What You Need To Know About the Third Stimulus Package

On Wednesday March 10th, Congress approved the American Rescue Plan, the third stimulus relief package since the pandemic started a year ago. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act includes measures ranging from stimulus checks to child tax credits, jobless benefits to vaccine-distribution funds, healthcare subsidies to restaurant aid. The legislation is the largest aid package to pass since widespread restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.

Here’s what to know: 

  • Federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week have been extended until early September.
  • If you collected unemployment in 2020 or do so in 2021, you do not owe taxes on the first $10,200 in assistance. 
  • Lots of people will receive $1,400 stimulus checks in the coming weeks. Individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less and married couples earning $150,000 or less qualify. 
  • Most Americans with kids will qualify for a new child tax credit: $3,600 per year for every child under 6 and $3,000 for each kid ages 6-17. 

Aside from these stimulus bill changes, tax day, April 15th, remains the same. Make sure to file your return on or before that date to avoid penalties. Check out our definitive guide to your 2021 tax return with detailed information on this year’s tax season. In addition, make sure to fund your retirement accounts by this year’s deadline. We will continue to monitor any changes to 2021 filing dates, but we recommend to check with your CPA with any questions on your situation. 

If you have any questions on the third stimulus package and what it entails, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a complimentary 30-minute introductory call here.

Here’s Why Women Need to Take Control of Their Finances

In response to recent studies and data, we have found that women are contributing more and more to their family’s finances, and that the younger generation is increasingly claiming the title of breadwinner, according to a recent study by Wells Fargo

The study, released in conjunction with International Women’s Day, included 2,195 women. It found that more than half  of all partnered women reported greater or equal earnings to their spouse. And nearly one-third of millennial and Gen X women reported being the primary breadwinner, versus the 20% rate reported by baby boomers and traditionalists. 

Despite these gains in financial contributions to their households, the study also revealed that many women are intimidated by financial concepts and many did not learn enough about finances in school or growing up. With International Women’s Day just passing and financial literacy month upcoming, we want to use this new data as an opportunity to encourage and motivate women to take control of their finances and better educate themselves to become financially independent. 

As a financial advisor who works to empower women to become confident to make their own financial decisions, we have found that many women are often met with anxiety when it comes to having to make financial decisions on their own. For that reason, it is extremely important to start educating yourself about financial concepts from a young age, along with passing that on to the next generation, such as your children or grandchildren. At Sherman Wealth, we strive to educate all of our clients, no matter gender, age, or background, to become financially independent and feel confident to make their own decisions. If you have any questions or would like to talk to us about ways to educate others about financial concepts, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a 30-minute complimentary introductory call here. 

 

Here’s How to Track your Expenses in 2021

Staying on top of your finances and tracking your expenses can seem like a daunting task. When your life continues to get busier, it’s often easier to push aside your finances. However, due to the great technological advances in society, you now have access to simpler and immediate tools that will help you manage your overall finances. 

Luckily, there are various ways you can track your own expenses, depending on what works best for your lifestyle. Some consumers like a more hands-on approach in which you log each transaction as it happens, while others prefer creating a spreadsheet to capture a big-picture look at their monthly expenses overall. There are even budgeting apps that automate the process, making it easy to keep tabs on your cash. In one of our previous blogs, we touched on the technologies we provide our clients with that help them see their overall net worth and all the pieces in between in one snapshot. 

Our biggest recommendation in managing your expenses and finances is automation. As mentioned earlier, our world today has made it so simple to have access to your finances at the click of a button. Using software and automating your bank statements and payment schedule, credit cards, and more can not only save you time, but help keep you more organized and on top of your spending. It’s easy to swipe your credit card without thinking twice, but with new features such as purchase notifications, you can see in real time how much you are spending and where your credit card balance lies at all times. 

How you manage your money is a personal decision that only you can make. While some may prefer logging each of their transactions manually, others may like an app that syncs to their accounts and tracks expenses for them. No matter what route you choose, make sure you are setting aside routine time to check on your spending and evaluate your financial progress as you go. If you have any questions on how to better manage and automate your finances or would like a free trial to our technological software, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation on our site. 

