Featured Retirement Plan Provider: TIAA

The A&M System has 6 retirement plan providers to choose from to further invest in your future. Each Benefit Briefs issue, we will feature a retirement vendor. This month’s feature is TIAA.

TIAA has options for Tax Deferred and Roth accounts available on their TAMUS website – http://www.tiaa-cref.org/tamus/. Find out more about their offerings and their various retirement plans.

Join their webinar about saving for your ideal retirement. Find out how retirement savings, planning and the real benefit of time are essential features of retirement investments.

When: February 17 at 2 p.m. (CST)
Subject: Tomorrow in Focus: Saving for your ideal retirement
Register: Https://tiaa.org/webinars/

TDA/DCP Contribution Limits for 2021

The maximum contribution limit for participants under the Tax-Deferred Account Program (TDA) and the Texa$aver 457 Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) will remain $19,500 in 2021 for each plan. The catch-up contribution limit for each plan for participants who are 50 years of age and older will remain at $6,500.

A chart listing the calendar-year contribution limits through 2021 is available on the Retirement Programs website here.

Survivor Benefits for TRS

It’s never pleasant to think about our mortality, but TRS members can take comfort knowing that their designated survivors will be provided with benefits. This video takes a look at the two types of death benefits – retiree survivor benefits and active member death benefits.

To view more videos in this series, visit the TRS Member Education Videos page on the TRS website

4 Steps to Spending Your Stimulus Check Wisely

4 Steps to Spending Your Stimulus Check Wisely

Most Americans don’t have an emergency fund. While we’re all experiencing this pandemic very differently — some having only minor inconveniences and others finding themselves without a job or having to close their business — those without a savings cushion are vulnerable to feeling the ramifications of COVID-19 for a very long time.
There will be tough financial decisions to make once you receive your stimulus check. Here are active steps you can take, along with things to consider to help you develop a solid spending plan.

1. Make a list of all expenses

Write out every single expense that you have, including essentials like food and utilities. Be sure to go through your checking and savings account history to make sure you don’t have any “vampire” expenses, like monthly subscriptions that you may have forgotten about and no longer need.

2. Talk to all creditors and lenders

The CARES Act puts into effect two mortgage relief provisions: protection from foreclosure, and a right to forbearance (pausing or making partial payments) for those experiencing loss of income due to COVID-19. However, the provisions are not automatic and are only for federal loans, so you MUST talk to your lender.

If a creditor/lender offers you a payment plan or other relief, make sure you get it in writing and take note of the names and dates of the customer service representatives with whom you speak.

Thankfully, some utility companies have announced they won’t cut off services if they aren’t being paid. Be sure you know all of your utility and service providers’ stance on this, so there are no surprises. You don’t want to make any assumptions.

3. Prioritize expenses

Expenses relating to food, shelter, and medicine should come first. This would include mortgage, rent, utilities, groceries, diapers, and medications. It also includes medical insurance premiums and homeowners/renter’s insurance.

If you need childcare to work, that is another essential expense. Next in line are auto-related expenses, including transportation, gas, insurance premiums, and car payments.

Loans that are secured by collateral (for example, mortgages and auto loans) are generally considered more important than those without collateral, like consumer credit card debt. For example, if you don’t pay your mortgage, a bank can foreclose on your property; if you don’t pay your car loan, the bank can seize your car. While not paying your credit card bills will negatively affect your credit score, credit card companies will not come into your house and take your personal possessions.

Federal student loans are currently not accruing interest until September 30, 2020, and can be put into forbearance so that no payments are due. If you have a private or institutional loan, you will have to contact the lender for other options.

Remember, if you can afford the minimum payments on your credit cards, then make those payments. It will help to maintain your credit score.

Expenses for “elective” items, like gym memberships, streaming services, and other subscriptions, come last. Before simply canceling a contract, make sure to contact the vendor – canceling may come with a hefty penalty, but you may be able to temporarily “pause” the service.

4. Pay your debts in the order of priority.

Now that you know all your expenses, have prioritized them, and know your payment options with creditors and lenders, it’s time to make the payments in order of priority.

It’s important to note that many are still receiving their tax refunds now, too. If you receive a refund, you can apply the same process to that extra income.

If you are still unsure or are overwhelmed with where to start, use our decision tree for guidance on what to do with your stimulus check and tax refund.

Source: Americasaves.org

Worried About the Market? Don’t panic.

Worried About the Market? Don’t panic.

Because of current events, you may be tempted to sell off your assets after watching the market go down one day, then up the next. Resisting the urge to react to volatility, however, may allow you to benefit when it recovers. Instead, consider worrying more about the factors you can control, like how much you are saving and consider putting more of your attention toward constructing a portfolio that reflects your risk tolerance and your long term retirement planning strategy.

Understanding the market cycle may be a key factor to getting the most out of your investment goals. Disciplined investing and managing your reaction to a bad market day or week could be the best hand you can play. Systematic investing does not ensure a profit nor guarantee against loss. Investors should consider their financial ability to continue their purchases through periods of low price levels. Watch this video provided by one of the A&M System retirement vendors, Voya Financial, to help make better decisions regarding your assets during this turbulent time.