Tag Archives: Financial Planning Orange County

Do You Know About These Tax Changes for Your 2018 Filings?

30 Oct

Late last year, federal tax laws underwent sweeping changes. Nearly a year later, you can be forgiven for not keeping up with them all. Here is a look at some important (yet underrecognized) adjustments that may affect the numbers on your 2018 federal return.1

First, most miscellaneous itemized deductions are gone. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated dozens of them through the year 2025. Tax preparation expenses? You can no longer deduct those. Expenses linked to a hobby that made you some income? In 2018, no deduction available. Legal fees you paid that were related to your work as an employee? No, you cannot deduct them. Chat with a tax professional; if your tax situation is complex, chances are some deduction, which you may have relied on, is history.1

Can you still claim a deduction for continuing education expenses? No. Some taxpayers used to present the cost of classes or training designed to expand or maintain their job skills as an unreimbursed employee business expense. Some would even claim a deduction for tuition paid toward their MBA. This is now disallowed.1

Employee vehicle use deductions are gone. You can no longer deduct unreimbursed travel expenses related to the performance of your job, and that includes mileage expenses stemming from the use of your car or truck. In response, some employees have asked their employers to set up “accountable” plans allowing them to receive tax-free reimbursements. (You will still find the deduction for certain types of business mileage on Schedule C, and you may still deduct miles you drive for medical purposes and in the service of qualified charitable organizations.)1,3

Speaking of mileage, the moving expense deduction has all but disappeared. Only active duty members of the military may take this deduction now, and only if the move is made in response to a military order.3

You can no longer claim personal casualty losses as itemized deductions. There is an exception to this. You can still deduct these losses in tax years 2018-25 if they occur due to an event that becomes a federally declared disaster (FDD). Unfortunately, most fires, floods, and storms are not defined as FDDs, and most theft has nothing to do with natural or manmade disasters.3

Fortunately, the standard deduction has almost doubled. It was slated to be $6,500 for single filers, $9,550 for heads of household, and $13,000 for joint filers; thanks to tax reform, those respective standard deduction amounts are now $12,000, $18,000, and $24,000. (The personal exemption no longer exists.)

How have things changed regarding charitable donations? There is less of a tax incentive to make them, because many taxpayers may just take the higher standard deduction, rather than bothering to itemize. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates total U.S. charitable gifting will fall to $20 billion this year, a 38% drop, due to the 2017 federal tax reforms. That said, there are still paths toward significant tax breaks for the charitably inclined.5

A traditional IRA owner aged 70½ or older can arrange a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from that IRA to a qualified charity or non-profit. The QCD can be as large as $100,000. From a tax standpoint, this move may be very useful. The donated amount counts toward the IRA owner’s annual mandatory withdrawal requirement and is not included in the IRA owner’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year of the donation.5

Some wealthy retirees are now practicing charitable lumping. Instead of giving a college or charity say, $75,000 in increments of $15,000 over five years, they donate the entire $75,000 in one year. A single-year charitable contribution that large calls for itemizing.5

Turn to a tax professional for insight about these changes and others. The revisions to the Internal Revenue Code noted here represent just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Additionally, you may find that the changes brought about by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act have given you new opportunities for substantial tax savings.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.www

Sources:

1 – marketwatch.com/story/the-little-noticed-tax-change-that-could-affect-your-return-2018-03-19 [9/19/18]

2 – cpajournal.com/2018/08/01/narrowing-the-casualty-loss-deduction/ [8/1/18]

3 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/03/26/taxes-from-a-to-z-2018-m-is-for-mileage/ [3/26/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/02/16/10-tax-changes-you-need-to-know-for-2018.html [2/16/18]

5 – kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T055-C032-S000-strategies-for-giving-to-charity-under-new-tax-law.html [10/1/18]

Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

31 Jul

We all know the value of a good credit score. We all try to maintain one, but do you know what factors the credit bureau considers when calculating your score? A few strategic tweaks can make a difference and help you improve your credit score over time.