 

How to Take Advantage of the Student Loan Relief Extension

If you’re juggling federal student loan debt along with other bills, you’re about to get another pandemic-related break. Those of you who lost a job during the pandemic and now need to decide whether to pay their student loan debt or buy groceries can hold off making federal student loan payments through Sept. 30. The temporary pause for federal student loan payments had originally been set to end Jan. 31 for more than 42 million borrowers.

This change means that the interest rate on many federal student loan payments stays set at 0% for another eight months. But keep in mind, millions of private student loan payments and some federal student loans aren’t covered by this deal.

This loan deferral program has allowed many people a chance to breathe and pay down other debt or get back on their feet during these challenging times. Some families may be able to use this time to pay off high-rate credit card debt or other bills. Others, if able, might try to set aside extra cash to create or beef up their emergency fund.

The temporary financial break, which was first announced in March, was extended twice last year and then again, most recently at the request of President Joe Biden, who took executive action on the matter on his first day in office.

It’s important for borrowers to consider signing up for income-driven repayment plans while the pause is in place. In this case, in the months when they’re not required to make a payment will count in their favor with some income-driven plans that offer loan forgiveness at the end of a 20-year or 25-year period. Furthermore, you might want to consider an income-driven repayment plan to help you avoid defaulting if your total student loan debt at graduation exceeds your annual income, especially if you want to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

In general, since monthly payments are calculated based on borrowers’ incomes and family sizes, these types of plans may be more affordable than other options. 

Typically, experts say, borrowers should opt for the repayment plan with the highest monthly payment that they can afford so that the interest doesn’t keep building over the long run. 

Will there be another pause in payments after September? The Biden administration has left open that possibility, but borrowers would be wise to take advantage of what they know is available right now. 

The risks are high for failing to repay student loans. Borrowers can face collection fees; wage garnishment; money being withheld from income tax refunds, Social Security, and other federal payments; damage to their credit scores; and even ineligibility for other aid programs, such as help with homeownership. 

Going forward, Biden has proposed forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers. But borrowers have no guarantees that such a change will take place or when. So, right now it’s important to take a realistic look at your overall financial situation and try to use the next eight months to your advantage. There is pending legislation to forgive student loans, so make sure to stay tuned for updates to come. If you have any questions related to your student loans and your strategy to repay them, please contact us at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation here

Avoid These Costly Money Mistakes when Rolling Over a 401(k) to an IRA

As we kick off 2021 and you begin thinking about money moves you want to make this year, we want to provide you with some insights on a common rollover and some costly mistakes associated with it. 

First, we want to distinguish the rules that differ between 401k plans and IRA’s. If the rollover process is done incorrectly, it could be considered a distribution, which would make it subject to taxation and, possibly, an early withdrawal penalty. If you’re not careful, you could make costly errors or lock yourself into a move that can’t be easily undone.

Both 401(k) plans and IRAs have the common purpose of letting you put away tax-advantaged money savings for retirement. However, there are some rules that differ between the two. Even the rollover process itself can come with snags if you’re not careful.

Here are some things to be aware of before initiating a rollover. These apply to traditional 401(k) plans and IRAs, whose contributions are generally made pre-tax.

The rollover process

Once you’ve decided to move your retirement money to an IRA, it’s best to avoid receiving a check made out directly to you from the 401(k) plan, even if it is sent to you.

Assuming you have the rollover account set up and ready to receive the funds from the 401(k), the check should be made out to the IRA custodian or the benefit of you. In this case, there is no tax withholding.

If the check is payable to you, though, it is initially considered a distribution. That means your 401(k) plan is required to withhold 20% for taxes. Otherwise, that withheld amount is considered a distribution and potentially subject to an early withdrawal penalty if you are younger than age 59½.  You have 60 days from the date you receive an IRA or retirement plan distribution to roll it over to another plan or IRA. The IRS may waive the 60-day rollover requirement in certain situations if you missed the deadline because of circumstances beyond your control.

Next, make sure you are specifying that you want to do a direct rollover. Some retirement savers hold company stock in their 401(k) alongside other investments. In that situation, if you roll over all those assets to an IRA, you lose the potential to get a more favorable tax treatment on any growth those shares had while in your 401(k).

