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When considering how to achieve your financial objectives, do you know what options make sense for  you? Financial situations are as unique as we are. Finding the best way to achieve your objectives requires a personalized approach. If you're considering an IRA, let us help you explore the wide range of possibilities.

What is an IRA?

An IRA, or an Individual Retirement Account, is a program you set up for yourself to invest for, and provide income during, retirement. The Account can be either a Custodial Account or an Annuity and both options offer different features to help you achieve your financial goals.

A Custodial Account may include mutual funds, stocks, bonds and certificates of deposit (CDs), among other investments. An Annuity is an insurance contract that can offer types of investment vehicles such as the ability to choose guaranteed return (fixed) options and the opportunity to purchase guaranteed death benefits and other income options. However, these insurance options typically come with higher fees. Guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Annuities may be subject to additional fees and expenses to which other tax-qualified funding vehicles may not be subject. You'll want to compare features and costs and determine the best arrangement for your own situation.

Boost your earnings potential

No matter what type of arrangement you choose, you'll receive one of the most powerful features of an IRA – either tax deferral or tax-free distributions. That means you'll pay no current income taxes on your investment earnings, until you withdraw money – or pay no taxes on investment growth even when you withdraw money. Either way, more of your money works for you.

And, depending on your situation, you may also be able to claim a deduction and/or a credit for the contributions on your income tax return.  The overall contribution limit for 2014 is $5,500 ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older). Just remember, if you withdraw money from your IRA before age fifty nine and a half, you may be subject to an IRS premature distribution penalty tax, unless an exemption applies.

Which IRA is Right For You?

There are three different types of IRAs – Traditional IRA, Rollover IRA and Roth IRA – and each have  distinct features and benefits.

You are able to open a Traditional IRA, and if eligible, deduct those  amounts on your income tax return. Contributions to a Traditional IRA are subject to annual contribution limits.

When leaving an employer, a participant has options with their retirement plan. They may leave the money in the current plan, cash out the account value, roll over the assets to a new employer plan, or roll over to an IRA.

A Rollover IRA is designed to accept dollars from certain tax- deferred employer retirement plans. A Rollover IRA isn't subject to the contribution limits of a traditional IRA – you can roll your entire account (and even other Traditional IRAs and qualified plan assets) into it. A direct rollover into this type of IRA protects your retirement benefits from the penalties and current taxes that apply to certain plan distributions.

When rolling over to an IRA, a participant should consider various factors such as: Investment options, fees and expenses; services; penalty-free withdrawals; protection from creditors and legal judgments; required minimum distributions; and employer stock.

A Roth IRA allows you to invest post-tax dollars, but your investment earnings can accumulate tax-free. If you've had the account for five or more years and are at least age fifty nine and a half or meet other specified criteria, you won't pay any taxes on withdrawals.

The chart on the right will help you compare your options. For additional information, please see IRS Publication 590 at www.irs.gov.

Making sense of investment options within IRAs

You have many investment options for any type of IRA you choose:

Mutual Funds offer the benefits of professional money management, automatic diversification and asset allocation. They offer a wide range of risk/reward characteristics which allow you to select the funds that best meet your investment goals and risk tolerance. Costs can include sales charges and operating expenses.

Variable Annuities contain investment options that offer a wide variety of potential risk and reward characteristics and allow you to develop a customized investment strategy. Because Variable Annuities are insurance contracts, you can purchase other options, such as a guaranteed death benefit or guaranteed income benefit. An annuity also offers added flexibility to withdraw your money at retirement, including guaranteed benefits for a period of time, or the rest of your life (and your spouse's life, if you choose), so you don't outlive your money. Variable annuities are subject to market risks and fees and charges for the insurance contract and the investment options, and may include deferred sales charges for early withdrawals. Please consult with your financial professional to determine if these investment products are right for you. Guaranteed benefits are based on the claimspaying ability of the issuing company.

Fixed Annuities may be more appropriate for investors who value consistency and predictability over the possibility of growth. These IRAs, also offered by insurance companies, feature principal, investment income and minimum rate guarantees. Generally, minimum rates are guaranteed for a certain period of time and will not fall below a guaranteed rate.

DISCLAIMER: Not FDIC/NCUA/NCUSIF Insured - Not a Deposit of a Bank/Credit Union - May Lose Value - Not Bank/Credit Union Guaranteed - Not Insured by Any Federal Government Agency.

You should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the variable product and its underlying fund options; or mutual funds offered through a retirement plan, carefully before investing. The prospectuses/prospectus summaries/information booklets contain this and other information, which can be obtained by contacting your local representative. Please read the information carefully before investing.

This article is © 2014 Voya Services Company. All rights reserved.