Teaching Children Financial Responsibility: Start Early

close up of family hands with piggy bank

Would it surprise you to know that students graduating from high school enter college with little to no knowledge about their finances, how to budget, or save for their futures? The problem has become so severe that 40% of these students wind up going into debt in order to fund their social lives and 70% of these students wind up damaging their credit ratings shortly after college graduation.

Unfortunately, it seems as though this debt will not be going away anytime soon.  The average student loan debt for the class of 2016 increased by 6% from the previous year and the financial literacy rate in the U.S. has not improved over the past three years. While college enrollment and the number of college graduates has continued to increase, financial literacy lags among these young people at record lows. Where does this disconnect come from?

Few states offer personal finance or economics courses and even fewer states test students on the financial knowledge they have acquired. It therefore comes as no surprise that American students (and we can infer American adults) have one of the lowest levels of financial literacy when compared to other countries.  While the number of student loans has increased,

  • 44% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency
  • 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments
  • 38% of U.S. households have credit card debt
  • 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement

Why does it matter? How is it affecting the economy?

Students are graduating with loans they can’t afford to pay back and with minimal financial knowledge in planning for their futures. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans have over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, which is more than double the total U.S. credit card debt of $620 billion. This debt is becoming a major barrier to home ownership. 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments and most of these individuals do not have any savings. A lack of sound financial knowledge will affect the economy as these millennials enter the labor force burdened with student loans.

As parents, we play a vital role in educating our children about the importance of personal finances.  In the Sherman household, we are teaching our children the importance of finances on a daily basis. Our 4 year old son is learning about savings by doing chores in return for an allowance, which he saves in his piggy bank. He is learning to save and spend his money wisely.

Parents can begin educating their children at home in order to increase the financial literacy of their kids. By demonstrating wise financial habits, parents can serve as role models for their kids. Talking in an age appropriate way to your children about the dangers of debt and the importance of saving a portion of any money they earn instills financial values and lessons your child can use throughout life.  You may find that using an allowance is a way that you can teach your kids about saving and spending appropriately. Since it has been shown that kids who manage their own money have been found to demonstrate better financial habits in the future, giving your kids the opportunity to spend and save their own allowance or money earned is a good way to prepare them for later on. Even a simple trip to the store can be used as an opportunity to start the conversation about the danger of credit cards and how they should only be used in an emergency.  Educating your kids at an early age will enable them to better learn and practice sound financial habits while under your watchful eye and cause them to be less likely to make irrational decisions once they are out on their own.

This issue is not only affecting students and young adults.  Many professionals with advanced degrees have spent countless hours studying and researching information in their particular field.  Despite all of the hours spent earning their degrees, many of these people have never taken a single course in financial education and are surprisingly not prepared to deal with the important financial decisions affecting their futures.  As a result, many extremely smart and successful people are making critical financial errors which can negatively impact the amount of money they have saved upon retirement.

Beginning in 2011, studies were conducted where participants were shown a computer generated rendering of what they might look like at their age of retirement.  They were then asked to make financial decisions about whether to spend their money today or save that money for the future. In each study, those individuals who were shown pictures of their future selves allocated more than twice as much money towards their retirement accounts than those who did not see the age-progressed images.  Seeing the images gave the participants a connection with their future selves that they did not possess before. As a result, their spending/saving behavior changed dramatically because “saving is like a choice between spending money today or giving it to a stranger years from now.”

The benefits of educating your children about the importance of personal finances are undeniable, and you’ll be able to set them up for a promising future and help them prepare for retirement. Visit us online for more information about how we can help improve your financial life.

Want to Get More “Financially Fit” in 2018? Set Savings Goals Now

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One of the most important elements of a good financial plan is regular saving. Unfortunately, it is one of the biggest stumbling blocks as well, with 57% of Americans reporting they had less than $1000 in savings in a 2017 survey. To make matters worse, 1 in 3 American has no retirement account, and only 1 in 4 Americans has over $100,000 in their retirement account.

These are concerning figures, particularly now. As interest rates keep rising – short term treasuries at their highest in nine years – and the market continues its climbing streak, you’re missing out if you are not putting savings to work for you.