  1. Reduce your credit utilization ratio (CUR). CUR is credit industry jargon, an arcane way of referring to how much of a credit card’s debt limit a borrower has used up. Simply stated, if you have a credit card with a limit of $1,500 and you have $1,300 borrowed on it right now, the CUR for that card is 13:2, you have used up 87% of the available credit. Carrying lower balances on your credit cards tilts the CUR in your favor and promotes a better credit score.1
  2. Review your credit reports for errors. You probably know that you are entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You might as well request a report from all three at once. You can do this at annualcreditreport.com (the only official website for requesting these reports). About 25% of credit reports contain mistakes. Upon review, some borrowers spot credit card fraud committed against them; some notice botched account details or identity errors. Mistakes are best noted via a letter sent certified mail with a request for a return receipt (send the agency the report, the evidence, and a letter briefly explaining the error).2
  3. Behavior makes a difference. Credit card issuers, lenders, and credit agencies believe that payment history paints a reliable picture of future borrower behavior. Whether or not you pay off your balance in full, whether or not you routinely max out your account each month, the age of your account – these are also factors affecting that portrait. If you unfailingly pay your bills on time for a year, that is a plus for your credit score. Inconsistent payments and rejected purchases count as negatives.3
  4. Think about getting another credit card or two. Your CUR is calculated across all your credit card accounts, in respect to your total monthly borrowing limit. So, if you have a $1,200 balance on a card with a $1,500 monthly limit and you open two more credit card accounts with $1,500 monthly limits, you will markedly lower your CUR in the process. There are potential downsides to this move – your credit card accounts will have lower average longevity, and the issuer of the new card will of course look at your credit history.1
  5. Think twice about closing out credit cards you rarely use. When you realize that your CUR takes all the credit cards you have into account, you see why this may end up being a bad move. If you have $5,500 in consumer debt among five credit cards that all have the same debt limit, and you close out three of them accounting for $1,300 of that revolving debt, you now have $4,200 among three credit cards. In terms of CUR, you are now using a third of your available credit card balance whereas you once used a fifth.Beyond that, 15% of your credit score is based on the length of your credit history – how long your accounts have been open, and the pattern of use and payments per account. This represents another downside to closing out older, little used credit cards.4

If your credit history is spotty or short, you should know about the FICO XD score. A few years ago, the Fair Isaac Co. (FICO) introduced new scoring criteria for borrowers that may be creditworthy, but lack sufficient credit history to build a traditional credit score. The FICO XD score tracks cell phone payments, cable TV payments, property records, and other types of data to set a credit score, and if your XD score is 620 or better, you may be able to qualify for credit cards. Credit bureau TransUnion created CreditVision Link, a similar scoring model, in 2015.5

At BrioWealth, we believe that financial planning should be done for the purpose of giving your life greater confidence, security and joy. That’s why we work closely with our clients to understand their personal goals and passions and build a plan around that. As retirement income specialists, BrioWealth helps our clients build wealth and create smart strategies for secure, sustainable retirement income. Call us at 877-606-1484 or visit http://www.briowealth.com to start creating your life enhancing financial plan!

Sources:

1 – investopedia.com/terms/c/credit-utilization-rate.asp [6/28/18]

2 – creditcards.usnews.com/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-finding-and-fixing-credit-report-errors [9/15/17]

3 – creditcards.com/credit-card-news/behavior-scores-impact-credit.php [11/9/17]

4 – creditcards.com/credit-card-news/help/5-parts-components-fico-credit-score-6000.php [11/9/17]

5 – nytimes.com/2017/02/24/your-money/26money-adviser-credit-scores.html [2/24/17]

 

Checklist for Managing Money Well as a Couple

24 May

When you marry or simply share a household with someone, your financial life changes – and your approach to managing your money may change as well. To succeed as a couple, you may also have to succeed financially. With a little communication, this is a very doable goal.

To start off, you will have to ask yourselves some money questions – questions that pertain not only to your shared finances, but also to your individual finances. Waiting too long to ask (or answer) those questions might carry an emotional price. In the 2017 TD Bank Love & Money survey consumers who said they were in relationships, 68% of couples who described themselves as “unhappy” indicated that they did not have a monthly conversation about money.1 So, grab your spouse (and maybe a glass of wine) and go through the questions below!

1. Talk about how you will make your money grow

Simply saving money will help you build an emergency fund, but unless you save an extraordinary amount of cash, your uninvested savings will not fund your retirement. Should you hold any joint investment accounts or some jointly titled assets? One of you may like to assume more risk than the other; spouses often have different individual investment preferences.

How you invest, together or separately, is less important than your commitment to investing. Some couples focus only on avoiding financial risk – to them, maintaining the status quo and not losing any money equals financial success. They could be setting themselves up for financial failure decades from now by rejecting investing and retirement planning.

