Tax Considerations for Retirees

Are you aware of them?

 

Provided by Michael Snow

    

The federal government offers some major tax breaks for older Americans. Some of these perks deserve more publicity than they receive.

       

If you are 65 or older, your standard deduction is $1,300 larger. Make that $1,600 if you are unmarried. Thanks to the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, the 2018 standard deduction for an individual taxpayer at least 65 years of age is a whopping $13,600, more than double what it was in 2017. (If you are someone else’s dependent, your standard deduction is much less.)1

 

You may be able to write off some medical costs. This year, the Internal Revenue Service will let you deduct qualifying medical expenses once they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. In 2019, the threshold will return to 10% of AGI, unless Congress acts to preserve the 7.5% baseline. The I.R.S. list of eligible expenses is long. Beyond out-of-pocket costs paid to doctors and other health care professionals, it also includes things like long-term care insurance premiums, travel costs linked to medical appointments, and payments for durable medical equipment, such as dentures and hearing aids.2

 

Are you thinking about selling your home? Many retirees consider this. If you have lived in your current residence for at least two of the five years preceding a sale, you can exclude as much as $250,000 in gains from federal taxation (a married couple can shield up to $500,000). These limits, established in 1997, have never been indexed to inflation. The Department of the Treasury has been studying whether it has the power to adjust them. If modified for inflation, they would approach $400,000 for singles and $800,000 for married couples.3,4

 

Low-income seniors may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. This incentive, intended for people 65 and older (and younger people who have retired due to permanent and total disability), can be as large as $7,500 based on your filing status. You must have very low AGI and nontaxable income to claim it, though. It is basically designed for those living wholly or mostly on Social Security benefits.5

 

Affluent IRA owners may want to make a charitable IRA gift. If you are well off and have a large traditional IRA, you may not need your yearly Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for living expenses. If you are 70½ or older, you have an option: you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) with IRA assets. You can donate up to $100,000 of IRA assets to a qualified charity in a single year this way, and the amount donated counts toward your annual RMD. (A married couple gets to donate up to $200,000 per year.) Even more importantly, the amount of the QCD is excluded from your taxable income for the year of the donation.6

 

Some states also give seniors tax breaks. For example, the following 11 states do not tax federal, state, or local pension income: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight states (and the District of Columbia) refrain from taxing Social Security income.7

   

Unfortunately, your Social Security benefits could be partly or fully taxable. They could be taxed at both the federal and state level, depending on how much you earn and where you happen to live. Whether you feel this is reasonable or not, you may have the potential to claim some of the tax breaks mentioned above as you pursue the goal of tax efficiency.5,7

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. 125 N. Market St., Suite 1603, Wichita, KS 67202

 

Citations.

1 – fool.com/taxes/2018/04/15/2018-standard-deduction-how-much-it-is-and-why-you.aspx [4/15/18]

2 – aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2018/medical-deductions-irs-fd.html [1/12/18]

3 – loans.usnews.com/what-are-the-tax-benefits-of-buying-a-house [10/17/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/08/02/some-home-sellers-would-see-huge-savings-under-treasury-tax-cut-plan.html [8/2/18]

5 – fool.com/taxes/2017/12/31/living-on-social-security-heres-a-tax-credit-just.aspx [12/31/17]

6 – tinyurl.com/y8slf8et [1/3/18]

7 – thebalance.com/state-income-taxes-in-retirement-3193297 ml [8/15/18]

 

Your Diversified Portfolio vs. the S&P 500

How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.  

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

“Why is my portfolio under-performing the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter.

 

The short answer is that while the U.S. equities market has realized significant gains in 2018, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds have under-performed and exerted a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.

    

A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes. This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.

