Industry Trends

What Financial Advisors Need to Know About the SECURE Act


On Dec. 17, the House of Representatives approved the current appropriations bill which contains the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The Senate is expected to approve the bill and send it to President Trump for his signature by Dec. 20 to prevent a government shutdown.
Some provisions will take effect as early as Jan. 1, 2020.

This is a significant piece of legislation that makes numerous changes to the retirement system. The goal is to make it easier for businesses to offer retirement plans and for individuals to save for retirement.

Among those changes are:


Multiple employer plans or pooled employer plans

  • Allows two or more unrelated employers to join a pooled employer plan
  • Elimination of “one bad apple rule” and nexus requirement should encourage adoption
  • Effective for plan years after Dec. 31, 2020

Employer-based plans are easier to adopt and more tax friendly

  • Tax credits for small employer plan startups
  • Easing of requirements for pooled employer plans
  • Deadline for plan adoption moves to the due date of the tax return – versus (current) end of calendar year. This effectively allows employers to retroactively start a plan if they recognize the advantages prior to filing tax returns.

Part-time employees included in 401(k) plans

  • 401(k) plans are required include employees with either one year of service of 1,000 hours, or three consecutive years of service with 500 hours
  • The employer may exclude such employees from nondiscrimination testing
  • Effective for plan years after Dec. 31, 2020.

Encourages annuity products inside employer-based plans

  • Provides a safe harbor for selecting an annuity provider – effectively, some basic due diligence upfront eliminates an employer’s liability for a carrier’s subsequent failure.
  • Rules to ease portability of lifetime income products between plans or to IRAs.
  • Plan participants must annually receive a lifetime income disclosure. The disclosure would illustrate the monthly payments the participant would receive if the total account balance were used to provide lifetime income streams, including a qualified joint and survivor annuity.

§72(t) distributions

  • Waives §72(t) penalty for pre-59½ plan distributions used for childbirth or adoption expenses up to $5,000.
  • Waives §72(t) penalty for pre-59½ plan on qualified disaster distributions up to $100,000. Income tax on a qualified disaster distribution can be spread over three years.

529 Plans

  • Up to $10,000 of 529 plan money can be used to pay off student debt. An additional $10,000 can be used to pay student debt for each of the plan beneficiary’s siblings.
  • 529 plan money can be used to cover costs associated with registered apprenticeships.

RMD start age

  • The required minimum withdrawal start age is raised from age 70½ to age 72
  • Applies only to individuals who have not attained age 70½ by Dec. 31, 2019.

Maximum contribution age

  • The age cap for contribution to an IRA, which used to be age 70½, has been eliminated


Inherited IRAs

  • For other than “eligible beneficiaries” of DC plans and IRAs, balances must be distributed in full to must be distributed by the end of the 10th calendar year following the year of death.
  • There will be no required minimum distribution during the first 9 years.
  • Eligible beneficiaries are surviving spouse, disabled, chronically ill, not more than 10 years younger than owner, and minor children.

This last item, the change to inherited IRAs, is significant in that it essentially eliminates the “stretch IRA” strategy. Under current law, if an IRA or DC plan owner names a child or grandchild as beneficiary, once they inherit the plan, they can use their own life expectancy to calculate the required minimum distributions. For those with significant QRP assets, the “stretch” keeps RMDs low and thus maximizes the opportunity for tax-free growth.

Now, instead of a young beneficiary taking distributions over several decades, all the assets will be distributed (and taxed) within 10 years. In cases where the inherited IRA has a six-figure balance, the beneficiary may well be pushed into a higher income tax bracket as a result of the distribution.

In many cases, a more tax-efficient wealth transfer strategy will be for the IRA owner to use the after-tax proceeds of lifetime distributions to fund a life insurance policy. The life insurance death benefit is received by the beneficiary income-tax free and can partially or fully offset the IRD (income with respect to a decedent) tax liability on the remaining IRA balance. To eliminate the IRD tax, distributions could be increased to fund a policy giving the beneficiary the desired inheritance, and any remaining IRA balance can be left to a charity.

Note: Loss of “stretch distributions” also impacts those families who had planned to leave QRP assets in so-called conduit trusts. The language of such trusts will likely need to be revised.

Ash Answers

As with any legislation, it will take time to fully understand the impact on our industry. Changes to the industry are part of why we exist. We're committed to providing you with multiple solutions, concepts and products through a consultative approach to case design. We help guide you, so you can effectively guide your clients.

If you have questions specific to your clients, please reach out to our Advanced Markets team. Whatever the question, whatever the need. Ash Answers.

