Many of our clients manage their own cash balance plan investments. Questions always arise regarding how to invest the plan assets and how to achieve the stated rate of return. What strategy or options are available to the business owner?
First of all, we are not investment advisors. We can’t tell you how to invest plan assets. But we can give you some overall guidance on how you should approach the process.
In this guide, we will offer up some strategies and point out a few investment pitfalls. The goal is to give you a realistic idea of what you should consider.
Table of contents
Why do investment returns matter?
Cash balance plans do not allocate a participant’s assets to any specific individual. Trustees maintain and invest all of the assets, including the account balance.
While gains reduce the company’s contributions over time, losses do not affect the Participant’s balances. Participants can receive their benefits in a lump sum or equivalent annuity. These plans are usually used in combination with other retirement savings plans.
There are two common types of cash balance plans, market-based and not. Traditional cash balance plans involve a participant getting pay credits, and the plan grows the credits through interest credits.
These interest payments are fixed or tied to a bond index. Therefore, if the market is going down, the funds in the plan will go down. These strategies are not suitable for a large number of participants. In addition, they are more complicated and can result in a loss.
Asset gains and losses are allocated within the plan according to initial costs and allocated assets. This means that actuarial gains (rates of return that exceed the assumed 5% rate of return) will reduce future contribution requirements.
On the other hand, actuarial losses (for rates of return below 5%) will increase future contributions. Contribution levels can be further adjusted by periodically adjusting the benefit level for a participant to the extent permitted by section 415 and other statutory limits.
How should a cash balance plan be invested?
In a cash balance plan, the assets are invested in a variety of instruments. Some are conservative, while others are risky. For example, you could consider investing in U.S. Treasury bonds, which have a long-term average of 2% to 4%.
This type of investment strategy is more appropriate for a business owner than a retiree. If the business owner’s salary is not enough to pay for the retirement plan, the plan’s cash balance account will help him fund the plan.
A cash balance plan is similar to a 401(k) plan, but it differs in several ways. The IRS classifies these plans as defined benefit plans, which expresses benefits in terms of the current account balance.
The amount of money an individual has in their Cash Balance Plan increases annually with an annual contribution credit and interest. If the market is high, the amount of money will increase with each year’s fixed interest rate. The employer’s ongoing contribution will be capped at $20,000, which decreases the tax deduction for the company.
How to invest assets in a cash balance plan
If your company is offering a cash balance plan, it is likely that your company will be paying a certain percentage of the employee’s salary. Typically, this will be 4% to 5% annually. But the IRS offers other interest crediting rate options.
If your business has a cash balance plan, you can invest your money in a number of different investments that will give you a predictable rate of return. However, the market’s volatility can affect your investments, and you will have to compensate for this by adjusting your retirement contribution.
Cash balance plans are defined contribution plans. The employer makes regular contributions to the cash balance plan. The funds are then invested in the stock market. While a defined contribution plan is a good option for most employers, a cash balance plan is a hybrid plan that offers the best of both worlds.
Conversely, the cash balance plan would require additional funding if investment earnings fall below the interest credit rate. If this happens, you need to make up the difference to safeguard the guaranteed benefits. Spending more could impact your firm’s operations and cash flow negatively.
Your firm’s TPA (third party administrator) or actuary would recommend investing in fixed income assets like treasury bills or bond funds like all fixed-income mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). While these options present risks, they offer more stability than equities.
Bond & fixed-income investment strategy
If you want a guaranteed income stream, investing in bonds is a great choice. There are a few things to consider when choosing a bond. The first thing to remember is that interest rates can go up or down during the duration of the bond.
Fixed rate bonds provide a stable income stream and diversify your portfolio. Indexed bonds, on the other hand, protect your portfolio from inflation. An index bond is tied to a specific index, such as the consumer price index. As long as the index increases over time, the coupon payments increase along with the face value.
While stocks are traded on a centralized market, bonds are not. Instead, they are traded over the counter and are not publicly traded on an exchange. You can purchase a U.S. Treasury bond directly from the government or buy one through a broker.
Bonds can be purchased at a discount or at a premium over face value. Some investors may choose to use a financial advisor to purchase bonds. However, bond investing is not for everyone. So, buying in a mutual fund might be one of your best options.
While investing in bonds has its benefits, there are a few things to keep in mind before you make your investment. First of all, you should be aware of the risk of rising interest rates. While you may not make money right away by holding bonds, you could lose your investment if interest rates rise.
Another thing to consider is the rate of inflation. While interest rates are not directly tied to bond prices, they do affect the value of your bonds. Rising interest rates can depreciate your investments and reduce your income, and you should avoid trying to time the market with your investment.
Building a diversified investment portfolio
The initial mix of stocks and bonds will depend on your risk tolerance and return goals. Conservative dividend investments can help you find the right balance between diversification and income safety. Here are some tips to get started:
The best conservative dividend investments tend to be well established, stable businesses with a history of increasing dividend payments. These stocks offer a low-stress place to park your cash during market downturns. If the dividend yield is high, you’ll have even more incentive to invest in them. These companies are likely to be stable and grow over time. But be sure to check for other characteristics and options.
While the return on investments may be lower than that of start-ups, large-cap companies usually have a stable financial condition and consistently pay dividends. These companies have weathered several economic cycles. They could account for fifteen to twenty percent of your portfolio strategy.
Mid-cap companies have a higher growth potential than large-cap companies, but they also carry more risk. Mid-cap companies have a greater growth potential, and while they may outperform the broader market, they’re not a good place to place your money unless you’re looking for a very low-risk strategy with minimal volatility.
The market is still down, but the technology sector has led the way higher since March’s lows. While the real economy remains weak, there are several dividend-paying sectors that are largely unaffected by the lockdown restrictions.
Although the vaccine news has boosted energy and finance stocks, the ongoing conflict in Europe and persistent high inflation have weighed on these stocks. In addition, many investors are putting all their money into the energy sector, and this could be a great strategy today. But markets can change.
How much control do I have over the investment options?
It looks like a defined contribution plan, but it is treated as a defined benefit plan in the Internal Revenue Code. This means that the employer must make contributions to fund the benefit promised to its employees.
If you’re planning to retire early, it’s wise to invest in stocks. You may be surprised at the high rate of return that stocks offer, and this can help you make a good living. A cash balance plan is a great way to save money for your future.
If you’re thinking of investing in it, you’ll want to consider the tax advantages it offers. If you’re an employer, a Cash Balance plan is a great way to boost your financial security.
In a cash balance plan, the employer contributes a certain amount each year, which is deposited prior to the business’s taxes. The formula for the contribution credit can vary for both employees and business owners.
The annual funding formula for a cash balance pension plan depends on the demographics of employees and the goals of the company. This is an important decision for many reasons, including tax compliance. It will affect the amount of money a participant will receive at retirement.
|Good Investments ✅||Be Careful ❌|
|Balanced mutual funds||Real estate|
|Diverse stock portfolios||Bitcoin & cryptocurrency|
|Bonds and mortgages||Private notes|
|Commercial paper||Aggressive growth stocks|
As you can see, a cash balance plan can be a great option for many small business owners. But questions and complication do exist regarding investment choices.
Make sure you keep your plan assets conservatively invested and keep the aggressive growth portion of your retirement assets in your 401(k) or IRA. Even though assets returns should be more conservative, you will find that a cash balance plan can be excellent for your tax planning.