Charitable donations: 6 Tax Strategies – Updated for 2022

Charitable donations

Charitable donations are an excellent way to help your favorite cause, church, foundation, school, or other registered charitable institution of your choice. Americans made $484.85 billion in charitable donations in 2021, which was 4% higher than 2020. The average annual household contribution was $2,534. In 2021, the majority of charitable dollars went to religion (27%), education (14%), human services (13%), grantmaking foundations (13%), and public-society benefit (11%).

Charitable donations are also a powerful tool to reduce your overall tax liability to the IRS. By carefully following the tax law and IRS rules, you can substantially increase the impact of donations. Here is what you can do.

1. Meet the requirements for charitable donations

You can receive tax deductions for your donations as long as they meet specific requirements. Some of the most important rules are:

  • You have to give to qualified charitable organizations approved by the IRS. The charity can be public or private. Usually, public charities receive more favorable tax treatment.
  • You need to have a receipt for your gift.
  • You need to itemize your tax return.
  • Donations apply for the same tax year when you make them. For most individuals, the tax year and calendar year are the same. For some companies, their tax year may end on a different date during the calendar year (for example, November 1 to October 31)
  • All gifts are valued at fair market value. Depending on your donation, the fair market value may not be equal to the initial cash value.
  • You have to transfer the actual economic benefit or ownership to the receiver of your gift.

There are many ways to give. Some are straightforward, and others are more complex and require professional help. Each has its rules, which you need to understand and follow strictly to receive the highest tax benefit.

2. Give cash

Giving money is the easiest way to help your favorite charitable cause. IRS allows for charitable donations for as much as 50% of your aggregated gross income. You can carry over in future years any amounts of more than 50%.s. However, you must keep a record of your cash donations.

3. Give Household goods

You can donate clothes, appliances, furniture, cars, and other household items in good condition. The items will be priced at fair value. In most cases, the value will be lower than what you paid for them. This category is also subject to the 50% limit of the AGI.

Donating household items is a perfect way to clean your closet of old clothes and shoes that you haven’t worn for years. You can even donate your old car collecting dust in the garage. Moreover, if you plan to remodel a kitchen, you can give your old cabinets and appliances to charities like the Salvation Army. Remember to keep the receipts of these items in case the IRS asks you for them.

4. Donate Appreciated assets

One of the most popular tax-saving strategies is donating appreciated assets directly to charitable organizations. This approach is subject to 30% of AGI for donations given to qualified public charities. Appreciated assets can include publicly traded stocks, restricted stocks, real estate, privately held companies, collectibles, and artwork. The main caveat to receiving the highest tax benefit is giving the appreciated asset directly to charitable donations instead of selling it and gifting the remaining cash. This way, you will avoid paying a capital gain tax on the sale of your asset and deduct the full fair value of your asset.

 Let’s look at an example. An investor in a 28% tax bracket is considering donating an appreciating stock to her favorite charity. She can sell the stock and give the proceeds or donate the shares directly. The current market value of the stock is $100,000. She purchased it more than one year ago for $20,000. The total capital gain is $80,000. 

The investor is achieving three essential goals by giving the stock directly to her favorite. First, she is not paying a capital gain tax on the proceeds of the sale. Second, she can use the entire fair value of the stock (instead of the proceeds from the sale) to reduce her tax liabilities. Third, the charitable organization receives an asset with a higher value, which they can sell tax-free.

 5. Make direct IRA charitable rollover

Donations made directly from your IRA and 401k accounts are another way of reducing your tax bill. If you reached 72 (70 ½ if you turned 70 ½ in 2019), you could make up to $100,000 a year in gifts to a charity directly from your IRA or 401k accounts. Those contributions count towards the required annual minimum distributions you must take once you reach  72 or 70 ½, respectively. They also reduce your adjusted gross income. To be compliant, you have to follow two simple rules.

Your plan administrator has to issue a check payable to your charity of choice. Therefore the funds have to transfer directly to the charitable organization. If the check is payable to you, this will automatically trigger a tax event for IRS. In that case, your IRA distribution will be taxable as ordinary income, and you will owe taxes on them. The second rule, you have to complete the transfer by December 31 of the same calendar year.

6. Consolidate your donations

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction for all individuals and families. Therefore relatively small charitable donations may not be tax-deductible at all.

Standard deduction amounts

2021 tax year 2022 tax year
Individuals $12,550 $12,950
Married couples filing jointly $25,100 $25,900
Heads of households $18,800 $19,400

If you want to increase the tax impact of your donations, you may have to consolidate the small annual contributions in a single year.

Tax Saving Strategies for 2022

Tax Saving Strategies for 2022

As we approach the end of  2022, I am sharing my favorite list of tax-saving ideas to help you lower your tax bill for 2022. In my experience, the US tax rules change frequently. 2022 was no exception.

2022 has been a tough year for investors. The interest rates are rising, and the stock market is volatile. Since we don’t have any control over the economy, proactive tax planning is essential for achieving your financial goals. Furthermore, it is key to attaining tax alpha. For you,  achieving Tax Alpha is a process that starts on day 1. Making smart tax decisions can help you grow your wealth while you prepare for various outcomes. 

Today, you have an excellent opportunity to review your finances. You can make several smart and easy tax moves to lower your tax bill and increase your tax refund. Being ahead of the curve will help you make well-informed decisions without the stress of tax deadlines. Start the conversation today. 

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1. Know your tax bracket

The first step of managing your taxes is knowing your tax bracket. In 2022, federal tax rates fall into the following brackets depending upon your taxable income and filing status. Knowing where you land on the tax scale can help you make informed decisions, especially when you plan to earn additional income, exercise stock options, or receive RSUs

Here are the Federal tax bracket and rates for 2022.

Tax rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of household
10% $0 to $10,275 $0 to $20,550 $0 to $10,275 $0 to $14,650
12% $10,276 to $41,775 $20,551 to $83,550 $10,276 to $41,775 $14,651 to $55,900
22% $41,776 to $89,075 $83,551 to $178,150 $41,776 to $89,075 $55,901 to $89,050
24% $89,076 to $170,050 $178,151 to $340,100 $89,076 to $170,050 $89,051 to $170,050
32% $170,051 to $215,950 $340,101 to $431,900 $170,051 to $215,950 $170,051 to $215,950
35% $215,951 to $539,900 $431,901 to $647,850 $215,951 to $323,925 $215,951 to $539,900
37% $539,901 or more $647,851 or more $323,926 or more $539,901 or more

2. Decide to itemize or use a standard deduction

The standard deduction is a specific dollar amount that allows you to reduce your taxable income. Nearly 90% of all tax filers use the standard deduction instead of itemizing. It makes the process a lot simpler for many Americans. However, in some circumstances, your itemized deductions may surpass the dollar amount of the standard deduction and allow you to lower your tax bill even further.

Here are the values for 2022:

2022 Standard Deduction  
Filing Status Deduction Amount
Single $12,950
Married Filing Jointly $25,900
Married Filing Separately $12,950
Head of Household $19,400

3. Maximize your retirement contributions

You can save taxes by contributing to a retirement plan. Most contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible and lower your tax bill.

  • For employees – 401k, 403b, 457, and TSP. The maximum contribution to qualified employee retirement plans for 2022 is $20,500. If you are  50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,500.
  • For business owners – SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plan. Business owners can contribute to SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plans to maximize their retirement savings and lower their tax bills. The maximum contribution to SEP-IRA and Solo 401k in 2022 is $61,000 or $67,500 if you are 50 and older.

If you own SEP IRA, you can contribute up to 25% of your business wages.

In a solo 401k plan, you can contribute as an employee and an employer. The employee contribution is subject to a $20,500 limit plus a $6,500 catch-up. The employer match is limited to 25% of your compensation for a maximum of $40,500. In many cases, the solo 401k plan can allow you to save more than SEP IRA.

A defined Benefit Plan is an option for high-income earners who want to save more aggressively for retirement above the SEP-IRA and 401k limits. The DB plan uses actuary rules to calculate your annual contribution limits based on your age and compensation. All contributions to your defined benefit plan are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-free.

4. Roth conversion

Transferring investments from a Traditional IRA or 401k plan to a Roth IRA is known as Roth Conversion. It allows you to switch from tax-deferred to tax-exempt retirement savings. With stocks in a bear market, 2022 offers an excellent opportunity for Roth conversion and long-term tax planning. 

The conversion amount is taxable for income purposes. The good news is that even though you will pay more taxes in the current year, the conversion may save you a lot more money in the long run.

If you believe your taxes will go up in the future, Roth Conversion could be a very effective way to manage your future taxes. 

5. Contribute to a 529 plan

The 529 plan is a tax-advantaged state-sponsored investment plan, allowing parents to save for their children’s future college expenses. 529 plan works similarly to the Roth IRA. You make post-tax contributions. Your investment earnings grow free from federal and state income tax if you use them to pay for qualified educational expenses. The 529 plan has a distinct tax advantage compared to a regular brokerage account, as you will never pay taxes on your dividends and capital gains.

Over 30 states offer a full or partial tax deduction or a credit on your 529 contributions. You can find the complete list here. Your 529 contributions can significantly lower your state tax bill if you live in these states.

6. Make a donation

Donations to charities, churches, and various non-profit organizations are tax-deductible. You can support your favorite cause by giving back and lowering your tax bill simultaneously. Your contributions can be in cash, household good, appreciated assets, or directly from your IRA distributions. 

Charitable donations are tax-deductible only when you itemize your tax return. If you make small contributions throughout the year, you might be better off taking the standard deduction.

If itemizing your taxes is crucial, you might want to consolidate your donations in one calendar year. So, instead of making multiple charitable contributions over the years, you can give one large donation every few years.

7. Tax-loss harvesting

The stock market is volatile. If you are holding stocks and other investments that dropped significantly in 2022, you can consider selling them. Selling losing investments to reduce your tax liability is known as tax-loss harvesting. It works for capital assets outside retirement accounts (401k, Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA). Capital assets may include real estate, cryptocurrency, cars, gold, stocks, bonds, and any investment property not for personal use.

The IRS allows you to use capital losses to offset capital gains. You can deduct the difference as a loss on your tax return if your capital losses are higher than your capital gains. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year or $1,500 if married and filing a separate return. Furthermore, you can carry forward your capital losses for future years and offset future gains.

8. Prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains

Another way to lower your tax bill when selling assets is to prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains. The current tax code benefits investors who keep their assets for more than one calendar year. Long-term investors receive a preferential tax rate on their gains. While investors with short-term capital gains will pay taxes at their ordinary income tax level

Here are the long-term capital gain tax brackets for 2022:

Long-term capital gains tax rate Single Married Filing Jointly
0% $0 to $41,675 $0 to $83,350
15% $41,675 – $459,750 $83,350 to $517,200
20% Over $459,750 Over $517,200

Furthermore, high-income earners will also pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

9. Contribute to FSA

With healthcare costs constantly increasing, you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)  to cover your medical bills and lower your tax bill.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a tax-advantaged savings account offered through your employer. The FSA allows you to save pretax dollars to cover medical and dental expenses for yourself and your dependents. 

The maximum contribution for 2022 is $2,850 per person. If you are married, your spouse can save another $2,850 for a total of $5,700 per family. Some employers offer a matching FSA contribution for up to $500. Typically,  you must use your FSA savings by the end of the calendar year. However, for 2022, the maximum carryover amount is $570

Dependent Care FSA (DC-FSA)

A Dependent Care FSA  is a pretax benefit account that you can use to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after-school programs, and child or adult daycare. It’s easy to reduce your tax bill while taking care of your children and loved ones while you continue to work.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) raised pretax contribution limits for dependent care flexible spending accounts (DC-FSAs) for 2022.   For married couples filing jointly or single parents filing as head of household, the maximum contribution limit is $5,000. 

10. Buy an electric vehicle

if you purchase an electric vehicle with a final assembly in North America, you might be eligible for a Federal tax credit. Many states have separate incentives.  The maximum credit is $7,000 depending on your income, the size of the vehicle, and its battery capacity. All eligible models are subject to a 200,000 EV credit cap. Most Tesla, Bold, and GM have reached the cap. For the most recent list check the US Department of Energy website.

11. Contribute to Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an investment account for individuals under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) that allows you to save money on a pretax basis to pay for eligible medical expenses.

Keep in mind that the HSA has three distinct tax advantages.

  1. All HSA contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill.
  2. Your investments grow tax-free. You will not pay taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains.
  3. If you use the account for eligible medical expenses, you don’t pay taxes on those withdrawals.

The qualified High Deductible Plan typically covers only preventive services before the deductible. To qualify for the HSA, the HDHP should have a minimum deductible of $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family. Additionally, your HDHP must have an out-of-pocket maximum of up to $7,050 for one-person coverage or $14,100 for families.

The maximum contributions in HSA for 2022 are $3,650 for individual coverage and $7,300 for families HSA participants who are 55 or older can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. Unlike the FSA, the HSA doesn’t have a spending limit, and you can carry over the savings in the next calendar year.

12. Defer or accelerate income

Is 2022 shaping to be a high income for you? Perhaps, you can defer some of your income from this calendar year into 2022 and beyond. This move will allow you to avoid or delay higher income taxes. Even though it’s not always possible to defer wages, you might be able to postpone a large bonus, royalty, capital gains, or one-time payment. Remember, it only makes sense to defer income if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket next year.

On the other hand, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket tax year next year, you may consider taking as much income as possible in 2022.

Wise 401k moves to make in 2022

Wise 401k moves to make in 2022

Six wise 401k moves to make in 2022 to boost your retirement saving. Do you have a 401k? These five 401k moves will help you grow your retirement savings and ensure that you take full advantage of your 401k benefits.

2022 has been a very choppy year for investors. Both stocks and bonds have experienced losses and large swings in both directions. As we approach the end of the year, you can take another look at your 401k, reassess your financial priorities and .revaluate your retirement strategy,  Let’s make sure your 401k works for you.

Retirement Calculator

What is a 401k plan?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan that allows employees to build and grow their retirement savings. It is one of the most convenient and effective ways to save for retirement, as both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. You can set up automatic deductions to your 401k account directly through your company payroll as an employee. You can choose the exact percentage of your salary towards your retirement savings. In 2022, most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stock, fixed-income mutual funds, and ETFs. Furthermore, most employers offer a 401k match for up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you must participate in the plan to receive the match.

1. Maximize your 401k contributions in 2022

The smart way to boost your retirement savings is to maximize your 401k contributions each year.

Did you know that in 2022 you can contribute up to $20,500 to your 401k plan? If you are 50 or over, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2022. Traditional 401k contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your overall tax bill in the current tax year.

Many employers offer a 401k match, which is free money for you. The only way to receive the match is to participate in the plan. If you cannot max out your dollar amount, try to deduct the highest possible percentage so that you can capture the entire match from your employer. For example, if your company offers a 4% match on every dollar, at the very minimum, you should contribute 4% to get the entire match.

