Tag Archives: Personal Financial Planning Orange County

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]

7 Reasons to Get Your Retirement Plan in Writing

30 Apr

Many people save and invest vaguely for the future. They know they need to accumulate money for retirement, but when it comes to how much they will need or how they will do it, they are not quite sure. They will “wing it,” hope for the best, and see how it goes. How do they know they are really contributing enough to their retirement accounts? Would they feel less anxious about the future if they had a written plan?

Make no mistake, a written retirement plan sharpens your focus. It can refine dreams into goals and express a strategy to pursue them. According to a Charles Schwab study, just 24% of Americans plan their financial futures according to a written strategy. Here is why you should join their ranks, if you are not yet among them.1,2

  1. You can figure out the “when” of retirement planning. When do you think you will retire and start drawing income from your taxable and tax-advantaged accounts? At what age do you anticipate you will start to collect Social Security? How long do you think you will live? No, you cannot precisely know the answers to these questions at this point – but you can make reasonable assumptions. Your assumptions may be altered, it is true – but a good retirement plan is an evolving document, one that can be revised with changing times.
  2. You can set a target monthly or annual savings rate. Once you have considered some of the “whens,” you can move on to “how.” Assuming a conservative rate of return on your invested assets, you can specify how much to defer into retirement accounts.
  3. You can decide on a risk tolerance and an investment mix that agrees with it. Ultimately, you will invest in a way that a) makes sense for your objectives and b) makes you comfortable. The investment mix that you decide on today may not be the one you will favor ten years from now or even three years from now. Regular portfolio reviews should complement the stated investment approach.
  4. You can think about ways to get more retirement income instead of less. Tax reduction should be part of your retirement strategy. Think about the possibility of part of your Social Security income being taxed. Think about tax on your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs and employee retirement plan. What could you do to manage, or even minimize, the income and capital gains taxes ahead of you?
  5. You can tackle the medical expense question. That is, how will you fund the medical care that you will inevitably need to greater or lesser degree someday? Should you assign part of your savings to a special account or form of insurance for that purpose? Retiring before 65 may mean paying for some private health insurance in the years before Medicare eligibility.
  6. You can think about your legacy. While a retirement plan should not be equated with an estate plan, the very fact of planning for your later years does make you think about some things: where you want your money to go when you are gone; your endgame for your company or professional practice; whether part of your accumulated wealth should go to causes or charities.
  7. A written plan promotes confidence and a degree of control. A 2017 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey determined that those with written retirement plans were nearly twice as confident of having sufficient retirement income in the future, compared to those with no written plan.3

If you lack a written retirement plan, talk to the financial professional you know and trust about one. Writing it all down may make a difference in planning for your second act.

 

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 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T023-C032-S014-do-you-have-a-written-financial-plan.html [10/25/17]

2 – aboutschwab.com/images/uploads/inline/Charles_Schwab-Modern_Wealth_Index-findings_deck.pdf [6/17]

3 – time.com/money/4860595/how-to-retire-wealthy/ [7/18/17]

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]

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]

 

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]

6 Characteristics of the Millionaire Next Door

26 Sep

shutterstock_355260554Just how many millionaires does America have? By the latest estimation of Spectrem Group, a research firm studying affluent and high net worth investors, it has more than ever before. In 2015, the U.S. had 10.4 million households with assets of $1 million or greater, aside from their homes. That represents a 3% increase from 2014. Impressively, 1.2 million of those households were worth between $5 million and $25 million.1

How did these people become rich? Did they come from money? In most cases, the answer is no. The 2016 edition of U.S. Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth survey shares characteristics of nearly 700 Americans with $3 million or more in investable assets. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents reported growing up in middle class or working class households. A slight majority (52%) said that the bulk of their wealth came from earned income; 32% credited investing.2

It appears most of these individuals benefited not from silver spoons in their mouths, but from taking a particular outlook on life and following sound financial principles. U.S. Trust asked these multi-millionaires to state the three values that were most emphasized to them by their parents. The top answers?

  • Educational achievement
  • Financial discipline
  • The importance of working.2

Are these people mostly entrepreneurs? No. The aforementioned Spectrem Group survey found that millionaires and multi-millionaires come from all kinds of career fields. The most commonly cited occupations? Manager (16%), professional (15%), and educator (13%).4 

Here are 6 Characteristics That a Majority of the Millionaires Share

  1. Education is a solid first step toward wealth. There may be a strong correlation. Ninety percent of those polled in a recent BMO Private Bank millionaire survey said that they had earned college degrees. (The National Center for Education Statistics notes that in 2015, only 36% of Americans aged 25-29 were college graduates.)3
  2. Interestingly, a lasting marriage may also help. Studies from Ohio State University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) both conclude that married people end up economically better off by the time they retire than singles who have never married. In fact, NBER finds that, on average, married people will have ten times the assets of single people by the start of retirement. Divorce, on the other hand, often wrecks finances. The OSU study found that the average divorced person loses 77% of the wealth he or she had while married.3
  3. Most of the multi-millionaires in the U.S. Trust study got off to an early start. On average, they began saving money at 14; held their first job at 15; and invested in equities by the time they were 25.
  4. Most of them have invested conventionally. Eighty-three percent of those polled by U.S. Trust credited buy-and-hold investment strategies for part of their wealth. Eighty-nine percent reported that equities and debt instruments had generated most of their portfolio gains.2
  5. Many of these millionaires keep a close eye on taxes & risk. Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement that it is “more important to minimize the impact of taxes when making investment decisions than it is to pursue the highest possible returns regardless of the tax consequences.” In a similar vein, 60% said that lessening their risk exposure is important, even if they end up with less yield as a consequence.2   
  6. Here is one last detail that is certainly worth noting. According to Spectrem Group, 78% of millionaires turn to financial professionals for help managing their investments.4

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/2016/03/07/record-number-of-millionaires-living-in-the-us.html [3/7/16]

2 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/05/23/the-6-most-important-wealth-building-lessons-from-multi-millionaires/ [5/23/16]

3 – businessinsider.com/ap-liz-weston-secrets-of-next-door-millionaires-2016-8 [8/22/16]

4 – cnbc.com/2016/05/05/are-you-a-millionaire-in-the-making.html [5/5/16]