Retirement Accounts Explained: Clearing up the Uncertainty

  1. Confusion about types of retirement accounts.

      There are many types of retirement accounts, and each has their own rules and limitations. We often find ourselves welcoming new clients who think that they have one type of account when it’s actually something else with a different set of rules.

      For example, a client might think that they have an IRA but they actually have a 401k. The most common employer sponsored account types are 401(k), 403(b), SEP IRA, Simple IRA, and then your individual retirement accounts such as the IRA or Roth IRA.

      This is an important distinction because IRAs and 401ks have some significant differences. 401(k) plans have higher contribution limits. Let’s say that you mistakenly think you have an IRA when it is actually a 401(k). As a result, you report on your tax return that you made a $30,500 contribution to an IRA. That will be a red flag to the IRS because your contribution limit for an IRA is $7,000 in 2024 if you’re under age 50. Some other differences are investment choices, fees, and distribution options.

      In order to properly prepare for retirement, it is critical that you have a good understanding of the account types you have, as well as the rules for and limitations of those accounts. 

      2. Annuities inside 403(b) or other employer-sponsored retirement accounts.

        Another common misunderstanding occurs when someone does not realize they have an annuity inside of their retirement account. This can be an unwelcome surprise for many who do not fully understand the ins and outs of annuities. An annuity is an insurance product and may not be as liquid as other types of retirement accounts.

        For example, when we begin working with someone who is retiring from a government or university position, we often discover annuities inside of their employer-sponsored plans. This almost always causes confusion because, whether people are aware of the annuity or not, most do not understand their choices or the restrictions on the annuity portion of their account.

        Annuities can be a fine option for retirement income; however, they aren’t for everyone. We highly recommend that you speak with a financial advisor or human resources representative about the options you have inside of the plan and whether you should continue contributing to the annuity portion of it. You can also contact us directly if you have any questions about annuities or other long-term savings vehicles.

        3. Planning distributions in retirement.

        When we meet with new clients we discuss their chief concerns about retirement. Typically, their response is something along the lines of “I am not exactly sure where my income will come from in retirement.”

        Taking distributions from your accounts in retirement requires understanding the first two points; What account types do you have and are there any restrictions that you need to be aware of?

        Different account types have different distribution rules and taxability. Furthermore, if you’re still employed your employer might have additional rules or limitations for distributions. It’s vital to understand your distribution options and put a solid, tax-smart plan in place BEFORE you retire.  Proper planning can help ensure a seamless transition into the retirement you have always envisioned.

        At Copper Leaf Financial we place a great deal of emphasis on client education to avoid confusion and help people understand how the choices they make now will impact their future. Contact us today and find out how we can clear up any confusion and help you develop a personal, evolving financial plan for the long-term.

        By Breanna Sykes, CFP®, Senior Wealth Advisor, Copper Leaf Financial

        Recipients should not act on the information presented without seeking prior professional advice. Check with your advisor about your specific situation or contact Copper Leaf Financial at 802.878.2731.