It gets a bit confusing, but the idea is that if the company stock has unrealized gains, you transfer it to a brokerage account instead of rolling the money over to the IRA along with your other 401(k) assets. Upon transferring, you are taxed on the cost basis (the value of the stock when you first acquired it in your 401(k).

However, when you then sell the shares from your brokerage account — whether immediately or down the road — any growth the stock experienced inside the 401(k) would be taxed at long-term capital gains rates (0%, 15% or 20%, depending on the rest of your income). This could be less than the ordinary-income tax treatment you’d face if the stock went into a rollover IRA and then were withdrawn.

The rule of 55

If you leave your job at age 55 or older and want to access your 401(k) money, the Rule of 55 allows you to do so without penalty. Whether you’ve been laid off, fired or simply quit doesn’t matter—only the timing does. Per the IRS rule, you must leave your employer in the calendar year you turn 55 or later to get a penalty-free distribution. (The rule kicks in at age 50 for public safety workers, such as firefighters, air traffic controllers and police officers.) So, for example, if you lost your job before the eligible age, you would not be able to withdraw from that employer’s 401(k) early; you’d need to wait until you turned 59½.

It’s also important to remember that while you can avoid the 10% penalty, the rule doesn’t free you from your IRS obligations. Distributions from your 401(k) are considered income and are subject to federal taxes.

What spouses should know

If you are the spouse of someone who plans to roll over their 401(k) balance to an IRA, be aware that you’d lose the right to be the sole heir of that money. With the workplace plan, the beneficiary must be you, the spouse, unless you sign a waiver. Once the money lands in the rollover IRA, the account owner can name any beneficiary they want without their spouse’s consent.

Here’s another potential misstep: Making a withdrawal from your 401(k) to give to your ex-spouse as dictated in a divorce agreement. That won’t work — the money will be considered a distribution to you, subject to taxation, as well as potentially a penalty if you’re under age 59½. 

In a divorce, retirement assets that are awarded to the ex-spouse can only be distributed penalty-free via a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. That document is separate from the divorce decree and must be approved by a judge.

When rolling over money to an IRA, there are many steps and factors to think about. In many instances, it may be best to consider seeking the guidance of a financial professional. If you find yourself in this situation, we would be happy to help and walk you through your rollover. To inquire more, schedule a free 30-minute consultation on our site. 

 

Sitting on Cash? Here’s What To Do with It:

In our previous blog, we wrote about how a great deal of American’s households ‘ finances are in surprisingly good shape eight months into the pandemic. While this certainly is not the case for all households, we wanted to discuss options for those who may be sitting on an abundance of cash or have too much money in their checking accounts. 

It’s important to note that if you have more than you need to pay your bills in your checking account, you should consider putting away some of the cash in taxable investment accounts or savings accounts that accrue compounding interest. When choosing a savings account, consider banks that have higher interest rates than your standard bank, which currently have interest rates close to zero. Utilize FDIC-insured accounts such as Max My Interest or Capital One 360. With these record-low interest rates, it’s crucial to get your money into accounts that are maximizing and compounding your dollars overtime. 

Additionally, as the end of the year is just around the corner, think about checking off your financial planning to-do list, which may consist of funding your HSA and/or maxing out your 401(k) and IRA’s for the year. As mentioned earlier, if you have additional cash laying around, make sure to direct those funds into a taxable account.  If you are saving for your children or grandchildren’s college tuition, make sure to contribute to your 529 plans and inquire about all of your options there. Also, if you are considering end of the year charitable giving, make sure to contribute those funds as well. If you have any questions about your financial portfolio or end of the year planning, please contact us at info@shermanwealth.com and we are happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you. Lastly, check out our other blogs for more resources.  

 

Why Now May Be a Good Time to Consider a Roth IRA Conversion

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming election has created a great deal of uncertainty for investors. Income tax, furloughs, and job loss are lingering over the heads of many. As people are navigating these unprecedented times, they are becoming more and more unsure about where to and how much to invest. But it’s important to keep in mind that regardless of uncertainty in the market, it’s always a good time to invest for your future. 

The recent stock market meltdown may have dented Americans’ retirement savings, but there’s a silver lining: The downturn made one common retirement strategy less costly for investors.

