going back the example of $2,000, your FERS annuity would be $1,800 a month and your surviving spouse would receive $1,000 a month after your death.

A great deal of talk about death and dying here, but what happens if the federal employee outlives the spouse? First, the federal employee needs to notify OPM of the spouse’s death in order to get your annuity changed back to 100%.

You will not get the 5%, or 10% back that you paid in for the survivor annuity. Any past reduction in your FERS annuity will be lost.

COLA on the survivor annuity

Another important aspect of the survivor annuity is that there is a default COLA associated with it. Since FERS annuitants over age 62 receive a COLA on their annuity, that means that the survivor annuity will increase along with that COLA. As the FERS annuity increases, so does the survivor benefit.

This is both good and bad – yes, the survivor annuity will increase each time you receive a COLA but so does the cost. For example, a full survivor annuity costs a retiree 10% of their FERS annuity and 10% of $2,500 is less than 10% of $3,000.

Is life insurance a good replacement for the survivor annuity?

As is the case with many financial questions, it depends on a few factors.

The first question to answer is whether or not your spouse depends on your health insurance. I would guesstimate that this is the case with 90% of federal employees, and if so then you must elect a survivor annuity. In this scenario, the most you could do is look at getting life insurance to cover over and above the partial SA.

Something else to consider is taxes. The cost of the survivor annuity is not taxed, but the premiums for life insurance are made in after tax dollars. The opposite is true of the benefits of each. Survivor annuities are taxable income and life insurance proceeds are income tax free.

The age and health of each spouse needs to be considered as well. If your spouse is 10 years older and in bad health, life insurance may be a good fit versus the SA. If you are 10 years older than your spouse, then the SA sounds like a good deal because your insurance costs may be high and your spouse will likely outlive you and benefit from the guaranteed SA.

Is leaving money to your kids a priority? If so, then life insurance could be a good fit since it will pay out at your death regardless of who outlives who. This is not the case with the survivor annuity. The survivor annuity is only around for a maximum of your lifetime and your spouse’s lifetime.

If you are single at retirement and get married later, there are options for adding your spouse to your benefits and electing a SA for your new spouse. You must notify OPM and they will help you through the details.

Important decision

The survivor annuity is no different than any other retirement decision – it is going to take a little thought and analysis to make the best decision for you and your family. Survivor annuity elections are one point of analysis in our financial plans with federal employees. If you would like to discuss putting together your own plan you are welcome to set up an introductory call.

ETFs or Mutual Funds: What’s the Difference?

Mutual funds are still king of the investment world, but exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become increasingly popular over the last few years. At the end of 2016, more than $2.5 trillion in assets were invested among over 1,700 ETFs. This is equivalent to about 15% of the assets invested in mutual funds. In 2006, ETF assets were equivalent to only about 4% of mutual fund assets.1

ETFs have some attractive features that set them apart from mutual funds, but there are also cost and risk factors to consider.

IMAGE

Trading Flexibility

Like a mutual fund, an ETF is a portfolio of securities assembled by an investment company. Mutual funds are typically purchased from and sold back to the investment company and priced at the end of the trading day, with the price determined by the net asset value (NAV) of the underlying securities. By contrast, ETFs can be traded throughout the day on stock exchanges, like individual stocks, and the price may be higher or lower than the NAV because of supply and demand.

In relatively calm markets, ETF prices and NAVs are generally close. However, when financial markets become more volatile, ETFs may quickly reflect changes in market sentiment, while NAVs — adjusted once a day — may take longer to react, resulting in ETFs trading at a premium or discount. Most ETFs are passively managed and track an index of securities. Investors can choose from a variety of indexes, ranging from broad-based stock or bond indexes to very specific market sectors. A growing number of actively managed ETFs assemble a non-indexed mix of investments that should reflect the fund’s objectives.

Expenses and Risks

ETFs typically have lower expense ratios than mutual funds. However, you must pay a brokerage commission whenever you buy or sell an ETF, so your overall costs may be higher, especially if you trade frequently. Also, whereas mutual fund assets can typically be exchanged within a fund family, moving assets between ETFs requires selling and buying assets separately.

The trading flexibility of ETFs is part of their appeal, but it could lead some investors to trade more frequently than might be appropriate for their situations. The principal value of ETFs and mutual funds fluctuates with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Exchange-traded funds and mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

Growth Stocks vs. Value Stocks

Investors are often confused about the differences between growth stocks and value stocks. The main way in which they differ is not in how they are bought and sold, nor is it how much ownership they represent in a company. Rather, the difference lies mainly in the way in which they are perceived by the market and, ultimately, the investor.

Growth stocks are associated with high-quality, successful companies whose earnings are expected to continue growing at an above-average rate relative to the market. Growth stocks generally have high price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios and high price-to-book ratios. The P/E ratio is the market value per share divided by the current year’s earnings per share. For example, if the stock is currently trading at $52 per share and its earnings over the last 12 months have been $2 per share, then its P/E ratio is 26. The price-to-book ratio is the share price divided by the book value per share. The open market often places a high value on growth stocks; therefore, growth stock investors also may see these stocks as having great worth and may be willing to pay more to own shares.

Investors who purchase growth stocks receive returns from future capital appreciation (the difference between the amount paid for a stock and its current value), rather than dividends. Although dividends are sometimes paid to shareholders of growth stocks, it has historically been more common for growth companies to reinvest retained earnings in capital projects. Recently, however, because of tax-law changes lowering the tax rate on corporate dividends, even growth companies have been offering dividends.

At times, growth stocks may be seen as expensive and overvalued, which is why some investors may prefer value stocks, which are considered undervalued by the market. Value stocks are those that tend to trade at a lower price relative to their fundamentals (including dividends, earnings, and sales). Value stocks generally have good fundamentals, but they may have fallen out of favor in the market and are considered bargain priced compared with their competitors. They may have prices that are below the stocks’ historic levels or may be associated with new companies that aren’t recognized by investors. It’s possible that these companies have been affected by a problem that raises some concerns about their long-term prospects.

Value stocks generally have low current price-to-earnings ratios and low price-to-book ratios. Investors buy these stocks in the hope that they will increase in value when the broader market recognizes their full potential, which should result in rising share prices. Thus, investors hope that if they buy these stocks at bargain prices and the stocks eventually increase in value, they could potentially make more money than if they had invested in higher-priced stocks that increased modestly in value.

Growth and value are styles of investing in stocks. Neither approach is guaranteed to provide appreciation in stock market value; both carry investment risk. The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve higher rates of return also involve a greater degree of risk.

Growth and value investments tend to run in cycles. Understanding the differences between them may help you decide which may be appropriate to help you pursue your specific goals. Regardless of which type of investor you are, there may be a place for both growth and value stocks in your portfolio. This strategy may help you manage risk and potentially enhance your returns over time.

 

The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2017 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.