An ongoing relationship with a financial professional may enhance your knowledge of the ways in which you could build your wealth and arrange to retire confidently.

2. Agree on how much will you spend & save

Budgeting can help you arrive at your answer. A simple budget, an elaborate budget, or any attempt at a budget can prove more informative than none at all. A thorough, line-item budget may seem a little over the top, but what you learn from it may be truly eye opening.

3. Decide how often you will check up on your financial progress

When finances affect two people rather than one, credit card statements and bank balances become more important, so do IRA balances, insurance premiums, and investment account yields. Looking in on these details once a month (or at least once a quarter) can keep you both informed, so that neither one of you have misconceptions about household finances or assets. Arguments can start when money misunderstandings are upended by reality.

4. Discuss the degree of financial independence you want to maintain

Do you want to have separate bank accounts? Separate “fun money” accounts? To what extent do you want to comingle your money? Some spouses need individual financial “space” of their own. There is nothing wrong with this, unless a spouse uses such “space” to hide secrets that will eventually shock the other.

Can you be businesslike about your finances? Spouses who are inattentive or nonchalant about financial matters may encounter more financial trouble than they anticipate. So, watch where your money goes, and think about ways to repeatedly pay yourselves first rather than your creditors. Set shared short-term, medium-term, and long-term objectives, and strive to attain them.

Communication is key to all this. In the TD Bank survey, 78% of the respondents indicated they were comfortable talking about money with their partner, and 90% of couples describing themselves as “happy” claimed that a money talk happened once a month. Planning your progress together may well have benefits beyond the financial, so a regular conversation should be a goal.1

At BrioWealth, we believe that financial planning should be done for the purpose of giving your life greater confidence, security and joy. That’s why we work closely with our clients to understand their personal goals and passions and build a plan around that. As retirement income specialists, BrioWealth helps our clients build wealth and create smart strategies for secure, sustainable retirement income. Call us at 877-606-1484 or visit http://www.briowealth.com to start creating your life enhancing financial plan!

Sources:

1 – newscenter.td.com/us/en/campaigns/love-and-money [1/2/18]

Smart Ways to Do Year-End Charitable Giving

26 Dec

If you are planning to make any year-end donations, you should know about some of the financial “fine print” involved, as the right moves could potentially bring more of a benefit to the charity and to you.

To deduct charitable donations, you must itemize them on I.R.S. Schedule A. So, you need to document each donation you make. Ideally, the charity uses a form it has on hand to provide you with proof of your contribution. If the charity does not have such a form handy (and some charities do not), then a receipt, a credit or debit card statement, a bank statement, or a cancelled check will have to suffice. The I.R.S. needs to know three things: the name of the charity, the gifted amount, and the date of your gift.1

From a tax planning standpoint, itemized deductions are only worthwhile when they exceed the standard income tax deduction. The 2017 standard deduction for a single filer is $6,350. If you file as a head of household, your standard deduction is $9,350. Joint filers and surviving spouses have a 2017 standard deduction of $12,700. (All these amounts rise in 2018.)2

Make sure your gift goes to a qualified charity with 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Also, visit CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org, or GiveWell.org to evaluate a charity and learn how effectively it utilizes donations. If you are considering a large donation, ask the charity involved how it will use your gift.

If you donated money this year to a crowdsourcing campaign organized by a 501(c)(3) charity, the donation should be tax deductible. If you donated to a crowdsourcing campaign that was created by an individual or a group lacking 501(c)(3) status, the donation is not deductible.3

How can you make your gifts have more impact? You may find a way to do this immediately, thanks to your employer. Some companies match charitable contributions made by their employees. This opportunity is too often overlooked.

Thoughtful estate planning may also help your gifts go further. A charitable remainder trust or a contract between you and a charity could allow you to give away an asset to a 501(c)(3) organization while retaining a lifetime interest. You could also support a charity with a gift of life insurance. Or, you could simply leave cash or appreciated property to a non-profit organization as a final contribution in your will.1

Many charities welcome non-cash donations. In fact, donating an appreciated asset can be a tax-savvy move.

