5 Smart End-of-the-Year Money Moves You Could Make Right Now

As the year comes to a close, here are 5 things you can do to help keep your financial life on track:

Ask yourself these 5 questions and then take action!

Question #1

What has changed for you in 2016?

Did you start a new job or leave a job behind? Did you retire? Did you start a family? If notable changes occurred in your personal or professional life, then you will want to review your finances before this year ends and the new year begins. Even if this year has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can plan to save some taxes and/or build a little more wealth.

Question #2

Do You Practice Tax-Loss Harvesting?

Tax-loss harvesting 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. Keep in mind this strategy should be made with the guidance of a financial professional you trust.(1)

Question #3

Do You Itemize Deductions?

If you do itemize deductions, great! Now would be a good time to get the receipts and assorted paperwork together. Besides a possible mortgage interest deduction, you might be able to take a state sales tax deduction, a student loan interest deduction, a military-related deduction, a deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on inherited IRA assets, an energy-saving deduction. There are so many deductions you can potentially claim, now is the time to meet with your tax professional to strategize to claim as many as you can.

Question #4

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. Keep in mind, you must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift.(2)

Question #5

What Can You Do Before You 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.


Sources:

  1. fool.com/retirement/2016/11/09/1-smart-tax-move-to-make-before-the-end-of-2016.aspx
  2. irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html
  3. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

How Trump’s Proposed Tax Changes Could Affect You

Trump has been pretty clear about wanting to simplify our tax code. I sat down with CPA Steven Stern to help explain these proposed changes. So, here are where things currently stand and how they might affect you:
Here’s list of the of the items discussed in the video, but be sure to watch the video for to learn how these changes specifically affect you:

CHANGE #1 

Shift From 7 Income Tax Brackets To 3

Current (Married Filing Jointly):

  1. 10% bracket: $0 to $18,550
  2. 15% bracket: $18,550 to $75,300
  3. 25% bracket: $75,300 to $151,900
  4. 28% bracket: $151,900 to $231,450
  5. 33% bracket: $231,450 to $413,350
  6. 35% bracket: $413,350 to $466,950
  7. 39.6% bracket: $466,950 or more

Proposed (Married Filing Jointly)

  1. 12% bracket: $0 to $75,000
  2. 25% bracket: $75,001 to $224,999
  3. 33% bracket: $225,000 or more

CHANGE #2

Increasing the Standard Deduction

Trump proposes increasing the standard deduction from $12,600 to $30,000 for joint filers (from $6,300 to $15,000 for singles), and capping itemized deductions at $200,000 (joint) or $100,000 (single) and scrapping AMT.

CHANGE #3

Eliminate 3.8% Affordable Care Act Tax

The 3.8% Affordable Care Act tax on the lesser of net investment income or the amount by which your AGI exceeds $200,000 would also be eliminated.


Source: Bob Veres

7 Important Ages To Be Ready For In Retirement

Getting ready to retire or have you just started your retirement? Here are 7 important ages you should to be ready for:

 

AGE  55

Can Make Withdrawals Without 10% Penalty if Retired

At age 55 you can withdraw from your 401(k) or 403(b) plan without the 10% penalty if you retire or get fired. Also, if your employer offers a pension you may be eligible for full retirement benefits, if you meet the plan requirements.

AGE  59 1/2

Can Make Withdrawals Without 10% Penalty

This is an important age to remember. Once you turn 59 ½ you can withdraw money from IRA’s and deferred annuities without paying the 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

AGE 62

Can Start Reduced Social Security Benefits

This is another big year. At age 62 you can start receiving Social Security benefits. However, keep in mind your benefits will be reduced since you will not have reached full retirement age. The other thing is that at age 62 you may be eligible for full pension benefits if applicable to your situation.

AGE 65

Qualify for Medicare Benefits

This is when you qualify for medicare benefits. Also, with most pension plans you become eligible for your full benefits.

AGES 66 & 67

Eligible for Full Social Security Benefits

Ok, I have two ages here. But, they are pretty much for the same thing so I lumped them together. At age 66 you become eligible for full social security benefits, if you were born between 1943-1954. Everyone born after 1954 follows this table:

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AGE 70

Your Social Security Benefits Max Out

Once you hit 70 you should start collecting your social security benefits if you haven’t already done so because your benefits will be maxed out. Waiting to collect benefits until age 70 can actually be a great strategy if you are trying to max out social security benefits or are concerned about longevity.