How to reach $1 million in your 401k by age 65?

Do you want to have $1 million in your 401k by retirement? The secret recipe is to start early. For example, if you are 25 years old today, you only need to set aside $387 per month for 40 years, assuming a 7% annual return. If you are 35, the saving rate goes up to $820 per month. If you start in your 50s, you need to save about $3,000 a month to get to a million dollars.

401k Contributions by Age
Age | Monthly
Contribution
Yearly
Contribution
Lifetime
Contribution
25 $387 $4,644 $190,404
30 $560 $6,720 $241,920
35 $820 $9,840 $305,040
40 $1,220 $14,640 $380,640
45 $1,860 $22,320 $468,720
50 $3,000 $36,000 $576,000
55 $5,300 $63,600 $699,600

2. Review your investment options

When was the last time you reviewed the investment options inside your 401k plan? When was the last time you made any changes to your fund selection? With automatic contributions and investing, it is easy to get things on autopilot. But remember, this is d your retirement savings. Now is the best time to get a grip on your 401k investments.

Look at your fund performance over the last 1, 3, 5, and 10 years and make sure the fund returns are near or higher than their benchmark. Review the fund fees. Check if there have been new funds added to the lineup recently.

What is a Target Date Fund?

A target-date fund is an age-based retirement fund that automatically adjusts your stock and bond investment allocation as you approach retirement. Young investors have a higher allocation to equities, considered more risky assets. In comparison, investors approaching retirement receive a bigger share in safer investments such as bonds. By design, plan participants should choose one target-date fund, set it, and forget until they retire. The fund will automatically change the asset allocation as you near your retirement age.

However, in a recent study, Vanguard concluded that nearly 33% of 401k plan participants misuse their target-date funds.   A third of the people who own TDFs,  combine them with another fund.

Target date funds in your 401k in 2021

3. Change your asset allocation

Asset allocation tells you how your investments are spread between stocks, bonds, money markets, and other asset classes. Stocks typically are riskier but offer great earnings potential. Bonds are considered a safer investment but provide a limited annual return.

Your ideal asset allocation depends on your age, investment horizon, risk tolerance, and specific individual circumstances.

Typically, younger plan participants have a longer investment horizon and can withstand portfolio swings to achieve higher returns in the future. If you are one of these, investors can choose a higher allocation of stocks in your 401k.

However, if you are approaching retirement, you would have a much shorter investment horizon and probably lower tolerance to investment losses. In this case, you should consider adding more bonds and cash to your asset allocation.

4. Consider contributing to Roth 401k in 2022

Are you worried that you will pay higher taxes in the future? The Roth 401k allows you to make pretax contributions and avoid taxes on your future earnings. All Roth contributions are made after paying all federal and state income taxes. The advantage is that all your prospective earnings will grow tax-free. If you keep your money until retirement or reach the age of 59 ½, you will withdraw your gains tax-free. If you are a young professional or believe your tax rate will grow higher in the future, Roth 401k is an excellent alternative to your traditional tax-deferred 401k savings.

5. Do a Mega backdoor 401k conversion 

Mega Backdoor 401k is an acronym for after-tax Roth conversion within your 401k plan. Many high-income earners cannot make direct Roth contributions. At the same time, they may prefer traditional tax-deferred 401k contributions, which reduce their current taxes. Mega backdoor 401k allows you to get the best of both worlds. There is one caveat — your 401k plan must allow for after-tax contributions and in-plan conversions.

For 2022, maximum 401k contributions of any kind (tax-deferred, Roth, after-tax, and employee match) is $61,000, up from $58,000 for 2021. If you’re 50 or older, the limit is $67,500, up from $64,500 in 2021. If you maximize your 401k allowance and receive an employee match, you can choose to make after-tax contributions up to the annual limit. Without any conversion, you will pay taxes on all your gains. The second step in the strategy requires an in-plan Roth conversion, which will move your after-tax money into Roth tax-exempt savings.

6. Rollover an old 401k plan

Do you have an old 401k plan stuck with your former employer? How often do you have a chance to review your balance? Unfortunately, many old 401k plans have been forgotten and ignored for years. Transferring an old 401k to a Rollover IRA can be a wise move.

The rollover is your chance to control your retirement savings. Furthermore, you will expand your investment options from the limited number of mutual funds to the entire universe of stocks, ETFs, and fund managers. Most importantly, you can manage your account according to your retirement goals.

Maximizing Roth savings for high-income earners

Maximizing Roth savings for high income earners

Maximizing your Roth savings is a terrific way to save for retirement for both high-income earners and professionals at all levels. Roth IRA is a tax-free retirement savings account that allows you to make after-tax contributions to save towards retirement.

Key Roth benefits for high earners

  • Roth IRA offers tax-free retirement growth. All contributions are pre-tax. In other words, you pay taxes before you make them. Once your dollars hit your Roth IRA, they grow tax-free.
  • You won’t pay any taxes on future capital gains and dividends.
  • Roth IRA is not subject to required minimum distributions at age 72.
  • You can always withdraw your original contribution tax and penalty-free.
  • Maximizing your Roth savings, especially for high-income earners, is an effective way to diversify your future tax exposure
  • High earners can incorporate their Roth savings as part of their estate planning strategy

How much can I contribute to my Roth IRA?

You can contribute up to $6,000 to your Roth IRA in 2022 or $7,000 if you are 50 years or older.

Income limits for Roth contributions

Roth IRA contribution limits for 2022 are based on your annual earnings. If you are single or a head of household and earn $129,000 or less, you can contribute up to the full amount of $6,000 per year. If your aggregated gross income is between $129,000 and $144,000, you can still make contributions with a lower value.

Married couples filing jointly can contribute up to $6,000 each if their combined income is less than $204,000. You can still make reduced contributions if your aggregated gross income is between $204,000 and $214,000.

If you are a high earner, you will not meet the income limits to make direct Roth contributions. However, you still have some options. Here are some ideas that can help you boost your Roth savings

Speak with a financial advisor to find out what Roth strategies make sense for you

Backdoor Roth IRA for high-income earners

The Backdoor Roth IRA is a multi-step process that allows high-income earners to bypass the Roth Income limits. The strategy comes with some conditions. While the IRS has kept the rules vague, it’s easy to make mistakes while following the process. I had seen more than one client who had made some mistakes when they followed the backdoor steps.

Here are the general guidelines. Remember that everyone’s circumstances are unique, and this article may not address all of them.

Backdoor Roth IRA steps

  1. Contribute to a non-deductible IRA. Roth IRA and Traditional IRA have the same income limits. If you do not qualify to make direct Roth contributions, you don’t qualify for tax-deductible IRA savings. When you contribute to a non-deductible IRA, you are making an after-tax contribution to an IRA. Theoretically, you will pay taxes on your future gain but the original amount.
  2. Convert your contribution to a Roth IRA. In the second step of the process, you must transfer your assets from the non-deductible IRA to your Roth IRA. Your IRA administrator or financial advisor will give you the instructions and paperwork. Every broker requires a slightly different process.
  3. File your taxes and submit Form 8606. You must file form 8606 to report your non-deductible contributions to traditional IRAs. Please consult your CPA or tax accountant for the exact requirements for filling out and submitting the form. Pay attention to this form when you file your taxes using tax software.
  4. The Pro-Rata Rule. The pro-rata rule has one of the biggest implications in the backdoor process. The rules stipulate that ALL Roth conversions must be made on a pro-rata basis. In other words, if you have an outstanding Traditional RA, SEP IRA, or Simple IRA, your Roth conversion must be pro-rated between all existing IRA accounts, not just the non-deductible IRA from which you want to make the transfer. In other words, the Backdoor Roth strategy could trigger a substantial taxable event for you if you own tax-deferred IRA savings.

Roth conversion from IRA and 401k

Roth conversion involves the transfer of the tax-deferred savings in your IRA or 401k accounts into tax-exempt investments in your Roth IRA. Roth conversion can be a brilliant move for high-income earners in the right circumstances.

Your current and future taxes are critical elements of any Roth conversion decision-making. The strategy becomes viable during low tax years or whenever you expect higher tax rates in the future. Higher future tax rates make a Roth IRA more appealing, while lower future tax rates would make a traditional IRA more attractive.

With some proactive planning, Roth IRA offers substantial tax-free benefits. Due to income limits, many high-income savers end up with significant amounts in tax-deferred accounts such as 401k and Traditional IRA. These plans give you initial tax relief to encourage retirement savings. However, all future distributions are fully taxable and subject to required minimum distributions.

Learn more about Roth conversion here

Roth 401k

Most corporate 401k plans allow you to make either traditional tax-deferred or Roth 401k contributions. Roth 401k is similar to Roth IRA as both accounts are funded with after-tax dollars.

The contribution limits for 2022 are $20,500 per person. All 401k participants over the age of 50 can add a catch-up contribution of $6,500.

Roth 401k vs. Roth IRA

Roth 401k and Roth IRA are very similar, but Roth 401k has major advantages for high-income earners

  1. No income limits – Unlike Roth IRA, the Roth 401l doesn’t have income limits. Anyone eligible to participate in their company’s 401k plan can make Roth 401k contributions.
  2. Higher Contribution limits – You can save a lot more in your company’s Roth 401k plan versus a personal Roth IRA. You can save up to $20,500 in your Roth 401k and $6,000 in your Roth IRA. If you are 50 or older, you can stash $27,000 vs. $7,000
  3. Company match – You are eligible for a company match even if you make Roth 401k contributions. All employer matching contributions will be tax-deferred and placed in a separate account
  4. Investment options – Roth IRA offers a broader range of investment options vs. 401k plans with a limited list of funds.
  5. Distributions rules – Roth 401k savings are subject to required maximum distributions at age of 72. You can avoid this rule by rolling over your Roth 401k into a Roth IRA once you stop contributing to the plan.

What Is a Mega Backdoor Roth 401k?

Mega Backdoor 401k is an acronym for after-tax Roth conversion within your 401k plan. Many high-income earners cannot make direct Roth contributions. At the same time, they may prefer traditional tax-deferred 401k contributions, which reduce their current taxes. Mega backdoor 401k allows you to get the best of both worlds. There is one caveat — your 401k plan must allow for after-tax contributions and in-plan conversions. Depending on your plan design, setting up a Mega backdoor 401k can be pretty complex or relatively simple.

For 2022, maximum 401k contributions of any kind (tax-deferred, Roth, after-tax, and employee match) is $61,000, up from $58,000 for 2021. If you’re 50 or older, the limit is $67,500, up from $64,500 in 2021. If you maximize your 401k allowance and receive an employee match, you can choose to make after-tax contributions up the annual limit. Without any conversion, you will pay taxes on all your gains. Since your original contribution was after-tax, you don’t pay taxes on that amount. Furthermore, the IRS limits the compensation eligible for 401k contributions to $305,000 or 2022. Depending on your specific circumstances, the final contribution amount to your 401k plan may vary,

Here is how Mega Backdoor Roth 401k works

  1. Maximize your 401k contributions for the year
  2. Opt-in for after-tax 401k contributions. Your plan must allow for this election
  3. Convert your after-tax contributions into Roth 401k as soon as possible to avoid possible taxable gains. Some plans may allow you to choose automatic conversions versus manual.
  4. Watch your Roth savings grow tax-free

Final words

Maximizing Roth savings can be highly advantageous for high-income earners and hard-working professionals. Since Roth IRAs have strict income limits, not everyone will qualify automatically for direct contributions. You will need careful planning to maneuver all the different rules and a long-term view to enjoy the benefits of your Roth savings.

401k contribution limits 2022

401k contribution limits 2022

401k contribution limits for 2022 are $20,500 per person. All 401k participants over the age of 50 can add a catch-up contribution of $6,500.

Retirement Calculator

What is 401k?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan where both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. These retirement plans can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to save for retirement. As an employee, you can make automatic contributions to your 401k directly through your company payroll. You can choose the percentage of your salary that will go towards your retirement savings, Most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stocks and fixed income. Additionally, most companies offer a 401k match up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you need to participate in the plan in order to get the match.

There are two types of contributions – traditional 401k tax-deferred and tax-exempt Roth 401k contributions.

Tax-deferred 401k

Most employees, typically, choose to make tax-deferred 401k contributions. These payments are tax-deductible. They will lower your tax bill for the current tax year. Your investments will grow on a tax-deferred basis. Therefore, you will only owe federal and state taxes when you start withdrawing your savings.

Roth 401k

Roth 401k contributions are pretax. It means that you will pay all federal and state taxes before making your contributions. The advantage of Roth 401k is that your retirement savings will grow tax-free. As long as you keep your money until retirement, you will withdraw your gain tax-free. It’s a great alternative for young professionals and workers in a low tax bracket.

What are my 401k contribution limits for 2022?

401k contribution limits change every year. IRS typically increases the maximum annual limit with the cost of living adjustment and inflation. These contribution limits apply to all employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Additionally, the limits apply to both tax-deferred and Roth contributions combined. 

  • Employees can contribute up to $20,500 to their 401(k) plan for 2022, a $1,000 increase from 2021.
  • Employees of age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2022, the same amount as  2021
  • The employee compensation limit for calculating 401k contributions is $305,000, $15,000 more than 2021
  • Companies can make a matching contribution up to the combined limit of $61,000 or $67,500 with the catch-up contribution. If an employee makes the maximum allowed contribution, the company match cannot exceed $40,500 in 2022.

Solo 401k contribution limits 2022

A solo 401k plan is a type of 401k plan with one participant. Those are usually solo entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, and other small business owners. Self-employed individuals can take advantage of solo 401k plans and save for retirement.

  • The maximum contribution limit in 2022 for a solo 401k plan is $61,000 or $67,500 with catch-up contributions. Solo entrepreneurs can make contributions both as an employee and an employer.
  • The employee contribution cannot exceed $19,500 in the solo 401(k) plan for 2021.
  • Self-employed 401k participants, age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2021.
  • The total self-employed compensation limit for calculating solo 401k contributions is $290,000.
  • Employer contribution cannot exceed 25% of the compensation
  • If you participate in more than one 401k plan at the same time, you are subject to the same annual limits for all plans.

Please note that if you are self-employed and decide to hire other employees, they will have to be included in the 401k plan if they meet the plan eligibility requirements.

 

5 smart 401k moves to make in 2021

5 smart 401k moves to make in 2021 to boost your retirement saving. Do you have a 401k? These five 401k moves will help you grow your retirement savings and ensure that you take full advantage of your 401k benefits.

After a very challenging 2020, 2021 allows you to take another look at your 401k, reassess your financial priorities and .revaluate your retirement strategy,  Let’s make sure that your 401k works for you.

