Roth vs. Traditional IRA – Do You Know the Difference?

This is the third post in a series of six blog entries focused on topics that might be of interest to the Millennial generation. If you would like to see our attempt at making these subject matters entertaining, visit our YouTube page to see a video version of this article.

 

“Roth IRA” and “traditional IRA” – these are terms that are bandied about willy-nilly by financial advisors and others in the business. You’ve often wondered what the difference is but haven’t asked, because you feel like you should know already. You nod along, meaning to Google it when you get home but of course you forget as soon as you step through the door and directly into a pile of something your loving pet left for you to clean up. Allow me to help! With the IRA definitions, I mean – not the mess. That’s all you.

First, the similarities – both are types of retirement accounts that allow the investments within them to grow without requiring you to pay taxes on any realized gains. So if you buy a stock for $500 and sell it for $1000, you don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the $500 you made. Awesome, right? Another bonus – you don’t have to pay taxes on any dividend or interest income that you earn within either type of IRA. In a regular brokerage account you would have to pay taxes on realized gains, dividends, and interest income, which would cut into your portfolio return.

So what are the differences? Both traditional and Roth IRAs feature tax advantages on either contributions or withdrawals, but not both. A traditional IRA allows you to make tax-deductible contributions (so the funds you put in there are not being taxed as income). However, when you withdraw the money after age 59 ½, it will be taxed as ordinary income at your marginal tax rate.

Conversely, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible (so this is income that has already been taxed). But when you withdraw the money (assuming you’ve had the account for at least 5 years and are older than 59 ½) it’s all tax-free! That’s why traditional IRAs are called “tax-deferred” accounts and Roth IRAs are called “tax-exempt” accounts.

Now, as with anything the IRS gets its hands on, there are all kinds of rules, guidelines, exceptions and so forth when it comes to how much a person can contribute to either type of account, how much is tax-deductible, what types of early withdrawals are allowed without a penalty, etc. Rest assured that all of this information is available on the internet, so I will spare you the details. Better yet, call your financial advisor and ask him or her how the rules affect your unique situation. There are so many different scenarios that, if I were to attempt to address them all, it would completely defeat the purpose of this blog, which is to simply explain the main difference between a Roth and a traditional IRA.

Because your situation is unique, you should talk to your financial advisor about the different account types and which ones are best for you. But now, when you hear phrases like “tax-deferred” or “tax-exempt,” “Roth” and “traditional IRA,” you can nod along knowledgeably.

Sarah DerGarabedian, CFA Portfolio Manager

Student Loans vs. Saving

This is the second post in a series of six blog entries focused on topics that might be of interest to the Millennial generation. If you would like to see our attempt at making these subject matters entertaining, visit our YouTube page to see a video version of this article.

 

You’ve recently graduated from college and you have a load of student debt. It can be overwhelming. You think it will take forever to pay it off. To make matters worse, you know you are supposed to be saving for retirement but you feel like you can’t because you need to pay off your student loans first.

To make the best financial decision it is important to remove the psychological barriers that often accompany the ‘saving versus paying down debt’ trade-off. The millennial generation is particularly opposed to debt – more so than older generations, so they tend to pay their student loans off before they start saving. Unfortunately, this could be the wrong choice.

The long run average of large company stocks is 11.3% (1950-2013). If your student loans are at an 8% interest rate, you would be better off investing money over and above your minimum loan payment if you have the risk tolerance for investing the money in equities.

Maybe an 11.3% return sounds unrealistic. It’s common for this historical return to seem disconnected from the present. A common psychological condition causes us to take recent past experiences and extrapolate them into the future, creating a false sense of predictive ability on what the future holds. If the good times are rolling, they will always roll. If we are in crisis, we will be in crisis for the foreseeable future. But the truth is that things change. Our economy is cyclical in nature and that’s why we use long-term historical observations to make long-term decisions.

Even with the worst recession since the Great Depression the average return of large company stocks in the 10-year period from 2004 -2013 was 7.4%. And while that’s not huge, you may be willing to take the chance that we won’t soon see a repeat of the worst stock market period in history. Those loans will get paid off eventually and you’ll have more money in retirement simply by saving more and saving earlier.

Don’t forget about your employer match on your 401k. If you have a 401k match, by all means take it! Even if your student loan interest rate is 12%, you’d be better off (after paying the minimum) putting enough money into your 401k to get the free money. That’s a 100% return, guaranteed.

Harli Palme, CFA, CFP®
Partner

7 Reasons to Consider a Prenup

This is the first in a series of six blog entries focused on topics that might be of interest to the Millennial generation. If you would like to see our attempt at making these subject matters entertaining, visit our YouTube page to see a video version of this article.

I believe Kanye West said it best when he said, “We want prenup!”