AGE 70 1/2

Must Start Your Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s)

Finally, age 70 ½ . When you turn 70 ½ you will be required to start withdrawing specified amounts from your 401(k)’s and IRAs. This is called your Required Minimum Distribution or RMD for short. You must begin these withdrawals once your turn 70 ½ but you actually have until April 1st of the year following the year you actually turn age 70 1/2 . I know, confusing right? Let me give you an example. Let’s say you turn 70 ½ in January 2016, you will need to take your RMD by April 1st, of 2017. Now, you can take it in 2016 but you don’t have to. Going forward, every year after your first RMD you will be required to take the distribution buy December 31st.


Source:

  1. Planning Retirement Income

 

 

What a Trump Presidency Means For Your Retirement Accounts

With the election of President Donald Trump, we should be prepared for volatility in the investment markets. Since he has provided less detail about his policy positions than a traditional campaign, it may take some time for markets to sort out his priorities. Although, for the time being the market has digested the news positively.

[CLICK TO WATCH]

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What’s Happened So Far

Donald Trump’s surprise presidential election victory led to extreme market volatility in overnight trading since the market had already priced in a Clinton win. Futures were down over 800 points while votes were being counted and it was becoming clearer that Trump would win. But, we bounced back and ended the following day up over 250 points, hitting all time market highs. What we can be sure of is that markets are likely to remain unsettled in the near to medium term.

The Intrinsic Value of Stocks

In the end, the intrinsic value of stocks don’t change with the occupant of the White House.

What To Do Now:

In times of uncertainty, remember that panic is not a good investment strategy, and that it’s important to stick to your long-term investment plan.  The very worst thing you could do, over the next few days and weeks, is make a temporary loss permanent by selling into the general panic or buying into over excitement. Follow this advice:

  • Have an investment plan
  • Be prepared for volatility
  • Remember, the market will move up and down but it won’t always be in the direction you want

Accumulating Retirement Assets?

If you are accumulating assets for retirement with a long term time horizon the key is to stick to your proper allocation regardless of what is happening in the markets.

Preserving Your Assets?

If you are preserving your assets and approaching retirement, again make sure you are allocated appropriately and taking on the appropriate amount of risk.

Drawing on Your Assets?

If you are drawing on your assets, consider using a bucket approach and having your short term needs in cash so you are not forced to take money out if the market is down.

Use This Tool

To make sure your portfolio is matched with your comfort for risk you can use this tool: http://bit.ly/YourRiskNumber. It’s a good first step to help steer you in the right direction if changes are needed in your portfolio.

 

What We Learned at Schwab IMPACT 2016 That Impacts YOUR Financial Life

Every year we trek to the Schwab IMPACT conference to learn the latest developments in financial planning and investment management so we can better serve you.

Day 1&2: The Election PLUS Tips For Your Kids 18+

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The Market & The 2016 Presidential Election

Greg Valliere, Schwab’s Chief Political Strategist had this to say:

  • If Trump wins the markets may not respond favorably
  • On the flipside, if Hillary wins there may not be much in the way of volatility
  • Valliere anticipates Hillary winning by a 5-7 point lead spread
  • However, if Hillary wins by a wider margin we could see strong volatility along with potential changes to the house (not good historically for the markets)

Tips for Your Kids Heading To College

  • Consider having them sign Power of Attorney form (POA) before going off to school since you may not have access to their accounts.
  • Fill out the HIPAA release form at the college your child is attending. If something were to happen to your child the college could then release the information to you.

Day 3: Malcolm Gladwell PLUS Balancing Retirement & College Saving

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Insights from Malcolm Gladwell

This year was packed with thought provoking commentaries from the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and political insight from Greg Valliere, Ian Bremmer, Alan Simpson and Robert Reich, plus MUCH more.
For those of you that don’t know, Malcolm Gladwell is the author of the Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers.
He coined the phrase “Tipping Point” which is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

The Internet of Things

In his session he predicted that the internet of things is going to be as big as the industrial revolution. That’s a bold statement, but one to take notice of. We are beginning to see products like Amazon Dash, which is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button.The growth of internet connected “things” is expect to accelerated.