Retirement Calculator

What is a 401k plan?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan that allows employees to build and grow their retirement savings. It is one of the most convenient and effective ways to save for retirement as both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. You can set up automatic deductions to your 401k account directly through your company payroll as an employee.  You can choose the exact percentage of your salary that will go towards your retirement savings. In 2021, most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stocks, fixed-income mutual funds, and ETFs. Furthermore, most employers offer a 401k match up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you need to participate in the plan to receive the match.

1. Maximize your 401k contributions in 2021

The smart way to boost your retirement savings is to maximize your 401k contributions each year.

Did you know that in 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 to your 401k plan? If you are 50 or over, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2021. Traditional 401k contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your overall tax bill in the current tax year.

Many employers offer a 401k match, which is free money for you. The only way to receive it is to participate in the plan. If you cannot max out your dollar contributions, try to deduct the highest possible percentage so that you can capture the entire match from your employer. For example, if your company offers a 4% match on every dollar, at the very minimum, you should contribute 4% to get the full match.

How to reach $1 million in your 401k by age 65?

Do you want to have $1 million in your 401k by the time you retire? The secret recipe is to start early.  For example, if you are 25 old today, you only need to set aside $387 per month for 40 years, assuming a 7% annual return. If you are 35, the saving rate goes up to $820 per month.  If you have a late start, you need to save about $3,000 a month in your 50s to get to a million dollars at the age of 65.

401k Contributions by Age
Age | Monthly
Contribution
Yearly
Contribution
Lifetime
Contribution
25 $387 $4,644 $190,404
30 $560 $6,720 $241,920
35 $820 $9,840 $305,040
40 $1,220 $14,640 $380,640
45 $1,860 $22,320 $468,720
50 $3,000 $36,000 $576,000
55 $5,300 $63,600 $699,600

2. Review your investment options

When was the last time you reviewed the investment options inside your 401k plan? When is the last time you made any changes to your fund selection? With automatic contributions and investing, it is easy to get things on autopilot. But remember, this is d your retirement savings. Now is the best time to get a grip on your 401k investments.

Look at your fund performance over the last 1, 3, 5, and 10 years and make sure the fund returns are close or higher than their benchmark. Review the fund fees. Check if there have been new funds added to the lineup recently.

What is a Target Date Fund?

A target-date fund is an age-based retirement fund that automatically adjusts your stock and bond investments allocation as you approach retirement. Young investors have a higher allocation to equities which are considered more risky assets. In comparison, investors approaching retirement receive a bigger share in safer investments such as bonds. By design, plan participants should choose one target-date fund, set it, and forget until they retire. The fund will automatically change the asset allocation as you near your retirement age.

However, in a recent study, Vanguard concluded that nearly 33% percent of 401k plan participants misuse their target-date fund.   A third of the people who own TDFs,  combine them with another fund.

Target date funds in your 401k in 2021

So if you own one or more target-date funds or combine them with other equity and bond funds, you need to take another look at your investment choices.

3. Change your asset allocation

Asset allocation tells you how your investments are spread between stocks, bonds, money markets, and other asset classes. Stocks typically are riskier but offer great earnings potential. Bonds are considered a safer investment but provide a limited annual return.

Your ideal asset allocation depends on your age, investment horizon, risk tolerance, and specific individual circumstances.

Typically, younger plan participants have a longer investment horizon and can withstand portfolio swings to achieve higher returns in the future.  If you are one of these, investors can choose a higher allocation of stocks in your 401k.

However, if you are approaching retirement, you would have a much shorter investment horizon and probably lower tolerance to investment losses. In this case, you should consider adding more bonds and cash to your asset allocation.

4. Consider contributing to Roth 401k in 2021

Are you worried that you would pay higher taxes in the future? The Roth 401k allows you to make pretax contributions and avoid taxes on your future earnings. All Roth contributions are made after paying all federal and state income taxes now. The advantage is that all your prospective earnings will grow tax-free. If you keep your money until retirement or reaching the age of 59 ½, you will withdraw your gains tax-free. If you are a young professional or you believe that your tax rate will grow higher in the future, Roth 401k is an excellent alternative to your traditional tax-deferred 401k savings.

5. Rollover an old 401k plan

Do you have an old 401k plan stuck with your former employer? How often do you have a chance to review your balance? Unfortunately, many old 401k plans have become forgotten and ignored for many years.

It is a smart move to transfer an old 401k to a Rollover IRA.

The rollover is your chance to gain full control of your retirement savings. Furthermore, you will expand your investment options from the limited number of mutual funds to the entire universe of stocks, ETFs, and fund managers. Most importantly, you can manage your account according to your retirement goals.

Tax Saving Ideas for 2021

Tax Saving ideas for 2021

As we approach the end of  2021, I am sharing my favorite list of tax-saving ideas that can help you lower your tax bill for 2021. In my practice, In the US tax rules change frequently. 2021 was no exception.

I believe that proactive tax planning is essential for achieving your financial goals. Furthermore, it is key to achieving tax alpha.  For you,  achieving Tax Alpha is a process that starts on day 1.  Making smart tax decisions can help you grow your wealth while you prepared for various outcomes. 

Today, you have a great opportunity to review your finances. You can make several smart and easy tax moves that can lower your tax bill and increase your tax refund. Being ahead of the curve will help you make well-informed decisions without the stress of tax deadlines. Start the conversation today. 

Retirement Calculator

1. Know your tax bracket

The first step of managing your taxes is knowing your tax bracket. In 2021, federal tax rates fall into the following brackets depending upon your taxable income and filing status. Knowing where you land on the tax scale can help you make informed decisions especially when you plan to earn additional income, exercise stock options, or receive RSUs

Here are the Federal tax bracket and rates for 2021.

Tax Rate Taxable Income Taxable Income
  (Single) (Married Filing Jointly)
10% Up to $9,950 Up to $19,900
12% $9,951 to $40,525 $19,901 to $81,050
22% $40,526 to $86,375 $81,051 to $172,750
24% $86,376 to $164,925 $172,751 to $329,850
32% $164,926 to $209,425 $329,851 to $418,850
35% $209,426 to $523,600 $418,851 to $628,300
37% $523,601 or more $628,301 or more

2. Decide to itemize or use a standard deduction

The standard deduction is a specific dollar amount that allows you to reduce your taxable income. Nearly 90% of all tax filers use the standard deduction instead of itemizing. It makes the process a lot simpler for many Americans. However, in some circumstances, your itemized deductions may surpass the dollar amount of the standard deduction and allow you to lower your tax bill even further.

Here are the values for 2021:

Filing status 2021 tax year
Single $12,550
Married, filing jointly $25,100
Married, filing separately $12,550
Head of household $18,800

3. Maximize your retirement contributions

You can save taxes by contributing to a retirement plan. Most contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill.

  • For employees – 401k, 403b, 457, and TSP. The maximum contribution to qualified employee retirement plans for 2021 is $19,500. If you are at the age of 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,500.
  • For business owners – SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plan. Business owners can contribute to SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plans to maximize your retirement savings and lower your tax bill. The maximum contribution to SEP-IRA and Solo 401k in 2021 is $58,000 or $64,500 if you are 50 and older.

If you own SEP IRA, you can contribute up to 25% of your business wages.

In a solo 401k plan, you can contribute as both an employee and an employer. The employee contribution is subject to a $19,500 limit plus a $6,500 catch-up. The employer match is limited to 25% of your compensation for a maximum of $38,500. In many cases, the solo 401k plan can allow you to save more than SEP IRA.

A defined Benefit Plan is an option for high-income earners who want to save more aggressively for retirement above the SEP-IRA and 401k limits. The DB plan uses actuary rules to calculate your annual contribution limits based on your age and compensation. All contributions to your defined benefit plan are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-free.

4. Convert to Roth IRA

Transferring investments from a Traditional IRA or 401k plan to a Roth IRA is known as Roth Conversion. It allows you to switch from tax-deferred to tax-exempt retirement savings.

The conversion amount is taxable for income purposes. The good news is that even though you will pay more taxes in the current year, the conversion may save you a lot more money in the long run.

If you believe that your taxes will go up in the future, Roth Conversion could be a very effective way to manage your future taxes. 

5. Contribute to a 529 plan

The 529 plan is a tax-advantaged state-sponsored investment plan, allowing parents to save for their children’s future college expenses. 529 plan works similarly to the Roth IRA. You make post-tax contributions. Your investment earnings grow free from federal and state income tax if you use them to pay for qualified educational expenses. Compared to a regular brokerage account, the 529 plan has a distinct tax advantage as you will never pay taxes on your dividends and capital gains.

Over 30 states offer a full or partial tax deduction or a credit on your 529 contributions. You can find the full list here. If you live in any of these states, your 529 contributions can significantly lower your state tax bill.

6. Make a donation

Donations to charities, churches, and various non-profit organizations are tax-deductible. You can support your favorite cause by giving back and lower your tax bill at the same time. Your contributions can be in cash, household good, appreciated assets, or directly from your IRA distributions. 

Charitable donations are tax-deductible only when you itemize your tax return. If you make small contributions throughout the year, you might be better off taking the standard deduction instead.

If itemizing your taxes is crucial for you, you might want to consolidate your donations in one calendar year. So, instead of making multiple charitable contributions over the years, you can give one large donation every few years.

7. Tax-loss harvesting

The stock market can be volatile. If you are holding stocks and other investments that dropped significantly in 2021, you can consider selling them. The process of selling losing investments to reduce your tax liability is known as tax-loss harvesting. It works for capital assets held outside retirement accounts (401k, Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA). Capital assets may include real estate, cryptocurrency, cars, gold, stocks, bonds, and any investment property, not for personal use.

The IRS allows you to use capital losses to offset capital gains. If your capital losses are higher than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference as a loss on your tax return. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year or $1,500 if married and filing a separate return. Furthermore, you can carry forward your capital losses for future years and offset future gains.

8. Prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains

Another way to lower your tax bill when selling assets is to prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains. The current tax code benefits investors who keep their assets for more than one calendar year. Long-term investors receive a preferential tax rate on their gains. While investors with short-term capital gains will pay taxes at their ordinary income tax level

Here are the long-term capital gain tax brackets for 2021:

Long-term capital gains tax rate Single Married Filing Jointly
0% $0 to $40,400 $0 to $80,800
15% $40,401 – $445,850 $80,801 to $501,600
20% Over $445,850 Over $501,601

Furthermore, high-income earners will also pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

9. Contribute to FSA

With healthcare costs always on the rise, you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)  to cover your medical bills and lower your tax bill.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is tax-advantaged savings account offered through your employer. The FSA allows you to save pre-tax dollars to cover medical and dental expenses for yourself and your dependents. 

The maximum contribution for 2021 is $2,750 per person. If you are married, your spouse can save another $2,750 for a total of $5,500 per family.  Some employers offer a matching FSA contribution for up to $500. Typically,  you must use your FSA savings by the end of the calendar year. However, for 2021, The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allowed you to carry over your entire balance into the new year.

Dependent Care FSA (DC-FSA)

A Dependent Care FSA  is a pre-tax benefit account that you can use to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. It’s an easy way to reduce your tax bill while taking care of your children and loved ones while you continue to work.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) raised pretax contribution limits for dependent care flexible spending accounts (DC-FSAs) for the calendar year 2021.   For married couples filing jointly or single parents filing as head of household, the maximum contribution limit is $10,500. 

10. Child and dependent care tax credit

The enhanced credit for 2021 allows eligible parents to claim up to 50% of  $8,000 per child in dependent care expenses for a maximum of two children.  The maximum credit will be 50% of $16,000.  Keep in mind that you cannot use your DC-FSA funds to claim this credit

The credit percentage gradually phases down to 20 percent for individuals with incomes between $125,000 and $400,000, and further phases down by 1 percentage point for each $2,000 (or fraction thereof) by which an individual’s adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000,

11.. Contribute to Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an investment account for individuals under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) that allows you to save money on a pre-tax basis to pay for eligible medical expenses.

Keep in mind that the HSA has three distinct tax advantages.

  1. All HSA contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill.
  2. Your investments grow tax-free. You will not pay taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains.
  3. If you use the account for eligible medical expenses, you don’t pay taxes on those withdrawals.

The qualified High Deductible Plan typically covers only preventive services before the deductible. To qualify for the HSA, the HDHP should have a minimum deductible of $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family. Additionally, your HDHP must have an out-of-pocket maximum of up to $7,000 for one-person coverage or $14,000 for family.

The maximum contributions in HSA for 2021 are $3,600 for individual coverage and $7,200 for a family. HSA participants who are 55 or older can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. Unlike the FSA, the HSA doesn’t have a spending limit, and you can carry over the savings in the next calendar year.

12. Defer or accelerate income

Is 2021 shaping to be a high income for you? Perhaps, you can defer some of your income from this calendar year into 2021 and beyond. This move will allow you to delay some of the income taxes coming with it. Even though it’s not always possible to defer wages, you might be able to postpone a large bonus, royalty, or one-time payment. Remember, it only makes sense to defer income if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket next year.

On the other hand, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket tax year next year, you may consider taking as much income as possible in 2021.

Your Retirement Checklist

Retirement checklist

A happy and financially secure retirement is a primary goal for many working Americans. I created a retirement checklist that will help you navigate through the complex path of retirement planning. For my readers who are serious about their retirement planning, follow these 12 steps to organize and simplify your planning process. My 12-step retirement checklist can be a practical roadmap regardless of the age you want to retire. Following these steps will ensure that you have reviewed all aspects of your life and how they can impact your decisions before and during your retirement. Here is the crucial retirement checklist of all the things you need to do in preparation for the next chapter of your life.

1. Know what you own

You have worked very hard for this moment. You have earned and saved during your entire career. Now it’s time to benefit from your hard work. The first step of your retirement checklist is understanding what you own. Don’t guess. Don’t assume. You need to thoroughly evaluate all your assets, real estate, businesses, and retirement savings. Everything that you have accumulated during your working years can play a pivotal role in your successful retirement.

2. Gather all your financial documents

On the second step of your retirement checklist, you need to collect all relevant documents that show your asset ownership – financial statements, trust documents, wills, property deeds. This will be an excellent opportunity to gather all your plan statements from old 401k and retirement plans. If you own a real estate, make sure you have all your deeds in place. If you are beneficiary of a trust, collect all trust documents. Check all your bank, saving accounts and social security statements. Make sure that you build a complete picture of your financial life.

3. Pay of off your debt

One of your main pre-retirement goals is to become debt-free. If you are still paying off your mortgage, student loans, personal loans or credit card debt, now it’s a great time to review your finances and come up with a payment plan that will help you pay off your debts and improve your retirement prospects.

4. Build an emergency fund

The emergency fund is your rainy-day money. It’s the money that covers unexpected expenses. So, you don’t have to dip in your regular monthly budget. It’s the money that will help you if you unexpectedly lose your job or otherwise unable to earn money. I recommend keeping at least six months’ worth of living expenses in a separate savings account. Ideally, you should have built your emergency fund long before you decided to retire. If you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to create one. You can set aside a certain percentage of your monthly income to fill the emergency fund until you reach a comfortable level.