Should you donate a vehicle to charity? This can be worthwhile, but you probably will not get fair market value for the donation; if that bothers you, you could always try to sell the vehicle at fair market value yourself and gift the cash. As organizations that coordinate these gifts are notorious for taking big cuts, you may want to think twice about this idea.7

 You may wish to explore a gift of highly appreciated securities. If you are in a higher income tax bracket, selling securities you have owned for more than a year can lead to capital gains taxes. Instead, you or a financial professional can write a letter of instruction to a bank or brokerage authorizing a transfer of shares to a charity. This transfer can accomplish three things: you can avoid paying the capital gains tax you would normally pay upon selling the shares, you can take a current-year tax deduction for their full fair market value, and the charity gets the full value of the shares, not their after-tax net value.4

You could make a charitable IRA gift. If you are wealthy and view the annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA as a bother, think about a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA. Traditional IRA owners age 70½ and older can arrange direct transfers of up to $100,000 from an IRA to a qualified charity. (Married couples have a yearly limit of $200,000.) The gift can satisfy some or all of your RMD; the amount gifted is excluded from your adjusted gross income for the year. (You can also make a qualified charity a sole beneficiary of an IRA, should you wish.)4,5

Do you have an unneeded life insurance policy? If you make an irrevocable gift of that policy to a qualified charity, you can get a current-year income tax deduction. If you keep paying the policy premiums, each payment becomes a deductible charitable donation. (Deduction limits can apply.) If you pay premiums for at least three years after the gift, that could reduce the size of your taxable estate. The death benefit will be out of your taxable estate in any case.6

You may also want to make cash gifts to individuals before the end of the year. In 2017, any taxpayer may gift up to $14,000 in cash to as many individuals as desired. If you have two grandkids, you can give them each up to $14,000 this year. (You can also make individual gifts through 529 education savings plans.) At this moment, every taxpayer can gift up to $5.49 million during his or her lifetime without triggering the federal estate and gift tax exemption.8

Be sure to give wisely, with input from a tax or financial professional, as 2017 ends.

At BrioWealth, we believe that financial planning should be done for the purpose of giving your life greater confidence, security and joy. That’s why we work closely with our clients to understand their personal goals and passions and build a plan around that. As retirement income specialists, BrioWealth helps our clients build wealth and create smart strategies for secure, sustainable retirement income. Call us at 877-606-1484 or visit http://www.briowealth.com to start creating your life enhancing financial plan!

Sources:

1 – tinyurl.com/y8dkleed [8/23/17]

2 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/10/19/irs-announces-2018-tax-brackets-standard-deduction-amounts-and-more/ [10/19/17]

3 – legalzoom.com/articles/cash-and-kickstarter-the-tax-implications-of-crowd-funding [3/17]

4 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-iras-distributions-withdrawals [8/17/17]

5 – pe.com/2017/11/04/its-not-that-hard-to-give-cash-or-stock-to-charity/ [11/4/17]

6 – kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T021-C032-S014-gifting-a-life-insurance-policy-to-a-charity.html [11/17]

7 – foxbusiness.com/features/2017/10/18/edmunds-what-to-know-about-donating-your-car-to-charity.html [10/18/17]

8 – law.com/thelegalintelligencer/sites/thelegalintelligencer/2017/11/02/with-2018-fast-approaching-its-time-for-some-year-end-tax-planning-tips [11/2/17]

 

Do You Let These Emotions Affect Your Financial Decisions?

30 May

Have you ever made a financial decision that you later regretted? Think back. Chances are, you can pinpoint the emotion that led you to make the decision. Emotions are powerful influencers that can cause us to overreact – or not act at all when we should. Consider these common emotional mishaps to avoid.

Sudden reactions to Wall Street volatility. In a typical market year, Wall Street can see big waves of volatility. This year, it has been easy to forget that truth. During the first third of 2017, the S&P 500 saw only 3 trading days with a 1% or greater swing – or to put it another way, 1% swings occurred just 3.5% of the time. Compare that to 2015, when the S&P moved 1% or more in 29% of its trading sessions.1

The 1.80% May 17 drop of the S&P this year stirred up fear in some investors. The plunge felt earthshaking to some, given the placid climate on the Street this year. Daily retreats of this magnitude have been seen before, will be seen again, and should be taken in stride.2

Fear and anxiety that also cause stubbornness. Some people have looked at money one way all their lives. Others have always seen investing from one perspective. Then, something happens that does not mesh with their outlook or perspective. In the face of such an event, they refuse to change or admit that their opinion may be wrong. To lose faith in their entrenched point of view would make them feel uneasy or lost. So, they doggedly cling to that point of view and do things the same way as they always have, even though it no longer makes any sense for their financial present or future. In this case, emotion is simply overriding logic.