Playing Basketball vs. Playing Soccer

Gladwell also discussed how our country and economy has traditionally focused on making the best people even better. He illustrated that we operate like a basketball team. For a basketball team to be great, you really only need a few amazing players. It doesn’t matter how weak the rest of the team is so long as you have a few great players. And, if you work on making your best players even better, the team as a whole usually improves.
Soccer on the other hand requires that ALL players work together. Studies have shown that soccer scores can increase dramatically when time and energy is invested in coaching the weakest players on the team not the strongest players like in basketball.

Malcolm’s Advice: Improve The Weak Links

In the new world order, Gladwell suggests we invest in what he calls the weak links. He went on to explain that the best way to improve our economy is to invest in the weakest links.

College Planning vs. Retirement Planning

The balance between saving for college AND saving for retirement is difficult for most families. A study by JP Morgan reveals some useful guidance:

  • Only 0.3% of college student receive enough grants and scholarships to cover ALL costs
  • You need to to start saving now and seriously consider a 529 savings plan
  • The most important thing is to be saving for retirement
  • Saving for retirement should come BEFORE saving for college
  • The JP Morgan study says that saving 15% of what you make is the optimal number

Saving 15% is a great rule of thumb, however your situation could be different. What you need will depend on things like how much you have already saved, if are you planning on moving during retirement, if you will you work, or if you will receive an inheritance. So, there are lots of factors to consider which is where we can assist. At Weiss Financial Group we help figure out how much you NEED to save, how much you CAN save, and WHERE to invest the money.

For the Latest LIVE Videos Don’t Forget to Like Our Facebook Page 

I am live Wednesdays at noon answering your questions and providing smart tips.

Check it out here: http://bit.ly/WFGFacebook

3 Things You MUST Think About When Changing Jobs

Fall seems to be the time of year many people either willingly decide to change jobs or are forced to due to downsizings or restructuring. If you are changing jobs, here are the top financial considerations:
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SWITCHING FROM ONE JOB TO ANOTHER CAN LITERALLY PAY OFF

Data from payroll processing giant ADP confirms that statement. In the first quarter of 2016, the average job hopper realized a 6% pay boost!

That’s a pretty significant jump in pay, so it’s definitely something to consider. We all get comfortable in our jobs, but as you can see it may pay to look elsewhere. You never know what opportunity may be out there for you if you are not looking.

Nevertheless, before you make that leap, be sure you address these matters:

CONSIDERATION #1

HEALTH CARE

How quickly can you arrange health coverage?

If you already pay for your own health insurance, this will not be an issue. If you had coverage at your old job you will need to figure out how to replace it.

If you were enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan, you need to find out when the coverage from your previous job ends – and, if applicable, when coverage under your new employer’s health plan begins.

If the interval between jobs is prolonged, and COBRA will not cover you for the entirety of it, you may want to check whether you can obtain coverage from your alumni association, your guild or union, or AARP.

If you are leaving a career to start a business, confer with an insurance professional to search for a good group health plan.

CONSIDERATION #2

YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS

What Happens With Your Retirement Savings?

You will likely have four options regarding the money you have saved up in your workplace retirement plan: you can leave the money in the plan, roll it over into an IRA (this is the option we help with at Weiss Financial Group), transfer the assets into the retirement plan at your new job, or cash it out.

Keep in mind that the last option will be taxable and may incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are not yet 59 1/2.

Here is a link to another blog post that goes into greater detail about what to do with your retirement account when you leave your job: 4 Options for Your 401(k) When You Leave Your Job

CONSIDERATION #3

YOUR CASH FLOW

Can you manage your cash flow effectively between one job & the next?

First, you’ll need to truly understand if you can make this work. I suggest taking pencil to paper and filling out a cash flow worksheet to figure out what your needs are.

Here is a link to our cash flow worksheet to make things easier for you: http://bit.ly/CashFlowWorksheet

Use can also online tools to help with this. We use first step cash management with our clients. In my opinion this is the best cashflow planning strategy available. If you are interested, as a thank you for watching the video and reading this post I will give you free access. Simply send a private message request to the Weiss Financial Group Facebook page and I’ll get you set up.

This all makes the case for having an emergency fund in place. Do you have one? Take a look at this blog post I wrote: How Big Should Your Emergency Fund Be?.

Finally, I recommend postponing big purchases, and avoid running up large credit card debts you will regret later.

