Consider Having a Backup Plan

When looking ahead in anticipation of Social Security benefits, many people expect to wait until an average age of 66 to make a claim.1

However, Nationwide Retirement Institute’s fifth annual Social Security survey found many retirees start drawing Social Security at the earliest possible age of 622 — frequently the result of being laid off or health issues.

Thirty-six percent of respondents reported health problems got in the way of living the retirement they expected, and of those, 80 percent say health problems occurred as many as five or more years earlier than expected.3

This tells us something we already know but are constantly reminded of: Life does not always go as planned. Many financial professionals tell their clients one of the most effective ways to help ensure enough income throughout retirement is to continue working through their 60s. This may not be preferable, but it’s an option.

Others may plan to work longer but end up retiring for reasons beyond their control. It’s good to have a contingency plan. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call if you’re interested in finding out more.

It’s important to have a backup plan because there are many challenges for people working longer. For example, as jobs move further into technology, artificial intelligence and automation, new job skills are constantly required. It’s good to challenge the brain, but young college graduates typically have a firmer grasp on today and tomorrow’s technology — it’s a steep learning curve.4

A Washington Post article recently referred to the “gray ceiling.” As women have faced the “glass ceiling” as an obstacle to career advancement, age discrimination is sometimes manifested in the hiring, continued employment, development and advancement of older workers.5

Fortunately, recent workforce trends have made it easier for older workers to continue earning income past traditional retirement age. Many employers have embraced the work model of the “gig economy,” staffing up (and down) as needed with independent contractors. Older workers have proven to be well-suited for this type of employment due to their laser-like experience in certain roles, reliability and stability. A recent study suggests older white-collar professionals are driving the growing demand for gig workers among businesses in certain industries.6

While employers may embrace the gig economy to add and drop staff as needed, remember workers can do the same. Establishing yourself as a freelancer or independent contractor gives you the freedom to work as much or as little as needed.7 You can take off a month to go on vacation, or six months to fly south for the winter. You can also take on work only when you have big bills coming up, like homeowner’s insurance or property taxes.

A 2017 survey found one-third of future retirees are planning part-time work to provide at least 25 percent of their household income. Besides income, many gig workers ages 51 to 70 say a primary reason for freelancing is simply to stay active in retirement.8

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Nationwide Retirement Institute. April 2018. “Social Security 5th Annual Consumer Survey.” https://nationwidefinancial.com/media/pdf/NFM-17422AO.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko and Saurabh Sanghvi. McKinsey Global Institute. November 2017. “What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages.” https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-organizations-and-work/what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages#part%205. Accessed May 1, 2018.

5 Susan Williams. Booming Encore. March 2018. “Older Workers Watch Your Head – Breaking Through the Gray Ceiling.” http://www.boomingencore.com/older-workers-watch-head-breaking-gray-ceiling/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

6 Valerie Bolden-Barrett. HR Dive. Oct. 3, 2017. “Older workers — not millennials — are driving the gig economy.” https://www.hrdive.com/news/older-workers-not-millennials-are-driving-the-gig-economy/506349/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

7 Elaine Pofeldt. Forbes. Aug. 30, 2017. “Why Older Workers Are Embracing the Gig Economy.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/08/30/why-older-workers-are-embracing-the-gig-economy/#642f904a42ce. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Ibid.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Vanishing Deductions

Money-Saving Tips

Beginning with the 2019 tax season, filing income-tax returns will no longer be “business as usual.” Some people may be happy to see their 2018 tax return streamlined and receive a higher refund to boot. However, others may lament lost deductions that had previously helped reduce their tax liability.1

The good news is that the standardized deduction will nearly double. Individual filers will receive a $12,000 deduction while married couples will get $24,000. However, in exchange for the simplicity, many itemized deductions will go away. The following are some of the more common ones.2

