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The Weekly Flyer: Monday, September 25th, 2023

The Markets

How high will they go?

Just as the market anticipated, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) chose not to raise interest rates last week. However, Fed officials made it clear another rate increase might be necessary before the end of 2023 as continued economic strength, higher energy prices, robust consumer spending, and rising wages in a strong labor market have kept upward pressure on inflation.

FOMC economic projections indicate the Fed anticipates the effective federal funds rate will remain higher for longer than many hoped. The median projected rates were:

  • 5.6 percent in 2023,

  • 5.1 percent in 2024, and

  • 3.9 percent in 2025.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated that an economic soft landing – a slowdown in economic growth that results in lower inflation without a recession – remains a possibility, reported Howard Schneider and Michael S. Derby of Reuters.

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers warned that any expectation for a soft landing might be too optimistic as significant risks remain, including upward pressure on wages, slowing consumer spending, and higher borrowing costs, reported Chris Anstey of Bloomberg. As a result, it’s possible the Fed could be surprised by weaker economic growth or higher inflation.

After the FOMC meeting, yields on bonds moved higher. The yield on a one-year United States Treasury bill finished Wednesday at 5.47 percent, and the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note closed at 4.35 percent.

U.S. stock markets moved lower as investors considered the potential effects of high interest rates for longer. Rising interest rates (and tightening bank lending standards) make borrowing more difficult, lifting the cost of capital and lowering profits. When company profits drop, share price valuations tend to move lower, reported Mary Hall in Investopedia.

As investors mulled the Fed’s outlook, the possibility of a government shutdown, and other factors, major U.S. stock indices finished the week lower, according to Barron’s. Yields on U.S. Treasuries generally moved higher over the week.

THE RULES WILL CHANGE IN 2026. Since 2001, workers who are age 50 or older have been able to make catch-up contributions to their workplace retirement plans. As the name implies, the idea was to help people who are behind on saving for retirement catch-up by saving more. For example, if older plan participants reach the annual contribution limit of $22,500, then they can choose to contribute an additional $7,500 in catch-up contributions.

However, Secure 2.0 changed the rules for higher-income earners, reported Paul Mullholland in PlanSponsor.

Plan participants who earn $145,000 or more each year will no longer be able to make catch-up contributions to traditional plan accounts. Instead, higher-income earners in 401(k) and similar types of retirement plans must direct any catch-up contributions to Roth plan accounts.

As a reminder, contributions to traditional plan accounts are typically made with pre-tax dollars so they may help reduce the amount of taxes owed today. In addition, any earnings in traditional plan accounts grow tax deferred. Taxes are owed when a distribution is taken.

In contrast, contributions to Roth plan accounts are made with after-tax dollars. While there is no immediate tax benefit, the contributions and any earnings grow tax-free. Distributions are tax-free, too, after the account has been open for five years and the owner has reached age 59½.

The change was originally slated for 2024. However, many workplace retirement plans don’t have designated Roth accounts, which presents a problem for higher-income earners who want to save more. To give plan sponsors and administrators time to adjust to the new rules, the change will now take place in 2026.

Secure 2.0 also included an opportunity for older retirement plan participants to supercharge their savings efforts. In 2025, participants who are between the ages of 60 and 63 can make bigger catch-up contributions – either $10,000 or 50 percent more than the regular catch-up contribution amount for the year.

If you have any questions about retirement plan contributions or how to generate enough income to live comfortably in retirement, please get in touch.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“[In retirement] we do have something we never had before: we have the added pressure of time. We can no longer wait around for the ideal opportunity. If we have not achieved our early dreams, we must either find new ones or see what we can salvage from the old. If we have accomplished what we set out to do in our youth, then we need not weep like Alexander the Great that we have no more worlds to conquer. There is clearly much left to be done, and whatever else we are going to do, we had better get on with it.”

—Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president

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