Treating revolving debt nonchalantly. Some people treat a credit card purchase like a cash purchase – or worse yet, they adopt a psychology in which buying something with a credit card feels like they are “getting it for free.” A kind of euphoria can set in: they have that dining room set or that ATV in their possession now; they can deal with paying it off tomorrow. This blissful ignorance (or dismissal) of the real cost of borrowing can dig a household deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where drawing down savings may be the only way to wipe it out.

Putting off important financial decisions. Postponing a retirement or estate planning decision does not always reflect caution or contemplation. Sometimes, it reflects a lack of knowledge or confidence. Worry and fear are the emotions clouding the picture. What clears things up? What makes these decisions easier? Communication with professionals. When the investor or saver recognizes a lack of understanding, shares his or her need to know with a financial professional, and asks for assistance, certainty can replace ambiguity.

Emotions can keep people from doing the right things with their money – or lead them to keep doing the wrong things. As you save, invest, and plan for your future, try to let logic rule. Years from now, you may be thankful you did.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.    

Sources:

1 – nytimes.com/2017/05/09/upshot/the-stock-market-is-weirdly-calm-heres-a-theory-of-why.html [5/9/17]

2 – google.com/finance?q=INDEXSP:.INX&ei=6RMeWfG_JMO7euKQkagG [5/18/17]

Retirement Planning for Single Parents

23 Jan

shutterstock_160939274How should a single parent plan for retirement? Diligently. Regularly. Rigorously. The good news is that you have the autonomy to decide how you want to approach saving for retirement and how aggressive you want to be. Here are some steps that may help, whether you are just beginning to do this or well on your way.

Setting a household budget is an important first step. Most households live without budgets – and because of that financial inattention, some of the money they could save and invest routinely disappears. When you set and live by a budget, you discipline yourself to spend only so much and save (or invest) some of the rest. You need not track every single expense, but try and track your expenses by category. You may find money to save as a result.

Save first, invest next. If you are starting from scratch, creating an emergency fund should be the first priority. It should grow large enough to meet 6-9 months of living expenses. If no financial emergency transpires, then you will end up with a cash reserve for retirement as well as investments.

You may want to invest less aggressively than you once did. Young, married couples can take on a lot of risk as they invest. Divorcees or widowers may not want to – there can be too much on the line, and too little time left to try and recoup portfolio losses. To understand the level of risk that may be appropriate for you at this point in life, chat with a financial professional.

There is great wisdom in “setting it and forgetting it.” Life will hand you all manner of distractions, including financial pressures to distract you from the necessity of retirement saving. You cannot be distracted away from this. So, to ward off such a hazard, use retirement savings vehicles that let you make automatic, regular contributions. Your workplace retirement plan, for example, or other investment accounts that allow them. This way, you don’t have to think about whether or not to make retirement account contributions; you just do.

Do you have life insurance, or an estate plan? Both of these become hugely important when you are a single parent. Any kind of life insurance is better than none. If you have minor children, you have the option of creating a trust and naming the trust as the beneficiary of whatever policy you choose. Disability insurance is also a good idea if you work in a physically taxing career. Name a guardian for your children in case the worst happens.1

Have you reviewed the beneficiary names on your accounts & policies? If you are divorced or widowed, your former spouse may still be the primary beneficiary of your IRA, your life insurance policy, or your investment account. If beneficiary forms are not updated, problems may result.

College planning should take a backseat to retirement planning. Your child(ren) will need to recognize that when it comes to higher education, they will likely be on their own. When they are 18 or 20, you may be 50 or 55 – and the average retirement age in this country is currently 63. Drawing down your retirement accounts in your fifties is a serious mistake, and you should not entertain that idea. Any attempt to build a college fund should be secondary to building and growing your retirement fund.2

Realize that your cash flow situation might change as retirement nears. Your household may be receiving child support, alimony, insurance payments, and, perhaps, even Social Security income. In time, some of these income streams may dry up. Can you replace them with new ones? Are you prepared to ask for a raise or look for a higher-paying job if they dry up in the years preceding your retirement? Are you willing to work part-time in retirement to offset that lost income?

