At the very end of March, the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill known as Secure 2.0. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 414-5 vote. The House version still needs to pass in the Senate, where there are differing ideas on exactly what the bill should contain. There is strong support, so it is less of a question of if Secure 2.0 will become law than what exact version.
The Secure 2.0 bill in any version aims to help Americans save for retirement through a variety of mechanisms and changes in tax law. Here are some highlights of what the bill hopes to accomplish and how. We’ll also note differences between the House and Senate plans throughout.
Sign Up More Workers for Retirement Plans
One way the House version of the bill aims to help people save for retirement is to simply get them into a plan. The law would automatically enroll workers in 401(k), 403(b) and SIMPLE IRA retirement plans in their workplace; however, they can opt out. It’s been shown that most people simply won’t take action, meaning they won’t enroll if they have to proactively sign up – and similarly won’t opt out. The Senate version does not require auto enrollment, but it does give companies incentives to structure plans so that they auto enroll workers.
Auto enrollment in the House version starts at three percent contributions and increases yearly until participants are contributing 10 percent of their pay. Business with 10 or fewer employees are exempt.
Encourage Small Employers
Workplace retirement plans come with administrative, financial and legal burdens just to set up and offer the plan. This is before any type of employer contributions and is often a roadblock to small employers offering plans to their employees. To help encourage small employers, the bill offers a retirement plan start-up tax credit of 100 percent for the first three years to cover these costs.
Bigger Catch-Up Contributions
Right now, 401(k) plan catch-up contributions for workers 50 and older are capped at $6,500 for 401(k) plans. Both the House and Senate versions offer to increase these amounts, but in different ways.
The House version increases 401(k) catch-up contributions up to $10,000 for those 62, 63 or 64 starting in 2024. A more generous version is offered by the Senate, allowing the same $10,000 limit but to all who are 60 or older.
There is a “catch” to the catch-up, however. Under both versions, all catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans will be treated as Roth contributions; i.e., after tax contributions beginning in 2023. Currently, workers can make the contributions on either a pre-tax or post-tax (Roth) basis.
Push-Out Mandatory Required Distributions
The House version would extend the age for taking required minimum distributions (RMD) from retirements plans from 72 up to 75, incrementally over 3 years (73 in 2023, 74 in 2030 and 75 in 2033).
The Senate plan raises the age to 75 by 2032 and also waives RMDs entirely for those with less than $100,000 in aggregate retirement savings. It also reduces the penalty for not taking RMDs down to 25 percent (currently 50 percent).
Expand Employer Matching
The way the vast majority of retirement plans work is that employees contribute a portion of their salary and then the employer contributes a matching amount of 50 percent or 100 percent of what employee saves (up to a limit). The Secure 2.0 bill proposes to make student loan payments qualify as deferrals the same as plan contributions. This means that if you make student loan payments, your employer can now make a matching contribution to your retirement plan account even though you are not actually making any contributions into the plan itself. This is not a requirement, but an option for employers.
Create a Lost and Found for Retirement Plans
It’s common for workers to lose track of retirement plans from previous jobs when they move and change jobs. The bill would create a national lost and found to aid people in locating plans they may have inadvertently left behind or forgotten about.
In whatever form the final bill takes shape, it will give Americans more options to save for retirement and expand access to workplace plans.
According to the January 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey, there’s been a shift in what workers want post-pandemic. The report found that in Q4 of 2021, 78 percent of workers from six industrialized companies wanted location flexibility. The survey also found that 95 percent desired schedule flexibility. This is in light of the same survey finding that 72 percent of employees desire greater flexibility from their current places of employment. Those same workers reported that if they can’t find more flexible arrangements, they would seek out another employer that provides greater flexibility – compared to 57 percent expressing the same desire in Q3 of 2021.
According to a December 2017 Gallup report titled, “Thinking Flexibly About Flexible Work Arrangements,” along with helping develop and keep high-performing workers, creating and improving a flexible workplace also intensifies the tie workers have to their employer, as well as reducing employer expenses. While lowering costs is always attractive, it’s important to understand that not every role or type of business will have the same implementation opportunities.
When businesses formulate their flexible working arrangement, employers and employees must be on the same page, have clear expectations, and a way to measure that work is being completed in a manner similar to that in office. One important consideration is ensuring that remote employees are treated with the same consideration for potential promotions, projects, etc. Do managers and senior executives maintain the same level of treatment of employees whether someone comes into the office or works remotely and at different hours?
As for jobs that cannot be performed remotely, flexibility may not be very realistic. However, businesses can offer employees compensatory approaches to flexibility. Examples include a relaxed dress code and the ability, within reason, to choose lunch and break times. Employers also may offer the option for both an open floor plan and traditional office space to provide variety that leads to creativity and innovation.
Additionally, employers can create digital spaces where in-person workers can communicate with co-workers to discuss covering and switching shifts in their work schedules, helping them attend to their personal lives better and foster camaraderie. Businesses also can gamify employees covering each other shifts; for example, by offering a reward system if they take on extra shifts.