   

Because of this long bull market, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned. A portfolio once evenly held in equities and fixed income may now have a majority of its assets held in stocks, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return more than in the past.1

 

Yes, stock markets – as in stock markets worldwide. Today, investors have more global exposure than they once did. In the 1990’s, international holdings represented about 5% of an individual investor’s typical portfolio. Today, that has risen to about 15%. When overseas markets struggle, it does impact the return for many U.S. investors – and struggle they have. A strong dollar, the appearance of tariffs – these are considerable headwinds.2,3  

 

In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact. At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly affected when tech shares slide, as investors witnessed in fall 2018.4

   

How about the fixed-income market? Well, this has been a weak year for bonds, and bonds are not known for generating huge annual returns to start with.3

 

This year, U.S. stocks have been out in front. A portfolio 100% invested in the U.S. stock market would have a 2018 return like that of the S&P 500. But who invests entirely in stocks, let alone without any exposure to international and emerging markets?3

 

Just as an illustration, assume there is a hypothetical investor this year who is actually 100% invested in equities, as follows: 50% domestic, 35% international, 15% emerging markets. In the first two-thirds of 2018, that hypothetical portfolio would have advanced just 3.6%.3

 

Your portfolio is not the market – and vice versa. Your investments might be returning 3% or less so far this year. Yes – this year. Will the financial markets behave in this exact fashion next year? Will the sector returns or emerging market returns of 2018 be replicated year after year for the next 10 or 15 years? The chances are remote.

 

The investment markets are ever-changing. In some years, you may get a double-digit return. In other years, your return is much smaller. When your portfolio is diversified across asset classes, the highs may not be so high – but the lows may not be so low, either. When things turn volatile, diversification may help insulate you from some of the ups and downs you go through as an investor.

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are un-managed and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

     

Citations.

1 – seattletimes.com/business/5-steps-to-take-if-the-bull-market-run-has-you-thinking-of-unloading-stocks/ [8/25/18]

2 – forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2018/08/05/how-most-investors-get-their-international-stock-exposure-wrong/ [8/5/18]

3 – thestreet.com/investing/stocks/dear-financial-advisor-why-is-my-portfolio-performing-so-14712955 [9/15/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/04/20/tech-dominates-the-sp-500-but-thats-not-always-a-bad-omen.html [4/20/18]

 

Tolerate the Turbulence

 

Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

Volatility will always be around on Wall Street, and as you invest for the long term, you must learn to tolerate it. Rocky moments, fortunately, are not the norm.

  

Since the end of World War II, there have been dozens of Wall Street shocks. Wall Street has seen 56 pullbacks (retreats of 5-9.99%) in the past 73 years; the S&P index dipped 6.9% in this last one. On average, the benchmark fully rebounded from these pullbacks within two months. The S&P has also seen 22 corrections (descents of 10-19.99%) and 12 bear markets (falls of 20% or more) in the post-WWII era.1

 

Even with all those setbacks, the S&P has grown exponentially larger. During the month World War II ended (September 1945), its closing price hovered around 16. At this writing, it is above 2,750. Those two numbers communicate the value of staying invested for the long run.2

 

This current bull market has witnessed five corrections, and nearly a sixth (a 9.8% pullback in 2011, a year that also saw a 19.4% correction). It has risen roughly 335% since its beginning even with those stumbles. Investors who stayed in equities through those downturns watched the major indices soar to all-time highs.1

 

As all this history shows, waiting out the shocks may be highly worthwhile. The alternative is trying to time the market. That can be a fool’s errand. To succeed at market timing, investors have to be right twice, which is a tall order. Instead of selling in response to paper losses, perhaps they should respond to the fear of missing out on great gains during a recovery and hang on through the choppiness.

 

After all, volatility creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality companies are suddenly available at a discount. Investors effectively pay a lower average cost per share to obtain them.

 

Bad market days shock us because they are uncommon. If pullbacks or corrections occurred regularly, they would discourage many of us from investing in equities; we would look elsewhere to try and build wealth. A decade ago, in the middle of the terrible 2007-09 bear market, some investors convinced themselves that bad days were becoming the new normal. History proved them wrong.

 

As you ride out this current outbreak of volatility, keep two things in mind. One, your time horizon. You are investing for goals that may be five, ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. One bad market week, month, or year is but a blip on that timeline and is unlikely to have a severe impact on your long-run asset accumulation strategy. Two, remember that there have been more good days on Wall Street than bad ones. The S&P 500 rose in 53.7% of its trading sessions during the years 1950-2017, and it advanced in 68 of the 92 years ending in 2017.3,4

 

Sudden volatility should not lead you to exit the market. If you react anxiously and move out of equities in response to short-term downturns, you may impede your progress toward your long-term goals.