Consult a financial professional who has worked with single parents. Ask another single parent whom he or she turns to for such consulting, or seek out someone who has written about the topic. You want to plan your future with someone who has some familiarity with the experience, either personally or through helping others in your shoes.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.    

Sources:

1 – cnbc.com/2016/07/20/5-winning-money-strategies-for-single-parents.html [7/20/16]

2 – aol.com/article/2016/05/03/the-average-retirement-age-in-all-50-states/21369583/ [5/3/16]

 

 

How to “Rehearse Retirement” Before You Take the Plunge

30 Dec

shutterstock_439838155For most people, retirement is a huge shift in life as they know it. However, beyond planning the dollars and cents, few people take the extra step to “rehearse” what retirement might feel like. Your current job situation and flexibility will determine how far you can take this trial run, but here are a few steps to try before you actually retire.

Draw up a retirement budget & live on it for one, two, or three months. Make a list of essential expenses (groceries, gas, utilities, mortgage, medicines), and then a list of discretionary expenses (such as movie tickets, dinners out, spa treatments). This may reveal that you can live handily on less than what you currently spend each month.

Next, list your income sources for retirement. They might include Social Security benefits (depending on when you want to claim them), IRA Required Minimum Distributions, pension checks, dividends, freelance or consulting payments, or other revenue streams. Investment income is also in the mix here, so check with a financial professional to determine a withdrawal rate off of those accounts that you can safely maintain through your retirement. (It might differ slightly from the long-recommended 4%.) When you have your list, stack the projected total income up against your essential expenses and see how much you have left over.

Try living off of that level of monthly income for a month or more while you are still working. If it covers your necessary monthly expenses and not much else, then some adjustments in your retirement strategy might be needed – a housing change, a change in your retirement date.

 See how it feels to retire. Before you conclude your career, try to arrange some “previews” of your retirement lifestyle. If you want to serve your community, volunteer avidly for a month or two to get a taste of what daily volunteer work is like. If you see yourself traveling enthusiastically at the start of retirement, take a dream vacation or even a couple of consecutive trips (if your schedule allows) to see how they truly fit into your financial picture.

Your “rehearsal” need not be last-minute. If you think you will retire at 65, you could try doing this at 63, 60, or even before then. The earlier your attempt, the more time you have to alter your retirement plan if needed.

What else should you consider as you rehearse? Besides income, expenses, and the day-to-day retirement experience, there are a few other factors to gauge.

How much cash do you have on hand? Starting retirement with a strong cash position provides you with some insulation if you happen to retire during a market downturn. The possibility of a bear market coinciding with your entry into retirement may make you want to revisit your portfolio allocations as well.

Take a second look at your projected monthly income. Will it be consistent? If it will vary, you will want to address that. If you are in line for a pension, you will face a major, likely irrevocable, financial decision: should it be single life, or joint-and-survivor? The latter option would reduce your pension income in retirement, but give your spouse 50% or more of your pension payments after you die. Your employer might also offer you a lump-sum pension buyout; if that turns out to be the case, you will have to decide if the lump sum constitutes the better deal versus a lifelong income stream.1

How about your entry into Medicare? You may enroll in it at medicare.gov within a 6-month window of your 65th birthday (that is, beginning three months prior to your birthday month and ending three months after it). If you sign up before your birthday, you will be covered beginning on the first day of your birthday month. Sign up following your 65th birthday, and you may have to wait a few months for coverage to begin.2

If you plan to stay on the job after 65, sign up for Medicare Part A anyway (the part that pays for hospital care) within the usual 6-month window. It will not cost you anything to do so, and sometimes Part A makes up for shortcomings in employer-sponsored health plans. You can enroll in Part B and other Medicare component parts later – within eight months of your retirement, to be precise. You will want to pay attention to that 8-month deadline, as your premiums will jump 10% for every 12-month period afterward that you refrain from enrolling. If you pay for your own insurance, you will still need to enroll in Medicare when you are eligible (Medicare will make that coverage superfluous, so you can anticipate dropping it).3

Rehearsing for retirement can be very insightful. Some new retirees leave work abruptly only to have their financial and lifestyle assumptions jarred. As you want to make a smooth retirement transition to a future that corresponds to your expectations, test-driving your retirement before it begins is only wise.