Permitting workers to select their preferred variety of tasks gives employees an awareness of freedom and can increase capabilities. By switching tasks within a pre-determined time frame or permitting employees to work at different offices or sites, employers can similarly provide a flexible working arrangement. This lets employees take on new responsibilities, workplace flows, and engage with different co-workers.
Variations on Flexible Working Arrangements
Another option is to work around employees’ personal circumstances. It could be a school system holding classes every other month or a mixed schedule. It also could take the shape of a four-day work week, whereby employees work 10 hours a day. This could similarly benefit families with children, parents, etc. that have medical or other special needs that can be addressed efficiently by a shorter but equally productive work week.
Splitting a Position
Having two (or more) employees perform duties of one full-time worker is called job sharing. This happens via employees performing a part-time schedule, combining to create a single full-time position. It’s able to satisfy the role of a full-time job while meeting the needs of workers looking for part-time work.
One consideration for employers to maintain compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for non-exempt employees with flexible work arrangements is to strictly monitor hours worked. According to the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive 1.5 times standard wages when they work beyond 40 hours within any continuous seven-day work week. Ensuring that workplace guidelines are crafted and implemented equally, as well as documenting the implementation, is one way to reduce the risk of discrimination claims.
While providing flexible working arrangements is unique to every business, offering it can provide many benefits, especially the potential to attract and retain high-performing staff.
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index rose by 8.5 percent year-over-year ending March 2022, leading most economists to agree that inflation is going to be with us for a while. With inflation seeming not to abate, at least in the near term, how will different types of investments react to inflation that is sustained and unknown when it will peak and begin to drop. Looking at a 2004 study from the Federal Reserve, an unexpected 25-basis point rate cut can be expected to see equities appreciate by one percent.
Defining Different Rates
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) sets the federal funds rate – the overnight rate at which banks borrow from each other. This undoubtedly will impact the economy and the domestic and global stock markets. While it can take months, if not more than a year, for a change in interest rates to have a universal impact, the stock markets see the impact sooner. This is opposed to the discount rate, which is the interest rate banks are charged when loans come from regional Federal Reserve Banks – the so called discount window.
One main reason the Fed adjusts the federal funds rate is to shape inflation. When the federal funds rate is raised, it is trying to reduce the money supply available for consumers and businesses. With less money available to circulate throughout the economy, it costs more to borrow money as interest rates rise.
Another important reason to keep an eye on the federal funds rate is due to the fact that the prime interest rate is based largely on the federal funds rate. Whether a mortgage, credit card or other personal or commercial loan, the prime interest rate is an influential factor in these lending vehicles’ interest rates. As the Fed Board of Governors explains, the prime rate is how each individual bank determines its own interest rates. Their unique prime rate is based on the target level of the federal funds rate, which is how much other banks charge them for short-term loans. Once the prime rate is established, it is used as a reference base rate for a multitude of lending products, including personal and commercial loans and credit card lines.
FOMC and Federal Funds Rate Adjustments
As the Federal Reserve increases its discount rate, short-term borrowing costs for financial institutions increase. Financial institutions in-turn are pushed to increase borrowing costs for companies and consumers. Whether it is a credit card or a mortgage, rates increase. The higher the interest rate, the less spending ability the account holder has. The account holder also sees higher bills via the higher interest rates. The higher the bills, the less money they can spend elsewhere, often impacting the economy.
Rising Rates and the Markets
Publicly traded companies can suffer in different ways. A company may bring in less revenue or have higher borrowing costs, cutting into its growth forecast or reducing its profits. Companies also may see lower growth expectations and a decline in future cash flow projections. Assuming no other changes, the stock price will likely fall. Depending on how severe the increase in interest rates, this can impact entire sectors – and depending on how much weight a particular company comprises within an index, an entire index.
Bond Market Dynamics and Interest Rate Fluctuations
Compared to corporate bonds, where bondholders are first in line to be paid if a company goes bankrupt, government securities, such as Treasury bills and bonds, are viewed as more likely to pay their investors back even in more challenging financial circumstances. This is because, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
As the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) gives an example, interest rates have a noticeable impact on bonds. Say a bond is sold for X and matures in Y years down the road with a Z percent coupon at par value. Twelve months later, interest rates have risen and another of the same type and amount of bond is issued at the same par value but is issued with a one or two percent higher coupon rate. Based on these two different bonds’ characteristics, the original bond is less attractive on the open market. If the original bondholder wants to sell a bond issued a year ago, he will have to sell for less than face value due to the more attractive interest rate of the newly issued bond.
While there is much uncertainty in the financial markets, including the FOMC and the bond and equity markets, understanding how past market moves have occurred can offer guidance to how increasing interest rate environments may evolve in this rate-tightening environment.
Starting in 2020, new legislation increased the age to begin Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from 70½ to 72. More recently, the IRS updated the Uniform Life Table for alignment with longer life expectancies. Note that it takes years for actuaries to work up new data for this table, and the recent changes do not reflect the downturn in life expectancies resulting from the pandemic. These updates were established pre-pandemic and scheduled to take effect in 2022.