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

    

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/if-us-stocks-suffer-another-correction-start-worrying-2018-10-16 [10/16/18]

2 – multpl.com/s-p-500-historical-prices/table/by-month [10/18/18]

3 – crestmontresearch.com/docs/Stock-Yo-Yo.pdf [10/18/18]

4 – icmarc.org/prebuilt/apps/downloadDoc.asp [2/18]

 

Why the U.S. Might Be Less Affected by a Trade War

 

The nature of our economy could help it withstand the disruption.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

A trade war does seem to be getting underway. Investors around the world see headwinds arising from newly enacted and planned tariffs, headwinds that could potentially exert a drag on global growth (and stock markets). How badly could these trade disputes hurt the American economy? Perhaps not as dramatically as some journalists and analysts warn.1,2

 

Our business sector may be impacted most. Undeniably, tariffs on imported goods raise costs for manufacturers. Costlier imports may reduce business confidence, and less confidence implies less capital investment. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which regularly surveys firms to learn their plans for the next six months, learned in July that businesses anticipate investing less and hiring fewer employees during the second half of the year. The survey’s index for future activity fell in July for the fourth month in a row. (Perhaps the outlook is not quite as negative as the Philadelphia Fed reports: a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey indicates that most companies have relatively stable spending plans for the near term.)1,2  

  

Fortunately, the U.S. economy is domestically driven. Consumer spending is its anchor: household purchases make up about two-thirds of it. Our economy is fairly “closed” compared to the economies of some of our key trading partners and rivals. Last year, trade accounted for just 27% of our gross domestic product. In contrast, it represented 37% of gross domestic product for China, 64% of growth for Canada, 78% of GDP for Mexico, and 87% of GDP for Germany.3,4

     

Our stock markets have held up well so far. The trade spat between the U.S. and China cast some gloom over Wall Street during the second-quarter earnings season, yet the S&P 500 neared an all-time peak in early August.5

 

All this tariff talk has helped the dollar. Between February 7 and August 7, the U.S. Dollar Index rose 5.4%. A stronger greenback does potentially hurt U.S. exports and corporate earnings, and in the past, the impact has been felt notably in the energy, materials, and tech sectors.6,7

       

As always, the future comes with question marks. No one can predict just how severe the impact from tariffs on our economy and other economies will be or how the narrative will play out. That said, it appears the U.S. may have a bit more economic insulation in the face of a trade war than other nations might have.

 

Michael R Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal or accounting services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

Citations.

1 – reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/us-weekly-jobless-claims-hit-more-than-48-and-a-half-year-low-idUSKBN1K91R5 [7/19/18]

2 – nytimes.com/2018/07/24/upshot/trade-war-damage-to-us-economy-how-to-tell.html [7/24/18]

3 – money.cnn.com/2018/07/25/news/economy/state-of-the-economy-gdp/index.html [7/25/18]

4 – alliancebernstein.com/library/can-the-us-economy-weather-the-trade-wars.htm [7/17/18]

5 – cnbc.com/2018/08/06/the-sp-500-and-other-indexes-are-again-on-the-verge-of-historic-highs.html [8/6/18]

6 – barchart.com/stocks/quotes/$DXY/performance [8/7/18]

7 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/strongweakdollar.asp [3/16/18]

 

Tax Efficiency in Retirement: How much attention do you pay to this factor?

Provided Michael Snow

Will you pay higher taxes in retirement? Do you have a lot of money in a 401(k) or a traditional IRA? If so, you may receive significant retirement income. Those income distributions, however, will be taxed at the usual rate. If you have saved and invested well, you may end up retiring at your current marginal tax rate or even a higher one. The jump in income alone resulting from a Required Minimum Distribution could push you into a higher tax bracket.

While retirees with lower incomes may rely on Social Security as their prime income source, they may pay comparatively less income tax than you will in retirement; some, or even all, of their Social Security benefits may not be counted as taxable income.1

Given these possibilities, affluent investors might do well to study the tax efficiency of their portfolios; not all investments will prove to be tax-efficient. Both pre-tax and after-tax investments have potential advantages.

