Tag Archives: Julie Newcomb Financial

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]

 

Why Medicare Should be Part of Your Retirement Planning

22 Jun

Medicare takes a little time to understand. Certain features of Medicare can affect health care costs and coverage. Some retirees may do okay with original Medicare (Parts A and B), others might find it lacking and decide to supplement original Medicare with Part C, Part D, or Medigap coverage. In some cases, that may mean paying more for senior health care per month than you initially figured. As you approach age 65, familiarize yourself with its coverage options and their costs and limitations. We’ve aggregated some helpful information to get you started.

How much do Medicare Part A and Part B cost, and what do they cover? Part A is usually free; Part B is not. Part A is hospital insurance and covers up to 100 days of hospital care, home health care, nursing home care, and hospice care. Part B covers doctor visits, outpatient procedures, and lab work. You pay for Part B with monthly premiums, and your Part B premium is based on your income. In 2018, the basic monthly Part B premium is $134; higher-earning Medicare recipients pay more per month. You also typically shoulder 20% of Part B costs after paying the yearly deductible, which is $183 in 2018.1

The copays and deductibles linked to original Medicare can take a bite out of retirement income. In addition, original Medicare does not cover dental, vision, or hearing care, or prescription medicines, or health care services outside the U.S. It pays for no more than 100 consecutive days of skilled nursing home care. These out-of-pocket costs may lead you to look for supplemental Medicare coverage and to plan other ways of paying for long-term care.1,2

Medigap policies help Medicare recipients with some of these copays and deductibles. Sold by private companies, these health care policies will pay a share of certain out-of-pocket medical costs (i.e., costs greater than what original Medicare covers for you). You must have original Medicare coverage in place to purchase one. The Medigap policies being sold today do not offer prescription drug coverage. A monthly premium on a Medigap policy for a 65-year-old man may run from $150-250, so keep that cost range in mind if you are considering Medigap coverage.2,3

In 2020, the two most popular kinds of Medigap plans – Medigap C and Medigap F – will vanish. These plans pay the Medicare Part B deductible, and Medigap policies of that type are being phased out due to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. Come 2019, you will no longer be able to enroll in them.4

Part D plans cover some (certainly not all) prescription drug expenses. Monthly premiums are averaging $33.50 this year for these standalone plans, which are offered by private insurers. Part D plans currently have yearly deductibles of less than $500.2,5

Some people choose a Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan over original Medicare. These plans, offered by private insurers and approved by Medicare, combine Part A, Part B, and usually Part D coverage and often some vision, dental, and hearing benefits. You pay an additional, minor monthly premium besides your standard Medicare premium for Part C coverage. Some Medicare Advantage plans are health maintenance organizations (HMOs); others, preferred provider organizations (PPOs).6

If you want a Part C plan, should you select an HMO or PPO? About two-thirds of Part C plan enrollees choose HMOs. There is a cost difference. In 2017, the average HMO monthly premium was $29. The average regional PPO monthly premium was $35, while the mean premium for a local PPO was $62.6

HMO plans usually restrict you to doctors within the plan network. If you are a snowbird who travels frequently, you may be out of the Part C plan’s network area for weeks or months and risk paying out-of-network medical expenses from your savings. With PPO plans, you can see out-of-network providers and see specialists without referrals from primary care physicians.6

Now, what if you retire before age 65? COBRA aside, you are looking at either arranging private health insurance coverage or going uninsured until you become eligible for Medicare. You must also factor this possible cost into your retirement planning. The earliest possible date you can arrange Medicare coverage is the first day of the month in which your birthday occurs.5

Medicare planning is integral to your retirement planning. Should you try original Medicare for a while? Should you enroll in a Part C HMO with the goal of keeping your overall out-of-pocket health care expenses lower? There is also the matter of eldercare and the potential need for interim coverage (which will not be cheap) if you retire prior to 65. Discuss these matters with the financial professional you know and trust in your next conversation.

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 – medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/costs-at-a-glance/costs-at-glance.html [5/21/18]

2 – cnbc.com/2018/05/03/medicare-doesnt-cover-everything-heres-how-to-avoid-surprises.html [5/3/18]

3 – medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/medigap/whats-medigap.html [5/21/18]

4 – fool.com/retirement/2018/02/05/heads-up-the-most-popular-medigap-plans-are-disapp.aspx [2/5/18]

5 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/medicare/articles/your-guide-to-medicare-coverage [5/2/18]

6 – cnbc.com/2017/10/18/heres-how-to-snag-the-best-medicare-advantage-plan.html [10/18/17]

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]

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]

5 Questions Couples Need to Answer to Achieve Financial Success

24 Feb

shutterstock_193636496When 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. The good news is that is usually not so difficult.

