Tax Planning

Open Enrollment Season for Health Insurance and Medicare 2020

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

Open Enrollment Season for Health Insurance and Medicare 2020

It’s hard to believe we’re already down to the last official days of summer and about to begin another fall season. And along with the foliage, football games, and cider mills comes the health insurance open enrollment season for many employers and for Medicare.

Now, I know reading through benefits manuals may sound about as fun as cleaning out the gutters or raking those autumn leaves. But as our health care costs continue to rise (federal government actuaries estimate U.S. health care spending averaged $11,212 per person in 2018), making smart decisions is critical to keeping more money in your wallet.

Investing a little time to make sure your coverage meets your needs, and limits your financial risks, can really pay off.

Employer-sponsored health insurance plans

Many employers offer an annual open enrollment this time of year, giving employees an opportunity to select, or make changes to, benefits effective in the next calendar year.

Consider these points as you make your health insurance elections for 2020:

  • Review and compare your available plan offerings (e.g. PPO vs. HMO). For some key differences among plan types, click here.

  • Focus on more than just the premium costs. Compare the potential total out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays, and the annual out-of-pocket maximums.  

  • Consider your health history and the services you may use in the next year. Are you likely to hit the deductible or maximum out-of-pocket costs each year? The benefit of lower premiums for a high deductible plan may be outweighed by higher overall out-of-pocket costs. Are you less likely to hit the deductible, or do you have excess cash in savings to cover unexpected health care costs? A lower premium, high deductible plan may be a good choice.

  • Consider whether funding an available Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for health care or Health Savings Account (HSA) makes sense. Keep in mind some key differences:

    • HSA requires a high deductible health plan.

    • You generally must spend FSA dollars on eligible expenses by the end of each plan year or forfeit unspent amounts (use-or-lose provision).

    • HSA balances carryover (no use-or-lose provision).

  • For working spouses, it is also important to review each of your employer-sponsored health plan options and consider any limitations on spousal coverage. It has become increasingly common for employers to add surcharges to the premium for spousal coverage, or to entirely exclude coverage for spouses who have access to their own employer-sponsored coverage.

Medicare Open Enrollment

The *Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage window opens each year for anyone currently enrolled in Medicare to make changes to their plan, add certain coverages, or enroll in a new plan. It also allows first-time enrollment for individuals who have qualified for Medicare but have not previously enrolled at age 65 or during a Special Enrollment Period.

 This window opens from October 15 through December 7. Changes you can make include: 

  • Changing from Original Medicare (Part A/Part B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan

  • Changing from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare

  • Switching to another Medicare Advantage Plan

  • Joining a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)

  • Switching from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan

  • Dropping your Medicare prescription drug coverage

*There is also a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment from January 1 through March 31, but only for those currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. It allows changing from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another, or changing from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.

Unlike the fall open enrollment period, this window does NOT allow changes such as switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, joining a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, or switching from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another if enrolled in Original Medicare.

What if I am employed at age 65 or older?

For employees age 65 and older who are reviewing their health coverage options, the decisions can become more complicated due to Medicare eligibility. If such employees have access to great employer group health insurance coverage at very reasonable costs, it could make sense to continue this coverage even while Medicare eligible. This can lead to additional questions such as:

  • Should I enroll in Medicare if I have other coverage?

  • For which parts of Medicare should I apply?

With more than one potential payer (e.g. employer health insurance provider and Medicare), “coordination of benefits” rules determine which pays first. Understanding how your employer coverage coordinates with Medicare is an important factor in your decision-making process.

For employers with more than 20 employees, the group health plan generally pays first, and Medicare is secondary. This means that if the group plan does not pay all of the bill, Medicare would pay based on its coverage structure, what the group plan paid, and what the provider charged. Because the group health plan is the primary payer, you may have more flexibility to apply for portions of Medicare, such as selecting Part A (which is premium-free for most everyone) and deferring Part B (which has a monthly premium).

If an employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare generally pays first, and the group health plan becomes secondary. In this case, as an eligible employee, you should probably enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. (Medicare Advantage Plans also cover services under Parts A and B.) Failing to enroll in both parts of Medicare could leave you responsible out-of-pocket for anything that Medicare would have covered.

While many factors apply to your own unique circumstances, here are some additional tips for employees age 65+ who are making Medicare enrollment decisions:

  • Get the details of your employer-provided coverage in writing to help you decide how to handle Medicare choices. Confirm with your employer plan how benefits coordinate with Medicare.