  • Dependent exemption — Taxpayers will no longer be able to subtract $4,050 from their taxable income for each dependent they claim. The newly doubled $2,000 child credit may help offset the loss of that deduction for some, but not for those whose children are in college.
  • SALT — Deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) will be capped at $10,000. This will mostly affect those who live in areas with high property tax areas, such as in South Florida, New York and
  • Mortgage interest deduction — Deductible interest will be capped for new mortgages valued at $750,000, down from $1 million.
  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions — Expenses such as unreimbursed employee-education expenses, tax-preparation services, investment fees and professional dues, among others, are no longer deductible.
  • Moving expenses — This deduction is completely eliminated for everyone except members of the armed forces.
  • Natural disasters — In the past, expenses not reimbursed by insurance or other relief programs could be deducted on your tax return. Now this deduction is available only to taxpayers in a presidentially designated disaster zone, typically made on a county-by-county basis.
  • Alimony — These payments are no longer deductible from federal taxes for any divorce that is executed after Dec. 31, 2018. However, there is no change in the tax treatment of alimony payments for divorces finalized before 2019.3

The content provided in this newsletter is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. Neither our firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified professional about your unique situation.

1 Maryalene LaPonsie. US News & World Report. Feb. 9, 2018. “10 Tax Deductions That Will Disappear Next Year.” https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/taxes/articles/2018-02-09/10-tax-deductions-that-will-disappear-next-year. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Ibid.

3 Bill Bischoff. Marketwatch. Jan. 26, 2018. “New tax law eliminates alimony deductions — but not for everybody.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-tax-law-eliminates-alimony-deductions-but-not-for-everybody-2018-01-23. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Deducting Home-Loan Interest

Planning Tip

The new tax law still allows a deduction for interest on a home equity loan, line of credit or second mortgage as long as the loan is used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s primary or second home. Specifically, the interest is deductible only if the loan meets all three of the following criteria:1

  • The debt is secured by the underlying residence
  • The total of the refinanced debt is not greater than the cost of the residence
  • The proceeds are used to improve or expand the residence

However, the applicable loan is subject to a new $750,000 debt limit ($375,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return). This limit applies to the combined total of loans used to buy, build or improve the taxpayer’s main home and second home. If you have an existing home equity loan that does not qualify under these three criteria, the interest may no longer be deducted.2

 The content provided in this newsletter is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. Neither our firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified professional about your unique situation.

 1 IRS. Feb. 21, 2018. “Interest on Home Equity Loans Often Still Deductible Under New Law.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/interest-on-home-equity-loans-often-still-deductible-under-new-law. Accessed May 29, 2018.

2 Ibid.  

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Filing Your 2018 Tax Return

Next year, taxes must be filed on or before April 15, 2019. For the last few years, that iconic date was extended because it fell on a legal holiday or a weekend, but it lands on a Monday in 2019.1 While there’s been significant debate regarding how the new tax law will affect Americans across the income scale, we should then have a better idea of how we may be personally impacted by the changes.

Highlights of the new tax law include:2

  • Lower individual tax rates
  • Increased standard deduction ($12,000 single; $24,000 married filing jointly)
  • Increased child tax credit ($2,000)
  • Elimination of dependent and personal exemptions
  • Elimination of some itemized deductions
  • $10,000 cap on the combined deduction for state income taxes, sales and local taxes, and property taxes
  • 20 percent deduction for “pass-through” entities (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, S corps)

In light of these changes, it’s a good idea to conduct a midyear review to see if there are ways to take advantage of the new changes or discover any potentially negative situations. If you’re not sure how you might be affected, consult with a tax professional. It may be worth reviewing your 2017 return to consider what new rules may affect your unique situation.

The content provided in this newsletter is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. Neither our firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified professional about your unique situation.

1 TimeAndDate.com. April 24, 2018. “Tax Day in the United States.” https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/tax-day. Accessed May 29, 2018.

2 TurboTax. April 24, 2018. “How Will Tax Reform Affect My Refund Next Year?” https://blog.turbotax.intuit.com/tax-reform/how-will-tax-reform-affect-my-refund-next-year-33055/. Accessed May 29, 2018.

 

Strategies for Optimal Social Security Payouts

Social Security benefits are typically synonymous with retirement income. It would be inefficient to create a retirement plan without first estimating how much you will receive from the government.1 According to a 2018 report, Social Security benefits represent approximately:2

  • 33% of elderly income
  • 50% or more of income for about half of elderly married couples
  • At least 50% of income for 71% of elderly singles
  • At least 90% of income for 23% of married couples and 43% of singles

In a recent survey, more than half of pre-retirees said they expect Social Security to be their primary source of retirement income.3 With so many people relying on Social Security payouts, it makes sense to explore strategies to receive the largest possible distribution. In some cases, this could mean tapping into your personal investment portfolio to delay drawing Social Security.