5. Learn your employee benefits

Sometimes employers offer generous retirement benefits to attract and retain top talent. Many companies and public institutions provide 401k contribution matching, profit sharing or a pension. Some employers may even offer certain retirement health care benefits. If you are lucky to work for these companies and public organizations, learn your benefits package. Ensure that you are taking full advantage of your employee benefits. Don’t leave any free money on the table.

6. Secure health insurance

A retired couple will spend, on average, $285,000 for healthcare-related expenses during their retirement. This cost is only going higher at a faster rate than regular inflation. Even if you are in good health, healthcare will be one of your highest expenses after you retire.

Medicare part A and part B cover only part of your healthcare cost including impatient and hospital care. They do not include long-term care, dental care, eye exams, dentures, cosmetic surgery, acupuncture, hearing aids and exams, routine foot care. You will be responsible for paying for Medicare parts D out of pocket through your private Medicare Advantage insurance. Medicare Advantage is a "bundled" plan that includes Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), and usually Medicare prescription drug (Part D).

7. Maximize your savings

Unless you have a generous pension, you will have to rely on your retirement savings to support yourself during retirement. Your 401k and IRA will likely be your primary retirement income source. So even if you have championed your retirement savings, now it’s a great time to calculate if your accumulated savings can support you during retirement. To boost your confidence, maximize your retirement contributions to 401k plans, IRA and even taxable investment accounts. Once you reach 50, the 401k and IRA plans will allow making additional catch up contributions.

There is another compelling reason to save in tax-deferred retirement accounts. If you are in the prime period of your earnings, you are probably in a very high tax bracket. Maximizing your tax-deferred retirement contributions will lower your tax bill for the year. You can withdraw your money

8. Prepare your estate plan

Estate planning is the process of assigning trustees and beneficiaries, writing a will, giving power of attorney, and health directives. The estate plan will guarantee that your wishes are fulfilled, and your loved ones are taken care of if you die or become incapacitated. Creating a trust will ensure that your beneficiaries will avoid lengthy, expensive and public probate. Update your beneficiaries in all your retirement accounts.

Estate planning is never a pleasant topic or an ice-breaking conversation. The sooner you get it done the sooner will go on with your life.

9. Set your budget

Budgeting is a critical step in your retirement checklist. Once you retire, you may no longer earn a wage, but you will still have monthly expenses. Retirement will give you a chance to do things for which you haven’t had time before that. Some people like to travel. Some may pick up a hobby or follow a charitable cause. Others may decide to help with grandchildren. You may choose to buy a house and live closer to your kids. Whatever lifestyle you choose, you need to ensure that your budget can support it.

10. Create social security and retirement income strategy

The most crucial step in your retirement checklist is creating your income strategy. This is the part where you might need the help of a financial planner so you can get the most out of your retirement savings and social security benefits. Your retirement income strategy should be tailored to your specific needs, lifestyle, type of savings and the variety of your assets.

11. Craft a tax strategy

Even though you are retired, you still have to pay taxes. Up to 85% of your social security benefits can be taxable. All your distributions from your 401k plan and Traditional IRA will be subject to federal and state tax. All your dividends and interest in your investment and savings accounts are taxable as well.

Only, the distributions from Roth IRA are not taxable. As long as you have your Roth IRA open for more than five years and you are 59 ½ or older, your withdrawals from the Roth IRA will be tax-free.

Ask your financial advisor to craft a tax strategy that minimizes your tax payments over the long run. Find out if Roth Conversion makes sense to you.

12. Set your retirement goals

Retirement opens another chapter in your life. The people who enjoy their retirement the most are those who have retirement goals. Find out what makes you happy and follow your passions. Your retirement will give you a chance to do everything that you have missed while you were pursuing your career.

Final words

Navigating through your retirement checklist will be a reflection of your life, career, assets, and family. No one’s retirement plan is the same. Everybody’s situation is unique and different. Follow these simple 12 steps so you can enjoy and better prepare for your retirement. Be proactive. Don’t wait until the last minute for crucial financial decisions. Make well-informed choices so you can be ahead of life events and enjoy your retirement to the fullest.

401k contribution limits 2021

401k contribution limits 2021

401k contribution limits for 2021 are $19,500 per person. All 401k participants over the age of 50 can add a catch-up contribution of $6,500.

Retirement Calculator

What is 401k?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan where both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. These retirement plans can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to save for retirement. As an employee, you can make automatic contributions to your 401k directly through your company payroll. You can choose the percentage of your salary that will go towards your retirement savings, Most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stocks and fixed income. Additionally, most companies offer a 401k match up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you need to participate in the plan in order to get the match.

There are two types of contributions – traditional 401k tax-deferred and tax-exempt Roth 401k contributions.

Tax-deferred 401k

Most employees, typically, choose to make tax-deferred 401k contributions. These payments are tax-deductible. They will lower your tax bill for the current tax year. Your investments will grow on a tax-deferred basis. Therefore, you will only owe federal and state taxes when you start withdrawing your savings.

Roth 401k

Roth 401k contributions are pretax. It means that you will pay all federal and state taxes before making your contributions. The advantage of Roth 401k is that your retirement savings will grow tax-free. As long as you keep your money until retirement, you will withdraw your gain tax-free. It’s a great alternative for young professionals and workers in a low tax bracket.

How much can I contribute to my 401k in 2021?

401k contribution limits change every year. IRS typically increases the maximum annual limit with the cost of living adjustment and inflation. These contribution limits apply to all employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Additionally, the limits apply to both tax-deferred and Roth contributions combined. 

  • Employees can contribute up to $19,500 to their 401(k) plan for 2021,  the same amount as  2020.
  • Employees of age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2021, the same amount as  2020
  • The employee compensation limit for calculating 401k contributions is $290,000, $5,000 more than 2020
  • Companies can make a matching contribution up to the combined limit of $58,000 or $64,500 with the catch-up contribution. If an employee makes the maximum allowed contribution, the company match cannot exceed $38,500 in 2021.

Solo 401k contribution limits 2021

A solo 401k plan is a type of 401k plan with one participant. Those are usually solo entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, and other small business owners. Self-employed individuals can take advantage of solo 401k plans and save for retirement.

  • The maximum contribution limit in 2021 for a solo 401k plan is $57,000 or $63,500 with catch-up contributions. Solo entrepreneurs can make contributions both as an employee and an employer.
  • The employee contribution cannot exceed $19,500 in the solo 401(k) plan for 2021.
  • Self-employed 401k participants, age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2021.
  • The total self-employed compensation limit for calculating solo 401k contributions is $285,000.
  • Employer contribution cannot exceed 25% of the compensation
  • If you participate in more than one 401k plan at the same time, you are subject to the same annual limits for all plans.

Please note that if you are self-employed and decide to hire other employees, they will have to be included in the 401k plan if they meet the plan eligibility requirements.

 

Tax Saving Moves for 2020

Tax Saving Moves for 2020

As we approach the end year, we share our list of tax-saving moves for 2020. 2020 has been a challenging and eventful year. The global coronavirus outbreak changed the course of modern history. The Pandemic affected many families and small businesses. The stock market crashed in March, and It had a full recovery in just a few months.

With so many changes, now is a great time to review your finances. You can make a few smart and simple tax moves that can lower your tax bill and increase your tax refund.

Whether you file taxes yourself or hire a CPA, it is always better to be proactive. If you expect a large tax bill or your financials have changed substantially, talk to your CPA. Start the conversation today. Don’t wait until the last moment. Being ahead of the curve will help you make well-informed decisions without the stress of tax deadlines.

1. Know your tax bracket

The first step of mastering your taxes is knowing your tax bracket. 2020 is the third year after the TCJA took effect. One of the most significant changes in the tax code was introducing new tax brackets.

Here are the tax bracket and rates for 2020.

Tax Brackets 2020

2. Decide to itemize or use a standard deduction

Another recent change in the tax law was the increase in the standard deduction. The standard deduction is a specific dollar amount that allows you to reduce your taxable income. As a result of this change, nearly 90% of all tax filers will take the standard deduction instead of itemizing. It makes the process a lot simpler for many Americans. Here are the values for 2020:

Filing status 2020 tax year
Single $12,400
Married, filing jointly $24,800
Married, filing separately $12,400
Head of household $18,650

3. Maximize your retirement contributions

You can save taxes by contributing to a retirement plan. Most contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill.

  • For employees – 401k, 403b, 457, and TSP. The maximum contribution to qualified employee retirement plans for 2020 is $19,500. If you are at the age of 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,500.
  • For business owners – SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plan. Business owners can contribute to SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefit Plans to maximize your retirement savings and lower your tax bill. The maximum contribution to SEP-IRA and Solo 401k in 2020 is $57,000 or $63,500 if you are 50 and older.

If you own SEP IRA, you can contribute up to 25% of your business wages.

In a solo 401k plan, you can contribute as both an employee and an employer. The employee contribution is subject to a $19,500 limit plus a $6,500 catch-up. The employer match is limited to 25% of your compensation for a maximum of $37,500. In many cases, the solo 401k plan can allow you to save more than SEP IRA.

Defined Benefit Plans is an option for high-income earners who want to save more aggressively for retirement above the SEP-IRA and 401k limits. The DB plan uses actuary rules to calculate your annual contribution limits based on your age and compensation. All contributions to your defined benefit plan are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-free.

4. Convert to Roth IRA

Transferring investments from a Traditional IRA or 401k plan to a Roth IRA is known as Roth Conversion. It allows you to switch from tax-deferred to tax-exempt retirement savings.

The conversion amount is taxable for income purposes. The good news is that even though you will pay more taxes in the current year, the conversion may save you a lot more money in the long run.

If you believe that your taxes will go up in the future, Roth Conversion could be a very effective way to manage your future taxes. 

5. Contribute to a 529 plan

The 529 plan is a tax-advantaged state-sponsored investment plan, allowing parents to save for their children’s future college expenses. 529 plan works similarly to the Roth IRA. You make post-tax contributions. Your investment earnings grow free from federal and state income tax if you use them to pay for qualified educational expenses. Compared to a regular brokerage account, the 529 plan has a distinct tax advantage as you will never pay taxes on your dividends and capital gains.

Over 30 states offer a full or partial tax deduction or a credit on your 529 contributions. You can find the full list here. If you live in any of these states, your 529 contributions can significantly lower your state tax bill.

6. Make a donation

Donations to charities, churches, and various non-profit organizations are tax-deductible. You can support your favorite cause by giving back and lower your tax bill at the same time.

However, due to the new tax code changes, donations are tax-deductible only when you itemize your tax return. If you make small contributions throughout the year, you will be better off taking the standard deduction.

If itemizing your taxes is crucial for you, you might want to consolidate your donations in one calendar year. So, instead of making multiple charitable contributions over the years, you can give one large donation every few years.

7. Sell losing investments

2020 has been turbulent for the stock market. If you are holding stocks and other investments that dropped significantly in 2020, you can consider selling them. The process of selling losing investments to reduce your tax liability is known as tax-loss harvesting. It works for capital assets held outside retirement accounts (401k, Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA). Capital assets may include real estate, cars, gold, stocks, bonds, and any investment property, not for personal use.

The IRS allows you to use capital losses to offset capital gains. If your capital losses are higher than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference as a loss on your tax return. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year or $1,500 if married and filing a separate return.

8. Prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains

Another way to lower your tax bill when selling assets is to prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains. The current tax code benefits investors who keep their assets for more than one calendar year. Long-term investors receive a preferential tax rate on their gains. While investors with short-term capital gains will pay taxes at their ordinary income tax level

Here are the long-term capital gain tax brackets for 2020:

Long-Term Capital Gains Tax Rate Single Filers (Taxable Income) Married Filing Separately
0% $0-$40,000 $0-$40,000
15% $40,000-$441,450 $40,000-$248,300
20% Over $441,550 Over $248,300

High-income earners will also pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

9. Contribute to FSA and HSA

With healthcare costs always on the rise, you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA) to cover your medical bills and lower your tax bill.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is tax-advantaged savings account offered through your employer. The FSA allows you to save pre-tax dollars to cover medical and dental expenses for yourself and your dependents. The maximum contribution for 2020 is $2,750 per person. If you are married, your spouse can save another $2,750 for a total of $5,500 per family.  Some employers offer a matching FSA contribution for up to $500. Typically, it would help if you used your FSA savings by the end of the calendar year. However, the IRS allows you to carry over up to $500 balance into the new year.

Dependent Care FSA (CSFSA)

A Dependent Care FSA (CSFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account that you can use to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. It’s an easy way to reduce your tax bill while taking care of your children and loved ones while you continue to work. The maximum contribution limit for 2020 for an individual who is married but filing separately is $2,500. For married couples filing jointly or single parents filing as head of household, the limit is $5,000.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an investment account for individuals under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) that allows you to save money on a pre-tax basis to pay for eligible medical expenses. The qualified High Deductible Plan typically covers only preventive services before the deductible. To qualify for the HSA, the HDHP should have a minimum deductible of $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family. Additionally, your HDHP must have an out-of-pocket maximum of up to $6,900 for one-person coverage or $13,800 for family.

The maximum contributions in HSA for 2020 are $3,550 for individual coverage and $7,100 for a family. HSA participants who are 55 or older can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. Unlike the FSA, the HSA doesn’t have a spending limit, and you can carry over the savings in the next calendar year.

Keep in mind that the HSA has three distinct tax advantages. First, all HSA contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill. Second, you will not pay taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains. Third, if you use the account for eligible expenses, you don’t pay taxes on those withdrawals.

10. Defer income

Is 2020 shaping to be a high income for you? Perhaps, you can defer some of your income from this calendar year into 2021 and beyond. This move will allow you to delay some of the income taxes coming with it. Even though it’s not always possible to defer wages, you might be able to postpone a large bonus, royalty, or one-time payment. Remember, it only makes sense to defer income if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket next year.

On the other hand, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket tax year next year, you may consider taking as much income as possible in 2020.

11. Skip RMDs

Are you taking the required minimum distributions (RMD) from your IRA or 401k plan? The CARES Act allows retirees to skip their RMD in 2020. If you don’t need the extra income, you can skip your annual distribution. This move will lower your taxes for 2020 and may cut your future Medicare cost.

12. Receive employee retention tax credit for eligible businesses

The CARES Act granted employee retention credits for eligible businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The credit amount equals 50% of eligible employee wages paid by an eligible employer in a 2020 calendar quarter. The credit is subject to an overall wage cap of $10,000 per eligible employee.