  • Coordinate with your spouse when evaluating your coverage options (just as you would if you were under age). If you are both still working at age 65, you can compare employer health plans and how they work with Medicare, as well as understanding any available spousal/family coverage options. Doing a little homework can help you choose the optimal plan.

  • Are you contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA)? By enrolling in any part of Medicare, you lose the ability to continue HSA contributions. Determine which is most important to you, enrolling in Medicare or continuing the HSA contributions.

  • If enrolling in Original Medicare Parts A and B, don’t forget to look at Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap), which literally helps fill certain coverage gaps in traditional Medicare. 

Health care costs may be one of your largest expenses over your lifetime, and the planning decisions are often complex. Take advantage of these other great resources available to you:

As always, if we can be a resource for you or someone you know, please get in touch.

Robert Ingram, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® With more than 15 years of industry experience, he is a trusted source for local media outlets and frequent contributor to The Center’s “Money Centered” blog.


Source: https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nationalhealthaccountshistorical.html Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Changes in tax laws or regulations may occur at any time and could substantially impact your situation. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Prior to making a decision to purchase an insurance product, please consult with a properly licensed insurance professional.

Qualified Charitable Distributions: Giving Money While Saving Money

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel, CFP®

Qualified Charitable Distributions

The Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) can be a powerful and tax-efficient way to achieve one’s philanthropic goals. This strategy has become much more popular under the new tax laws.

QCD Refresher

The QCD, which applies only if you’re at least 70 ½ years old, essentially allows you to directly donate your entire Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) to a charity. Normally, any distribution from an IRA is considered ordinary income from a tax perspective; however, when the dollars go directly to a charity or 501(c)3 organization, the distribution from the IRA is considered not taxable.

Let’s Look at an Example

Sandy turned 70 ½ in June 2019, and this is the first year she has to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from her IRA, which happens to be $25,000. A charitably inclined person, Sandy gifts, on average, nearly $30,000 each year to her church. Because she does not really need the proceeds from her RMD, she can have the $25,000 directly transferred to her church, either by check or electronic deposit. She would then avoid paying tax on the distribution. Since Sandy is in the 24% tax bracket, she saves approximately $6,000 in federal taxes!

Rules to Consider

The QCD and similar strategies have rules and nuances you should keep in mind to ensure proper execution:

  • Only distributions from IRAs are permitted for the QCD. Simple and SEP IRAs must be “inactive.”

    • Employer plans such as a 401k, 403b, 457 do not allow for the QCD.

    • The QCD is permitted within a Roth IRA but would not make sense from a tax perspective, because Roth IRA withdrawals are tax-free by age 70 ½.*

  • You must be 70 ½ at the time the QCD is processed.

  • Funds from the QCD must go directly to the charity and cannot go to you first and then out to the charity.

  • You can give, at most, $100,000 to charity through the QCD in any year, even if this figure exceeds the actual amount of your RMD.

The amount of money saved from being intentional with how you gift funds to charity can potentially keep more money in your pocket, which ultimately means there’s more to give to the organizations you passionately support.

Josh Bitel, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He conducts financial planning analysis for clients and has a special interest in retirement income analysis.

Can you roll your 401k to an IRA without leaving your job?

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

Can you roll your 401k to an IRA without leaving your job?

Typically, when you hear “rollover,” you think retirement or changing jobs. For the vast majority of clients, these two situations will be the only time they complete a 401k rollover. However, another option for moving funds from your company retirement plan to your IRA — the “in-service” rollover — is an often overlooked planning opportunity. 

Rollover Refresher

A rollover is simply the process of moving your employer retirement account (401k, 403b, 457, etc.) to an IRA over which you have complete control, separate from your ex-employer. If completed properly, rolling over funds from your company retirement plan to your IRA is a tax- and penalty-free transaction, because the tax characteristics of a 401k and an IRA generally are the same.  

What is an “in-service” rollover?

Unlike the “traditional” rollover, an “in-service” rollover is probably something unfamiliar to you, and for good reason. First, not all company retirement plans allow for it, and second, even when it’s available, the details may confuse employees. The bottom line: An in-service rollover allows an employee (often at a specified age, such as 59 ½) to roll a 401k to an IRA while employed with the company. The employee may still contribute to the plan, even after the completed rollover. Most plans allow this type of rollover once per year, but depending on the plan, you potentially could complete the rollover more often for different contribution types at an earlier age (sometimes as early as 55).

