The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) is long and hard to read, but it played a crucial role in establishing cash balance plans as a viable and legally recognized retirement savings option. Before 2006, cash balance plans faced frequent legal challenges. Those bringing the suits argued that cash balance plans violated established rules for benefit accrual and discriminated against older workers. The rulings on these cases were inconsistent, and many business owners were reluctant to risk establishing a plan that just didn’t have firm legal footing.
The Pension Protection Act ended this uncertainty about the legality of cash balance plans. The legislation set specific requirements for cash balance plans, including:
- A vesting requirement: Any employee who has worked for their company for at least three years must be 100% vested in their accrued benefits from employer contributions.
- A change in the calculation of lump sum payments: Participants in a cash balance plan can usually choose to receive a lump sum upon retirement or upon the termination of employment instead of receiving their money as a lifetime annuity. Before 2006, some plans used one interest rate to calculate out the anticipated account balance upon retirement, but, when participants opted to receive an earlier lump sum, the plan called for using a different interest rate to discount the anticipated retirement balance back to the date of the lump sum payment. This could lead to discrepancies between the hypothetical balance of the account (as determined by employer contributions and accumulated interest credits) and the actual lump sum payout, an effect known as “whipsaw”. The PPA eliminated the whipsaw effect by allowing the lump sum payout to simply equal the hypothetical account balance.
- Clarification on age discrimination claims: A cash balance plan does not violate age discrimination legislation if the account balance of an older employee is compared with that of a similarly situated younger employee (i.e. with the same length of employment, pay, job title, date of hire, and work history), and the older employee’s balance is equal to or greater than the younger employee’s.
There are, of course, many other points included in this lengthy piece of legislation, but the takeaway is this: the Pension Protection Act of 2006 removed the legal uncertainty surrounding cash balance plans and made them a much more appealing option for small business owners. The number of cash balance plans in America more than tripled after the implementation of the PPA. Additional regulations in 2010 and 2014 made these hybrid plans an even better option, and we anticipate that their popularity will continue to grow. There are thousands of high-earning business owners out there who can reap huge, tax-crushing benefits from implementing cash balance plan – they just have to know about them first.
The Advantages of Investing in ETFs
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are popular investment options available to the discerning investor. They are similar to mutual funds and index funds but with some distinct advantages. If you are looking for retirement investment options, ETFs are a great choice. Here are just a few of the advantages that ETFs have to offer:
- Low Commission Fees – With a tight economy and increased cost of living, every penny that can be saved should be saved. Let’s face it, the less you pay out in investment fees and commissions, the more money that goes towards your retirement fund. And that’s the ultimate goal, right? Compared to index funds, ETFs have relatively low trading costs.
- Allows for Speculation Through Intraday Trading – ETFs may be traded just like stocks. As a result, their value (price) fluctuates throughout any given day. As an investor, you are able to take advantage of the daily movements of an ETF and reap profits on a daily basis. Bear in mind however, that the possibility of losses still exists. Nevertheless, ETFs provide the ability to trade the entire market as if it were a stock.
- Diversification – We all know that one of the keys to successful investing is diversification. With ETFs, you have the opportunity to diversify your investments by index type, equity market sector, geography (whether international or regional), industry, niche, asset class and more. Asset allocation is what will make the difference between a successful investment and one that fails to deliver the desired returns. With ETFs, investors have the opportunity to build a profitable asset-allocation model.
Whether you are saving towards retirement, or simply looking for great investment options, carefully consider the benefits of trading in ETFs.
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Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate has a duration of over 6 (orange line) and a yield of just 2.5% (white line). If we see more corporate refinancing on the longer end (while rates are still low) and at some point a 50 or 100 year US treasury makes its way into the index (https://lnkd.in/gFvUF5g), this could be very problematic.
Add to that a higher duration of Agency MBS if rates increase and prepayments slow (extension risk).
This all looks like a huge amount of interest rate risk for investors with very little upside. The solution: talk to your Portfolio Manager.
Saving and Investing for Retirement
As you age, saving and investing for retirement should take on increasing significance and should rank higher on your list of priorities. This is especially true if you lost out on the opportunity to maximize your retirement savings by starting to save from your early twenties or thirties. Nevertheless, with self-discipline and a fool proof plan of action, you can still manage to set aside a nice nest egg for your retirement if you act immediately.
Swift action is particularly important for the self-employed and other professionals. This is because these individuals may not automatically fall under the umbrella of a structured retirement savings and investment plan such as a 401(k). The implications are that deliberate efforts must be made to save and invest for retirement purposes and the onus is on the individual to create and execute a viable retirement plan. However, you should not allow yourself to be forced into investing in a plan that offers high levels of returns without ascertaining for yourself what the risks are.
There are several individual retirement account (IRA) options that are available for the self-employed. The key is to choose one that will work based on your particular retirement goals, risk tolerance and timeline. It may be a good idea to discuss your retirement goals with an experienced Certified Financial Planner or advisor. The closer you get to retirement, the less of your investment dollars you should allocate to riskier investment vehicles such as stocks. Once you hit 45 years, your retirement portfolio should ideally be concentrated on fixed income instruments such as treasury bills and government bonds. The trade-off is that the income is essentially guaranteed but the returns are likely to be lower. It is better to have a smaller return on your capital than to lose your retirement capital.