BOTTOM LINE

  • Make sure you keep your household money needs top of mind
  • Make sure you address your insurance needs
  • Strive to keep saving for your future at your new workplace

Sources

  1. qz.com/666915/when-to-switch-jobs-to-get-the-biggest-salary-increase/
  2. money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/news/economy/millennials-change-jobs-frequently/
  3. healthcare.gov/quick-guide/dates-and-deadlines/
  4. lifereimagined.aarp.org/stories/14481-Financial-Checklist-for-Job-Changers
  5. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

Stay On Track: 3 Financial Tips for October

Staying on top of your financial life can be a daunting task, however if you tackle a few smaller tasks every month it becomes more manageable. Here are 3 things you can do in October to help to keep your financial life on track this year:

#1
OPEN ENROLLMENT

Open enrollment is the perfect time to review what your employer offers to help you manage your finances.

Did you have a baby this year? If so, you may be interested in the dependent care flexible spending account.

Is your employer offering a high-deductible health insurance plan? If so, you should learn more about the benefits of a health savings account (HSA)

#2

SUBMIT YOUR TAX RETURN

If You’ve Filed for an Extension Submit Your Taxes by October 15th.

October 15 is the last day that you can submit your taxes if you’ve filed for an extension.

#3
ESTATE PLANNING TASKS

Since you may be dealing with open enrollment this month, you can also tack on some estate planning tasks.

First, check the beneficiary designations on your retirement plans and make updates if needed.

Also, while you’re at it take a look at your will and health care directive to see if want to make any changes there.


Sources:

1.http://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/your-january-2016-financial-to-dos/
2.http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/12/02/your-end-of-year-financial-checklist
3.http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/04/your-financial-to-dos-for-every-month-in-2013/#14fe6d3d41d4

 

Are You Properly Insured? Should You Insure Your Kids? [VIDEO]

September is National Life Insurance Awareness Month – a good time to think about the value and importance of insuring yourself.
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Too many Americans Have No Life Insurance At All

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 42% of Americans have no life insurance at all. (1) Many growing families have inadequate life insurance coverage. The Bankrate survey discovered that 37% of parents with children under age 18 had no policy at all. The Good news life insurance coverage has become much more affordable than it once was.

What Life Insurance Does for You

Life insurance is about managing risk, and if other people rely on you financially, you need to have it in place in case your passing puts them at financial risk. When a spouse or parent dies, there are financial matters to address: a sudden lack of income for a household, bills and mortgages or rent to pay, final expenses such as funeral or cremation costs, and the cost of children’s education. Without adequate life insurance coverage, a household is hard-pressed to meet these immediate, financially draining challenges.

How Much Coverage is Adequate For You?

Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 15 times your income.
Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 20x’s income in your 40’s 15x’s income in your 50’s. You can use this calculator to help determine what may be right for you.

What Kind of Insurance Should You Get?

There are basically 2 types of insurance: Temporary (Term) and Permanent (Whole Life). What’s right for you depends on so many factors you will probably need to discuss this with a professional. Term is significantly less expensive but will end after a specified period of time. If you are considering a term life policy, the term should not end before your envisioned retirement age.(2)

Should You Have Life Insurance on Your Children?

A small life insurance policy could help cover these expenses if the unthinkable occured:
  1. Outstanding Healthcare costs
  2. Lost income from taking time off to mourn
  3. Funeral costs

Make Sure You Have Coverage in Place

While you may decide you prefer one kind of policy over another, the important thing is to have coverage in place – not just to reassure yourself, but those you love. Life insurance can help a spouse or a family maintain financial equilibrium at a time when it is most needed.


Sources

  1. bankrate.com/finance/insurance/money-pulse-0715.aspx [7/8/15]
  2. forbes.com/sites/timmaurer/2016/01/05/10-things-you-absolutely-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/ [1/5/16]
  3. nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/should-you-consider-cash-value-life-insurance/ [5/6/15]
  4. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

Worrying About Your Portfolio? Why You Need to Know Your Risk Tolerance [VIDEO]

Knowing your Risk Tolerance or Risk Profile is important for smart investors. Below you’ll learn what it signifies AND why you need to know it.

Which Model Portfolio is Right For You?

If you work with an advisor they often use a few model portfolios which they’ll adapt for the unique needs of each client. Your risk profile indicates which of these model portfolios might become a good basis for your own, custom portfolio.