The strategy, known as a Roth IRA conversion, involves changing a traditional, pre-tax retirement account — such as a 401(k) plan or a qualified individual retirement account — to an after-tax Roth fund. This strategy has some unique benefits when compared with its traditional cousin.

To do the conversion, savers would opt to pay income tax now, while markets are down and tax rates are lower under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Investors who own traditional accounts defer income tax on their savings until withdrawing the money in retirement. Roth savers pay tax up front and don’t pay later. Having at least some Roth funds is beneficial for a few reasons, according to financial advisors. Retirees don’t have to take mandatory withdrawals from Roth accounts, unlike traditional IRA investors, who have to beginning at age 72. Taking Roth distributions could also decrease Social Security taxes and Medicare premiums, which are pegged to one’s taxable income.

In addition, there’s the benefit of tax diversification. Like the concept of investment diversification, tax diversification is important because it reduces the risk associated with unknown future tax rates, advisors said. Data suggest investors aren’t greatly diversifying their retirement accounts from a tax standpoint.

Traditional IRAs held around $7.5 trillion at the end of 2018 — almost 10 times as much as Roth accounts, which had $800 billion, according to the Investment Company Institute. Ultimately, investors should peg a conversion primarily to tax rates — if savers believe their tax rate is lower now than it will be in retirement, a conversion makes sense because it will cost less in the long run, according to tax experts. And, contrary to popular opinion, one’s tax rate doesn’t always fall in retirement, they said.

Tax rates are currently low by historical standards and are likely to increase (rather than fall further) in the future, experts said, given the eventual need to raise federal revenue to reduce the U.S. budget deficit, which is larger as a share of its economy than most other developed countries.

If you are considering a Roth IRA Conversion, please consult with your financial advisor  and your EA/CPA or tax preparer to ensure that this decision is the best for your financial situation. If you would like to discuss the potential of a Roth Conversion, please reach out to us and schedule a free 30-minute consultation

 

Financial Advice For Parents

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Raising a child in today’s world can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a parent of four children ranging from ages 5 to 16, I can attest to just how expensive kids can be. Besides just the essentials like food and clothes, there are club teams, tutors, dance lessons and so much more. With each additional family member comes new financial considerations and expenses. The importance of planning for these costs before they arise is a key reason why many financial advisors are targeting young families and helping them successfully navigate how to cover their children’s expenses without compromising their own financial security. Here are a few top takeaways from some of these advisors:

SAVING FOR COLLEGE

With a high school junior in our house, it won’t be long before we are paying that dreaded college tuition bill. And, due to the ballooning costs of higher education, this bill is not likely to be a small one! If possible, new parents should try to start saving as soon as they can for their child’s college tuition.The earlier you start saving, the better prepared you’ll be. If you save $500 a month at birth, you should have around $190,000 saved by the time that child reaches 18 (assuming an annual return of 6%). However, if you don’t start until your son or daughter is 10, you’ll only have around $60,000 by the time they graduate high school. Setting up a state-sponsored 529 college savings plan, allows parents to invest money and then withdraw it tax-free, so long as the funds are used for certain education expenses. However, as you prepare for your children’s future, make sure that you remain focused on your retirement saving as well. There are lots of ways to pay for college, but you can only use the resources you’ve accumulated for your own retirement.   

CHILDCARE AND HEALTH CARE

When our first child was born, my husband and I were both working, and trying to find affordable childcare was not easy. Childcare is one of the biggest expenses new parents will face, especially if both parents work. In some cases, one parent will decide to leave their job and take care of the child themselves, especially if the cost of childcare is more than one parent is making. This is exactly what happened when our second child was born, since it was no longer cost effective to pay for childcare for two children with my salary.   

Meanwhile, childbirth and adoption count as qualifying events that allow parents to make changes to their employee benefits outside of the open enrollment period at work. For example, new parents can expect to see their medical expenses rise and those who have access to a flexible savings account and health savings account at work should use them since the money put into an FSA or HSA avoids federal taxation. In some cases, employers offer a Dependent Care FSA, which can be used for costs picked up from a nanny, babysitter or childcare center.

