The SECURE Act was signed into law by President Trump in December and went into effect on January 1st of this year. The new law was intended to expand opportunities for individuals to increase their retirement savings, but also brings about some significant changes to retirement and financial planning.
Here are the two most important changes along with six notable provisions that you should know about regarding the SECURE Act: 1) Increased Access to Retirement Plans for Small Business Owners and 2) The Elimination of the Stretch IRA.
1. Increased Access To Retirement Plans For Small Business Owners: The SECURE Act expands the ability for small businesses to offer retirement plans because it allows small-businesses to pool resources with other small businesses to offer 401(k) plans at lower costs. This piece of the legislation could help more small businesses take advantage of employer-sponsored plans. This is good policy. If you are a small business owner, we encourage you to reach out to us to see how this may affect your business.
2. Elimination Of The Stretch IRA: One of the biggest changes from the Secure Act comes from the elimination of the “stretch” IRA on inherited retirement accounts. This means that younger beneficiaries can no longer stretch the distributions over their lifetime, but now must distribute the entire account within 10 years of the account owner’s death. This does not apply to spouses who inherit their deceased spouse’s IRA or minor children of a deceased account owner.
The elimination of the stretch provision presents significant changes, including the need to review current estate plans to avoid unintended consequences. This change may require you to look at other options for giving retirement accounts to your beneficiaries. Roth Conversions, life insurance and charitable trusts may now look a lot more attractive in light of the new laws.
In addition to what we just shared, there are six notable provisions from the new law:
1. Age Limit Removed For IRA Contributions: There is no longer an age cap on contributions to a traditional IRA. Before the SECURE Act, there was an age cap of 70 ½ for contributing to a traditional IRA. Individuals who continue to work can now continue to save for retirement in an IRA, regardless of their age, as long as they have earned income.
2. Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Age Extended to 72: The SECURE Act delays RMDs from retirement accounts until age 72 (up from 70½). Anyone who is over 70½ must continue taking RMDs.
For those under 70 ½. this extension basically means that investors have a longer time horizon to keep their investments tax-deferred in their IRAs… and this has direct implications on how you should be investing your taxable assets to produce income in retirement.
3. Penalty-Free Withdrawals For New Parents: The SECURE Act now allows new parents to pull up to $5,000 from their retirement plans penalty-free, if they do it within a year of the birth of a child or adoption. Income taxes will still apply to any withdrawals from a traditional retirement account, but this provision allows new parents to pull money from their retirement plan to pay for some of those first-year child expenses and not incur any penalties.
4. Student Loan Repayment Through 529 Savings Plans: Individuals can now withdraw up to $10,000 from 529 savings plans to make student loan payments. This is a small step forward in helping Americans manage the growing costs of college education by empowering the 529 plan with one more tool to help students.
5. Retirement Plan Conversion To A Lifetime Annuity: Retirement accounts can now be converted to a lifetime annuity. Essentially, this piece of the legislation gives investors the ability to lay off their longevity risk onto an insurance company who will gladly take on that risk for a healthy annual premium that they collect from investors. This is good in that it gives investors another option, but it also puts them at risk of being taken advantage of by insurance companies.
6. Lifetime Income Disclosure For Defined Contribution Plans: Employers are now required to disclose to employees the amount of sustainable monthly income their balance could support in their 401(k) statements. This is not a big deal, but it could be a helpful resource for investors as they look for guidance on how to prepare for retirement.
If you take away anything from this article, take away this: The Secure Act has essentially pushed you to review your retirement and estate plans to make sure they take advantage of the good provisions of the new law while employing strategies to mitigate the bad provisions of the new law.