TYPES OF INVESTORS

  • Conservative

  • Moderate

  • Aggressive

Investors are usually categorized as “conservative”, “moderate” or “aggressive”, with in-between categories of “moderately aggressive” and “moderately conservative” which are based on your questionnaire responses.

The Conservative Investor

If you absolutely do not want to risk losing money, or if your first priority is consistent income to live on, you are a conservative investor. If these are your concerns and you are retired or about to retire, you should probably avoid high-risk investments.

If you retire with an aggressive portfolio and your investments tank, it could take (many) years to rebuild your savings, years you might not have.

The Moderately Conservative Investor

However, many pre-retirees and new retirees are moderately conservative: they are cautious with money in their lives and don’t want to take on a risky portfolio, but they still have a need to accumulate assets because they have either started saving for the future too late or lost assets as a result of market downturns or poor or unfortunate financial decisions.

The Aggressive Investor &

Moderately Aggressive Investor

Aggressive and moderately aggressive investors commonly want to match or beat the markets. Or, they are looking to save for retirement at a highly accelerated rate.

Some are “market junkies” who watch Wall Street on a daily basis. Most of them are expecting to build substantial wealth someday.

They tend to be young investors or in the middle stage of life. Most of have NOT been hit hard financially as a result of investing, and many of them have substantial income or savings.

The moderately aggressive investor is willing to wait a bit longer to reach his or her goals, while the aggressive investor tends to be in a hurry by comparison.

The Moderate Investor

Typically, the moderate investor starts investing roughly about the time of major life events – that first stable job with a corresponding 401(k), a marriage, the start of a family.

Often, the moderate investor is a younger investor saving or investing for long-term goals (usually their child’s college education and retirement). These midlife investors frequently have a “balanced” portfolio, with a mix of conservative and riskier investments across varied investment classes. These investors are willing to accept some losses and risks and are pragmatic and usually educated about the realities of investing and their investment options. Some moderate investors are retired or nearly retired, having either retained their investment stance out of necessity (they need to continue accumulating assets in retirement) or out of preference (they do not want to “miss out” when the bulls run on Wall Street).

These midlife investors frequently have a “balanced” portfolio, with a mix of conservative and riskier investments across varied investment classes. They are willing to accept some losses and risks and are understand the realities of investing and their investment options.

Some moderate investors are retired or nearly retired, having either kept their investment stance out of necessity (they need to continue accumulating assets in retirement) or out of preference (they do not want to “miss out” when the bulls run on Wall Street).

What’s your risk number?

Now that you know all this it’s time to figure out your risk tolerance. You can use our free tool to learn what your risk number is. It’s great information to help you build the best portfolio for your goals.


 

Source:
This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

 

Beyond Stocks: How to Combat Market Ups & Downs [VIDEO]

We all seem to know a day trader or two, someone constantly hunting for the next hot stock. That’s not what I’d consider smart investing. Here’s why it’s wise to diversify your portfolio:

Diversification Helps You Manage Risk

We all want a terrific ROI, but risk management matters just as much in investing, perhaps more. That is why diversification is so important. There are two great reasons to invest across a range of asset classes, even when some are clearly outperforming others.

REASON #1:

Potentially Capture Gains in Different Market Climates

If you allocate your invested assets across the breadth of asset classes, you will at least have some percentage of your portfolio assigned to the market’s best-performing sectors on any given trading day. If your portfolio is too heavily weighted in one asset class, or in one stock, its return is riding too heavily on its performance.

Your portfolio is like a garden. A good gardener will plant a variety of flowers to ensure something is always blooming. The gardener knows that some flowers eventually die off or may not grow well but if there is enough diversity the overall picture will still look good.

REASON #2:

Potentially Less Financial Pain if Stocks Tank

If you have a lot of money in growth stocks and aggressive growth funds (and some people do), what happens to your portfolio in a correction or a bear market? You’ve got a bunch of losers on your hands. Tax loss harvesting can ease the pain only so much.

Diversification gives your portfolio a kind of “buffer” against market volatility and drawdowns. Without it, your exposure to risk is magnified.

ADVICE:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Believe the cliché: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Wall Street is hardly uneventful and the behavior of the market sometimes leaves even seasoned analysts scratching their heads. We can’t predict how the market will perform; we can diversify to address the challenges presented by its ups and downs. 


Sources

  1. usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/story/2011-12-08/investment-diversification/51749298/1 [12/8/11]
  2. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.