employer retirement plan

A Ripple Is a Full Circle Is a Ripple

photo shows overlapping ripples expanding in a pool with blue and yellow tones of water

A rare thing happened recently, an event more than four decades in the making.

Early in my career, making loans was part of my job at Louisville State Savings. One of those loans helped a trade-school graduate buy tools. He was 19 years old and ready to go to work and live on the fruits of his labor. We completed the paperwork at 130 Main—just down the street from where I am now.

This week a 60-year-old man came in to see me at 228 Main. He wanted to get his 401(k) plan rolled over so he could retire and live on his capital.

It was that trade school graduate, back to visit me at the other end of his career.

I was honored to be there at the start, and the finish, of this fellow’s career. It was a greater honor to hear him talk about his experience.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, “when you might have moved to Florida. I don’t want to deal with an 800 number or a computer. I like to be able to come in and sit and talk.” It was about more than his preferred methods of doing business, though.

It was about having someone to be there with him as he navigated his goals. He continued, “I need somebody that understands what I’m trying to do. You were here when I was starting out, you’re here now, and I hope you’re here for a long time to come.”

I have long suspected that every interaction can make ripples that expand to the end of time. We leave tracks wherever we go. The seeds we plant with our words and deeds grow into things we could never imagine at the time. I had a small part in getting some tools into the right hands. That young man setting out no doubt changed many people’s lives throughout his career. And who knows what that help enabled them to do?

I guess what I am trying to say is, life compounds.

Satisfaction is not exactly the emotion I’m feeling, but it’s something like the deep contentment of knowing I’m in the place I’m supposed to be, making the difference I can. Isn’t that what people want out of life, more than anything? To know they make a difference?

Start to finish—it seems like a full circle. But really, one thing leads to another, and another, and another. I’ve been a lot of places, but now I’m in the one with the best view of life, compounding.

Clients, if you want to talk about the next thing to which your life is leading, email me or call.


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Happy Roth Year!

We’ve got Roth IRAs on the brain. Why? How would you like to never, ever pay income tax on investment gains and dividends and interest on some fraction of your money? Oh—and your beneficiaries never would either. Well?

That’s the magic of the Roth IRA, properly used.

Every single person may convert existing IRA or rollover balances into a Roth IRA, by paying income tax on the converted amount. Many believe income taxes will rise in the years ahead, above the scheduled increases in the current law.

Anyone may do a conversion of the amount they choose from existing IRA or rollover accounts, although other factors determine whether you are also eligible to contribute as much as $7,000 for 2021.

Here are some reasons that people are using this technique:

It allows folks to take advantage of the perhaps low tax brackets they are in currently: why leave the 12% or 22% or 24% bracket partly unused if you believe your tax rates will be higher in the future?

It provides a bucket for your most dynamic investments, where gains will never be taxed.

It offers balance to your retirement assets, between traditional “pay tax later” accounts and Roth “pay tax now” accounts. This reduces future RMDs (required minimum distributions) and increases your cash flow flexibility.

Like so much of life, we cannot know the future, so we simply do the best with what we do know. “A little of this, a little of that” may be a prudent way to deal with uncertainty. Future tax rates, future investment results, and your future cash flow needs are all unknown. So it might make sense to take a middle-of-the road approach—and build more flexibility into your retirement situation.

Roth conversions go by calendar year, so if you would like to talk about your options, please call or email us in the next few weeks.


Traditional IRA account owners have considerations to make before performing a Roth IRA conversion. These primarily include income tax consequences on the converted amount in the year of conversion, withdrawal limitations from a Roth IRA, and income limitations for future contributions to a Roth IRA. In addition, if you are required to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) in the year you convert, you must do so before converting to a Roth IRA.


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Working? Here’s Some Basics.

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What has been the biggest factor in helping people end up financially sound in retirement?

In our opinion, it is the availability of retirement plans in the workplace. This article is a primer on the high points. If you are on the job, this may be key information for you.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans have a number of features that may help people build wealth. They go by different names (401k, SEP, SIMPLE, 457, TSA, 403b etc.) but generally share these features:

1. Once you sign up, you invest automatically every payday. It takes no effort or thought month to month—you put your asset-building on autopilot when you enroll.

2. The arithmetic of pre-tax retirement plans can be compelling. For some, for every $5 they contribute, their paychecks may only go down by $4. Taxable income goes down, so your income taxes go down. A potential tax break for the working person—imagine!

3. Some employers match your contributions to some extent. A fifty-cents on the dollar match means if you put in $5, your employer will add $2.50. That’s like a 50% return on Day One! (Employer contributions may be subject to vesting, so you might not keep the whole match unless you stay on the job for up to five years, for example.)

We are always happy to talk to you about your situation, and how you might use an employer plan to get you where you want to go. But here are a couple of rules of thumb. These are general pointers that may or may not fit you, but some have found them useful:

First, saving 10% of everything you ever make is a good way to start on a sound retirement. If you aren’t there and cannot contribute that much, ratchet up your savings rate by 1% a year if you can—every year. Some clients make a habit of putting raises (or half of them) into the plan, or increasing their contribution rate by 1% per year.

Second, if you are a long way from retirement, you can afford to take a long view with the investments you choose for the plan. Why take a short term view on money you probably won’t spend for many years, or even decades? But the choice is yours—most plans give you options.

Clients, call or email if you would like to talk about your situation or any other pertinent topic.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.