Why complete an “in-service” rollover?

While unusual, this rollover option offers some benefits:

More investment options: Any company retirement plan limits your investment options. You can invest IRA funds in almost any mutual fund, ETF, stock, bond, etc. Having options and investing in a way that aligns with your objectives and risk tolerance may improve investment performance, reduce volatility, and make your overall portfolio allocation more efficient.

Coordination with your other assets: Your financial planner can coordinate an IRA with your overall plan with much greater efficiency. How many times has your planner recommended changes in your 401k that simply don’t get completed? When your planner makes those adjustments, they won’t fall off your personal “to do” list.

Additional flexibility: IRAs allow penalty-free withdrawals for certain medical expenses, higher education expenses, first time homebuyer allowance, etc. that aren’t available with a 401k or other company retirement plan. Although this should be a last resort, it’s nice to have the flexibility.

Exploring “in-service” rollovers

So what now? First, always keep your financial planner in the loop when you retire or switch jobs to see whether a rollover makes sense for your situation. Second, let’s work together to see whether your current company retirement plan allows for an in-service rollover. That typically involves a 5-10 minute phone call with us and your company’s Human Resources department.

With your busy life, an in-service rollover may fall close to the bottom of your priority list. That’s why you have us on your financial team. We bring these opportunities to your attention and work with you to see whether they’ll improve your financial position! 

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


Rolling over your retirement assets to an IRA can be an excellent solution. It is a non-taxable event when done properly - and gives you access to a wide range of investments and the convenience of having consolidated your savings in a single location. In addition, flexible beneficiary designations may allow for the continued tax-deferred investing of inherited IRA assets. In addition to rolling over your 401(k) to an IRA, there are other options. Here is a brief look at all your options. For additional information and what is suitable for your particular situation, please consult us. 1. Leave money in your former employer's plan, if permitted Pro: May like the investments offered in the plan and may not have a fee for leaving it in the plan. Not a taxable event. 2. Roll over the assets to your new employer's plan, if one is available and it is permitted. Pro: Keeping it all together and larger sum of money working for you, not a taxable event Con: Not all employer plans accept rollovers. 3. Rollover to an IRA Pro: Likely more investment options, not a taxable event, consolidating accounts and locations Con: usually fee involved, potential termination fees 4. Cash out the account Con: A taxable event, loss of investing potential. Costly for young individuals under 59 ½; there is a penalty of 10% in addition to income taxes. Be sure to consider all of your available options and the applicable fees and features of each option before moving your retirement assets. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to re tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. 401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. Roth 401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Contributions to a Roth 401(k) are never tax deductible, but if certain conditions are met, distributions will be completely income tax free. Unlike Roth IRAs, Roth 401(k) participants are subject to required minimum distributions at age 70.5.

Efficient Tax Planning is Year-Round Work

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

efficient tax planning

While many of us focus this time of year on getting our tax returns done, year-round tax planning excites us number geeks! We really can’t control taxes, right? Well, not exactly. 

Of course, we can’t change the tax rates set by our government, but we can work collaboratively on financial decisions throughout the year that help ensure the greatest possible level of tax efficiency. Let’s look at a few examples:

EXAMPLE #1: FORD STOCK

Say you have a stock position in Ford purchased at $3 a share when “the sky was falling”. Because its worth has greatly increased, your unrealized gain amounts to $20,000. The stock has done so well, you might not want to part with it. You also don’t want to pay tax on that nice $20,000 gain. 

So consider this: If your taxable income falls within the 12% marginal tax bracket, chances are you would pay very little or possibly ZERO tax on the $20,000 gain. You could lock in that nice profit and potentially improve the overall allocation of your portfolio. 

This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment.

EXAMPLE #2: ROTH CONVERSION

Let’s take a look at another real-life example we often see. What if your income this year takes a significant drop, through a job loss, retirement, job change, or other move? Be sure to keep us in the loop, so that we can help you make pro-active tax planning decisions.

In this situation, a Roth IRA conversion could make a lot of sense if your income will fall into a lower tax bracket that you most likely will not see again. You would pay tax at a much lower rate, and moving Traditional IRA dollars into a Roth IRA for potential future, tax-free growth could create a monumental planning opportunity.   