About the Author

As Senior Advanced Markets Consultant at Ash Brokerage, Steven Gates uses his analytical expertise to support advisors who serve high-net-worth clients, including business owners. Using customized modeling options, he helps create life insurance-driven strategies for wealth transfer, business protection and charitable leverage. In his consultant capacity, he will also identify other strategies that may be beneficial for the client while meeting the advisor’s objectives.

SECURE Act Legislation Retirement RMD 529 Plans

Get JourneyGuide Software at a 10% Discount


JourneyGuide started as an idea at Ash Brokerage. Today, it functions as its own separate entity, with a retirement income planning software unlike others in the industry.

When looking to add a new planning tool to our retirement platform, there were three things it had to accomplish:

  1. Improve the retirement outcomes for clients
  2. Grow an advisor’s business
  3. Show how annuities fit into a retirement plan

JourneyGuide does that. As Ash's retirement solutions platform quickly approaches $2 billion in annual annuity deposits, it's important to add value and help document why an annuity is in the best interest of your clients. We evaluated several market-leading financial planning tools. JourneyGuide won on sales capacity, simplicity and speed.

No matter what the model – RIA, independent or broker-dealer – advisors using JourneyGuide have increased their annuity proposals. Some even doubled their annuity sales. The interface is easy to use and allows you to show how the annuity works in the clients’ best interest. You can develop an annuity-inclusive retirement plan, collaboratively with your clients, in under 15 minutes. Your clients will be able to visually see the impact it has on their portfolio.

I could go on and on, but here’s the bottom line: I prefer completing a plan in real time with the client, proposing more guaranteed income using annuities, and winning more business as a result. It’s tested, and it works.

Through your Ash team, you can now get JourneyGuide at a 10% discount. You can read more about our selection process in the official press release. More importantly, you should reach out to your Ash Retirement Income Consultant for details on how to get signed up.

Everything we do centers on helping you grow their business. The JourneyGuide team shares that vision, and now you can too.

Year in Review: The numbers that mattered in 2017


In business, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. Sales goals, margins, expenses, etc. – a lot of those reports come across my desk. But as 2017 comes to a close, I find myself focusing at some figures more than others. 


Inspired by Dave Sheridan at Protective Life Insurance, I wanted to share some data that maybe doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Here are three numbers:


  • 28,498
  • $16.6 billion 
  • 6,866


I’ll give you a couple hints. The first and third figures come from all lines of business combined. The second is from our life insurance division. You don’t have to guess – here are the stories behind them. 


  • Ash Brokerage protected 28,498 people in 2017. That’s nearly 30,000 lives impacted by our work. If you add in the families of those individuals, the number is exponentially bigger. The peace of mind we provide is immeasurable. 
  • We placed $16.6 billion in life insurance face value. That’s $16.6 billion to help families in times of crisis. To pay for college. To keep them in their homes. To let them continue on without their loved ones. It’s truly priceless. 
  • The last number is YOU, our advisors. We had 6,866 advisors submit business with Ash Brokerage in 2017, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Without you, those other figures would not exist. You’re the ones on the front lines, caring for your clients. Thank you. 


As we embark on a new year, these numbers will stay etched in my mind. We’re in this business because we care. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. Every. Single. Day. 


I’ll leave you with some words that I’m sure you’ll read again and again in 2018 … these words are my promise, and the promise of every person on our team: Whatever the question, whatever the need. Ash Answers. 

First Impressions: Internships at Ash Brokerage


Around here, interns don’t just sit on the sidelines – they’re in the game working with some of the best in the business! We want to help grow the next generation of professionals because we know they’ll help us grow in return.


We recently asked our interns an important question: What was your first impression of Ash Brokerage? We’re flattered by what they had to say!


Piercen Harnish, Rotational Co-op:

I like that everyone is treated as a valuable member of the Ash team. Even as an intern, I got to jump right into the deep end and help fill a role within the company. 


Shelby Richardson, Accounting Co-op:

Of course, the cool new building left an awesome first impression, but the people are what really left a lasting impression on me. Everyone was very welcoming and made me feel like this is right where I belong! Not to mention their passion for their work and dedication to helping others.


Seth Lugibihl, Developer Intern:

Everyone at Ash Brokerage has been extremely welcoming since day one. The people here are a close-knit community that are passionate about their work with a strong vision for the future.

Nicholas Wybo, Help Desk Intern:

Coming from a manufacturing environment, I was thoroughly impressed with Ash. The environment change was almost overwhelming. Extremely impressed with the consistency of infrastructure. I was used to working with companies who priorities were not keeping up to date with computer systems. This would make my job extremely difficult. All in all, it’s a great company and I look forward to continuing my work here.