At some point, 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 2016 TD Bank Love & Money survey of 1,902 consumers who said they were in relationships, 42% of the respondents who described themselves as “unhappy” cited their number one financial error as “waiting too long” to discuss money matters with their significant other.1

#1: How will you make your money grow?

Investing is essential. 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.

So, what should you invest in? 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: How much will you spend & save?

Budgeting can help you arrive at your answer. A simple budget, an elaborate budget, 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: How often will you 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 misconceptions are upended by reality.

#4: What degree of independence do 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.

#5: 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, nearly 80% of the respondents who indicated they talked about money once per week said that they were happy with their relationship. Follow their lead and plan for your progress together.1

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 – gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/surprising-ways-money-affects-love-life/ [9/26/16]

 

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]

Money Moves to Make by the End of the Year

30 Nov

shutterstock_222527017During the holiday season your focus can easily get taken up by thoughts of gift-giving, decorating, parties and yummy food. But don’t let the month of December get away from you! Now is the time to be thinking about financial moves you need to make before the end of the year to put you in the best possible position come tax season.

Could you ramp up 401(k) or 403(b) contributions? Every dollar you contribute to these retirement plans lowers your yearly taxable income. Lower it enough, and you might be able to qualify for other tax credits or breaks available to those under certain income limits. Note that contributions to Roth 401(k)s and Roth 403(b)s are made with after-tax rather than pre-tax dollars, so contributions to those accounts won’t lower your taxable income for the year. They will certainly help to strengthen your retirement savings, however.2

Are you thinking of gifting? How about donating to a charity or some other kind of 501(c)(3) non-profit organization before 2016 ends? In most cases, these gifts are partly tax-deductible. You must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift.3

If you donate appreciated securities you have owned for at least a year, you can take a charitable deduction for their fair market value and forgo the capital gains tax hit that would result from their sale. If you pour some money into a 529 college savings plan on behalf of a child in 2016, you may be able to claim a partial state income tax deduction (depending on the state).4,5

Of course, you can also reduce the value of your taxable estate with a gift or two. The gift tax exclusion is $14,000 for both 2016 and 2017. So, as an individual, you can gift up to $14,000 to as many people as you wish this year. A married couple can gift up to $28,000 to as many people as desired in 2016 and 2017. (Unfortunately, the IRS prohibits a current-year income tax deduction for the value of a non-charitable gift.)6

Should you convert all or part of a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA? You will be withdrawing money from that traditional IRA someday, and those withdrawals will equal taxable income. Withdrawals from a Roth IRA you own are never taxed during your lifetime, assuming you follow the rules. Translation: tax savings tomorrow. Before you go Roth, you do need to make sure you have the money to pay taxes on the conversion amount. If you do this and change your mind, the IRS gives you until October 15 of the year after a conversion to undo it.7

Do you practice tax-loss harvesting? That is the art of taking capital losses (selling securities worth less than what you first paid for them) to offset your short-term capital gains. If you fall into one of the upper tax brackets, you might want to consider this move, which directly lowers your taxable income. It should be made with the guidance of a financial professional you trust.1

In fact, you could even take it a step further. Consider that up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from ordinary income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years.1 

Can you take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit? The AOTC allows individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less (and joint filers with MAGI of $160,000 or less) a chance to claim a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified college expenses. Phase-outs kick in above those MAGI levels.8

What can you do before they ring in the New Year? Talk with a financial or tax professional now rather than in February or March. Little year-end moves might help you improve your short-term and long-term financial situation.

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 – fool.com/retirement/2016/11/09/1-smart-tax-move-to-make-before-the-end-of-2016.aspx [11/9/16]

2 – nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/8-yearend-investing-dos-donts/ [12/19/15]

3 – irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html [10/20/16]

4 – cbsnews.com/news/tis-the-season-for-giving-back/ [11/14/16]

5 – tinyurl.com/hr964ee [11/11/16]

6 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Frequently-Asked-Questions-on-Gift-Taxes [10/31/16]

7 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2016/02/10/richie-rich-roths-6-ways-to-snag-one/ [2/10/16]

8 – irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit [12/8/15]

A Quick Look at the Trump & Clinton Tax Plans

28 Oct

shutterstock_145901300Seemingly every presidential candidate offers a plan for tax reform. You can add Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to that long list. Here is a look at their plans, and the key reforms to federal tax law that might result if they were enacted.