When it comes to health insurance, if both parents work, you should examine which plan will cost less to add the child to. Most doctor visits in the first couple of years are considered wellness visits, which are typically free or very low-cost in most health-care plans today. But, you should look into which plan is most cost-effective in the event of a trip to the emergency room or having to see a specialist – even with good insurance, the price tag of a broken bone is a lot more than you might think!

LIFE INSURANCE

Even though it’s not something most people like to think about, preparing for death is of utmost importance when becoming a parent. Your financial advisor should be able to run various calculations to figure out the amount of protection you would need. Many families make the mistake of only getting life insurance for the main earner, experts say, but both parents should be covered. Many people think that since stay-at-home parent isn’t actually earning anything, they don’t need insurance. However, when it comes to life insurance, you need to evaluate what it would cost to have someone else take care of your children if something were to happen to that parent.  

It is also extremely important to put together estate planning documents, including a will and health-care directives, as well as discussing appointing a guardian in the event of an unexpected life event. When we found out we were expecting our first child, it forced us to have some difficult conversations about who we would want to take of our child and how our assets would be distributed if something happened to us. It’s also important to revisit those questions each time you add another child to your family or if there is another major change to your assets. The guardians you might have written in your will when you were 25 might not be the same guardians you would choose when you are 45. None of these decisions are easy ones, but they are vital to preparing for your life as a parent.

EMERGENCY SAVINGS

With all the additional expenses new parents can face, from diapers to a larger home and mortgage, it’s more important than ever to have a safety net for those unexpected costs. Having children is a good reason to have a bigger emergency fund, simply because there are now more people who are dependent on you financially. Aside from the random home and car repairs that always seem to pop up when you least expect them, now add braces, sports equipment and teenage social lives to the mix. Having some money from each paycheck deposited directly into an account that you don’t touch is an easy way to make sure you are creating an ample emergency fund should you need it.  

There are so many wonderful aspects of being a parent, but it is definitely a costly undertaking. Seeking some financial guidance before you become a parent is always a good idea, but it’s never too late to start planning for your future with a family. If you have any questions about saving for college, choosing the right health plan, putting together your estate documents or anything else related to your financial goals or plans, please contact us.  We offer a free 30-minute introductory consultation and would love to hear from you!  Check out our other blogs for more financial advice and tips.

 

Top 6 Tax Tips To Know

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2020 has certainly been an eventful year so far and one that will be remembered for decades to come. Despite the negative impacts of the coronavirus globally, in the world of tax and retirement planning, 2020 has brought opportunities that should be taken advantage of before year’s end. Here are some tax planning ideas to consider before 2020 comes to a close.  

1) ROTH CONVERSIONS

As 2020 winds down, this is the optimum time to project the tax cost of a Roth conversion because most people by this time will have a reliable estimate of their 2020 income and this year’s tax benefits may be the highest ever because of historically low tax rates and possibly lower income due to the pandemic.

Once funds are converted, today’s low tax rates are locked in, plus the funds in the Roth grow income tax free forever and Roth IRAs have no lifetime required minimum distributions (RMDs). Any IRA funds converted will lower these tax-deferred IRA balances and in turn lower the amount of future RMDs that could be exposed to higher taxes.

Some may think they will be in a lower tax bracket in retirement, but that doesn’t often happen, especially after a spouse dies and the surviving spouse sees their tax bills increase when they begin to file as single.

The bottom line here is that a Roth conversion removes the risk and uncertainty of what future higher tax rates can do to your retirement income. Though Roth conversions will still be available in the future, you should still consider doing them in 2020.

2) IRA DISTRIBUTIONS

In 2020, you aren’t even required to take money from your IRA distributions. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act waived required minimum distributions for the year. But even though they aren’t required, you should look into making voluntary IRA distributions anyway because those taking money out of these tax-deferred vehicles in 2020 might be able to do so at lower tax rates.

Since the required minimum distributions are waived for 2020, this presents a one-time opportunity for those subject to the minimums to convert RMDs instead to Roth IRAs (something you can’t normally do). 