If you’d like to discuss various insurance and investment strategies to help supplement part-time income or bridge the gap between retirement and Social Security, please come talk to us.

The earlier you start drawing benefits, the lower the payout will be — and your payout level is locked in for life (with the exception of periodic cost of living adjustments). Unfortunately, the most common age that people start taking benefits is the first year they are eligible. If possible, it often makes sense to wait longer so that benefits can accrue.4

If you can wait until age 70, benefits will earn an additional 8 percent a year past full retirement age for a maximum boost of up to 32 percent. Delayed retirement credits are technically accrued on a monthly basis, so even if you don’t wait until age 70, every month you delay past full retirement age will increase your payout.5

Delayed retirement credits also apply toward surviving spouse benefits. In other words, should you pass away before drawing benefits, your spouse will receive the amount you qualified for as of the month of your death.6

Social Security benefit strategies are complex, but considering the importance this income is to most retiree households, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible to help optimize benefits for your particular situation. This Social Security quiz is a good place to start.7

Content provided by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Social Security Administration. 2018. “Retirement Estimator.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html Accessed May 1, 2018.

2 Social Security Administration. 2018. “Fact Sheet.” https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/basicfact-alt.pdf.

Accessed May 1, 2018.

Mary Beth Franklin. Investment News. April 25, 2018. “Future retirees expect Social Security to be main source of income.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180425/BLOG05/180429953/future-retirees-expect-social-security-to-be-main-source-of-income. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Ray Martin. CBS News. April 30, 2018. “How to claim your Social Security benefits wisely.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-claim-your-social-security-benefits-wisely/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

5 Rachel L. Sheedy. Kiplinger. February 2017. “Why Your First Social Security Check May Be Smaller Than Expected.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C000-S004-when-delayed-social-security-credits-get-delayed.html. May 1, 2018.

6 Laurence Kotlikoff. Forbes. April 27, 2018. “Ask Larry: ​​​​​​What If Either Of Us Dies Before 70?”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kotlikoff/2018/04/27/ask-larry-%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8Bwhat-either-of-us-dies-before-70/#6f18b1ea4081. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Mary Kane. Kiplinger. April 18, 2018. “Do You Really Understand Social Security?” https://www.kiplinger.com/quiz/retirement/T051-S009-do-you-really-understand-social-security/index.html.

Accessed May 1, 2018.

We are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Social Security benefits. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Ways to Help Increase Retirement Savings and Reduce Your Tax Liability

As we head into the homestretch of this year, two things individuals may be seeking are ways to help maximize retirement savings and minimize 2017 tax liability.

One way to help do so is by contributing as much as possible to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Many employers match worker contributions up to a certain point, so that’s just “free” money going into the account. Plus, the more you contribute, the less taxable income you will have to claim. For 2017, the maximum contribution limit for a 401(k) plan is $18,000; $24,000 for people age 50+.1

If you’re already set up to max out your account, you might consider opening and/or contributing to an IRA. Even if you don’t get to claim a tax deduction for IRA contributions (although IRA contributions can also be made pre-tax, subject to certain limits), you can still benefit from additional retirement savings and tax-advantaged compounding. In 2017, the maximum for an IRA (Roth, Traditional or both combined) contribution is $5,500; $6,500 for people age 50+.2

Here’s a little-known benefit available only for active duty military widows: They can contribute all or part of the service member’s $400,000 life insurance death benefit, and even an additional $100,000 for a combat-related fatality, to a Roth IRA within one year of receiving the payout. Because life insurance proceeds are tax-free, this benefit allows the money to be transferred to a tax-free retirement savings account, which also benefits from tax-free growth.3

Another option for those who are already contributing large amounts to a 401(k) and/or an IRA is to consider purchasing an annuity. An annuity also enables tax-deferred growth, and there typically are no contribution limits.4There is a wide variety of immediate, fixed rate, fixed index and variable annuities from which to choose. We’d be happy to evaluate your financial situation and recommend  if an annuity may suit your needs and objectives.