Why aren’t more people saving when, according to a recent you.gov survey, “saving more money” was the 4th most popular New Year’s resolution for 2018?

One factor our clients have cited that kept them from saving in the past is discouragement due to past failures. The solution is to make sure your goals are SMART goals: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and linked to a Timetable.

It is important to set Specific and Relevant immediate, short, and long-term savings goals that you can visualize – like a beach vacation, a bigger home, or a child’s graduation ceremony. Tying savings goals to images that align with your life and your values can make them more emotionally compelling and easier to keep in mind.

Equally critical is to make your goals Measurable and set a Timetable: how much you are planning to save each month, or by a certain date. Don’t set figures or dates that are impossible; make sure they are Attainable as well.

Just like physical fitness, financial fitness is best achieved by setting specific, achievable, and measurable goals. A defined goal, whether it’s “save 5% of each paycheck” or “add extra hours to save for a vacation,” gives you a much better shot at success rather than a simple “I should be saving more.”

A huge part of good financial planning is goal setting. A good financial planner can help you calculate the long-term benefits of saving more and on a regular sustainable basis. It’s particularly important that your financial planner is a fee-only Fiduciary: that means there will be no “additional charges” or investment recommendations with commissions for the broker that could throw off your savings calculations.

And if you’d like help defining financial goals and evaluating whether you are saving enough to achieve them, please feel free to contact me for a free introductory call. We are always on call to help you realize your highest financial potential.

How to Make “Cents” of the Changes to 529 Plans

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Are you saving for your child’s education with a 529 account?

If you are already contributing to a 529 plan, reduced deductions in the new 2018 tax law mean you may want to increase your contributions – or even create a second 529 account – to offset higher state taxes.

If you haven’t yet opened a 529 account, this year’s important changes in tax and 529 regulations have made 529 accounts an even more valuable option for parents of school-aged or college-aged children.

Here are the changes and why contributing to a 529 account is more important than ever:

K-12 Tuition is Now Covered by 529 Plans

529 plans were originally created to let you to save and invest for your child’s college education – while paying no federal tax on qualified withdrawals. The good news is that benefit has now been expanded: you’ll be able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year per student for elementary, middle, and high school tuition if your child attends or will attend a private or religious school. And, if you’ve already been saving for K-12 with a Coverdell ESA, you can also rollover that account to a 529 plan without tax consequences.

Saving by Off-Setting State Taxes

The new 2018 tax law limits deductions for your state income and property taxes to $10,000, so you might find yourself paying more state tax this year. But if you live in one of the 34 states that offers a state tax deduction for contributions to a 529 plan, you can lower your state taxes by contributing more to your 529. In most states you have to be enrolled in one of that state’s own plans to take the deduction, but several allow you to deduct contributions from any state plan. And, if you live in one of the several states whose 529 plans include state tax credits, you could also find yourself paying considerably less.

Turbo Charging the Benefits for Younger Children

529 plans allow “front-loading,” a term for making up to five years of contributions at once. This not only allows you to “catch up” for a child already in elementary or secondary school, it also allows you to maximize state tax deductions or credits. And anyone can make contributions to your child’s 529 plan. Friends and relatives can each contribute up to $15,000 per recipient, they can also “front-load” up to five years of contributions as well, maximizing their own tax savings. Additionally, if they make direct payments to services provided for beneficiaries’ tuition or medical expenses, these expenses would be tax-free, even though the costs surpass the annual gift tax exclusion.

New Benefits for Special Needs Students

The new tax law allows assets in 529 accounts to be transferred to ABLE accounts without any penalties as long as they are transferred by 2025. ABLE plans – named for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act – are designed to provide tax-favored savings for people with disabilities without limiting their access to benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The annual contribution cap for ABLE plans is $15,000 and an account can reach $100,000 without affecting SSI benefits. You can also make tax-free withdrawals when paying for expenses such as housing, legal fees and employment trainings.

Plans Can Be Transferred to Another Child

If you no longer need the account for the child it was created for, you can change the plan’s beneficiary to another family member, saving you the income tax on 529 earnings and 10% federal penalty you pay if you withdraw money for non-educational purposes.