The good news is that retirees who prefer not to withdraw from their retirement portfolios now have a couple more years of growth opportunity before they are forced to take distributions.
Because retirement portfolios fluctuate based on market performance, and your life expectancy changes with each year you continue to live, your RMD amount also changes each year. To calculate your annual RMD, you need your retirement plan’s previous year-end account balance and the most updated Uniform Life Table. To determine the correct amount, divide the year-end value by the estimated remaining years of your lifetime, based on your age on Dec. 31. This is the formula: Account balance ÷ Life expectancy factor = RMD.
The new Uniform Life Table is updated with a longer average life expectancy than the prior table, so the divisors have increased. This means that the amount required to be withdrawn is now reduced from what would have been required under the previous table.
The following are some guidelines to keep in mind when calculating, withdrawing and managing your required minimum distributions.
- Once you reach age 72, you have until March 31 of the following year to take your first RMD. After that, RMDs must be withdrawn before Dec. 31.
- An annual RMD may be taken as a lump sum, on as-needed basis or as regularly scheduled payouts.
- Consider that if you delay taking the distribution until the end of the year, your portfolio has more time to grow tax-deferred before you reduce the balance.
- As long as you don’t own more than 5 percent of the company you work for, you may delay taking RMDs from the retirement plan sponsored by your current employer as long as you continue working and contributing to the account. RMDs are not compulsory from that account until you stop working.
- If you have multiple IRAs, including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, you can withdraw the combined RMD amount from just one account (or any combination thereof).
- If you have multiple 403(b) accounts, you can withdraw the combined RMD amount from just one account (or any combination thereof).
- However, if you have multiple 401(k) accounts, you must withdraw RMDs from each account starting at age 72.
- Married couples may not combine their RMDs and withdraw them from one account.
- RMDs from an inherited IRA also may not be aggregated unless they were inherited from the same decedent.
- You do not have to take an RMD from a Roth IRA because the original contributions were already taxed.
- In the year you first quality for an RMD, it may not be a good to wait until March 31 of the following year to take it because you’ll have to take your second RMD by Dec. 31 of that same year. Two RMDs in one year could yield a substantially higher tax bill.
If you think saving money is a waste of time, think again. It all comes down to having the right mindset and strategy – even if you don’t have a penny to spare. Here are some ground rules that have proven effective for many. All you have to do is be willing to dive in, change your choices, and revisit the way you approach your finances.
Create a budget and track your expenses. Yes, you’ve probably heard this a million times and you might be thinking: how can I save money if I don’t have any? Here’s what you do. For the next 30 days, try this experiment: track every dollar that’s coming in and going out. Here are things to consider:
- Except for the basics, where did you spend?
- Were there items that were wants instead of needs that you might cut?
- Did you buy name brands or lower-cost options?
- How can you reduce your spending by 5 percent or 10 percent?
After you’ve digested all this, you’ll have a better picture of what’s going on. A good next step is to consider the zero-sum budget. This method gives every dollar a job and keeps money from slipping through the cracks. Yes, this is pretty micro – but it works.
Grow your income. This might sound like a beat-down since you’re already burning the midnight oil, but remember that this is temporary and a means to an end. If you have an extra room, you might think of renting it out for a few months. If this is outside your comfort zone, find a side hustle that’s fun like dog walking or pet sitting. Or think about jobs you can do on your computer like answering paid surveys. Part-time weekend jobs also are an option. Greeters at Costco make around $24 an hour!
Automate your savings. Again, you’ve heard this, but taking this money off the top before you even see it is key. You never see the money so you don’t ever miss it. And any amount saved can add up over time. Even $5 a paycheck can make a difference.
Have no-spend days. Of course, you have necessary expenses like food and shelter. But what about those days when you don’t want to cook and grab some drive-through grub? Or you see a Starbucks, your car turns around and suddenly, you’re there ordering a Double Mocha Frappuccino? Certainly, we all want – and need – treats every now and then. But be judicious about them because if you’re already broke, these spontaneous splurges can derail your savings dreams.
Sell things you no longer need. Start by cleaning out your closets and your garage. You’ll most likely find things you no longer have any use for, or want. Host a yard sale. Or even better, snap pics of your items and put them up on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist or Nextdoor. For more pricey things like clothes or jewelry, try Thred Up or Poshmark. You’ll be surprised how quickly this all adds up. Then put this money toward your savings or your debt. Slow and steady always wins the race.
Write down your 10-year lookahead. How do you want to be living a decade from now? On the beach? In a townhouse in a European city? Completely out of debt? All of your dreams, no matter how crazy, can absolutely be achieved. All you have to do is take the long view. Have tunnel vision about your destiny. What this all comes down to is daily financial decisions.
So now that you have a few ways to get ahead, it all comes down to you. Take a deep breath and be intentional – embrace this new way of living. When you see yourself making new choices and realizing what you can achieve by tweaking how you spend, there’s no stopping you.