SHARING YOUR TAX RETURNS

These are just two examples of the many factors we examine in your financial plan to make sure your dollars are efficiently taxed. You can help us do this work. Sharing your tax return early gives us a much better chance throughout the year to uncover strategies that may make sense for you and your family. 

Many of our clients have now signed a disclosure form allowing us to directly contact their CPA or tax professional to obtain copies of returns and to discuss tax-planning ideas. This saves you, as the client, the hassle of making copies or e-mailing your return – and we are all about making your life easier! 

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He conducts financial planning analysis for clients and has a special interest in retirement income analysis.


While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

High-deductible medical insurance plan? Try an HSA!

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

With the first year of the new Tax Cuts and Job Act behind us, tax-efficient saving seems to be top of mind for many Americans. In a world of uncertainty, why not utilize a savings vehicle you can control to help with medical costs?

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USING AN HSA

A Health Savings Account, or HSA, is available to anyone enrolled in a high-deductible health care plan. Many confuse an HSA with a Flex Spending Account or FSA – don’t make that mistake! A Health Savings Account is typically much more flexible and allows you to roll any unused funds over year to year, while a Flex Spending Account is a “use it or lose it” plan. 

WHAT AN HSA CAN COVER

Many employers who offer high-deductible plans will often contribute a certain amount to the employee’s HSA each year as an added benefit, somewhat like a 401k match. Dollars contributed to the account are pre-tax, and tax-deferred earnings accumulate. Funds withdrawn, if used for qualified medical expenses (including earnings), are tax-free.

The list of qualified medical expenses can be found at irs.gov; however, just to give you an idea, they include expenses to cover your deductible (not premiums), co-payments, prescription drugs, and various dental and vision care expenses.

As always, consult with your financial advisor, tax advisor, and health savings account institution to verify what expenses qualify. If you make a“non-qualified” withdrawal, you will pay taxes and a 20% penalty on the withdrawal amount. 

HERE ARE THE DETAILS FOR 2019:

Individuals

  • Must have a plan with a minimum deductible of $1,350

  • $3,500 contribution limit ($1,000 catch-up contribution for those 55 or older)

  • Maximum out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $6,750

Family

  • Must have a plan with a minimum deductible of $2,700

  • $7,000 contribution limit ($1,000 catch-up contribution for those 55 or older)

  • Maximum out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $13,500

WITHDRAWING FROM AN HSA

Once you reach age 65 and enroll in Medicare, you can no longer contribute to an HSA. However, funds can be withdrawn for any purpose, medical or not, and you will no longer be subject to the 20% penalty. The withdrawal will be included in taxable income, as with an IRA or 401k distribution. This can present a great planning opportunity for clients who may want to defer additional money, but have already maximized their 401k plans or IRAs for the year.

Although you have to wait longer to avoid the penalty than with a traditional retirement plan (age 59 ½), this investment vehicle could reduce taxable income in the year contributions were made, while earnings have the opportunity to grow tax-deferred and tax-free.  

As you can see, a Health Savings Account can be a great addition to an overall financial plan and should be considered if you are covered under a high-deductible health plan. No one likes medical expenses, but this vehicle can potentially soften their impact.

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Bond woes: “Why do we own bonds if we think they aren’t going to do well in a rising rate environment?”

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

Hoping for capital gains is not a good reason why you should own bonds. Actually, owning or  buying bonds in this low and rising interest rate environment with the hope that you'll be able to sell them later at a higher price may not work out. BUT…just because you can’t sell this investment at a profit later does not make the investment a bad idea.

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A great real life comparison is a car. We own a car to get our family and us from one place to another, hopefully safely. Many components go into the makeup of a safe driving automobile. The engine is key in making the car go. Stocks act much like the engine of a car.  They make our portfolios go/grow. But, would you ever drive a car that wasn’t equipped with brakes or an airbag? Brakes and airbags are similar to the bonds in our portfolio. Bonds help you control some of the risk of owning stock. For most people, the reason to own bonds is to slow down our bottom-line losses experienced in our portfolio during major market declines. Without this moderation (and sometimes even with it), investors tend to panic when stock prices fall.

So in a nutshell, “Why own bonds?”