The Bottom Line

Every parent – and grandparent – should consider opening one or more 529 accounts for their children’s education. There is no limit to the number of plans you can contribute to, or the number of accounts that can be opened for any child, so study up to determine which plans make the most sense for you. But remember: each state’s rules are different so – like your kids – you’ll want to do your homework.

Then, as with all smart savings plans, contribute on a regular basis over time, through market ups and downs, to benefit from dollar cost averaging and watch your interest compound – and your child’s educational opportunities grow.

 

For how the new tax law affects the “Kiddie Tax” for Uniform Gifts and Transfers to Minors (UGMAs and UTMAs) please click here.

At Sherman Wealth Management we’re passionate about children’s education so please give us a call if you have any questions about your state’s 529 options.

A version of this article initially appeared on Investopedia.com

 

 

The “Kiddie Tax” is Changing: What You Need to Know Now

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Saving on taxes, while saving for your child or grandchild’s college education, just got a little trickier thanks to important changes in the “Kiddie Tax”.

The tax bill that was signed into law in December made some significant changes to how Uniform Gifts to Minors Accounts (UGMAs) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Accounts (UTMAs) are taxed.

What is the “Kiddie Tax”?

“The “Kiddie Tax” was first established in 1986 to keep parents from shielding income by placing investment accounts in the names of their children, who typically are in lower income tax brackets,” explains CPA Joshua Harris of Santos, Postal & Company. “The initial Kiddie Tax rules expired when a child turned 14. In 2008, this threshold increased to cover children through age 18 and full time students through age 23.”

How were Uniform Gifts and Transfers Taxed?

UGMAs and UTMAs have been a popular way to save money in a child’s or grandchild’s name precisely because of their significant tax advantages. A portion of the money earned – the first $1,050 of the child’s investment income (including interest, dividends and capital gains distributions) has been tax-free; the next $1,050 has taxed at the child’s rate; and investment income above $2,100 was taxed at the parent’s or grandparent’s “marginal” tax rate, ie the highest rate applied to the last dollar earned.

How is it Changing?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made an important change to this graduated “Kiddie Tax.”

Instead of a child’s investment income above $2,100 being taxed at the parent or grandparent’s individual tax rate, it will be taxed at the 2018 trust and estate tax rates:

 

Investment Income Trust & Estate Tax Rate
Up to $2,550 10%
$2,551-$9,150 24%
$9,151-$12,500 35%
Over $12,500 37%

Will You Pay More or Less?

How much you will pay depends on the amount of investment income and your own marginal tax bracket. As a rule of thumb, the more you have the more you may be taxed this year.

While the Tax Code changed with this law, it unfortunately did not get simpler. And one alternative, if your rates are going up, may be to consider rolling the UTMA or UGMA into a 529 plan. Because of the complexity, it’s a good idea to speak with your Financial Planner about how the new law affects you, and what your best alternatives are now among the wide array of educational savings plans.

 

Please give us a call if you’d like to schedule a free consultation.

Saving for College and Wondering about Your Options?

Start saving early for college

For many parents, the Spring months are full of happy news, as high school seniors announce their college choices. For parents of younger children, however, those happy announcements may make them wonder if they are being savvy about starting to save for college.

One thing any parent will tell you is that time flies. Before you know it, your toddler will be taking the SATs. And one thing any financial advisor will tell you is that the earlier you start any savings plan, the better off you’ll be (although any time is better than no time.)

Not all college savings plans are created equal

The good news is that more parents than ever are already saving, including an impressive 65% of young millennial parents, according to Sallie Mae’s 2016 report How America Saves for College.

Unfortunately, 61% of the parents surveyed said they are putting their savings in regular savings accounts, and a whopping 44% of all money saved is held in savings & checking accounts, CDs, savings bonds and other low-yielding instruments. And too many of the non-savers are hoping that earnings from their own investments or savings will cover college.

So what are the best ways to save for your child’s education?

Better Ways to Save – 529s, ESAs, and UTMAs

With the availability of excellent plans with significant tax benefits and the potential for compound interest gains, why are so few parents taking advantage of them? One reason may be that the various plans, while excellent, are not always easy to understand. Even the alphabet soup of names is daunting when you’re also worried about packing lunches, soccer practice, and missing work for parent teacher conferences.

