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Zeroing In on Retirement

November 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Retirement News

If life is a journey, retirement is the destination where one hopes to enjoy long-awaited rewards for years of hard work. However, a successful retirement doesn’t just happen; it requires an aggressive plan of attack. That’s where retirement planning comes into the picture.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Retirement planning is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces. Once you fit together all of the interlocking pieces of the puzzle, you will be able to set up the best retirement plan for your specific needs. Following are four important pieces of the retirement planning puzzle:

  1. 1. Social Security — Most working Americans will receive Social Security benefits based on how long they worked, how much income they have earned, and at what age they choose to retire. In most cases, Social Security will not be enough to provide a comfortable retirement income.
  2. 2. Company-sponsored pension plans — An employer may fund a benefit that is taken as a monthly income by employees at retirement. A key factor in determining the amount of income you will receive is the age at which you choose to retire.
  3. 3. Employer-sponsored retirement plans — In defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s, the employee contributes a portion of his or her pre-tax income to the plan, and the employer may match a portion of the employee’s contribution. Not only do these plans present an immediate return on your money, but earnings also have the potential to grow tax-deferred.
  4. 4. Your personal savings — A disciplined savings program, in addition to any other retirement benefits, can help you accumulate and supplement retirement wealth.

Taking Affirmative Action

Your first step of affirmative action is to assemble the pieces of your financial puzzle to determine if they are sufficient to provide a comfortable retirement. If so, keep up the good work. Set your sights on the retirement of your dreams. Early planning can help you avoid having to make financial sacrifices during your retirement. If you currently expect a funding shortfall, develop long-term strategies to meet your goals.

Although Social Security and your company’s pension plan offer relatively fixed benefits, you may be able to enhance your 401(k) contributions and personal savings. Regular contributions and tax-efficient choices can help you build financial security over time.

If you can, maximize contributions to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plans. [Note: Contributions to your 401(k) come from pre-tax salary, and tax on both contributions and earnings are deferred until you retire.] Individuals under age 50 may defer up to $16,500 in 2011, and those 50 and older may defer up to $22,000.

Contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Up to $5,000 may be contributed in 2011. Those age 50 and older may make additional contributions up to $1,000. If you qualify, all or a portion of your contribution may be tax deductible.

“Don’t Put Off ’Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today”

Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, now is the time to start planning for your retirement. Your financial professional would welcome the opportunity to help you determine your future needs and devise a strategy to meet those needs. The sooner you put your plan of attack into action, the better your chances of securing a future of truly “golden” years.

Copyright © 2011 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. RPGA0U-AS

Your Retirement Plan—Ready to Roll(Over)?

November 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Retirement News

Simply stated, a rollover happens when you “roll over” assets/funds from one qualified retirement plan directly into another. You must enact this transaction within 60 days of receiving the funds from the original plan, or you will face a penalty. The transfer is done tax free. There are several rules governing rollovers. Any part of the taxable portion of a distribution from a qualified plan, annuity plan, or tax-sheltered annuity (TSA)—other than a minimum distribution—may be rolled over tax free to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), annuity, or other qualified plan. However, if the distribution is in the form of certain periodic payments, a rollover is not allowed.

How to Make a Rollover

Rollovers can be done in two ways:

Option 1: You (the plan participant) may receive the distribution yourself, but you must reinvest it into an IRA or qualified plan within 60 days. This form of distribution (where you actually receive cash) is subject to a 20% withholding requirement. This 20% withholding rate is imposed by law on distributions that are eligible for rollover but that aren’t transferred directly to an eligible transferee plan. The employer must withhold taxes for these distributions. This means that employees receiving direct distributions will receive only 80% of their account, since 20% is withheld. However, the withheld funds may be refunded after the employee files his or her tax return, as long as the distribution is rolled over into another IRA or qualified plan within 60 days. Since the 20% that is withheld is treated as a taxable distribution, the employee will need to make up the withheld 20% from his or her own funds to achieve a 100% tax-free rollover; otherwise, the 20% withheld will be treated as taxable. In addition to the income taxes owed on that 20%, the employee will also be required to pay a penalty tax of 10% if he or she is under the age of 59½.

Option 2: To avoid the 20% withholding requirement, the employee may request a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer to an IRA or qualified plan. Annuities or qualified plans must allow payees of eligible rollover distributions to choose a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer. However, a
qualified plan is not required to accept this form of transfer. This type of transfer is considered a distribution option, so that spousal consent and other similar participant and beneficiary rules of protection will apply.

There are many factors to consider in deciding when and how to use a rollover. Getting knowledgeable assistance from a professional can make the difference between a “rocky” rollover and a smooth, effective one.