Even if you aren’t subject to required minimum distributions, it might pay for you to begin taking taxable distributions to get into the lower tax brackets and begin reducing the future IRA debt that’s building for Uncle Sam. The funds could be used either to convert to Roth IRAs or for gifting or estate planning. For example, the IRA funds withdrawn can be used to purchase permanent cash value life insurance, which after the SECURE Act will prove to be a better estate planning vehicle than inherited IRAs. Like Roth IRAs, life insurance will grow tax free and the eventual proceeds to beneficiaries will be tax free as well which is a good use of IRA funds now. IRA or plan withdrawals taken this year can also be used for gifting to family members.

3) QUALIFIED CHARITABLE DISTRIBUTIONS

Qualified charitable distributions are the most tax-efficient way to make charitable gifts because they reduce taxable IRA balances at no tax cost. The name refers to a direct transfer of IRA funds to a qualifying charity.

The only downside here is that the QCD is only available to IRA owners and beneficiaries age 70½ or older. The distribution is not available from company plans and not permitted to go to donor-advised funds or private foundations. Qualified charitable distributions are limited to $100,000 per year for each IRA owner, not per IRA account. 

Although the SECURE Act raised the required minimum distribution age to 72, the QCD age remains at 70½. This gap means the charitable distributions can begin before RMDs kick in. Even though RMDs were waived for 2020, you can still make these QCDs nonetheless since the charitable distribution still allows you to remove IRA funds at a zero tax cost. If you are giving to charity anyway, and qualify for QCDs, then this is the way you should be doing your giving.

With qualified charitable distributions,  you receive both the standard deduction and the tax benefit in the form of an exclusion from income. An exclusion is better than a tax deduction because it reduces your adjusted gross income, a key figure on the tax return. QCDs are the most tax-efficient way to reduce taxable IRA balances, because they reduce the balances to a zero tax cost.

In addition, there is a provision in the CARES Act that allows for a $300 additional charitable gifting exclusion from income for non-itemizers (for cash gifts).

4) GIFTING

With the exploding deficits and expanding national debt, there is a new urgency for clients to make gifts now, before year’s end, because it may not be an option much longer. Gifts are lifetime transfers as opposed to inheritances received after death.

The 2020 estate and gift tax exemption is $11,580,000 per person ($23,160,000 for a married couple). These figures are scheduled to go back to $5 million and $10 million, respectively, after 2025 (there will also be inflation increases). It pays to use them now or possibly lose them later. These limits apply to lifetime gifts as well as inheritances.

For those who will be subject to a federal estate tax, gifting is less expensive because gifts are tax-exclusive, as opposed to inheritances, which are tax-inclusive. If the funds are left in the estate, the full value of the transfer at death is subject to the estate tax, so the funds used to pay the estate tax are taxed themselves, whereas gift taxes on lifetime transfers are only based on the gift amount received.

There are three tiers of tax-exempt gifting:

  1. The first is $15,000 annual exclusion gifts. These gifts can be made to anyone each year and they do not reduce the gift/estate exemption. These annual exclusion gifts are always tax free—even if the exemption is used up.
  2. Unlimited gifts for direct payments for tuition and medical expenses. These gifts can be made for anyone, the amounts are unlimited, and they do not reduce the gift/estate exemption. These gifts are also always tax free—even if the exemption is used up.
  3. The $11,580,000 lifetime gift/estate exemption in 2020. The IRS has stated that there will be no clawback if these exemptions are used now, even if the exemption is later reduced, so you must use it or possibly lose it.

Gifts made now in 2020 lock in today’s gifting limits. There is no guarantee that these limits will hold up in the future.

5) UPDATING ESTATE PLANS AFTER THE SECURE ACT

The SECURE Act eliminated the stretch IRA for most non-spouse beneficiaries. This is effective beginning with deaths in 2020, so it is imperative to check your IRA and company plan beneficiary forms to reveal what may be the largest single asset in your estate plan.

Most non-spouse beneficiaries will be subject to the new 10-year payout rule, meaning that the entire inherited IRA will have to be withdrawn by the end of the 10th year after the IRA holder dies.

This includes most trusts named as IRA beneficiaries, and you might need to make changes; for example, most conduit trusts will not work as originally planned since the entire inherited IRA will be left unprotected in trust after the 10 years. Many of these trusts will have to be upgraded to discretionary trusts to maintain the trust protection beyond the 10 years. But even then, the inherited IRA funds will still be taxed when that decade has passed, and that tax will be at high trust tax rates for any funds remaining in the trust and not distributed to the trust beneficiaries.

