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]

 

Investing Means Tolerating Some Risk

 

That truth must always be recognized.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

                       

When financial markets have a bad day, week, or month, discomforting headlines and data can swiftly communicate a message to retirees and retirement savers alike: equity investments are risky things, and Wall Street is a risky place.

 

All true. If you want to accumulate significant retirement savings or try and grow your wealth through the opportunities in the markets, this is a reality you cannot avoid.

 

Regularly, your investments contend with assorted market risks. They never go away. At times, they may seem dangerous to your net worth or your retirement savings, so much so that you think about getting out of equities entirely.

 

If you are having such thoughts, think about this: in the big picture, the real danger to your retirement could be being too risk averse.

 

Is it possible to hold too much in cash? Yes. Some pre-retirees do. (Even some retirees, in fact.) They have six-figure savings accounts, built up since the Great Recession and the last bear market. It is a prudent move. A dollar will always be worth a dollar in America, and that money is out of the market and backed by deposit insurance.

 

This is all well and good, but the problem is what that money is earning. Even with interest rates rising, many high-balance savings accounts are currently yielding less than 0.5% a year. The latest inflation data shows consumer prices advancing 2.3% a year. That money in the bank is not outrunning inflation, not even close. It will lose purchasing power over time.1,2

 

Consider some of the recent yearly advances of the S&P 500. In 2016, it gained 9.54%; in 2017, it gained 19.42%. Those were the price returns; the 2016 and 2017 total returns (with dividends reinvested) were a respective 11.96% and 21.83%.3,4

 

Yes, the broad benchmark for U.S. equities has bad years as well. Historically, it has had about one negative year for every three positive years. Looking through relatively recent historical windows, the positives have mostly outweighed the negatives for investors. From 1973-2016, for example, the S&P gained an average of 11.69% per year. (The last 3-year losing streak the S&P had was in 2000-02.)5

 

Your portfolio may not return as well as the S&P does in a given year, but when equities rally, your household may see its invested assets grow noticeably. When you bring in equity investment account factors like compounding and tax deferral, the growth of those invested assets over decades may dwarf the growth that could result from mere checking or savings account interest.

 

At some point, putting too little into investments and too much in the bank may become a risk – a risk to your retirement savings potential. At today’s interest rates, the money you are saving may end up growing faster if it is invested in some vehicle offering potentially greater reward and comparatively greater degrees of risk to tolerate.

 

Having a big emergency fund is good. You can dip into that liquid pool of cash to address sudden financial issues that pose risks to your financial equilibrium in the present.

 

Having a big retirement fund is even better. When you have one of those, you may confidently address the biggest financial risk you will ever face: the risk of outliving your money in the future.

 

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. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed Insurance Agency.

     

Citations.

1 – valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates [10/4/18]

2 – investing.com/economic-calendar/ [10/11/18]

3 – money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/ [10/11/18]

4 – ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_total_return_annual [10/11/18]

5 – thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year-2388543 [6/23/18]

Retirees, Check Your Withholding

 

It may need to be adjusted due to the 2017 federal tax reforms.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

The Internal Revenue Service has a message for you. You may need to adjust the amount withheld from your paycheck or the size of your estimated tax payments because the agency is using new withholding tables this year. Should you underpay your taxes for 2018, you could be hit with a tax penalty in 2019.1

 

If you are retired or about to retire, you should take note of this announcement. While it may seem aimed at salaried employees and small business owners, the changes to the withholding tables also impact you.

 

Many retirees work in the gig economy. They walk dogs, drive for ridesharing companies, serve as home health aides, and act as management, marketing, legal, and health care consultants. The common thread here is self-employment. Self-employment means making estimated tax payments. This is a new experience for some baby boomers.2

 

If you have started freelancing or started a part-time business, you must join their ranks. You must file like a business owner even if you have an informal business venture that has lost money; if there is a profit motive, the I.R.S. considers that self-employment.2,3

  

Double-check your withholding even if you do not work part time. Paying estimated taxes is normal after you retire, whether you work or not; an employer no longer files a Form W-4 for you. Your retirement income probably comes from multiple sources and includes Social Security benefits, mandatory annual retirement account withdrawals, and maybe pension income from a past employer or a pension-like income arranged through a private contract.4

  

Part of your Social Security income can be subject to federal income taxes if your “combined income” exceeds a certain level. “Combined income” = adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of your Social Security benefits. If you are single and your combined income falls between $25,000-$34,000, you may see up to 50% of your benefits taxed; the limit is 85% when your combined income tops $34,000. If you and your spouse file jointly and have a combined income between $32,000-$44,000, as much as 50% of your benefits may be taxable; above $44,000, the ceiling is 85%. Some states also tax Social Security benefits.4,5

 

Given all this, Form W-4V may be handy. You can file it to withhold a flat percentage from each Social Security payment: 7%, 10%, 12%, or even 22%.4,5

 

Do you receive a pension or pension-style income? Then you may want to file Form W-4P, which withholds taxes from those payments (you can indicate the number of allowances you wish to claim; the more you claim, the less money you withhold).4

 

Regarding the Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) you must take annually from traditional IRAs and other qualified retirement accounts after age 70½, you have an interesting option if you are wealthy enough not to need 100% of the money. You can tell the custodian of your IRA (or other retirement account) that you want taxes withheld from the RMD, effectively taking care of the quarterly estimated tax payments you would otherwise make on the RMD amount.4

  

To help with all this, the I.R.S. offers an online withholding calculator. This is a feature of its Paycheck Checkup campaign. You can find it at irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator.1

     

Be sure to consult a tax professional about your withholding. Fine print may need to be studied. For example, not all income is subject to withholding; some forms of self-employment income, income derived from rental activities, and income from jobs in the sharing economy may be exempt. Have this conversation before 2019 arrives.1

 

Michael R Snow* may be reached at316-765-7738 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 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 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 – irs.gov/newsroom/avoid-penalty-for-underpayment-of-taxes-irs-says-check-withholding-make-estimated-payments [9/6/18]

2 – irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/self-employed-individuals-tax-center [12/14/17]

3 – irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/business-activities [4/23/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/09/12/the-irs-is-warning-retirees-of-this-impending-surprise-tax.html [9/12/18]

5 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C000-S004-retiree-tax-tip-tally-taxes-on-social-security.html [9/5/18]

 

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]