Sources:

1 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C000-S002-put-your-pension-to-work.html [1/16]

2 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/get-parts-a-and-b/when-coverage-starts/when-coverage-starts.html [10/20/16]

3 – fool.com/investing/2016/09/18/5-tips-to-avoiding-common-medicare-missteps.aspx [9/18/16]

Protecting Your Parents From Elder Financial Abuse  

30 Aug

 

shutterstock_204442552We are becoming more familiar with the notion of financial abuse targeting elders – scams and other exploitation targeting the savings of people aged 60 and older – but many may think, “it won’t happen to my family” or “my relative is too smart to be taken in by this.”

These assumptions are only wishful thinking; this sort of fraud is on the rise, so it’s important to talk to your loved ones about what to look for, and how they can protect their finances.

More common than you think. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative offers a sobering statistic: in the United States alone, multiple studies have found that, every year, 3-5% of seniors endures financial abuse by family members. This form of exploitation is, typically, one of the top two most frequently reported means of elder abuse.1

Talk about money. It can be uncomfortable to talk with family about financial issues, but this is often the best first step toward guarding against financial abuse. Find out the information you would already need to know in the event of a sudden calamity.

Questions to ask include:

  • Where is the important paperwork kept – i.e. bills, deeds, and wills?
  • Who are the professionals they work with – accountants, lawyers, and those who assist with financial matters?2

It’s also important for you to have a clear idea in what sorts of accounts and investments your parents or loved ones keep their money. You will also want to have a conversation about when and under what circumstances they would like for you to step in and handle their finances for them.2

 Trouble takes many forms. Not all financial trouble that elders experience is necessarily a sign of abuse, but having open and clear communication can be a great help. Look for unpaid bills piling up, creditor notices, and suspicious activity on their bank accounts.2

There are a number of scams out there that target the elderly, in particular, and many of them come via telephone calls. There are scammers who pose as officials from a sweepstakes, lottery, or some other contest claiming that your parent or loved one is in line to receive a prize. Others will pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service and threaten legal action over some long-forgotten overdue balance. The real IRS only sends notices via regular mail, of course, but that can be easily forgotten when dealing with a wily and confrontational con artist.2

Talk about these scams with your parents or loved ones. Make sure that they understand that they shouldn’t give out Medicare or Social Security numbers, and always be absolutely certain before signing anything, particularly legal documents, contracts, and anything to do with making an investment. For the latter, if you don’t already know the people who handle your financial matters for your parents or loved ones, suggest that a meeting be arranged and, if necessary, that they be instructed to work with you under certain circumstances.2

 Stay informed. There are a number of resources to keep you and your parents or loved ones aware of fraud, both in terms of new scams and even instances of elder financial abuse in your area. StopFraud.gov offers a number of resources and tips for identifying and reporting the financial exploitation of elders. The AARP website features a Fraud Watch program and offers and interactive national fraud map that can look at specific reports and alerts from law enforcement.2,3,4

With careful planning and communication, you can make a real effort to protect your parents and other elders in your family from an embarrassing and costly set of circumstances.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – justice.gov/elderjustice/research/prevalence-and-diversity.html [7/14/16]

2 – nbcnews.com/business/retirement/worried-about-elder-financial-abuse-how-protect-your-parents-n559151 [4/20/16]

3 – stopfraud.gov/protect.html [7/14/16]
4 – action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FraudMap.html [7/14/16]

Should You Plan to Retire on 80% of Your Income?

30 Apr

shutterstock_296967869A classic retirement planning rule states that you should retire on 80% of the income you earned in your last year of work. Is this old axiom still true, or does it need reconsidering? Some new research suggests that retirees may not need that much annual income to keep up their standard of living.

The 80% rule is really just a guideline. It refers to 80% of a retiree’s final yearly gross income, rather than his or her net pay. The difference between gross income and wages after withholdings and taxes is significant to say the least.1

The major financial challenge for the new retiree is how to replace his or her paycheck, not his or her gross income. So concluded Texas Tech University professor Michael Finke, who analyzed the 80% rule last year and published his conclusions in Research, a magazine for financial services industry professionals. Finke concluded that the typical retiree could probably sustain their lifestyle with no more than 77% of an end salary, or 60% of his or her average annual lifetime income.1

Retirees need to determine the expenses that will diminish in retirement. Some examples include:

  • You will no longer be deferring part of your income to retirement savings. This could range from as little as 5% up to 25% of your income.
  • Contributions to Social Security and Medicare.
  • Cost of your daily commute to work and the expenses that accompany it.
  • Most people retire into a lower income tax bracket.
  • You will no longer need to purchase work attire and incur the associated dry-cleaning expenses.