There is nothing that can kill the romance of upcoming nuptials more quickly than your partner asking you to sign a prenuptial agreement (aka prenup). But do you know what can really kill the romance? Divorce! Perhaps you are thinking, “our relationship is going to last… we’d never get a divorce.” Well let’s face it, I don’t think anyone goes into a marriage thinking that in 5-10 years they are going to split. Other people may think that the agreement is only for the rich… this is actually a misconception. While it’s true, a prenuptial agreement may not be right for everyone, the following are a few scenarios in which it will make a lot of sense:

1: One partner earns the majority of the income. If you know going into a marriage that one person will be the primary “bread winner,” a prenup can be used to determine the amount of alimony that will need to be paid upon a divorce.

2. What about the partner that doesn’t make a lot of money? The prenup can also be used to make sure that the partner who is less financially set is protected in the event of a divorce.

3. For the spouse with substantial assets. If you own a home or other substantial assets prior to a marriage, you can use a prenup toestablish that those assets that came with you, will leave with you.

4. For the stay-at-home parent: This will obviously affect your income. If it is decided prior to marriage that one parent will stay at home with the children, a prenup can be used to make sure that each parent shares in the responsibility of taking care of the children financially.

5. One partner has a significant amount of debt. A prenup can establish who will be responsible for paying off debt in the event of a divorce. This can prevent you from getting straddled with debt that the other spouse created prior to marriage.

6. Children from a previous marriage. When entering into another marriage you need to make sure that you kids are protected from another divorce. This can ensure that in the event of your death/divorce that assets that should be going to your children won’t go to your disgruntled spouse.

7. You own a business. It is possible that in the event of a divorce your spouse will end up owning part of the business. Your partner will then go from being an unwanted spouse, to an unwanted business partner. Establishing that the business is off limits in a prenup can prevent this from happening.

It’s understandable that many couples don’t even want to entertain the idea of a prenuptial agreement. The important thing to remember is that this is a document used to protect all parties. Communicate openly and listen to the concerns of your partner. Even if you do live “happily ever after,” there will always be a peace of mind involved with foresight and deliberate planning.

Ashley Woodring, CFP®

Financial Advisor

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Financial Times Top 300

Parsec is excited to have been named one of the nation’s Top 300 Registered Investment Advisers by Financial Times Magazine.  The candidate pool started with more than 2,000 qualifying RIA firms.  This list was then narrowed down to the top 300 in the nation after a lengthy decision making-process. Each firm was required to fill out a survey where the FT scored RIAs based on 6 broad factors. These areas included adviser assets under management, asset growth, the firm’s years in existence, industry certifications of key employees at the firms, SEC compliance record and online accessibility.  We are excited to have been included in this inaugural list. Check out their site to read more about FTs Top 300! http://www.ft.com/intl/reports/registered-investment-advisers

 

Ashley Woodring, CFP®

Financial Advisor

Market Update Through 6/30/2014

as of June 30, 2014
Total Return
Index 12 months YTD QTD June
Stocks
Russell 3000 25.22% 6.94% 4.87% 2.51%
S&P 500 24.61% 7.14% 5.23% 2.07%
DJ Industrial Average 15.56% 2.68% 2.83% 0.75%
Nasdaq Composite 31.17% 6.18% 5.31% 3.99%
Russell 2000 23.64% 3.19% 2.00% 5.32%
MSCI EAFE Index 23.57% 4.78% 4.09% 0.96%
MSCI Emerging Markets 14.31% 6.14% 6.60% 2.66%
Bonds
Barclays US Aggregate 4.37% 3.93% 2.04% 0.05%
Barclays Intermediate US Gov/Credit 2.86% 2.25% 1.23% -0.07%
Barclays Municipal 6.14% 6.00% 2.59% 0.09%
Current Prior
Commodity/Currency Level Level
Crude Oil  $105.37  $102.71
Natural Gas  $4.46  $4.54
Gold  $1,322.00  $1,246.00
Euro  $1.36  $1.36

Mark A. Lewis

Director of Operations

One Down, One to Go

There was much rejoicing among analysts, economic forecasters and financial market participants on June 6 when the BLS told us that total nonfarm payroll employment on a seasonally adjusted basis set a new record in May 2014 with 138,463,000 such jobs then. The old record of 138,350,000 such jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis was set in January 2008, which was the first full month of the 18-month long recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

The chart shows the pattern of this widely followed economic series since January 1978. It is quite obvious that instead of the fairly quick recovery in such jobs that followed every recession from 1945 to the 1981-1982 one, the length of time to return to previous levels has gotten longer and longer with every recession beginning with the 1990-1991 event.

Capture

While many reports on this new record contained statements claiming that all the jobs lost in the recession had been made up, that is not technically true. What IS true is that the total number of jobs has now been matched. But tens of millions of actual jobs that disappeared in 2008-2010 will never come back. They have just been replaced by other jobs.