Qualifying businesses must fall into one of two categories:

  • The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  • The employer’s gross receipts were below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts went above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

 

5 smart 401k moves to make in 2020

Smart 401k moves in 2020

5 smart 401k moves to make in 2020. Do you have a 401k? These five 401k moves will help you empower your retirement savings and ensure that you take full advantage of your 401k benefits.

2020 has been a challenging year in many aspects. Let’s make it count and put your 401k to work.

Retirement Calculator

What is a 401k plan?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan that allows employees to build and grow their retirement savings. It is one of the most convenient and effective ways to save for retirement as both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. As an employee, you can set up automatic deductions to your 401k account directly through your company payroll.  You can choose the exact percentage of your salary that will go towards your retirement savings. Most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stocks and fixed income mutual funds and ETFs. Furthermore, most employers offer a 401k match up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you need to participate in the plan to receive the match.

1. Maximize your contributions

The smart way to ignite your retirement savings is to maximize your contributions each year.

Did you know that in 2020, you can contribute up to $19,500 to your 401k plan? If you are 50 or over, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2020. Traditional 401k contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your overall tax bill in the current tax year.

Many employers offer a 401k match, which is free money for you. The only way to receive it is to participate in the plan. If you cannot max out your dollar contributions, try to deduct the highest possible percentage so that you can capture the entire match from your employer. For example, if your company offers a 4% match on every dollar, at the very minimum, you should contribute 4% to get the full match.

2. Review your investment options

When was the last time you reviewed the investment options inside your 401k plan? When is the last time you made any changes to your fund selection? With automatic contributions and investing, it is easy to get things on autopilot. But remember, this is your money and your retirement savings. With all the craziness in the economy and the stock market in 2020, now is the best time to get a grip on your 401k investments.

Look at your fund performance over the last 1, 3, 5, and 10 years. Make sure the fund returns are close or higher than their benchmark. Review the fund fees. Check if there have been new funds added to the line up recently.

3. Change your asset allocation

Asset allocation tells you how your investments are spread between stocks, bonds, money markets, and other asset classes. Stocks typically are riskier but offer great earnings potential. Bonds are considered a safer investment but provide a limited annual return.

Your ideal asset allocation depends on your age, investment horizon, risk tolerance, and specific individual circumstances.

Typically, younger plan participants have a longer investment horizon and can withstand portfolio swings to achieve higher returns in the future.  If you are one of these investors can choose a higher allocation of stocks in your 401k.

However, if you are approaching retirement, you would have a much shorter investment horizon and probably lower tolerance to investment losses. In this case, you should consider adding more bonds and cash to your asset allocation.

4. Consider contributing to Roth 401k

Are you worried that you would pay higher taxes in the future? The Roth 401k allows you to make pretax contributions and avoid taxes on your future earnings. All Roth contributions are made after paying all federal and state income taxes now. The advantage is that all your prospective earnings will grow tax-free. If you keep your money until retirement or reaching the age of 59 ½, you will withdraw your gains tax-free. If you are a young professional or you believe that your tax rate will grow higher in the future, Roth 401k is an excellent alternative to your traditional tax-deferred 401k savings.

5. Rollover an old 401k plan

Do you have an old 401k plan, stuck with your former employer? How often do you have a chance to review your balance? Unfortunately, many old 401k plans have become forgotten and ignored for many years.

It is a smart move to transfer an old 401k to a Rollover IRA.

The rollover is your chance to gain full control of your retirement savings. Furthermore, you will expand your investment options from the limited number of mutual funds to the entire universe of stocks, ETFs, and fund managers. Most importantly, you can manage your account according to your retirement goals.

401k contribution limits 2020

401k conntribution limits for 2020

401k contribution limits for 2020 are $19,500 per person. All 401k participants over the age of 50 can add a catch-up contribution of $6,500.

Retirement Calculator

What is 401k?

401k plan is a workplace retirement plan where both employees and employers can make retirement contributions. These retirement plans can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to save for retirement. As an employee, you can make automatic contributions to your 401k directly through your company payroll. You can choose the percentage of your salary that will go towards your retirement savings, Most 401k will provide you with multiple investment options in stocks and fixed income. Additionally, most companies offer a 401k match up to a certain percentage. In most cases, you need to participate in the plan in order to get the match.

There are two types of contributions – traditional 401k tax-deferred and tax-exempt Roth 401k contributions.

Tax-deferred 401k

Most employees, typically, choose to make tax-deferred 401k contributions. These payments are tax-deductible. They will lower your tax bill for the current tax year. Your investments will grow on a tax-deferred basis. Therefore, you will only owe federal and state taxes when you start withdrawing your savings.

Roth 401k

Roth 401k contributions are pretax. It means that you will pay all federal and state taxes before making your contributions. The advantage of Roth 401k is that your retirement savings will grow tax-free. As long as you keep your money until retirement, you will withdraw your gain tax-free. It’s a great alternative for young professionals and workers in a low tax bracket.

How much can I contribute to my 401k in 2020?

401k contribution limits change every year. IRS typically increases the maximum annual limit with the cost of living adjustment and inflation. These contribution limits apply to all employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Additionally, the limits apply to both tax-deferred and Roth contributions combined. 

  • Employees can contribute up to $19,500 to their 401(k) plan for 2020,  $500 more than  2019.
  • Employees of age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2020,  $500 higher than  2019
  • The employee compensation limit for calculating 401k contributions is $285,000, $5,000 more than 2019
  • Companies can make a matching contribution up to the combined limit of $57,000 or $63,500 with the catch-up contribution. If an employee makes the maximum allowed contribution, the company match cannot exceed $37,500 in 2020.

Solo 401k contribution limits 2020

A solo 401k plan is a type of 401k plan with one participant. Those are usually solo entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, and other small business owners. Self-employed individuals can take advantage of solo 401k plans and save for retirement.

  • The maximum contribution limit in 2020 for a solo 401k plan is $57,000 or $63,500 with catch-up contributions. Solo entrepreneurs can make contributions both as an employee and an employer.
  • The employee contribution cannot exceed $19,500 in the solo 401(k) plan for 2020.
  • Self-employed 401k participants, age 50 or over are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2020.
  • The total self-employed compensation limit for calculating solo 401k contributions is $285,000.
  • Employer contribution cannot exceed 25% of the compensation
  • If you participate in more than one 401k plan at the same time, you are subject to the same annual limits for all plans.

Please note that if you are self-employed and decide to hire other employees, they will have to be included in the 401k plan if they meet the plan eligibility requirements.

 

Preparing for retirement during coronavirus

Preparing for retirement during coronavirus

Are you preparing for retirement during the coronavirus crisis? Many professionals who are planning to retire in 2020 and beyond are facing unique challenges and circumstances. Probably your investment portfolio took a hit in February and March. Maybe your job is at risk. Many people have been furloughed. Some have lost their job. Large employers have announced hiring freezes. Small business owners are facing an existential threat to survival. Landlords are facing uncertainties with rent collection. A range of jobs has become obsolete overnight.

Future retirees will have to make difficult choices in the coming years. With global Interest rates near zero, retirees can no longer rely on traditional safe vehicles such as treasuries, corporate bonds, and annuities for income. The Social Security fund will be depleted in the next decade. The US is building an enormous budget deficit with no plan to repay it anytime soon. Even companies with extensive dividend history are suspending dividend payments to shareholders. Even your private pension might be at risk.

Take a holistic view of your finances 

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a comprehensive view of your finances. if you are preparing for retirement during the coronavirus crisis you must be proactive. We do not know what the future will be after the coronavirus. Some variations of social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future. This crisis will impact every private and public organization. The best way to prepare for the future is to take full control of the presence. Having a holistic view of your finances will help you make informed financial decisions and watch out for blinds spots. Collect all essential financial pieces from 401k and rental income to life insurance and pension. Draw a full picture of your financial life. Take the stress out of your retirement and start planning now.

Stick to a budget

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the first recession since the financial crisis. The US GDP shrank by -4.5% in Q1 of 2020 and is expected to shrink even further in the second quarter. Nearly 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Even if your job is safe, now is an excellent opportunity to take control of your budget. Aim to save at least 10% of your income. If your retirement is imminent, you should save at least 20% of your income. With so much spending out of reach – restaurants, travel, theaters, festivals, and sports events, this is an opportunity to access your spending needs for the next few years.

Pay off debt

The coronavirus crisis proved that liquidity is king, and high levels of debt are detrimental. The extreme volatility we saw March 2020 was the result of inventors looking for cash at any price. Make sure you pay off all your debt before you retire. You must make a cautious effort to clear all your debt, including mortgages and credit cards. Even loans with lower interest can be dangerous if you do not have the income to support it. Start your retirement with a clean slate.

Review your investments

The steep market selloff in March 2020 brought troublesome memories of the financial crisis. The stock market lost 35% from its February high. The wild daily swings ended the longest bull market in US history. Just when everyone was expecting another shoe to drop, the Fed stepped in. The Federal Reserve launched not one but several nuclear bazookas and saved the economy from complete collapse. The quickest drop on record lead to the quickest recovery. The massive Fed intervention alongside positive news of bending the curve, state reopening, vaccine progress, and remdesivir drug approval pushed the stock markets higher.

At the time of this article, Nasdaq was flat for 2020. S&P 500 was down -12% and Russell 2000 down nearly -25%. Gold 10-year treasury is paying 0.64%, and the 30-year treasury is yielding 1.27%.

With all that in mind, you have a perfect opportunity to review your investment portfolio. Take a deep dive and make changes if necessary. Remember that your investments must align with your investment horizon, financial goals, and risk tolerance.

Keep your options open

Prepare for multiple scenarios. Without an effective vaccine, the coronavirus will be a threat to the economy for the foreseeable future. However, in every crisis, there is an opportunity. We will experience a full digital transformation in all business sectors and aspects of life.

Despite the call of numerous experts and overnight “authorities” for a V-shaped, U-shaped, L–shaped, and W-shaped economic recovery, I do not know what the future holds. But I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am confident that we will come out stronger from this crisis. Hopefully, we learn our lessons and become more prepared for future unforeseen threats.

Maybe this crisis affected your health. Perhaps it changed your views about your life and your family. Maybe this crisis made you reevaluate your priorities. It certainly did it for me. As you approach your retirement date, keep an open mind. Have a plan A, B, C, and even D. Build enough cash buffer and never run out of options.

Final words

Preparing for retirement during coronavirus can be stressful. Many of the safe investments and guaranteed income options may not provide you with enough income to support yourself in retirement. Low interest rates are detrimental to retirees. Commodity markets are extremely volatile. The stock market offers dividend and upside with a high risk premium. Real Estate is lucrative but illiquid.

Having a comprehensive view of your finances will help you take a pulse of your financial health. It can help you see areas of financial weakness and strength that you may not be able to see otherwise. Be proactive and keep your options open.

If you are having questions or concerns about your retirement in 2020 or beyond, feel free to contact me directly.

 

 

12 End of Year Tax Saving Tips

end of year tax saving tips

As we approach the close of 2019, we share our list of 12 end of year tax saving tips. Now is a great time to review your finances. You can make several smart and simple tax moves that can help lower your tax bill and increase your tax refund.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made sweeping changes in the tax code that affected many families and small business owners. If the previous tax season caught you off-guard, now you have a chance to redeem yourself.

Whether you file taxes yourself or hire a CPA, it is always better to be proactive. If you are expecting a large tax bill or your financials have changed substantially since last year, talk to your CPA. Start the conversation. Don’t wait until the last moment. Being ahead of the curve will help you make well-informed decisions without the stress of tax deadlines.

1. Know your tax bracket

The first step of mastering your taxes is knowing your tax bracket. 2019 is the second year after the TCJA took effect. One of the most significant changes in the tax code was introducing new tax brackets.

Here are the tax bracket and rates for 2019.

End of Year Tax Tips

2. Decide to itemize or use a standard deduction

Another big change in the tax law was the increase in the standard deduction. The standard deduction is a specific dollar amount that allows you to reduce your taxable income. As a result of this change, nearly 90% of all tax filers will take the standard deduction instead of itemizing. It makes the process a lot simpler for many Americans. Here are the values for 2019:

End of Year Tax Tips

3. Maximize your retirement contributions

Most contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill.

  • For employees – 401k, 403b, 457 and TSP. The maximum contribution to qualified employee retirement plans for 2019 is $19,000. If you are at the age of 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000.
  • For business owners – SEP IRA, Solo 401k and Defined Benefit Plan. Business owners can contribute to SEP IRA, Solo 401k, and Defined Benefits plans to maximize your retirement savings and lower your tax bill. The maximum contribution to SEP-IRA and Solo 401k in 2019 is $56,000 or $62,000 if you are 50 and older.

If you own SEP IRA, you can contribute up 25% of your business wages.

In a solo 401k plan, you can contribute as both an employee and an employer. The employee contribution is subject to a $19,000 limit plus a $6,000 catch-up. The employer match is limited to 25% of your compensation for the maximum $37,000. Depending on how you pay yourself, sometimes solo 401k can allow you for more savings than SEP IRA.

Defined Benefit Plans is an option for high-income earners who want to save more aggressively for retirement above the SEP-IRA and 401k limits. The DB plan uses actuary rules to calculate your annual contribution limits based on your age and compensation. All contributions to your defined benefit plan are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-free.

4. Convert to Roth IRA

The process of transferring assets from a Traditional IRA or 401k plan to a Roth IRA is known as Roth Conversion. It allows you to switch from tax-deferred to tax-exempt retirement savings. You can learn more about the benefits of Roth IRA here.

The conversion amount is taxable for income purposes. The good news is that even though you will pay higher taxes in the current year, it may save you a lot more money in the long run.

While individual circumstances may vary, Roth Conversion could be very effective in a year with low or no income. Talk to your accountant or financial advisor. Ask if Roth conversion makes sense for you.

5. Contribute to a 529 plan

The 529 plan is a tax-advantaged state-sponsored investment plan, which allows parents to save for their children’s future college expenses. 529 plan works similarly to the Roth IRA. You make post-tax contributions. Your investment earnings grow free from federal and state income tax if you use them to pay for qualified educational expenses. Compared to a regular brokerage account, the 529 plan has a distinct tax advantage as you will never pay taxes on your dividends and capital gains.

Over 30 states offer a full or partial tax deduction or a credit on your 529 contributions. You can find the full list here. If you live in any of these states, your 529 contributions can lower your state tax bill significantly.

6. Make a donation

Donations to charities, churches, and various non-profit organizations are tax-deductible. You can support your favorite cause by giving back and lower your tax bill at the same time.

However, due to the changes in the new tax code, donations are tax-deductible only when you itemize your tax return. If you make small contributions throughout the year, you probably will be better off taking the standard deduction.

If itemizing your taxes is crucial for you, then you might want to consolidate your donations in one calendar year. So, instead of making multiple charitable contributions over the years, you can give one large donation every few years.