What’s a pre-tax investment? Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are classic examples of pre-tax investments. You can put off paying taxes on the contributions you make to these accounts and the earnings these accounts generate. When you take money out of these accounts, you are looking at taxes on the withdrawal. Pre-tax investments are also called tax-deferred investments, as the invested assets can benefit from tax-deferred growth.2

What’s an after-tax investment? A Roth IRA is a classic example. When you put money into a Roth IRA, the contribution is not tax-deductible. As a trade-off, you don’t pay taxes on the withdrawals from that Roth IRA (so long as you have had your Roth IRA at least five years and you are at least 59½ years old). Thanks to these tax-free withdrawals, your total taxable retirement income is not as high as it would be otherwise.2

Should you have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA? It may seem redundant, but it could help you manage your marginal tax rate. It gives you an option to vary the amount and source of your IRA distributions considering whether tax rates have increased or decreased.

Smart moves can help you reduce your taxable income & taxable estate. If you’re making a charitable gift, giving appreciated securities that you have held for at least a year may be better than giving cash. In addition to a potential tax deduction for the fair market value of the asset in the year of the donation, the charity can sell the stock later without triggering capital gains for it or you.3

The annual gift tax exclusion gives you a way to remove assets from your taxable estate. In 2018, you may give up to $15,000 to as many individuals as you wish without paying federal gift tax, so long as your total gifts keep you within the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. If you have 11 grandkids, you could give them $15,000 each – that’s $165,000 out of your estate. The drawback is that you relinquish control over those dollars or assets.4

Are you striving for greater tax efficiency? In retirement, it is especially important – and worth a discussion. A few financial adjustments could help you lessen your tax liabilities.

Michael Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com
www.tower-strategies.com

Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. This information should not be construed as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are un-managed and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Should You Re-balance Your Portfolio

As you approach retirement, it may be time to pay more attention to investment risk.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

If you are an experienced investor, you have probably fine-tuned your portfolio through the years in response to market cycles or in pursuit of a better return. As you approach or enter retirement, is another adjustment necessary?

 

Some investors may think they can approach retirement without looking at their portfolios. Their investment allocations may be little changed from what they were 10 or 15 years ago. Because of that inattention (and this long bull market), their invested assets may be exposed to more risk than they would like.

 

Rebalancing your portfolio with your time horizon in mind is only practical. Consider the nature of equity investments: they lose or gain value according to the market climate, which at times may be fear driven. The larger your equities position, the larger your losses could be in a bear market or market disruption. If this kind of calamity happens when you are newly retired or two or three years away from retiring, your portfolio could be hit hard if you are holding too much stock. What if it takes you several years to recoup your losses? Would those losses force you to compromise your retirement dreams?

   

As certain asset classes outperform others over time, a portfolio can veer off course. The asset classes achieving the better returns come to represent a greater percentage of the portfolio assets. The intended asset allocations are thrown out of alignment.1

 

Just how much of your portfolio is held in equities today? Could the amount be 70%, 75%, 80%? It might be, given the way stocks have performed in this decade. As a Street Authority comparison notes, a hypothetical portfolio weighted 50/50 in equities and fixed-income investments at the end of February 2009 would have been weighted 74/26 in favor of stocks by the end of February 2018.1

 

Ideally, you reduce your risk exposure with time. With that objective in mind, you regularly rebalance your portfolio to maintain or revise its allocations. You also may want to apportion your portfolio, so that you have some cash for distributions once you are retired.

 

Rebalancing could be a good idea for other reasons. Perhaps you want to try and stay away from market sectors that seem overvalued. Or, perhaps you want to find opportunities. Maybe an asset class or sector is doing well and is underrepresented in your investment mix. Alternately, you may want to revise your portfolio in view of income or capital gains taxes.

 

Rebalancing is not about chasing the return but reducing volatility. The goal is to manage risk exposure, and with less risk, there may be less potential for a great return. When you reach a certain age, though, “playing defense” with your invested assets becomes a priority.

 

Michael Snow                                                                                                                                        President                                                                                                                                       Tower Financial Strategies Corp.                                                                                                        125 N. Market  ST                                                                                                                                    Suite 1603                                                                                                                                                Wichita, KS 67202                                                                                                                                  316-765-7738                                                                                                                      http://www.tower-strategies.com

Target Date Funds

In our fist blog we explain Target Date Funds. Click on the link as we describe these funds often found in retirement plans. They will be associated with a year like 2030 or 2040. While this fund might be appropriate for some, it is not appropriate for everyone, and we explain who may and may not find these funds suitable. Enjoy our video, and subscribe so you don’t miss our upcoming content.