Michael McDaniel, Developer Intern:

People at Ash work together to create good results in a professional manner, employees want to see each other succeed; they receive any question and are happy to help! Overall, Ash seems like a great place to learn and work!


Austin Ash, Protection Sales Intern:

I never imagined that so many of my co-workers would become my friends. 


Want to see what they’re talking about? Make your own first impressions by applying to join our team. See our current openings at: 

Internships Careers Insurance

Raising Hammers, Funds and Awareness: Women Build 2017


Several months ago, more than 40 women of Ash Brokerage raised their hands. They joined together to help build new homes – and new lives – for local families. 


Our team, “Big Ash Hammers and Heels,” was part of 10th annual Habitat for Humanity Women Build, where all-female teams from the area came together to volunteer, raise funds and create awareness for Habitat in a special way. 



Did you know …?

Before you hear about our team’s experiences, you should know a few things about Habitat for Humanity. First of all, it’s not a hand out – it’s a hand up. Contrary to popular belief, the homes built by the organization are NOT free. The families who are selected for the program pay zero-interest mortgages, making the dream of homeownership possible for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. They are required to take classes on personal finance and put many hours of “sweat equity” into their home and the homes of other families in the program. 


The Greater Fort Wayne program is unique in that it has created a community of homes at Fuller’s Landing, a subdivision off Cook Road. The plot of land was donated to Habitat several years ago and has 110 lots. So far, they’ve built 28 homes with a goal to finish 10 more in 2017. 


The idea of building a community was based off a similar program in Nashville, where they realized that Habitat families have a special bond and tend to look out for each other. They also made sure to add a front porch to every home because studies show that front-porch communities tend to have lower crime rates. 


The Fort Wayne program is so popular – and there is such a need – there are already 27 families on a three-year waiting list. For now, they’ve had to close the application process. 


Two other fun facts about Habitat in Fort Wayne: 

  • The ReStore sells new and used items to the public. If you’re looking to upgrade your home, you can buy or donate construction materials, doors, paint, windows, furniture, carpet, lighting and more! The store is located on Wells Street, but they just broke ground on their new Lima Road location. For more information, check out:
  • As part of Habitat’s international program, for every home built in Allen County, a home is built at an affiliate in El Salvador. Fort Wayne also sends a team to El Salvador once a year to help build.


Thanks for your support!

In addition to volunteering at Fuller’s Landing for a day, the members of Big Ash Hammers and Heels were tasked with raising money to support Habitat for Humanity. Here are the final results of our efforts: 

  • Gold Canyon Candles: $340 
  • Taco Tuesday with Club Soda: $750 
  • Team Website: $1,465 
  • Jeans Day: $610
  • Ash BBQ Day: $1,692
  • Total: $4,857



Making memories while making an impact

We asked our Women Build participants to share a bit about their work with the project. Some had previous experience with the Women Build or other Habitat builds, but for many, it was their first time volunteering. Their stories are both inspiring and entertaining!


Haley Chaires

Learning about Habitat for Humanity and what they REALLY do was inspirational in and of itself. I learned how to hang siding and soffit, how to install cabinet doors and adjust/level them, and they even trusted me with a nail gun – yikes! The two team leads I worked with weren’t experienced: one was a retired software/IT guy and the other was a school teacher. Just like me, they didn’t really have experience when they started their volunteer journey – they’re just giving their time to a family that in the end is going to have a real home to call their own! 


Funny note: Everyone thinks having to listen to “safety” and wear the hard hat and safety glasses is annoying, but let me tell you why they do it. Not 10 minutes into working, Jessica Garman wacked me across the head with a two-by-four. Thank GOODNESS I had a hard hat!



Kristy Holland

I signed up to raise money to support Habitat’s mission and give back to an amazing cause that impacts so many lives. Last year was such a great experience that I wanted to be a part of Ash’s team again this year and raise some money! BIG THANKS to Ash for allowing us to make a BIG IMPACT for Habitat for Humanity families in Fort Wayne! 


This year I was able to experience electrical work. (NO LIVE WIRES!) We ran cable and phone lines. (Yes, they can have a real telephone in their home.) We finished all the outlets and made sure they were ready for inspection, which was the following day. I later found out we passed! 


Julie Johnson

The most memorable thing about our workday was the amount of mud and rain we were dealing with. It created an extra challenge, but it really contributed to our feeling of solidarity as we all dealt with it together. We created walkways over mud with extra boards, we warned each other about puddles as we walked blindly with dry wall, and all of us took turns trudging through the thick muddy spots to get to our materials. By the end of the day, we had embraced the rainy chaos and felt like we really worked hard and well together. 