7. Sell losing investments

The process of selling losing investments to reduce your tax liability is known as tax-loss harvesting. It works for capital assets held outside retirement accounts (such as 401k, Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA). Capital assets may include real estate, cars, gold, stocks, bonds, and any investment property, not for personal use.

The IRS allows you to use capital losses to offset capital gains. If your capital losses are higher than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference as a loss on your tax return. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year or $1,500 if married and filing a separate return.

8. Prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains

Another way to lower your tax bill when selling assets is to prioritize long-term over short-term capital gains. The current tax code benefits investors who keep their assets for more than one calendar year. Long-term investors receive a preferential tax rate on their gains. While investors with short-term capital gains will pay taxes at their ordinary income tax level

Here are the long-term capital gain tax brackets for 2019:

End of Year Tax Tips

High-income earners will also pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

9. Take advantage of FSA and HSA

With healthcare costs always on the rise, you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA) to cover your medical bills and lower your tax bill.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a tax-advantaged savings account offered through your employer. The FSA allows you to save pre-tax dollars to cover medical and dental expenses for yourself and your dependents. The maximum contribution for 2019 is $2,700 per person. If you are married, your spouse can save another $2,700 for a total of $5,400 per family. Typically, you should use your FSA savings by the end of the calendar year. However, the IRS allows you to carry over up to $500 balance into the new year.

Dependent Care FSA (CSFSA)

A Dependent Care FSA (CSFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account that you can use to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. It’s an easy way to reduce your tax bill while taking care of your children and loved ones while you continue to work. The maximum contribution limit for 2019 for an individual who is married but filing separately is $2,500. For married couples filing jointly or single parents filing as head of household, the limit is $5,000.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an investment account for individuals under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) that allows you to save money on a pre-tax basis to pay for eligible medical expenses.The qualified High Deductible Plan typically covers only preventive services before the deductible. To qualify for the HSA, the HDHP should have a minimum deductible of $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. Additionally, your HDHP must have an out-of-pocket maximum of up to $6,750 for one-person coverage or $13,500 for family.

The maximum contributions in HSA for 2019, are $3,500 for self-only coverage and $7,000 for a family. HSA participants who are 55 or older can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. Unlike the FSA, the HSA doesn’t have a spending limit, and you can carry over the savings in the next calendar year.

Keep in mind that the HSA has three distinct tax advantages. First, all HSA contributions are tax-deductible and will lower your tax bill. Second, you will not pay taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains. Third, if you use the account for eligible expenses, you don’t pay taxes on those withdrawals either.

10. Defer income

Deferring income from this calendar year into the next year will allow you to delay some of the income taxes coming with it. Even though it’s not always possible to defer wages, you might be able to postpone a large bonus, royalty, or onetime payment. Remember, it only makes sense to defer income if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket next year.

Reversely, if you are expecting to be in a higher tax bracket tax year next year, you may consider taking as much income as possible in this tax year.

11. Buy Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds are issued by local governments, school districts, and authorities to fund local projects that will benefit the general public. The interest income from most municipal bonds is tax-free. Investors in these bonds are exempt from federal income tax. If you buy municipal bonds issued in the same state where you live, you will be exempt from state taxes as well.

12. Take advantage of the 199A Deduction for Business Owners

If you are a business owner or have a side business, you might be able to use the 20% deduction on qualified business income. The TCJA established a new tax deduction for small business owners of pass-through entities like LLCs, Partnerships, S-Corps, and sole-proprietors. While the spirit of the law is to support small business owners, the rules of using this deduction are quite complicated and restrictive. For more information, you can check the IRS page. In summary, qualified business income must be related to conducting business or trade within the United States or Puerto Rico. The tax code also separates the business entities by industry – Qualified trades or businesses and Specified service trades or businesses.

Qualified versus specified service trade

Specified service businesses include the following trades: Health (e.g., physicians, nurses, dentists, and other similar healthcare professionals), Law, Accounting, Actuarial science, Performing arts, Consulting, Athletics, and Financial Services. Qualified trades or businesses is everything else.

For “specified service business,” the deduction gets phased out between $315,000 and $415,000 for joint filers. For single filers, the phase-out range is $157,500 to $207,500.

The qualified trades and businesses are also subject to the same phaseout limits. However, if their income is above the threshold, the 199A deduction becomes the lesser of the 20% of qualified business income deduction or the greater of either 50 percent of the W-2 wages of the business, or the sum of 25% of the W-2 wages of the business and 2.5% of the unadjusted basis immediately after acquisition of all qualified property.

If this all sounds very complicated to you, it’s because it is complicated.Contact your accountant or tax adviser to see if you can take advantage of this deduction.

The Secret to becoming a 401k millionaire

401k millionaire

How to become a 401k millionaire? Today, 401k plans are one of the most popular employee benefits. Companies use 401k plans to attract top talent. 401k plan is a powerful vehicle to save for retirement and become financially independent. According to Fidelity, there are 180,000 Fidelity 401(k) plans with a $1 million or more balance. Congratulations to you If you are one of them. There are still many helpful tips that can get you to reach your financial goals while keeping your investments safe.

You hear stories about people with a million dollars in their 401k plan. Then you look at your 401k balance, and it doesn’t look as high as you would like it to be.

The path to becoming a 401k millionaire

I hope this article will guide you on your path to become a 401k millionaire.

Many variables can impact your 401k account – age, salary, debt, tax rate, risk tolerance, plan fees, employee match.

Becoming a 401k millionaire is not as hard as it might seem. However, you need to follow a few simple rules that can get you on the right path.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

Start saving early in your 401k

Saving early in your 401k will guarantee you the highest chance to become a 401k millionaire at the lowest cost.

I did the math for how much you need to contribute if you start fresh at any age. These numbers are based on assumptions for continuous monthly 401k contributions until reaching 65 with a 7% average annual market return for a 60/40 portfolio and 2% annual inflation.  Keep in mind that these assumptions are just assumptions and only for illustration purposes.  Your situation could be unique and could change the math dramatically.

401k Contributions by Age if you start fresh

 

Age | Monthly
Contribution
| Yearly
Contribution
| Lifetime
Contribution
25 $387 $4,644 $190,404
30 $560 $6,720 $241,920
35 $820 $9,840 $305,040
40 $1,220 $14,640 $380,640
45 $1,860 $22,320 $468,720
50 $3,000 $36,000 $576,000
55 $5,300 $63,600 $699,600

 

What drives the growth of your 401k is the power of compounding. It’s the snowball effect of accumulating earnings-generating more earnings over time. The longer you wait, the larger you will need to contribute to reaching your 1-million goal.

If you are 25-years old and just starting your career, you need to save approximately $390 per month or $4,644 annually to reach the $1-million goal by the age of 65. Your lifetime contribution between the age of 25 and 65 will be $190,000.

When you start saving in your 30s, this target number goes to $560 per month. Your lifetime contribution between the age of 30 and 65 will be $241,920.

Your saving rate goes up to 1,220 per month if you start saving actively in your 40s and increases to $5,330 at the age of 55.

Take advantage of your employer match.

If my recommended monthly contribution looks like an uphill battle, don’t forget about your employer match. Many employers offer a 401k match to attract and keep top talent. The match could be a percentage of your salary, a one-to-one match, or an absolute dollar amount. If your employer offers a 4% match, at a minimum, you should contribute 4% to your 401k plan. Take full advantage of this opportunity to get free money.

Max out your 401k

In 2020, you can make up to a $19,500 contribution to your 401k plan. If you can afford it, always try to max out your contributions.

Catch-up contributions when 50 and older

If you are 50 years or older, you can make an additional $6,500 contribution to your plan. Combined with the $19,500 limit, that is a maximum of $26,000 in 2020.

Save aggressively

Obviously, owning $1 million is a big accomplishment. However, it may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle during retirement.  As a financial advisor, I recommend that my clients replace at least 80% of their income before retirement. If you are a high earner or plan to retire early, you need to save more aggressively to reach your goals.

Be consistent

An important part of the formula of becoming a 401k millionaire is consistency.  Saving every month and every year is a critical part of achieving your financial goals. On the contrary, large gaps could hurt your chances of reaching your financial goals.

Don’t panic during market turbulence.

The market can be volatile. Don’t let your emotions get the worst of you. Nobody has made any money panicking. During 2008-2009, many people stopped contributing to their 401k plans or moved their investments into cash. These folks never participated in the market recovery and the longest bull market in history. Stay invested. And think of this way. If the market goes down, your plan will invest your automatic monthly contributions at lower prices. You are already getting a deal.

Watch your fees

Higher fees can erode your returns and slow down the pursuit of your financial goals. I recently advised a 401k plan, where the average fund’s fees were 1.5%. In the age of ETFs and index investing, it is mind-blowing that some 401k plan still charges exuberantly high fees. If your 401k plan charges high fees, talk to your manager or HR representative, and demand lower fee options.

Be mindful of your taxes.

Taxes play a big role in 401k planning. Most 401k contributions are tax-deferred. Meaning that your contributions will reduce your current taxable income. Your investments will grow tax-free until you reach retirement age. You start paying taxes on your withdrawals. There are a couple of strategies you can implement to make your withdrawals to make more tax-efficient. You can reach out to me if you have any questions on that topic, as every situation is unique and could require a unique solution.

Roth 401k

Currently, some employers offer a Roth 401k contribution as an additional option to their plan. Unlike the tax-deferred option, Roth 401k contributions are made on an after-tax basis. Roth 401k contributions don’t have an immediate financial impact. However, if planned well, Roth contributions could help you immensely to reach your financial goals. For example, let’s assume that you are in a low tax bracket and your employers offer both tax-deferred and Roth 401k contributions. The tax-deferred option is usually the default. But if you are in a low tax bracket, your tax benefit will be minimal. In that case, maybe it’s worth selecting the Roth 401k.

Don’t take a loan

Under no circumstances you should take a loan from your 401k plan. No matter how dire the situation is, try to find an alternative.  Taking a loan from your 401k can set you back many years in achieving your financial goal of becoming a 401k millionaire. Obviously, all rules have exceptions, but before you take a loan from your 401k, talk to your financial advisor first for alternatives.

Keep a long-term view.

Life happens. Markets go up and down. You can lose your job or change employers. You need to pay off a big loan. Your car breaks down. You need money for a down payment on your first house. Something always happens. Circumstances change. Whatever happens, keep a long-term view. Your 401k plan could be the answer to your financial independence. Don’t make rash decisions.

8 reasons to open a solo 401k plan

8 reasons why entrepreneurs should open a solo 401k plan

What is a solo 401k plan

The solo 401k plan is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs to save money for retirement and reduce their current tax bill. These plans are often ignored and overshadowed by the more popular corporate 401k and SEP IRA plans.  In fact, there is a lack of widely available public information about them. Simply put, not many people know about it. In this article, I will discuss 8 reasons why entrepreneurs should open a solo 401k plan.

Solo or one participant 401k plans are available to solo entrepreneurs who do not have any personnel on staff. If a business owner employs seasonal workers who register less than 1,000 hours a year, then he or she may be eligible for the solo 401k plans as well. The solo plans have most of the characteristics of the traditional 401k plan without any of the restrictions.

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What are some of the most significant benefits of the self-employed 401k?

Maximize your retirement savings with a solo 401k

Self-employed 401k allows a business owner to save up to $56,000 a year for retirement, plus an additional $6,000 if age 50 and over. How does the math work exactly?

Solo entrepreneurs play a dual role in their business – an employee and an employer. As an employee, they can contribute up to $19,000 a year plus catch-up of $6,000 if over the age of 50. Further, the business owner can add up to $37,000 of contribution as an employer match. The employee’s side of the contribution is subject to 25% of the total compensation, which the business owner must pay herself.

Example: Jessica, age 52, has a solo practice. She earns a W2 salary of $100,000 from her S-corporation. Jessica set-up a solo 401k plan. In 2017 she can contribute $18,000 plus $6,000 catch-up, for a total of $24,000 as an employee of her company. Additionally, Jessica can add up to $25,000 (25% x $100,000) as an employer. All-n-all, she can save up to $49,000 in her solo 401k plan.

One important side note, if a business owner works for another company and participates in their 401(k), the above limits are applicable per person, not per plan. Therefore, the entrepreneur has to deduct any contributions from the second plan to stay within the allowed limits.

Add your spouse

A business owner can add his or her spouse to the 401k plan subject to the same limits discussed above. To be eligible for these contributions, the spouse has to earn income from the business. The spouse must report a wage from the company on a W2 form for tax purposes.

Reduce your current tax bill

The solo 401k plans contributions will reduce your tax bill at year-end. The wage contributions will lower your ordinary income tax. The company contributions will decrease your corporate tax.

This is a very significant benefit for all business owners and in particular for those who fall into higher income tax brackets. If an entrepreneur believes that her tax rate will go down in the future, maximizing her current solo 401k contributions now, can deliver substantial tax benefits in the long run.

Opt for Roth contributions

Most solo 401k plans allow for Roth contributions. These contributions are after taxes. Therefore, they do not lower current taxes. However, the long-term benefit is that all investments from Roth contributions grow tax-free. No taxes will be due at withdrawal during retirement.

Only the employee contributions are eligible for the Roth status. So solo entrepreneur can add up to $19,000 plus $6,000 in post-tax Roth contributions and $37,000 as tax-deductible employer contributions.

The Roth contributions are especially beneficial for young entrepreneurs or those in a lower tax bracket who expect that their income and taxes will be higher when they retire. By paying taxes now at a lower rate, plan owners avoid paying much larger tax bill later when they retire, assuming their tax rate will be higher.

No annual test

Solo 401k plans are not subject to the same strict regulations as their corporate rivals. Self-employed plans do not require a discrimination test as long as the only participants are the business owner and the spouse.

If the company employs workers who meet the eligibility requirements, they must be included in the plan.  To be eligible for the 401k plan, the worker must be a salaried full-time employee working more than 1,000 hours a year. In those cases, the plan administrator must conduct annual discrimination test which assesses the employee participation in the 401k plan. As long as solo entrepreneurs do not hire any full-time workers, they can avoid the discrimination test in their 401k plan.

No annual filing

Another benefit of the 401k plans is the exemption from annual filing a form 5500-EZ, as long as the year-end plan assets do not exceed $250,000. If plan assets exceed that amount, the plan administrator or the owner himself must do the annual filing. To learn more about the annual filing process, visit this page.

Asset protection

401k plans offer one of the highest bankruptcy protection than any other retirement accounts including IRA. The assets in 401k are safe from creditors as long as they remain there.

In general, all ERISA eligible retirement plans like 401k plan are sheltered from creditors. Non-ERISA plans like IRAs are also protected up to $1,283,025 (in aggregate) under federal law plus any additional state law protection.

Flexibility

You can open a self-employed 401k plan at nearly any broker like Fidelity, Schwab or Vanguard. The process is relatively straightforward. It requires filling out a form, company name, Tax ID, etc. Most brokers will act as your plan administrator. As long as, the business owner remain self-employed, doesn’t hire any full-time workers and plan assets do not exceed $250,000, plan administration will be relatively straightforward.

