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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘Government Accountability Office’

GAO Report Touts Annuities in Uncertain Retirement Environment

Posted by William Byrnes on March 26, 2012

Want some free marketing material for your annuities business? Look no further than the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which recently released a report touting annuities for their ability to provide retirement income sufficiency in an increasingly uncertain environment.

The GAO recommends that retirees delay their receipt of Social Security Benefits and either draw down savings and purchase an annuity or select annuity options from their defined benefit (DB) plan instead of electing to receive their benefits in a lump sum.

According to the GAO, the shift from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution (DC) plans like 401(k)s necessitates a heightened focus on annuities and other options for guaranteeing income during retirement . And even if workers are saving more for retirement through their DC plans, they are still at greater risk than employees with DB pensions.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of annuities in Advisor’s Journal, see How Much to Allocate to Annuities: A Critical Analysis (CC 11-109) & Drama Over the “Drawbacks” of Annuities (CC 11-62).

For in-depth analysis of the taxation of annuities, see Advisor’s Main Library: A—Amounts Received As An Annuity & B—Amounts NOT Received As Annuities.

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Target Date Funds on Top of the Defined Contribution World

Posted by William Byrnes on April 8, 2011

Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? This topic discusses a relatively new form of retirement investment offered by companies to their employees. The topic presents information about target date funds, what they are, who may use them and how they work. The defined contribution retirement market is a prime location for wealth managers to earn fees and commissions. Thus, staying informed about new market updates is provided to give managers an edge when exploring retirement benefits.

The Government Accountability Office recently published a report stating that financial security of millions of Americans in their retirement years will substantially depend on their savings in 401(k) and other defined contribution (DC) plans. [1]The GAO notes, to help ensure adequate financial resources for retirement, participants in DC plans should make adequate contributions during their working years and invest contributions in a way that will facilitate adequate investment returns over time.

To that end, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) included various provisions designed to encourage greater retirement savings among workers eligible to participate in 401(k) plans, such as provisions that facilitate plan sponsors’ adoption of automatic enrollment policies. [2]

Under such policies, eligible workers are automatically enrolled unless they explicitly decide to opt out of participation. Because an automatic enrollment program must also include a default investment—a vehicle in which contributions will be invested absent a specific choice by the plan participant—the act also directed the Department of Labor to assist employers in selecting default investments that best serve the retirement needs of workers who do not direct their own investments. Since that time, target date funds (TDF)—that is, investment funds that invest in a mix of assets, and shift from higher-risk to lower-risk investments as a participant approaches their “target” retirement date—have emerged as by far the most popular default investment.

TDFs are designed to provide an age appropriate asset allocation for plan participants over time.    However, target date funds vary considerably in asset structures and in other ways, largely as a result of the different objectives and investment philosophies of fund managers. In the years approaching the retirement date, for example, some TDFs have a relatively low equity allocation—35 percent or less—so that plan participants will be insulated from excessive losses near retirement. Other TDFs have an equity allocation of 60 percent or more in the belief that relatively high equity returns will help ensure that retirees do not deplete savings in old age.

TDFs also vary considerably in other respects, such as in the use of alternative assets and complex investment techniques. In addition, allocations are based in part on assumptions about plan participant actions—such as contribution rates and how plan participants will manage 401(k) assets upon retirement—which may differ from the actions of many participants. These investment differences and differences between assumed and actual participant behavior may have significant implications for the retirement security of plan participants invested in TDFs.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

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Highlights of the GAO Financial Audit: Bureau of the Public Debt’s Fiscal Year 2010

Posted by William Byrnes on March 20, 2011

Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? Presents discussion on the national debt and national future financial outlook. A client wants to know what YOU think about Treasury Notes versus other types of government debt, even foreign government debt.  An understanding of the annual federal national deficit, and its impact on the federal national debt, will provide you a helpful starting point to educate your client, without providing investment advice.

We thought an introduction to the current economic condition would therefore be appropriate.  As of September 30, 2010, the federal debt managed by Bureau of the Public Debt totaled about $13,551 billion primarily for borrowings to fund the federal government’s operations.  A Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study recently showed the Federal Debt balances consisted of approximately (1) $9,023 billion as of September 30, 2010, of debt held by the public and (2) $4,528 billion as of September 30, 2010 of intragovernmental debt holdings. [1]

Debt held by the public primarily represents the amount the federal government has borrowed to finance cumulative cash deficits.  To finance a cash deficit, the federal government borrows from the public.  When a cash surplus occurs, the annual excess funds can then be used to reduce debt held by the public.  In other words, annual cash deficits or surpluses generally approximate the annual net change in the amount of federal government borrowing from the public.

Intragovernmental debt holdings represent balances of Treasury securities held by federal government accounts, primarily federal trust funds, that typically have an obligation to invest their excess annual receipts (including interest earnings) over disbursements in federal securities.

The federal debt has been audited since fiscal year 1997. Over this period, total federal debt has increased by 151 percent.  During the last 4 fiscal years, managing the federal debt has been a challenge, as evidenced by the growth of total federal debt by $5,058 billion, or 60 percent, from $8,493 billion as of September 30, 2006, to $13,551 billion as of September 30, 2010.

The increase to the federal debt became particularly acute with the onset of the recession in December 2007. Reduced federal revenues and federal government actions in response to both the financial market crisis and the economic downturn added significantly to the federal government’s borrowing needs.  And, due to the persistent effects of the recession, experts believe federal financing needs remain high.  As a result, the increases to total federal debt over the past three fiscal years represent the largest dollar increases over a three year period in history.  The largest annual dollar increase occurred in fiscal year 2009 when total federal debt increased by $1,887 billion.

During fiscal year 2010, total federal debt increased by $1,653 billion.  Of the fiscal year 2010 increase, about $1,471 billion was from the increase in debt held by the public and about $182 billion was from the increase in intragovernmental debt holdings.

During fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, legislation was enacted to raise the statutory debt limit on five different occasions.  During this period, the statutory debt limit went from $9,815 billion to its current level of $14,294 billion, an increase of about 46 percent.  Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI


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Wall Street Reform Act Mandates Study of Financial Planning Industry

Posted by William Byrnes on October 26, 2010

The federal government is taking the first steps toward regulating financial planners. The Financial Planning Association and other industry groups are welcoming the prospect of federal oversight. The federal push toward regulation is motivated by a perceived widespread misuse of “Financial Planner” and other similar designations.

The Wall Street Reform Act requires the Government Accountability Office to study state and federal regulation of persons who hold themselves out as financial planners. The study will consider whether there are regulatory gaps in federal and state law that permit unregistered financial planners and others who provide planning services to escape regulation. The use of �misleading titles, designations and marketing materials� by financial planners will also be scrutinized to determine whether current law adequately protects consumers.

Read this complete article at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act in Advisor�s Journal, see Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (CC 10-35)Hedge Fund Must Now Register with the SEC Under the New Wall Street Reform Act (CC 10-45), & The Federal Insurance Office.

We invite your questions and comments by posting them at AdvisorFYI or by calling the Panel of Experts.


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