One solution here is to convert these IRAs to Roths to eliminate the post-death trust tax exposure or withdraw IRA funds now and purchase life insurance, which is a better and more flexible asset to leave to a trust.

You should review any IRA estate plans, which begins with a beneficiary form review. Check to make sure that contingent beneficiaries are named and up to date. Make sure that the estate plans will still accomplish your goals after the changes brought about by the SECURE Act.

6) W-4 UPDATES AND WITHHOLDINGS CHECK

The federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax. Taxpayers pay the tax as they earn or receive income during the year. Taxpayers can avoid a surprise at tax time by checking their withholding amount. The IRS urges everyone to do a Paycheck Checkup in 2020, even if they did one in 2019. This includes anyone who receives a pension or annuity. 

The best way to make sure you are withholding the right amount is to use the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. The Tax Withholding Estimator works for most employees by helping them determine whether they need to give their employer a new Form W-4. They can use their results from the estimator to help fill out the form and adjust their income tax withholding. If they receive pension income, they can use the results from the estimator to complete a Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension and Annuity Payments PDF. To change their tax withholding, employees can use the results from the Tax Withholding Estimator to determine if they should complete a new Form W-4 and submit to their employer. Don’t file with the IRS.

These 2020 year-end retirement, tax and estate planning moves will enhance your retirement savings that will soon be exposed to potential tax increases after 2020. Given the current state of our economy, it is best for you to consider these options now, since it’s likely many of these things will be changing in the near future. These tips have been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. Check out our website for more information! 

What to Do If You Don’t Have a 401(k)

Piggybank on wooden table with stacks of coins beside it. A hand putting a coin into the piggy bank.

As the coronavirus sweeps the world and people take a step back to look at their finances for the long term, we are seeing that about half of workers don’t have access to a retirement plan at work.  That means that even as 50% of workers can take advantage of automatic payroll deductions and contribute $19,500 or more to a tax-advantaged company retirement plan, about the same percentage is on the outside looking in.

Some of these people may work for companies that offer plans, but are not eligible to contribute because they either don’t meet the criteria or they are part-time employees. Some may be self-employed, which leads to other retirement savings options and others may simply work for a firm that doesn’t offer a plan at all.

So, as people start putting a tighter rein on their finances during this economic recession, it’s important to discuss retirement saving options for those who do not have access to one through their company.  Below we will share several options for people in this situation according to an article by MorningStar.

1) Invest in an IRA.

A good first stop for any worker who has earned income is to simply fund an IRA to the maximum–$6,000 for investors under age 50 and $7,000 for those over 50. Such accounts are very easy to set up, and the money can be invested in a huge array of options. Contributing to an IRA can provide a terrific building block for retirement security. A person assiduously investing $6,000 a year in an IRA for 40 years who enjoyed 6% growth on her money would have a little over $920,000 at the end of the period.

2) Assess whether self-employment accounts are an option.

For people who are self-employed, there are a host of options for tax-advantaged retirement savings. Some of them are quite similar to what 401(k) investors have, except that there can be setup costs and oversight responsibilities. An investment in a conventional IRA, an individual 401(k), a SEP or SIMPLE IRA’s are all good investment ideas.

3) Assess whether an HSA is an option.

While by no means a first line of defense for people without a 401(k), a health savings account is a decent ancillary retirement account option for people covered by a high-deductible healthcare plan.

4) Invest in a tax-efficient way in a taxable brokerage account.

While it’s ideal to invest in vehicles that provide some type of a tax benefit, people without a company retirement plan can also invest tax-efficiently inside of a taxable account. The key is to select investments that incur few taxes on an ongoing basis.

5) Be part of the solution.

Finally, if you work for a small employer that lacks a company retirement plan, consider offering to assist your employer in figuring out how to get one off the ground. Setting up such a plan has gotten cheaper and less complicated in recent years, and your employer may welcome a financially savvy partner to help with some of the research and vetting.

As always, if you have any questions about your current 401(k) or need help investing money in order to supplement a lack of one, please reach out to us and we would be happy to discuss your future financial goals.