As a sponsor of your 401k plan, you can choose to manage it yourself or hire an investment advisor. Either way, most solo 401k plans offer a broader range of investments than comparable corporate 401k plans. Depending on your provider you may have access to a more extensive selection of investment choices including ETFs, low-cost mutual funds, stocks, and REITs. Always verify your investment selection and trading costs before opening an account with any financial provider.

About the author:

Stoyan Panayotov, CFA, MBA is a fee-only financial advisor in Walnut Creek, CA, serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally. Babylon Wealth Management specializes in financial planning, retirement planning, and investment management for growing families, physicians, and successful business owners.

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A financial checklist for young families

A financial checklist for young families

A financial checklist for young families…..Many of my clients are young families looking for help to build their wealth and improve their finances. We typically discuss a broad range of topics from buying a house, saving for retirement, savings for their kids’ college, budgeting and building legacy. As a financial advisor in the early 40s, I have personally gone through many of these questions and was happy to share my experience.

Some of my clients already had young children. Others are expecting a new family member. Being a dad of a nine-month-old boy, I could relate to many of their concerns. My experience helped me guide them through the web of financial and investment questions.  

While each family is unique, there are many common themes amongst all couples. While each topic of them deserves a separate post, I will try to summarize them for you.

Communicate

Successful couples always find a way to communicate effectively. I always advise my clients to discuss their financial priorities and concerns. When partners talk to each other, they often discover that they have entirely different objectives.  Having differences is normal as long as you have common goals. By building a strong partnership you will pursue your common goals while finding a common ground for your differences

Talking to each other will help you address any of the topics in this article.

If it helps, talk to an independent fiduciary financial advisor. We can help you get a more comprehensive and objective view of your finances. We often see blind spots that you haven’t recognized before.

Set your financial goals

Most life coaches will tell you that setting up specific goals is crucial in achieving success in life. It’s the same when it comes to your finances. Set specific short-term and long-term financial goals and stick to them. These milestones will guide you and help you make better financial decisions in the future.

Budget

There is nothing more important to any family wellbeing than budgeting. Many apps can help you budget your income and spending. You can also use an excel spreadsheet or an old fashion piece of paper. You can break down your expenses in various categories and groups similar to what I have below. Balance your budget and live within your means.

Sample budget

Gross Income ?????
Taxes ???
401k Contributions ??
Net Income ????
Fixed Expenses
Mortgage ?
Property Taxes ?
Utilities (Phone, Cable, Gas, Electric) ?
Insurance ?
Healthcare/Medical ?
Car payment ?
529 savings ?
Daycare ?
Non-Discretionary Flexible Expenses
Groceries ?
Automotive (Fuel, Parking, Tolls) ?
Home Improvement/Maintenance ?
Personal Care ?
Dues & Subscriptions ?
Discretionary Expenses
Restaurants ?
General Merchandise ?
Travel ?
Clothing/Shoes ?
Gifts ?
Entertainment ?
Other Expenses ?
Net Savings ???

Consolidate your assets

One common issue I see amongst young couples is the dispersion of their assets. It’s very common for spouses to have multiple 401k, IRAs and savings accounts in various financial institutions and former employers. Consolidating your assets will help you get a more comprehensive view of your finances and manage them more efficiently.

Manage your debt

The US consumer debt has grown to record high levels. The relatively low-interest rates, rising real estate prices and the ever-growing college cost have pushed the total value of US household debt to $13.25 trillion. According to the New York Fed, here is how much Americans owe by age group.

  • Under 35: $67,400
  • 35–44: $133,100
  • 45–54: $134,600
  • 55–64: $108,300
  • 65–74: $66,000
  • 75 and up: $34,500

For many young families who are combining their finances, managing their debt becomes a key priority in achieving financial independence.

Manage your credit score

One way to lower your debt is having a high credit score. I always advise my clients to find out how much their credit score is.  The credit score, also known as the FICO score, is a measure between 300 and 850 points. Higher scores indicate lower credit risk and often help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage or personal loan. Each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, provides an individual FICO score.  All three companies have a proprietary database, methodology, and scoring system. You can sometimes see substantial differences in your credit score issued by those agencies.

Your FICO score is a sum of 64 different measurements. And each agency calculates it slightly differently. As a rule, your credit score depends mainly on the actual dollar amount of your debt, the debt to credit ratio and your payment history. Being late on or missing your credit card payments, maximizing your credit limits and applying for too many cards at once will hurt your credit score.

Own a house or rent

Owning your first home is a common theme among my clients. However, the price of real estate in the Bay area, where I live, has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. The average home price in San Francisco according to Zillow is $1.3 million. The average home price in Palo Alto is $3.1 million. (Source: https://www.zillow.com/san-francisco-ca/home-values/ ). While not at this magnitude, home prices have risen in all major metropolitan areas around the country. Buying a home has become an impossible dream for many young families. Not surprisingly a recent survey by the Bank of the West has revealed that 46% of millennials have chosen to rent over buying a home, while another 11% are staying with their parents.  

Buying a home in today’s market conditions is a big commitment and a highly personal decision. It depends on a range of factors including how long you are planning to live in the new home, available cash for a downpayment, job prospects, willingness to maintain your property, size of your family and so on.

Maximize your retirement contributions

Did you know that in 2019 you can contribute up to $19,000 in your 401k? If you are in your 50s or older, you can add another $6,000 as a catch-up contribution. Maximizing your retirement savings will help you grow your wealth and build a cushion of solid retirement savings. Not to mention the fact that 401k contributions are tax-deferred and lower your current tax bill.

Unfortunately, many Americans are not saving aggressively for retirement. According to Fidelity, the average person in their 30’s have $42.7k in their 401k plan. people in their 40s own on average 103k.

If your 401k balance is higher than your age group you are already better off than the average American.

Here is how much Americans own in their 401 plan by age group

  • 20 to 29 age: $11,500
  • 30 to 39 age: $42,700
  • 40 to 49 age: $103,500
  • 50 to 59 age: $174,200
  • 60 to 69 age: $192,800

For those serious about their retirement goals, Fidelity recommends having ten times your final salary in savings if you want to retire by age 67. They are also suggesting how to achieve this goal by age group.

  • By the age of 30: Have the equivalent of your starting salary saved
  • 35 years old: Have two times your salary saved
  • 40 years old: Have three times your salary saved
  • 45 years old: Have four times your salary saved
  • 50 years old: Have six times your salary saved
  • 55 years old: Have seven times your salary saved
  • 60 years old: Have eight times your salary saved
  • By age 67: Have 10 times your salary saved

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. Everybody is different. Your family retirement goal is highly dependent on your individual circumstances, your lifestyle, spending habits, family size and alternative sources of income.

Know your risk tolerance level

One common issue I see with young families is the substantial gap between their risk tolerance and the actual risk they take in their retirement and investment accounts.  Risk tolerance is your emotional ability to accept risk as an investor.

I have seen clients who are conservative by nature but have a very aggressive portfolio. Or the opposite, there are aggressive investors with a large amount of cash or a large bond portfolio. Talking to a fiduciary financial advisor can help you understand your risk tolerance. You will be able to narrow that gap between your emotions and real-life needs and then connect them to your financial goals and milestones.

Diversify your investments

Diversification is the only free lunch you will get in investing. Diversifying your investments can reduce the overall risk of your portfolio. Without going into detail, owning a mix of uncorrelated assets will lower the long-term risk of your portfolio. I always recommend that you have a portion of your portfolio in US Large Cap Blue Chip Stocks and add some exposure to Small Cap, International, and Emerging Market Stocks, Bonds and Alternative Assets such as Gold and Real Estate.

Invest your idle cash

One common issue I have seen amongst some of my clients is holding a significant amount of cash in their investment and retirement accounts. The way I explain it is that most millennials are conservative investors. Many of them observed their parents’ negative experience during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. As a result, they became more risk-averse than their parents.  

However, keeping ample cash in your retirement account in your 30s will not boost your wealth in the long run. You are probably losing money as inflation is deteriorating the purchasing power of your idle cash. Even if you are a very conservative investor, there are ways to invest in your retirement portfolio without taking on too much risk.

Early retirement

I talk about early retirement a lot often than one might imagine. The media and online bloggers have boosted the image of retiring early and made it sound a lot easier than it is. I am not saying that early retirement is an illusion, but it requires a great deal of personal and financial sacrifice. Unless you are born rich or rely on a huge payout, most people who retire early are very frugal and highly resourceful. If your goal is to retire early, you need to pay off your debt now, cut down spending and save, save and save.

Build-in tax diversification

While most of the time we talk about our 401k plans, there are other investment and retirement vehicles out there such as Roth IRA, Traditional IRA and even your brokerage account. They all have their own tax advantages and disadvantages. Even if you save a million bucks in your 401k plan, not all of it is yours. You must pay a cut to the IRS and your state treasury. Not to mention the fact that you can only withdraw your savings penalty-free after reaching 59 ½. Roth IRA and brokerage account do not lower your taxes when you make contributions, but they offer a lot more flexibility, liquidity, and some significant future tax advantages. In the case of Roth IRA, all your withdrawals can be tax-free when you retire. Your brokerage account provides you with immediate liquidity and lower long-term capital gains tax on realized gains.

Plan for child’s expenses

Most parents will do anything for their children. But having kids is expensive. Whether a parent will stay at home and not earn a salary, or you decide to hire a nanny or pay for daycare, children will add an extra burden to your budget. Not to mention the extra money for clothes, food, entertainment (Disneyland) and even another seat on the plane.

Plan for college with a 529 Plan

Many parents want to help their children pay for college or at least cover some of the expenses. 529 plan is a convenient, relatively inexpensive and tax-advantageous way to save for qualified college expenses. Sadly, only 29% of US families are familiar with the plan. Most states have their own state-run 529 plan. Some states even allow state tax deductions for 529 contributions. Most 529 plans have various active, passive and age-based investment options. You can link your checking account to your 529 plan and set-up regular monthly contributions. There are plentiful resources about 529 plans in your state. I am happy to answer questions if you contact me directly.  

Protect your legacy

Many young families want to protect their children in case of sudden death or a medical emergency. However, many others don’t want to talk about it at all. I agree it’s not a pleasant conversation. Here in California, unless you have an established estate, in case of your death all your assets will go to probate and will have to be distributed by the court. The probate is a public, lengthy and expensive process. When my son was born my wife and I set up an estate, created our wills and assigned guardians, and trustees to our newly established trust.  

The process of protecting your legacy is called estate planning. Like everything else, it’s highly personalized depending on the size of your family, the variety of assets you own, your income sources, your charitable aptitude, and so on. Talking to an experienced estate attorney can help you find the best decision for yourself and your family.

I never sell insurance to my clients. However, if you are in a situation where you are the sole bread earner in the household, it makes a lot of sense to consider term life and disability insurance, which can cover your loved ones if something were to happen to you.

Plan ahead

I realize that this is a very general, kind of catch-all checkpoint but let me give it a try. No matter what happens in your life right now, I guarantee you a year or two from now things will be different. Life changes all the time – you get a new job, you have a baby, you need to buy a new car, or your company goes public, and your stock options make you a millionaire. Whatever that is, think ahead. Proper planning could save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run.

Conclusion

I realize that this checklist is not complete. Every family is unique. Each one of you has very different circumstances, financial priorities, and life goals. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution for any family out there. If you contact me directly, I will be happy to address your questions.

 

9 Smart Tax Saving Strategies for High Net Worth Individuals

9 Smart Tax Saving Strategies for High Net Worth Individuals

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) voted by Congress in late 2017 introduced significant changes to the way high net worth individuals and families file and pay their taxes. The key changes included the doubling of the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, the elimination of personal exemptions, limiting the SALT deduction to $10,000, limiting the home mortgage interest deduction to loans of up to $750,000 versus $1,000,000 as well as comprehensive changes to itemized deductions and Alternative Minimum Tax.

Many high net worth individuals and families, especially from high tax states like California, New York, and New Jersey, will see substantial changes in their tax returns. The real impact won’t be completely revealed until the first tax filing in 2019. Many areas remain ambiguous and will require further clarification by the IRS.

Most strategies discussed in this article were popular even before the TCJA. However, their use will vary significantly from person to person.  I strongly encourage you to speak with your accountant, tax advisor, or investment advisor to better address your concerns.

1. Home mortgage deduction

While a mortgage tax deduction is rarely the primary reason to buy a home, many new home buyers will have to be mindful of the new tax rule limiting mortgage deductions to loans of up to $750,000. The interest on second home mortgages is no longer tax-deductible.  The interest on Home Equity Loans or HELOCs could be tax-deductible in some instances where proceeds are utilized to acquire or improve a property

2. Get Incorporated

If you own a business, you may qualify for a 20 percent deduction for qualified business income. This break is available to pass-through entities, including S-corporations and limited liability companies. In general, to qualify for the full deduction, your taxable income must be below $157,500 if you’re single or $315,000 if you’re married and file jointly. Beyond those thresholds, the TJLA sets limits on what professions can qualify for this deduction. Entrepreneurs with service businesses — including doctors, attorneys, and financial advisors — may not be able to take advantage of the deduction if their income is too high.

Furthermore, if you own a second home, you may want to convert it to a rental and run it as a side business. This could allow you to use certain tax deductions that are otherwise not available.

Running your business from home is another way to deduct certain expenses (internet, rent, phone, etc.). In our digital age, technology makes it easy to reach out to potential customers and run a successful business out of your home office.

3. Charitable donations

All contributions to religious, educational, or charitable organizations approved by the IRS are tax-deductible. The annual limit is 50% of your AGI (aggregate gross income) for most donations and 30% of AGI for appreciated assets.

While most often people choose to give money, you can also donate household items, clothes, cars, airline miles, investments, and real estate. The fair value of the donated items decreases your taxable income and therefore will reduce the amount of taxes due to IRS.

The TCJA made the tax planning for donations a little bit trickier. The new tax rules raised the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. In effect, the rule will reduce the number of people who are itemizing their taxes and make charitable donations a less attractive tax strategy.

For philanthropic high net worth individuals making charitable donations could require a little more planning to achieve the highest possible tax benefit. One viable strategy is to consolidate annual contributions into a single large payment. This strategy will ensure that your donations will go above the yearly standard deduction threshold.

Another approach is to donate appreciated investments, including stocks and real estate. This strategy allows philanthropic investors to avoid paying significant capital gain tax on low-cost basis investments. To learn more about the benefits of charitable donations, check out my prior post here.

4. Gifts

The TCJA doubled the gift and estate tax exemption to almost $11.18 million per person and $22.36 per married couple. Furthermore, you can give up to $15,000 to any number of people every year without any tax implications. Amounts over $15,000 are subject to the combined gift and estate tax exemption of $11 million.  You can give your child or any person within the annual limits without creating create any tax implications.