New retirees may not necessarily find themselves living on less. The retirement experience differs for everyone, and so does retiree personal spending. A timeline of typical retiree spending resembles a “smile.” A 2013 study from investment research firm Morningstar noted that a retiree household’s inflation-adjusted spending usually dips at the start of retirement, bottoms out in the middle of the retirement experience, and then increases toward the very end.2

A retirement budget is a very good idea. There will be some out-of-budget costs, of course, ranging from the pleasant to the unpleasant. Those financial exceptions aside, abiding by a monthly budget (with or without the use of free online tools) may help you to rein in any questionable spending.

Any retirement income strategy should be personalized. Your own strategy should be based on an accurate, detailed assessment of your income needs and your available income resources. That information will help you discern just how much income you will need when retired.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – marketwatch.com/story/you-may-need-less-retirement-income-than-you-think-2015-11-30 [12/24/15]

2 – money.cnn.com/2015/12/02/retirement/retirement-income/ [12/2/15]

 

4 Smart Financial Moves to Finish 2015

4 Dec

Decembe 2015There are just a few weeks left in December! And, while your mind might be filled with holiday parties and gift shopping, this is also the time of year to tie a neat little bow on your financial picture so that you’re not kicking yourself in 2016.

 You can start here: Consider the tax impact of 2015 transactions.

  • Did you sell real property this year?
  • Did you start a business?
  • Have you exercised a stock option?
  • Could any large commissions or bonuses come your way before January?
  • Did you sell an investment held outside of a tax-deferred account?

Any of this might significantly affect your 2015 taxes. So, here are some strategic ways to offset your earnings.

#1 Make a charitable gift before New Year’s Day. You can claim the deduction on your tax return, provided you itemize your 2015 tax year deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here.1

If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record, payroll deduction record, credit card statement, or written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the IRS does not equate a pledge with a donation. If you pledge $2,000 to a charity in December but only end up gifting $500 before 2015 ends, you can only deduct $500.1

Are you gifting appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and then donating the proceeds. (Of course, if your investment is a loser, it might be better to sell it and donate the money so you can claim a loss on the sale and deduct a charitable contribution equal to the proceeds.)2

Does the value of your gift exceed $250? If you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you will need a receipt or a detailed verification form from the charity. You also have to file Form 8283 when your total deduction for non-cash contributions or property in a year exceeds $500.1

If you aren’t sure if an organization is eligible to receive charitable gifts, check it out at irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check.

#2 Contribute more to your retirement plan. If you haven’t turned 70½ this year and you participate in a traditional (i.e., non-Roth) qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your 2015 taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the 35% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,925 in taxes as a byproduct of a $5,500 regular IRA contribution.3,4

If you are self-employed and don’t have a solo 401(k) or something similar, look into whether you can still establish and fund such a plan before the end of the year. For the tax year 2015, you can contribute up to $18,000 to any kind of 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. Your 2015 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as April 15, 2016. There is no merit in waiting, however, since delaying your contribution only delays tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.4,5

#3 See if you can take a home office deduction. If your income is high and you find yourself in one of the upper tax brackets, look into this. You may be able to legitimately write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to exclusively conduct your business. (The percentage of costs you may deduct depends on the percentage of the square footage of your residence you devote to your business activities.) If you qualify for this tax break, part of your rent, insurance, utilities and repairs may be deductible.6

#4 Practice tax loss harvesting. You could sell underperforming stocks in your portfolio – enough to rack up at least $3,000 in capital losses. In fact, you can use this tactic to offset all of your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2016 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.8

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Six-Tips-for-Charitable-Taxpayers [5/19/15]

2 – philanthropy.com/article/Donors-Often-Overlook-Benefits/148561/ [8/29/14]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [3/18/15]

4 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/General-Tax-Tips/4-Last-Minute-Ways-to-Reduce-Your-Taxes/INF22115.html [10/20/15]

5 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2015/10/21/irs-announces-2016-retirement-plans-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/ [10/21/15]

6 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Home-Office-Deduction [10/16/15]

7 – bankrate.com/finance/insurance/health-savings-account-rules-and-regulations.aspx [10/7/15]

8 – fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/tax-loss-harvesting [9/9/15]