In addition to that, the total population and the labor force have grown a lot over this time frame. Some estimates are that we might need as many as five million more jobs today just to be even with how well off we were in January 2008 in terms of payroll employment.

It turns out that the pattern of nonfarm payroll jobs today is vastly different from what it was back in January 2008. Here are some of the comparisons.

By far the largest number of net new nonfarm payroll jobs over that period is found in the “health care and social assistance” category, which has risen by 2,150,000 such jobs. Next is “Accommodations and food services” with an increase of 941,000. “Professional and technical services” jobs have grown by 512,000. “Education services “has gained 425,000 jobs and “Temporary help services” has added 307,000 jobs since January 2008.

Not very surprisingly, the biggest loser is jobs in manufacturing. There were 1,650,000 fewer of those in May 2014 than in January 2008. This is hardly a new story. The peak was 19,553,000 jobs back in June 1979. The recent trough counted 11,453,000 such jobs, which was the lowest number since March 1941, well before the US became involved in World War II. The May 2014 level of 12,099,000 is still lower than in June 1941, both on a seasonally adjusted basis. No one expects to see a new record here for many years, if ever. It is a fact that total manufacturing output has soared since then. The Industrial Production manufacturing index was 10.5 (2007=100) then and 99.5 in May 2014. That shows how huge the labor productivity increases have been in manufacturing. The US has the highest levels of labor productivity in manufacturing in the world and also the highest average annual rate of increase in this critically important measure over the past 70 years.

The construction sector was still down 1,496,000 jobs in May 2014 from January 2008. The government sector lost 507,000 jobs over that period, but almost all of these were at the state and local level.

Consistent with this shift in the type of nonfarm payroll jobs over the past 6-1/2 years, it should not surprise you to learn that the number of nonfarm payroll jobs held by women has been above the old peak set in February 2008 every month since September 2013. There were 68,393,000 nonfarm payroll jobs held by women in May 2014 or 49.4 percent of all such jobs.

As a corollary to the still-missing millions of construction and manufacturing jobs, the total number of nonfarm payroll jobs held by men is still below the old peak. It will take several more months to see a new record for men holding nonfarm payroll jobs.

Of course, there are two different measures of employment. In addition to nonfarm payroll employment, we have total civilian employment, which includes the self-employed and agricultural workers. This measure counts each person only once, whereas the payroll survey does not adjust for people who have more than one payroll job.

Total civilian employment peaked in November 2007 with 146,595,000 people employed on a seasonally adjusted basis. In May 2014 there were 145,814,000 people employed, so there are still 781,000 fewer people employed than at the peak. There were 9,799,000 people who were unemployed and looking for work in May for an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent. We should see a new record in the next two or three months. Then we can celebrate the fact that we are in uncharted territory by both measures.

The June 10, BLS report on “Job Openings and Labor Turnover” (the JOLTS report) told us that on April 30 on a seasonally adjusted basis there were 4,455,000 unfilled job openings in the US. That was the highest since September 2007, before the recession began.

The report also said that there were 55.1 million hires in the twelve months ending in April 2014. There were 52.8 million job separations in the same period.

Thus, we had 107.9 million people changing jobs over 12 months in order to get a net employment gain of 2.2 million people. The US economy remains the most incredible “jobs machine” every seen.

 

Dr. James F. Smith

Chief Economist

Giving Away Your Cake (and eating it too), AKA Charitable Remainder Trusts

ImageOne of the first recorded instances of the age old phrase “a man can not have his cake and eat it too” was written from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell, speaking about how the construction of Kenninghall had cut deeply into his finances. Today, we use this phrase when considering saving something of value, or giving it up for consumption. When thinking about our own personal assets, we have many choices. We have the opportunity to hold on to them (having our cake), swap them out (trading for a different cake), or selling them and buying a consumable asset (eating the cake).

With responsible planning for the future, the size of your portfolio should grow through the years. At the point of retirement for someone, a combination of pension, social security, and portfolio income may be able to provide for all of their expenses. This is a fantastic place to be in as a retiree. A dependable cash flow can empower gifting to the extent that the cash flow remains intact.

A few months ago, I wrote about Charitable Remainder Trusts here. For a retiree that has an excess income stream from investments, a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) can provide a certain and continued stream of income from donated property.  As the name suggests, a charity will inherit the property held in the trust when the beneficiaries pass away, just as it would if you left the property to a charity in your will. However, the additional benefit of a CRT is the income tax deduction received for giving the property occurs immediately. As a beneficiary you retain an income interest.

Give thought to the idea of giving some of your cake away now. There are many great non-profits and charities that will thank you. Now, I know all this talk of cake has really gotten that sweet tooth going, so feel free to eat some cake now too!