They make the scary times less so. When the stock market experiences an extended decline, investors look around for where to turn. Cash and Bonds are usually the place they turn to.A volatile stock market can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Waiting to add bonds until something happens means you are going to suffer much of the downside before you actually add them to the portfolio. You have to have already had them in the portfolio for them to help. Talk with your financial planner to make sure you have the proper amount of your portfolio invested in bonds so you can hang on to your investments through those difficult times. A portfolio makeup that allows you to stay the course over the long term is much more likely to get you to your destination!


https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-bonds-are-the-most-important-asset-class-2015-06-10 Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Webinar in Review: Year-End Tax and Planning Strategies

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

In November of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2018 passed with numerous changes to our tax code. This year we provided a refresher on some of those changes as well as some planning opportunities to think about as 2018 wraps up.

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, we encourage you to check out the recording below. 

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • (04:20): New 2018 Marginal Tax Brackets

  • (06:30): Highlights of the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – comparing 2017 with 2018

  • (14:24): Planning charitable gifts under the new tax law

  • (19:15): Healthcare coverage overview – Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Medicare

  • (25:30): Roth IRA conversions as an attractive planning opportunity

  • (33:20): How to utilize your employer retirement plan most effectively

  • (36:30): How we help mitigate taxes & tax efficient investing

  • (41:30): Updates to gifting and intra-family gifting for 2018

When It Might Make Sense to Distribute an IRA Account

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

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As you might imagine, most financial planners (and most clients) have a preference for stretching the distribution of their IRA (or other qualified retirement) accounts over long periods of time so as to lessen the income tax burden on those accounts over many years.  And, if possible, most clients would prefer the ability to leave dollars in those accounts to their children and grandchildren as a form of legacy/inheritance. However, as life circumstances change, it sometimes makes sense to keep an open mind about how we view the distribution of those accounts. 

In our experience, we have found that it sometimes makes sense to consider accelerating the distribution of IRAs/qualified retirement accounts when the following circumstances are present:

  • Owner of the IRA is an older adult (in this context, meaning beyond RMD status)

  • IRA/Qualified Retirement Accounts are smaller accounts within the clients overall investment portfolio (i.e. have a $30k IRA and have other investment accounts/bank accounts to draw from)

  • Are likely in a lower tax bracket than the heirs they might be leaving the assets to

  • May have medical/health care costs to write off to offset the income from the potential income from IRA/qualified account distributions

While these circumstances certainly will not apply to MOST clients, they might apply to a select few. When they do, this strategy can not only save significant tax dollars but can simplify the distribution of an estate long term by avoiding the division of a small IRA amongst multiple beneficiaries.

If you or your family have questions about whether this strategy might apply to you or someone you know, please reach out to our Center Team.  We are always happy to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary of all available data necessary for making a financial decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. Raymond James does not provide tax advice. You should consult a tax professional for any tax matters related to your individual situation.

Seven Summer Financial Planning Strategies

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It is summer time! So, if you get a few minutes in between all of the outdoor activities here are 7 quick financial planning strategies to review.  As always, if we can help tailor any of these to your personal circumstances feel free to reach out.

By now you have heard there is a new tax law.  Because we will not experience the actual affects until next April, many of us are not sure how it applies to our specific circumstances.

  1. Do a quick tax projection with your tax preparer and check your tax withholding. Many of us will have an overall tax decrease – but withholdings from our paychecks also went down. Do not get caught off-guard. More importantly, some folks will see higher taxes due to the new limitations on certain itemized deductions. Combine this with lower withholding and you have a double whammy (read: you will be writing a bigger check to the IRS).

  2. Lump and clump itemized deductions. The standard deduction has increased to $24k for married couples filing jointly. In addition, miscellaneous itemized deductions have been removed completely. $10k cap. For some. Lumping charitable deductions in one year to take advantage of itemizing deductions and then taking the standard deduction for several years might be best.

  3. Utilize QCD’s. If you are over age 70.5 and making charitable contributions, you should consider utilizing QCD. Don’t know what QCD stands for? Call us now.

  4. Consider partial ROTH conversions to even out your tax liability. If you are retired, but not yet age 70.5 (when RMD’s start). Don’t know what an RMD is? Talk with us today! If you are in this group, multiyear tax planning may be beneficial.

  5. Most estates are no longer subject to the estate tax given the current exemption equivalent of $11.2M (times 2 for married couples). However, income taxes remain an issue to plan around. One of my favorites: Transfer low basis securities to aging parents and then receive it back with a step up in basis. If you think you might be able to take advantage of this let us know.