Making a gift will not reduce your current year taxes. However, making gifts of appreciated assets with a lower cost basis can be a way to manage your future tax payments and pass on the tax bill to family members who pay a lower tax rate.

5. 529 Plans

The TCJA of 2017 expanded the use of 529 plans to cover qualifying expenses for private, public, and religious kindergarten through 12th grade. Previously parents and grandparents could only use 529 funds for qualified college expenses.

The use of 529 plans is one of the best examples of how gifts can minimize your future tax burden. Parents and grandparents can contribute up to $15,000 annually per person, $30,000 per married couple into their child college education fund. The plan even allows a one–time lump-sum payment of $75,000 (5 years x $15,000).

Parents can choose to invest their contributions through a variety of investment vehicles.  While 529 contributions are not tax-deductible on a federal level, many states like New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, etc. allow for state tax deductions for up to a certain amount. The 529 investments grow tax-free. Withdrawals are also tax-free when used to pay cover qualified college and educational expenses. 

6. 401k Contributions

One of the most popular tax deductions is the tax-deferred contribution to 401k and 403b plans. In 2020 the allowed maximum contribution per person is $19,500 plus an additional $6,500 catch-up for investors at age 50 and older. Also, your employer can contribute up to $36,500 for a maximum annual contribution of $57,000 or $63,500 if you are older than 50.

The contributions to your retirement plan are tax-deductible. They decrease your taxable income if you use itemized deductions on your tax filing form. Not only that, but the investments in your 401k portfolio also grow tax-free. You will owe taxes upon withdrawal at your current tax rate at that time.

7. Roth IRA

Roth IRA is a great investment vehicle. Investors can contribute up to $6,000 per year. All contributions to the account are after-tax.  The investments in the Roth IRA can grow tax-free. And the withdrawals will be tax-exempt if held till retirement. IRS has limited the direct contributions to individuals making up to $124,000 per year with a phase-out at $139,000. Married couples can make contributions if their income is up to $196,000 per year with a phase-out at $206,000.

Fortunately, recent IRS rulings made it possible for high net worth individuals to make Roth Contributions.  Using the two-step process known as backdoor Roth you can take advantage of the long-term tax-exempt benefits of Roth IRA. Learn more about Roth IRA in our previous post here. 

8. Health Spending Account

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-exempt saving account available to taxpayers who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) The funds contributed to this account are tax-deductible. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), HSA funds roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. HSA owners can use the funds to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without tax liability or penalty. The annual contribution limits for 2018 are $3,450 per person, $6,900 per family, and an additional $1,000 if 55 or older. The owner of HSA can invest the funds similar to the IRA account.

In effect, HSAs have a triple tax benefit. All contributions are tax-deductible. Investments grow tax-free and. HSA owners can make tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

9. Municipal bonds

Old fashioned municipal bonds continue to be an attractive investment choice of high net worth individuals. The interest income from municipal bonds is still tax-exempt on a federal level. When the bondholders reside in the same state as the bond issuer, they can be exempted from state income taxes as well.

Final words

If you have any questions about your existing investment portfolio, reach out to me at [email protected] or +925-448-9880.

You can also visit our Insights page where you can find helpful articles and resources on how to make better financial and investment decisions.

6 Saving & Investment Practices All Business Owners Should Follow

6 Saving & Investment Practices All Business Owners Should Follow

In my practice, I often meet with small business owners who have the entire life savings and family fortune tied up to their company. For many of them, their business is the only way out to retirement. With this post, I would like to offer 6 saving & investment practices all business owners should follow.

Having all your eggs in one basket, however, may not be the best way to manage your finances and family fortune. Think about bookstores. If you owned one 20-30 years ago, you probably earned a decent living. Now, bookstores are luxuries even in major cities like New York and San Francisco. Technology, markets, consumer sentiments, and laws change all the time. And that is why it is vital that you build healthy saving and investment routines to grow your wealth, protect your loved ones, and prepare yourself for the years during retirement.

Start Early

I always advise my clients to start saving early and make it a habit. Saving 10-20 percent of your monthly income will help you build and grow your wealth. For instance, by starting with $20,000 today, with an average stock market return of 6 percent, your investments can potentially accumulate to $115,000 in 30 years or even $205,000 in 40 years.

Saving and investing early in your career can build a buffer to correct for any sidesteps or slip-ups. Starting to build your wealth early will provide the necessary protection against market drops and economic recessions and prepare you for large purchases like a new home, college tuition, a new car or even expanding your business.

Build a Safety Net

Life can often be unpredictable in good and bad ways. Having an emergency fund is the best way to guard your wealth and maintain liquidity for your business. I typically recommend keeping 6 to 12 months of basic living expenses in your savings account.

Even though my firm does not offer insurance, I often advise my clients especially those who are sole bread earners or work in industries prone to accidents to consider getting life and disability insurance. Good insurance will guarantee protection and supplemental income for yourself and your loved ones in case of unexpected work or life events.

Manage Your Debt

The last eight years of a friendly interest environment has brought record levels of debt in almost every single category. Americans now owe more than $8.26 trillion in mortgages, $1.14 trillion in auto loans, and $747 billion in credit cards debt. If you are like me, you probably don’t like owing money to anyone.

That’s great, however, taking loans is an essential part of any enterprise. Expanding your business, building a new facility or buying a competitor will often require external financing. Keeping track of your loans and prioritizing on paying off your high-interest debt can save you and your business a lot of money. It may also boost your credit score.

Set-up a Company Retirement Plan

The US Government provides a variety of options for businesses to create retirement plans for both employees and owners. Some of the most popular ones are employer-sponsored 401k, self-employed 401k, profit-sharing, SIMPLE IRA, and SEP IRA.

Having a company retirement plan is an excellent way to save money in the long run. Plan contributions could reduce current taxes and boost your employees’ loyalty and morale.

Of the many alternatives, I am a big supporter of 401(k) plans. Although they are a little more expensive to establish and run, they provide the highest contribution allowance over all other options.

The maximum employee contribution to 401(k) plans for 2017 is $18,000. The employer can match up to $36,000 for a total of $54,000. Individuals over 50 can add a catch-up contribution of $6,000. Also, 401k and other ERISA Plans offer an added benefit. They have the highest protection to creditors.

Even if you already have an up-and-running 401k plan, your job is not done. Have your plan administrator or an independent advisor regularly review your investment options.

I frequently see old 401k plans that have been ignored and forgotten since they were first established. Some of these plans often contain high-fee mutual funds that have consistently underperformed their benchmarks for many consecutive years. I typically recommend replacing some of these funds with low-fee alternatives like index funds and ETFs. Paying low fees will keep more money in your pocket.

Diversify

Many business owners hold a substantial amount of their wealth locked in their business. By doing so, they expose themselves to what we call a concentrated risk. Any economic, legal and market developments that can adversely impact your industry can also hurt your personal wealth.

The best way to protect yourself is by diversification. Investing in uncorrelated assets can decrease the overall risk of your portfolio. A typical diversified portfolio may include large-, mid-, small-cap, and international stocks, real estate, gold, government, and corporate fixed income.

Plan Your Exit

Whether you are planning to transfer your business to the next generation in your family or cash it in, this can have serious tax and legal consequences. Sometimes it pays off to speak to a pro.

Partnering with someone who understands your industry and your particular needs and circumstances, can offer substantial value to your business and build a robust plan to execute your future financial strategy.

 

The article was previously published in HVACR Business Magazine on March 1, 2017

Everything you need to know about your Target Retirement Fund

Everything you need to know about your Target Retirement Fund

Target Retirement Funds are a popular investment option in many workplace retirement plans such as 401k, 403b, 457, and TSP. They offer a relatively simple and straightforward way to invest your retirement savings as their investment approach is based on the individual target retirement dates.

Nowadays, almost all employers and 401k providers offer target retirement funds – from Fidelity to Vanguard, American Funds, Blackrock, and Schwab. Although employers and advisors have a choice amongst several fund families, they will typically select one of them for their plan. Multiple target fund families are readily available in individual brokerage accounts or self-directed IRAs.

Workplace plan participants typically have to choose one fund from a single family with target retirement dates in 5-year increments – 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040, 2045, and 2050. Often, plans with auto-enrollment features will automatically assign a target retirement fund based on the estimated year of retirement. Manual enrollment programs will have the fund series in their fund line-up, which could consist of a mix of index, actively managed and target retirement funds.

The base assumption of the target retirement funds is that younger investors have a long investment horizon and higher risk tolerance, therefore, they should have their target retirement assets in more risky investments such as stocks. Inversely, older investors will have a shorter investment horizon and lower risk tolerance. Therefore, the majority of their target retirement money will be in more low-risk investments such as bonds.

Despite their growing popularity, target retirement funds have some limitations and are not identical.  They have substantial differences that may not always appeal to everybody. In this post, I would like to explain some of those nuances.

Style

Target funds utilize two main investment styles – passive indexing and active management. Passive Target Retirement Funds like Vanguard and BlackRock LifePath primarily invest in a mix of index funds. The second groups including T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, American Century, and American Funds pursue an active strategy where investments are allocated in a mix of active mutual funds typically managed by the same firm.

Fees

The fund investment style will often impact the management fees charged by each fund. Passive funds tend to charge lower fees, usually around 0.15% – 0.20%. On the other hand, active funds typically range between 0.40% – 1%.

Name Ticker Morningstar Rating Morningstar Analyst Rating AUM Expense
Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 VTIVX 4-star Gold $18.1 bil 0.16%
T. Rowe Price Retirement 2045 TRRKX 5-Star Silver $10.2 bil 0.76%
American Funds 2045 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFHTX 5-Star Silver $4.8 bil 0.43%
Fidelity Freedom® 2045 FFFGX 3-Star Silver $3.5 bil 0.77%
American Century One Choice 2045 AROIX 4-star Bronze $1.7 bil 0.97%

If you have any doubts about how much you pay for your fund, double-check with your plan administrator or Human Resource. Not to sound alarming but I recently read about a case where a 401k plan contained a fund listed as “Vngd Tgt Retrmt 2045 Fund.” whose sole investment was Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund. However, instead of charging an expense ratio of 0.16%, the fund was taking a whopping 0.92%.  The only purpose of this sham is to deceive participants into believing they are investing in the real Vanguard fund and marking up the expense ratio exponentially.

Asset allocation

The asset allocation is the most critical factor for investment performance. According to numerous studies, it contributes to more than 90% of the portfolio return.  As a factor of such significance, it is essential to understand the asset allocation of your target retirement fund.

While comparing five of the largest target retirement families, we see some considerable variations between them. Vanguard has the highest allocation to Foreign Equity, while T. Rowe has the largest investment in US Equity. Fidelity has the highest allocation to Cash and Cash Equivalents while American Century has the biggest exposure to Bonds. And lastly, American Funds has the largest distribution to Other, which includes Preferred Stocks and Convertible Bonds.

 

2045 Series 

Name Ticker Cash US Stock Non-US Stock Bond Other
Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 VTIVX   1.11      52.98         34.91     9.77   1.23
T. Rowe Price Retirement 2045 TRRKX   2.87      58.98         28.48     9.05   0.62
American Funds 2045 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFHTX   3.66      53.21         29.02     9.77   4.34
Fidelity Freedom® 2045 FFFGX   5.79      57.58         32.07     3.93   0.63
American Century One Choice 2045 AROIX   2.04      55.38         20.32   21.36   0.90

It is also important to understand how the target asset allocation changes over time as investors approach retirement. This change is known as the glide path. In the below table you can see the asset allocation of the 2025 target fund series. All of them have a higher allocation to Bonds, Cash and Cash Equivalents, and a lower allocation of US and Foreign Equity.

2025 Series

Name Ticker Cash US Stock Non-US Stock Bond Other
Vanguard Target Retirement 2025 VTIVX   1.44      38.05         25.09   34.30   1.12
T. Rowe Price Retirement 2025 Fund TRRHX   3.35      45.64         22.06   28.23   0.72
American Funds 2025 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFDTX   4.12      39.60         19.36   33.65   3.27
Fidelity Freedom® 2025 FFTWX   8.99      41.70         24.31   24.46   0.54
American Century One Choice 2025 ARWIX   7.18      40.01         11.88   40.01   0.92

 

 Keep in mind that the target Asset Allocation is not static. Moreover, the fund managers can change the fund allocation according to their view of the market and economic conditions.

Performance

After all said and done, the performance is what matters for most investors and retirees. However, comparing performance between different target funds can be a little tricky. As you saw in the previous paragraph, they are not the same.

So let’s first look at a comparison between different target-date funds from the same family. The return figures represent a net-of-fees performance for 3, 5 and 10 years. Standard Deviation (St. Dev) measures the volatility (risk) of returns.  As expected, the long-dated funds posted higher returns over the near-dated funds. However, the long-dated funds come with higher volatility due to their higher allocation to equities.

 

Target Date Performance Comparison by Target Year

Return Standard Deviation
Name Ticker 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
American Funds 2025 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFDTX    5.71     9.36      5.88    6.78     7.48    12.83
American Funds 2035 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFFTX    6.73   10.43      6.44    8.70     8.84    13.81
American Funds 2045 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFHTX    6.99   10.67      6.56    9.09     9.10    13.96
American Funds 2055 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFKTX    7.33   11.32    9.13     9.15

 

The comparison between different fund families also reveals significant variations in performance. The majority of these differences can be attributed to their asset allocation, investment selection, and management fees.

Target Date Performance Comparison by Fund Family

Return     Standard Deviation
Name Ticker 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 VTIVX    6.24     9.50      5.70    9.42     9.51    14.63
T. Rowe Price Retirement 2045 TRRKX    6.54     9.92      6.20    9.68     9.80    15.80
American Funds 2045 Trgt Date Retire R6 RFHTX    6.99   10.67      6.56    9.09     9.10    13.96
Fidelity Freedom® 2045 FFFGX    6.50     8.95      4.82    9.83     9.64    15.25
American Century One Choice 2045 AROIX    5.79     8.63      5.73    8.38     8.41    13.50

How they fit with your financial goals

How the target retirement fund fit within your financial goals is an important nuance that often gets underestimated by many. Target retirement funds assume the investors’ risk tolerance based on their age and the estimated year of retirement. Older investors will automatically be assigned as conservative while they could be quite aggressive if this is a part of their inter-generational estate planning. Further, young investors default to an aggressive allocation while they could be more conservative due to significant short-term financial goals. So keep in mind that the extra layer of personal financial planning is not a factor in target retirement funds.

 

Final words

Target retirement funds come with many benefits. They offer an easy way to invest for retirement without the need for in-depth financial knowledge. Target funds come in different shapes and forms and bring certain caveats which may appeal to some investors and not to others. If you plan to invest in a target retirements fund, the five questions above will help you decide if this is the right investment for you.