Here’s a simplified look at the top plans:

529 Plans

While 529 plans have been around since 1996, they still seem to be a well-kept secret, with only 22% of college savings invested in these portfolios of investment funds (here too, savvy Millennials are leading the charge with 44% planning to take advantage of 529 plans, while Gen X and Baby Boomer parents trail at 36% and 23%.)

529 plans are offered by each of the 50 states and allow you deposit post-tax money that grows and compounds tax-free. While you can invest in any state’s plan, investing in your own state’s plan may offer state income tax deductions in addition to the federal tax break for earnings.

Advantages: Anyone can create a 529 account (including the future student) and anyone can add up to $14,000 per year to the account (or $28,000 if married) without paying a federal gift tax. Up to a total of $400,000 can be invested in a 529 plan account per beneficiary (each state sets its own limits) and for most plans there is no age restriction for the beneficiary. They also allow withdrawals to pay for educational supplies such as computers and books, and the account owner can change the beneficiary to another eligible family member if the funds aren’t used.

Potential drawbacks: when you invest in a state plan, you do not control the financial decisions. Instead, you invest in the portfolio of funds offered by the plan. So shop around for the state plan you feel most comfortable with and that best matches your risk tolerance (a good Fiduciary Financial Advisor can help you evaluate the choices.)

Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs)

ESA accounts are similar to a 529 plan in that you contribute post-tax money then growth in value is tax-free. Unlike 529 plans, however, you are free to invest the money as you please.

Advantages: You control the investments in the account and, like 529 plans, can use the funds to pay for educational supplies such as computers and books. You can also use ESA funds to pay for K-12 costs if your child goes to a private school. Any funds not used, may be rolled, tax-free, into the ESA of another family member.

Potential drawbacks: Contributions are capped at $2000 per year per beneficiary and must come from contributors whose adjusted gross income for that year is less than $110,000 (or $220,000 for individuals filing joint returns) so this option is not available to higher income contributors. The beneficiary must be under 18 when it the ESA is created and funded, and the funds must be used by age 30 or be subject to federal tax and a 10% penalty.

UGMA/UTMA Custodial Accounts

The UGMA (Uniform Gift to Minors Act) and UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) allow larger gifts to be made to minors, while still qualifying for gift tax exclusion. They allow a parent or grandparent to reduce their estate for tax purposes with greater flexibility in how the money is invested than a 529 offers.

Advantages: Custodial accounts have the greatest flexibility. You can contribute as much as you want, invest it as you please, and – while 529 accounts and ESAs are exclusively intended for education expenses – funds in a custodial accounts can be used for any purpose.

Potential drawbacks: Unlike 529 plans and ESAs, the earnings are not tax-free. And, while custodian controls how the funds are used while the student is a minor, after the student turns 21 (or 18 in some states,) control is transferred to the student. Another important consideration for both taxes and financial aid applications is that custodial accounts are considered the child’s assets and the income they produce (over $1,050 and up to $2,100) will be taxed as income to the child, then any earnings beyond that are taxed at your rate.

Prepaid tuition plans

If you live in a state with excellent state schools, prepaid tuition plans may be a smart solution for you. Administered by the individual states, these investment accounts allow you to pay for – or contribute to – your child’s future state school tuition at today’s rates.

Advantages: Paying now is a great hedge against rising college costs and the increase in value is not taxed.

Potential drawbacks: The funds can only be used at state schools and do not cover room and board.

Get a head start on your child’s financial education too

Once you’ve chose the plan – or combination – that makes the most sense for you, it’s a smart idea to share your investment plan with your child, as soon as they’re old enough to understand. If you get them started early understanding the power of planning, saving, and compound interest, they’ll already have an A+ in financial literacy when they get into the college of their dreams.

 

This post originally appeared on Investopedia.

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

 

 

It’s National 529 Day!

National 529 Day

Friday, May 29 is “National 529 College Savings Plan Day,” to raise awareness about the benefits of college savings plans.

Surprisingly, nearly 70% of Americans are unsure of exactly what types of college savings plans are available. Are you one of them?

If you have children, a college savings plan should be considered as an important part of a diversified long-term savings plan!

With all 50 states and the District of Columbia offering at least one type of college savings plan, many states also offer state tax favored treatment of contributions to those who use their state’s plan. And, in honor of National 529 Day, many states are having promotional offers.