One more tax-related bit we ran across: If you’re considering relocating during retirement to a low/no tax state, or even just wonder where your state gets its tax revenues, check out this breakdown compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Brighthouse Financial. July 21, 2017. “5 Tips for Tax-Smart Investing.” https://www.brighthousefinancial.com/education/tax-smart-strategies/tax-smart-investing-strategies. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.
Ibid.
3 Jeff Benjamin. Investment News. June 26, 2017. “Military benefit allows widows to put $500K into Roth IRA at once.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170626/FREE/170629938/military-benefit-allows-widows-to-put-500k-into-roth-ira-at-once. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.
4 CNN. 2017. “Ultimate guide to retirement.” http://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/annuities_basics.moneymag/index4.htm. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.
5 Mary Beth Quirk. Consumerist. July 5, 2017. “Should You Move? See How Your State Gets Its Tax Money.” https://consumerist.com/2017/07/05/should-you-move-see-how-your-state-gets-its-tax-money/. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

The content provided in this blog is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. You are encouraged to consult your personal tax advisor or attorney.

Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Goals-Based Investing

There’s a difference between monitoring an investment and checking its performance on a daily basis. Rather than being concerned about short-term volatility in the market, consider the future purpose or goal of what you want your money to pay for. This is the fundamental idea behind goals-based investing. You don’t just seek out investments that will yield a certain average annual return; you identify other factors that may matter more.1

In goals-based investing, it’s not about how much your investment earns; it’s about how much you need your investment to yield. For example, let’s say you need about $50,000 to pay for your child’s college education. You save diligently from the time he or she is 10 years old through his or her last year in college – 12 years. During that time, you save $37,000. Your investment needs to earn an additional $13,000. There are a lot of factors here that will determine your return, but the point is that your investment need not be overly aggressive to achieve the return you desire. It should reflect how much risk you’re willing to take to yield the amount you’ll need to pay for your child’s education. Not necessarily more. Preferably no less.

If the investment earns more, you can put those additional earnings in your retirement savings bucket. If it earns less, you may need to tighten the belt on your finances and use more current income to pay for expenses during those college years, or get aggressive about applying for loans and scholarships. The point is, an investment should align with a goal – including its timeline for when you’ll need the money. The timeline can help you determine how aggressively to invest. The longer you have to invest, the more risk you may be able to take.

Just as the timeline matters, so does your age. Young investors with a longer investment timeline usually can be more flexible at choosing riskier investments – as long as those risks are aligned with their goals.2

However, let’s say your last child came later in life. If you will turn 60 before he or she goes to college, you could consider saving for his or her college education via tax-deferred retirement plans. You can start tapping these funds after age 59 ½ and no longer be subject to an early withdrawal penalty, but keep in mind that distributions will be subject to income taxes at that point.

Defining each goal you want to achieve can help guide your investment strategy, which can include the type of account in which you invest, such as a tax-advantaged college savings account or a tax-deferred retirement account. Different goals may call for different types of accounts, so you may need to create an investment strategy for each individual goal and monitor several different types of investments.3

This is where we can help. We’ll work with you to define each goal, establish which type of plan is most appropriate and what types of investments suit your timeline and tolerance for market risk. Then, we’ll help monitor how well those investments stay on track as you work toward your financial goals.

When all of these factions are aligned, you can be less concerned about day-to-day fluctuations. If you think you need to save more, you might want to consider different ways you can generate additional income sources that will allow you to save and invest more.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits to a goals-based approach is that it makes us think about what we want in life in very tangible terms. Suppose you want to retire to a coastal community. That’s your goal, and how early you get started saving and investing and at what age you’ll want your money can help determine your investment allocations. The return on that investment will ultimately decide how much house you can afford when retiring to your coastal destination. When creating your financial strategy, you should also consider the sort of lifestyle you want to provide your family and how expensive a college you want your children to attend. As with investment risk, trade-offs may need to be made in order to pursue your financial goals.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. It’s important to consider any investment within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance, investment timeline and the composition of your overall portfolio. This information is not intended to provide investment advice.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Michael Finke. The American College. June 19, 2017. “The Philosophy of Goal-Based Investment Planning.” http://knowledge.theamericancollege.edu/blog/the-philosophy-of-goal-based-investment-planning. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.
2 Amy Kemp and Dorsey Wright. NASDAQ. Aug. 3, 2017. “The Next Generation of Investors.” http://www.nasdaq.com/article/the-next-generation-of-investors-cm826808. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.
Sunder R. Ramkumar and P. Brett Hammond. Forbes. April 10, 2017. “Goals-Based Investing: From Theory to Practice.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/pensionresearchcouncil/2017/04/10/goals-based-investing-from-theory-to-practice/#462b4018459d. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Wealth and Income: Some Tax Implications