  6. Review your distribution scheme in your Will or Trust. Are you using the old A-B or marital/credit shelter trust format? Do you understand how the increased exemption affects this strategy?

  7. How should high-income folks prioritize their savings?
    Are you in the new 37% marginal bracket? If so, consider contributing to a Health Savings Account IF eligible. Next, consider making Pretax or traditional IRA/401k contributions. However, if you reasonably believe that you will be in the highest marginal tax bracket now AND in retirement – then the ROTH may be suggested. Know that for the great majority of us this will not be the case. Meaning, we will be in a lower bracket during our retirement years than our current bracket. Next, use Backdoor ROTH IRA contributions. If your employer offers an after tax option to your 401k plan, take advantage of it. You can then roll these funds directly into a ROTH. Next, consider a non-qualified annuity that provides tax deferral of earnings growth followed by taxable brokerage account.

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If you have not received a copy of our 2018 Key Financial Data and would like a copy let us know

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and is a contributor to national media and publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), mentored many CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Tim Wyman and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Unless certain criteria are met, Roth IRA owners must be 591⁄2 or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. Additionally, each converted amount may be subject to its own five-year holding period. Converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA has tax implications. Investors should consult a tax advisor before deciding to do a conversion. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. A fixed annuity is a long-term, tax-deferred insurance contract designed for retirement. It allows you to create a fixed stream of income through a process called annuitization and also provides a fixed rate of return based on the terms of the contract. Fixed annuities have limitations. If you decide to take your money out early, you may face fees called surrender charges. Plus, if you're not yet 591⁄2, you may also have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty on top of ordinary income taxes. You should also know that a fixed annuity contains guarantees and protections that are subject to the issuing insurance company's ability to pay for them. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Tick, Tock: Impact of the New Tax Law on Alimony and Divorce

Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA® Jacki Roessler

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Getting divorced in 2018 and planning to pay or receive alimony?  You may not realize it, but there’s a tax “timer” hanging over your head and the buzzer is set to go off.

Current Law  

Based on current tax law, the payer of alimony may deduct the full amount from their taxable income which, in turn requires the recipient to treat it as taxable income.

How does this work in the real world?

Suppose Harry pays Sally $5,000 per month in alimony. Sally doesn’t get to keep  $5,000 because it’s treated as taxable income to her.  Based on her tax bracket, her actual monthly net is $3,750. Conversely, since Harry is in a higher tax bracket than Sally, when he writes a check to Sally for $5,000, the deduction translates to an out-of-pocket cost to him of $3,000.

What about the difference between the $3,750 that Sally nets and the $3,000 that it costs Harry? Uncle Sam has been footing the bill on the $750 differential in tax revenue. That is exactly what this new regulation is structured to eliminate.  

The New Tax Law and Alimony

The new tax law does away with the tax deduction for alimony. Of course, alimony also won’t be treated as taxable income to the recipient. The new law goes into effect for divorce cases finalized (not filed) with the Court after December 31, 2018. Cases finalized by December 31, 2018 will be grandfathered into the old tax law.

Why divorcing couples (especially the recipient of alimony) should care about the tax law change

In practical terms, taxable alimony shifts income from a high tax bracket to a lower one.  Some have argued that it gives divorced couples an unfair financial advantage not available to married couples. However, for the past 75 years, the tax deduction has made alimony a valuable negotiation tool used by attorneys across the country to help settle divorce cases. In fact, it’s often one of the only ways to help provide a fair (or) equal resolution during a difficult financial time for both parties.

When is the timer set to go off?

Although divorce attorneys and their clients may think they have until year-end before they need to worry about the changes, many states have a mandatory cooling off period once the case has been filed with the Court. Michigan, for example, has a 60 day waiting period; however for couples with minor children, the waiting period is typically extended to 180 days. Therefore, depending on where you live and if you have minor children, you may only have until the end of June 2018 to file and take advantage of tax deductible alimony.

As always, every case is different. Consult with a tax preparer, attorney and/or divorce financial professional to help you understand how the tax law changes may affect your divorce.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Jacki Roessler, CDFA®, Divorce Financial Planner and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This material is being provided for information purposes only. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. The hypothetical example above is for illustration purposes only.