Jessica Garman

  • I learned how to put up siding and install cabinet doors!
  • Haley Chaires and I had a little trouble with the nail gun! It was very touchy, and we had many attempts trying to get it right! Needless to say our muscles were sore the next day!
  • I signed up because I love getting to work with other women here at Ash that I might not know well. I also like giving back to the community and knowing that I am making an impact on a family’s life!


Melissa Fearnow

It was pretty cool to get to meet the homeowner, who stopped by while we were working on her home. A lot of great people working together to make dreams happen – I would 100 percent encourage others to volunteer at least once. I can’t even put into works how humbling the experience was. I am definitely looking forward to going back.


Laura Dagle

I learned a couple of things while working on the house, one from my crew chief and one from my personal experience:

  • The work done by the volunteers is often superior to that of a “regular” house build because of cost. If a volunteer makes a mistake, it is corrected. If a paid worker makes a mistake, it is sometimes overlooked because “time is money.”
  • SPF 50 is no match for Irish skin when placed in the sun for even limited amounts of time ….


Carrie Scheiber

This was my second year volunteering for Habitat, and each year I feel like I enjoy it more. All of the site leaders were so friendly and encouraging. It was also neat because I found out that one of the leaders knew my dad, so I enjoyed making that connection with him. I would encourage others to volunteer because just think about how important your own home is to you and the smile on someone’s face when they receive their new home which they’ve worked so hard for. It can really change a family’s life. 


Becky Rogers

This was my third try with the Habitat group. The first time was totally unorganized so we just stood around, second time got rained out but, as they say, the third time is a charm. Kristy Holland and I worked inside a house running electrical, telephone and cable wiring. Our “supervisor/instructor” was wonderful – he is an instructor for the electrician’s apprentice program. In addition to giving good instruction and letting us roll after that, he shared the story of the homeowner we were doing this work for. She takes care of her niece who is disabled, and this house represents a permanent home for her. I am very familiar with losing it all, building back up, and finally being able to purchase a home of my own (in my case, again). These are amazing stories, and it is an amazing organization with volunteers doing work from the heart. I will definitely do it again next year!


Cindy Dawson

Once we were on site, I realized that one of the houses we were going to be working on was actually for a girl who graduated high school with my daughter and is now a single mother. She comes from a great family, so I was so excited to be able to help build her and her daughter a place to call their own. Pretty powerful stuff!


My funny takeaway: Our team job on build day was to put up siding, so being able to learn that skill was pretty cool … I tell everyone I can now side a house, but only the bottom 5 feet – you’re responsible for the rest! (No ladders for this girl!)



Casey Whitcomb

This is my fifth time volunteering for a Habitat build; however, it was the first time I learned that this isn’t charity per se. It is way for people who have had it rough to stand back up and take hold of their finances. This is an organization that offers a chance to own a home to someone who wouldn’t be considered otherwise. I thought it was amazing that the homeowner not only volunteers time toward building someone else’s home, but also takes budgeting and finance classes, and saves for a down payment. I appreciate that this organization isn’t giving a hand out, but a hand up. I am glad to have been a part of that.   


Diana Hoffman

Our build day was overcast, rainy and muddy from rains during the week – not at all what I wanted for this day. As we walked from the host house to the build site, even though I had on a rain poncho, I still got pretty wet. I was thinking, “Great what a way to start my day!” The day ended up being educational, fun and fulfilling. I got on the electrical team, and Bruce the foreman showed us how to install electrical boxes and run the wiring. He emphasized to us to look at this house like we were going to live here – well, that put a different light on things! While putting electrical boxes in the kitchen, my team discovered some of the boxes weren’t all the same height from where the kitchen counter would be – so we redid three of them and made sure the rest around the counter were all the same height. 


After lunch we went outside (it had stopped raining). We sorted and restacked usable materials and threw trash away. You guessed it – our shoes got pretty muddy! Our team even took a picture of our muddy shoes! I can’t remember the last time I have been so muddy that it was a chore to pick up my foot – it actually was fun! Being a small part of the big project was an awesome way to help women get affordable housing – and now I have electrical experience as well!


Robin Schuller

The women’s build was such a great experience! We all worked extremely hard as a team, and it was truly rewarding to know all of our efforts were for others. I left with a great feeling of accomplishment and could hardly move the next day from running the air gun most of the day – I used muscles that hadn’t been worked like that in a while!


We think Angie Patterson sums it up nicely:

It was a great experience. When you combine helping others with enhancing friendships, the result is nothing but joy.


Habitat for Humanity Volunteering Community Service