Donald Trump revised his tax plan this summer. The latest plan put forth by Trump and his advisors contains the key features of the one introduced last year.

Under Trump’s plan, the standard deduction would rise. It would rise from the current level of $6,300 to $25,000 for single filers. Joint filers could claim a $50,000 standard deduction. (The GOP plan proposes respective standard deductions of $12,000 and $24,000.) Instead of seven federal income tax rates, there would just be three – 12%, 25%, and 33%. (In his original tax reform blueprint, the rates were 10%, 20%, and 25%.)1

The estate tax would vanish entirely under Trump’s plan. Taxes on capital gains and dividends would top out at 20%.2,3

Trump wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The new lower rate would apply to partnerships, LLCs, and S corps as well as C corps. (With a proposed corporate tax ceiling of 15% and a proposed individual tax ceiling of 33%, some economists have wondered if a Trump presidency might generate a wave of individuals incorporating themselves.) Full expensing would also be allowed for business investments under Trump’s plan.1

Notably, Trump’s reforms would do away with the deferral of taxes on foreign profits. As it stands now, corporate taxes on foreign profits are deferred until overseas affiliates repatriate them. It can take years for those inbound dividends to arrive. The Trump plan would tax domestic and foreign profits on the same current-year basis.1

Trump has also publicly spoken of greater tax relief for families raising children. This would likely not be an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, but something new – either a deduction, a credit, or an exclusion. Given the high standard deductions that would be offered if Trump’s tax plan becomes law, higher-income households might be most interested in such an expanded child care deduction. If the Trump plan applies a child care deduction to payroll taxes rather than income taxes, many lower-income households could, theoretically, claim it. Less payroll tax revenue would mean less revenue for some key government programs.1

Hillary Clinton’s tax plan would lower some taxes & raise others. As the non-partisan Tax Policy Center has noted, only around 5% of Americans would see any real change to their taxes under the Clinton reforms – but the richest Americans would pay higher income taxes under her plan. Clinton’s corporate tax reforms would encourage firms to do more business in America, while her estate tax reforms could prompt changes in wealth transfer planning for some families.2,3

High-earning households could see marginal rates rise. Under Clinton’s plan, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes greater than $5 million would pay a 4% surtax, effectively setting their marginal tax rate at 43.6%. Anyone earning more than $1 million would face an effective tax rate of 30%. Investors would have to buy and hold for longer intervals to take advantage of long-term capital gains tax rates. The current long-term rate of 20% would only apply if an investor owned an investment for six years; in preceding years, it would be incrementally higher.2,3,4

The federal estate tax would also rise to 45% through Clinton’s reforms. The current $5.45 million individual exemption would be reduced to $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples).2

Clinton’s plan would adjust corporate taxation. U.S. firms would find it harder to make tax inversions, whereby they merge with an overseas competitor and move their headquarters to another country to exploit that nation’s lower corporate tax rate. Earnings stripping – in which U.S. affiliates of multinational corporations “strip” profits from their stateside taxable income and send them to overseas parent companies in pursuit of tax savings – would cease. Companies would also face limits on deducting interest payments on their debt. While she has talked of a tax on the biggest financial institutions, Clinton has also expressed a desire to make the process of estimating, filing, and paying taxes less involved for small business owners.2,3

Like Trump, Clinton wants tax relief for families. She wants a new kind of tax credit for child care; the details have yet to emerge at this writing.2

These plans have one destination. That is Congress, and there is no telling how many or how few of these reforms may become law if Clinton or Trump are elected.

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 – taxanalysts.org/tax-analysts-blog/trump-s-tax-plan-version-20/2016/08/12/194511 [8/12/16]

2 – nytimes.com/2016/08/13/upshot/how-hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-differ-on-taxes.html [8/13/16]

3 – cbsnews.com/news/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-taxes-presidential-campaign-2016/ [8/3/16]

4 – fool.com/investing/2016/06/19/how-would-hillary-clinton-change-your-taxes.aspx [6/19/16]

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]