What do Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney all have in common? When they held public office, each accepted only $1 in annual compensation. President Trump also has chosen to forgo his pay, donating his first-quarter salary – minus an amount for taxes – to the National Parks Service.1

Taxes were deducted from the donation due to IRS rules regarding donating income. According to the rules, if you accept income, you are generally responsible for the income taxes levied on it, regardless of the fact that you may then turn around and gift it. You may be able to claim the gift as a tax deduction, but the deduction is against the taxes owed on that income. President Obama worked around this rule by having the reward money for his Nobel Peace Prize paid out directly to charity so he bore no tax liability on those funds.2

Clearly, if you’re going to be generous with wages or assets, it takes considerable planning ahead to help minimize your tax liability. Indeed, the same goes for the federal estate tax on wealth valued at more than $5.49 million, to which one White House adviser allegedly remarked, “Only morons pay the estate tax.” In other words, those who are subject to the tax tend to deploy strategic plans to minimize or avoid it altogether.3

Perhaps proactive tax planning is one of the reasons revenues from the current 40 percent federal estate tax have been plummeting, dropping from $25 billion in 2008 to $17 billion in 2015.4 Then again, in 2008 the federal estate tax rate was higher (45 percent) and applied to a lower threshold ($2 million).5

As we move toward the end of 2017, tax reform is in focus for a couple of reasons. First, President Trump is working to make good on his campaign promise to cut taxes; that’s no small feat given the revenues needed to support ambitious infrastructure and military initiatives.

Second, as we approach year-end, it’s time to consider your income tax bill for 2017 and any strategies you can deploy to help minimize your taxable income. It’s a good idea to work with an experienced tax professional familiar with your unique needs and financial situation. Remember, when it comes to taxes, a strategic plan can make a significant difference. We can refer you to a tax professional; just give us a call.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Robert W. Wood. Forbes. April 4, 2017. “Trump Donates Presidential Pay, Reminding Us IRS Rules Apply to Everyone.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2017/04/04/trump-donates-presidential-pay-reminding-us-irs-rules-apply-to-everyone/#2400d9e02824. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.
2 Ibid.
3 Robert W. Wood. Forbes. Aug. 30, 2017. “Estate Tax Repeal Is Not Just For Morons.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2017/08/30/estate-tax-repeal-is-not-just-for-morons/#2cc8df70701b. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.
4 Robert Frank. CNBC. Aug. 29, 2017. “‘Only morons pay the estate tax,’ says White House’s Gary Cohn.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/29/only-morons-pay-the-estate-tax-says-white-houses-gary-cohn.html. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.
5 Julie Garber. The Balance. June 8, 2017. “Exemption From Federal Estate Taxes: 1997-2017.” https://www.thebalance.com/exemption-from-federal-estate-taxes-3505630. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

This information is not intended to provide tax or legal advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified professional about your unique situation.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Legislative Updates

With so much attention focused on the rifts among and between political parties and the news media, it may seem as if little actual legislation is making its way through our democratic process. However, while President Trump’s major initiatives – Affordable Care Act repeal, tax reform and infrastructure improvements – haven’t been enacted, Trump has signed more than 40 bills since taking office in January.1

Although the political situation may present frustration for people trying to make prudent decisions about their financial future, we remind you that finances are personal. Your financial decisions should reflect your own goals and timeline. We are happy to evaluate your retirement income strategy and make recommendations utilizing insurance products to help you work toward your objectives.