Copyright © 2011 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. RPIIRA0-AS

November Monthly Economic Update

November 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

Why 401(k) Plan Sponsors Should Offer Education & Advice

November 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Why You Should Avoid Using Your Payroll Provider As Your 401(k) Provider

November 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

A Beginner’s Thanksgiving (Tips, Tricks, & Recipes)

November 20th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

An indispensable Thanksgiving guide for the novice, with recipes and tips even an expert would love

by Rick Rodgers


Photography by Stephen Sullivan; food and prop styling by Roscoe Betsill

Hosting your first holiday feast? It can be daunting: A menu of familiar dishes for which everyone will have expectations, plus the pressure of executing a complicated meal in a timely manner, can make even the most experienced cook wish someone else would take over.

But there’s really no need for this trepidation. Armed with good planning and some delicious, dependable recipes, you can calmly serve a wonderful holiday meal to friends and family. I’ve put together this menu of solid classics, plus I’ve shared tips drawn from my years of cooking, teaching, and writing about Thanksgiving. Finally, I’ve added a shopping list and a timeline to help you pull everything off with ease. Who knows—even seasoned cooks might pick up a few pointers here.

Easy Thanksgiving Menu for Eight

View Menu Detail

tips for a smooth thanksgiving:

Build Your Skills Gradually

How do you think Grandma got so good at cooking Thanksgiving? Practice! If you’re just starting out, there’s absolutely no reason that every item on your menu has to be made by you, from scratch. Your first year, focus on just the turkey, stuffing, and gravy—have guests bring the other dishes (be sure to coordinate what everyone’s bringing so you end up with enough of everything). Once you feel that you’ve mastered these three essentials, the next year branch out to some other dishes. Before you know it, you’ll have experience with the entire menu.

Supplement From the Store

In addition to having guests bring some dishes, don’t be afraid to purchase things to round out the meal. The key to make it/buy it success is getting top-quality items: Ask your cheesemonger to recommend an assortment of interesting cheeses for a simple, delicious hors d’oeuvre. Find a good local bakery to supply crusty rolls for the main course and a fresh pumpkin pie to accompany the simple homemade apple cake. You may spend a bit more, but you’ll save your sanity and, if you find good sources, the bought items can be as good as homemade. Eventually, as you build your skills, you’ll be able to branch out to making pies and breads from scratch.

Rein In an Unruly Menu

In my humble opinion, there is just too much food on the typical Thanksgiving table. If I have spent hours in the kitchen, I want my guests to be able to savor the fare, not groan at the sight of food heaped on their plates. With both stuffing and sweet potatoes on the table, I see no need to serve mashed potatoes as well. But if you can’t bear to give them up, feel free to add your favorite recipe to this menu. Another tip to bear in mind: Be careful not to have too many casseroles and other baked dishes that need last-minute time in the oven. A sautéed green vegetable, such as the green beans in this menu, can be cooked entirely on the stovetop, and will be a welcome contrast to all the baked carbs.

Rely on Lists, Not Your Memory

There’s no such thing as too many lists when it comes to a holiday meal. For this menu, I’ve put together a grocery list and a timetable, but you’ll also want to decide which beverages to serve and add them to the list, along with any sundries (candles, guest towels, camera batteries or film, etc.). If you can, buy all nonperishables in the weeks before the holiday to avoid a last-minute dash. Other organizational tricks that will make things easier: Label serving dishes with the items they’ll hold, and tape up a complete menu in the kitchen so you don’t forget to serve something. (I’m famous for forgetting the cranberry sauce in the refrigerator!)

Exercise Crowd Control

Thanksgiving is about hospitality, and sometimes the guest list can get pretty big. But this doesn’t need to cause panic. Just be sure that you have enough plates and utensils, and if you don’t have room for a seated meal, do the menu as a buffet. I’ve offered recipes for eight servings, but, with the exception of the cake, everything on the menu can easily be scaled up simply by multiplying the ingredients and using larger serving dishes. For more than 12 guests, make a second cake, or add another dessert.

Tighten Up Your Bar Selection

It takes time to make individual cocktails, and time is not something you’ll have a lot of if you’re hosting Thanksgiving. Consider serving a single “house” cocktail. The Neopolitan suggested here uses an infused syrup that can be made well ahead of time and is easy to mix up. For nondrinkers, replace the vodka with seltzer. Or simplify things by just combining vodka (or seltzer) with cranberry juice. At dinner, serve one white wine and one red—a full-bodied Pinot Noir or Chardonnay would pair perfectly well with everything on the menu.

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The History of Thanksgiving from History.com

November 20th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Videos

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