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to your child’s future. Sherman Wealth Management can offer further information and detailed explanations with regards to opening and contributing to a diversified college savings plan. With Sherman Wealth Management’s experience, you can start saving for your child’s future today.

 

 

Withdrawals from a 529 Plan used for qualified higher education expenses are free from federal income tax. State taxes may apply. Withdrawals of earnings not used to pay for qualified higher education expenses are subject to tax and a 10% penalty. Participation in these plans does not guarantee that contributions and the investment return on contributions, if any, will be adequate to cover future tuition and other higher education expenses or that a beneficiary will be admitted to or permitted to continue to attend an institution of higher education. The plan is not a mutual fund, although it invests in mutual funds. In addition to sales charges, the plan has other fees and expenses, including fees and expenses of the underlying mutual funds. The plan involves investment risk, including the loss of principal.

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Why Reducing Your Tax Refund is a Good Thing

With tax day fast approaching, many people are counting on receiving a big check back from the Government. While you’re probably looking forward to this windfall, there are reasons why you may wish to minimize your end-of-year refund.

Why Big Refunds are Bad

Taxes are refunded to you when the Government takes too much of your pay each pay period. By overpaying each paycheck, only to get the money returned to you once a year, you are essentially lending the Government money at zero percent interest.

This is money that could have been budgeted for and spent, or invested, throughout the year. Even if you had put the money in a savings account over the year, you still would be better off.

How to Minimize Your Refund

In order to adjust the amount that is withheld for the IRS each pay period you need to fill out/change your W-4 form.

The W-4 allows you to specify allowances or exemptions that you are eligible for.

These can include:

  • Donations to charitable organizations
  • Interest on a home mortgage
  • Interest on student loan debt
  • Contributions to traditional IRAs

The W-4 form estimates the amount that you would receive from a tax refund. This amount is then distributed over the number of weeks remaining in the tax year, lowering the amount withheld from your paycheck each pay period.

You should also look into filling out a new W-4 every time you have experienced a major change in your life. Examples of this include:

  • Switching jobs
  • Marriage
  • Having a child
  • Losing a dependent (They either file their own tax return, or you can no longer claim them)

While trying to lower the amount that is withheld in taxes each pay period generally makes sense, it may be prudent to not list all of the exemptions you are eligible for on your W-4.

Why You May Not Want to Claim all Your Allowances

While having too much in taxes withheld can be compared to lending the Government money at a rate of zero percent interest, the reverse is also true.

If you underpay in taxes each paycheck, you end up owing money to the Government. In theory this is great. You could put the money in a savings account, and then at the end of the year pay back the Government while pocketing the interest that you collected.

In practice however this is not a prudent strategy for most people.

Individuals have a tendency to spend money that they have, and forget about longer-term consequences of their actions. Additionally while receiving a refund at the end of the year is exciting, the opposite is also true.

This is why it may make sense for you to leave a few deductions you are eligible for unlisted on your W-4. This ensures that you receive a tax refund, albeit a smaller one, rather than owing money.

What to Do When You Do Receive a Refund

While this advice can be helpful for next year, chances are this year’s tax season will provide you with a large refund.

If you do receive a large refund there are a series of things you can consider to maximize its value. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Invest in yourself – Sometimes the best investment you can make is in yourself. Consider buying a book or taking a class to help improve your performance in work or at life.
  • Get your will done – this can often cost less than a $1,000 in total but can save your beneficiary’s significantly more both in terms of money as well as headache
  • Put money into a college savings plan
  • Pay down your mortgage
  • Invest in a non-tax-exempt account – if you have already maxed out your IRA
  • Save for a rainy day
  • Open/add to an IRA
  • Pay off student loan debt
  • Pay off credit card debt – if you have any credit card debt, this should be an immediate priority
  • Save the money and increase your 401(k) contributions – put your money in a safe place such as a savings account, and bump up your 401(k) contributions to reflect the fact that you have this money sitting on the side.

Regardless of what you do with your tax refund, it is important that you come up with a plan. A trusted financial planner can help you in the process of creating one.

With over a decade’s worth of experience in the financial services industry Brad Sherman is committed to helping individual investors plan and prepare for retirement.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.