Here is an overview of some of the recent legislation Congress has passed:

  • Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (H.R. 1238) – This bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to protect efforts related to food, agriculture and veterinary defense from acts of terrorism and other high-consequence events that pose a risk to homeland security.3
  • Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 419) – This bill revises requirements for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program, which provides death, disability and education benefits to public safety officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty, as well as to their survivors. The bill includes provisions to expedite the payment of benefit claims.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Jennifer Hansler. CNN. Aug. 3, 2017. “President Trump has signed 43 bills into law. Here’s what they do.” http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/president-trump-legislation/index.html. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

2 GovTrack. 2017. “H.R. 3364: Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr3364. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

3 GovTrack. 2017. “H.R. 1238: Securing our Agriculture and Food Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1238. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

4 GovTrack. 2017. “S. 1094: Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1094. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

5 GovTrack. 2017. “S. 419: Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s419. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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IRS News to Know

As we head into the final quarter of 2017, it’s a good idea to stay cognizant of any tax issues that may affect your finances come April 2018. Now is the time to review your investments and income distribution plans to help ensure you don’t trigger additional taxes or penalties later on.

We can help retirees create income distribution strategies that provide a reliable stream of income. As some income-generating strategies could increase your tax liability in a single year, we recommend clients also consult with an experienced tax professional to understand issues regarding their specific situation. We are happy to make a recommendation from our network of professional colleagues.

One common income distribution strategy is to transfer assets from an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to a self-directed IRA. This move can give some individuals more investment choices. The IRS encourages eligible taxpayers to consider requesting a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, rather than doing a rollover. However, if you do not conduct a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, it’s important to understand the rules related to personally withdrawing money from one account and depositing it to another. The IRS allows a 60-day window to do this without penalty. If an individual misses that deadline, he may qualify for a waiver to extend the deposit window. The IRS will generally allow an extension for one or more of 11 circumstances, including the death of a family member or because the taxpayer becomes seriously ill. Furthermore, a taxpayer can use a new self-certification procedure to apply for the waiver of the 60-day period to avoid possible early distribution taxes.1

Speaking of IRAs, one income distribution strategy that early retirees may be able to take advantage of is IRS Rule 72(t). Normally, someone who retires before age 59 ½ would be subject to a 10 percent penalty on early withdrawals from a retirement plan. However, Rule 72(t) waives this penalty for individuals who make a series of “substantially equal periodic payments” for five years or until the retirement account owner reaches age 59 ½ – whichever is longer. The allowable amount is based on life expectancy and must be calculated using one of the IRS approved methods.Since every situation is different, individuals are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax professional before making any decisions.

A 2011 rule from the IRS relates to the “portability deadline.” This is the rule that allows a surviving spouse to absorb any unused portion of a deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption amount. The surviving spouse must file an estate tax return on behalf of the decedent in order to qualify for the portability rule, even if the estate is under the filing threshold and typically would not be required to file an estate tax return. A new IRS guideline grants a permanent automatic extension of the time to file an estate tax return just to claim portability, extending it from nine months to up to two years after the decedent’s death.3

Also, as a reminder, 2017 is the first tax year in which taxpayers age 65 and over are subject to the same 10 percent threshold of adjusted gross income (AGI) for deducting unreimbursed medical expenses as all other taxpayers (in previous years the threshold was 7.5 percent for those 65 and over). Eligible medical and dental expenses must be over 10 percent of the taxpayer’s 2017 AGI in order to claim the deduction.4

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 IRS. April 19, 2017. “2016 Tax Changes.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/2016-tax-changes. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

Investopedia. 2017. “Rule 72(t).” http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/rule72t.asp. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

3 Michael Kitces. Nerd’s Eye View. June 28, 2017. “IRS Extends Portability Deadline (Retroactively) Under Rev. Proc. 2017-34.” https://www.kitces.com/blog/rev-proc-2017-34-automatic-extension-deadline-form-706-portability-dsue-amount/?utm_source=FeedburnerRSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+KitcesNerdsEyeView+%28kitces.com+%7C+Nerd%27s+Eye+View%29. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

4 IRS. Dec. 15, 2016. “Questions and Answers: Changes to the Itemized Deduction for 2016 Medical Expenses.” https://www.irs.gov/individuals/questions-and-answers-changes-to-the-itemized-deduction-for-medical-expenses. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

The content provided in this blog is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. You are encouraged to consult your personal tax advisor or attorney.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.  Any references to reliable income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products.  Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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