Articles for May 2014

Rising Interest Rates

How might they affect investments, housing and retirees?

How will Wall Street fare if interest rates climb back to historic norms? Rising interest rates could certainly impact investments, the real estate market and the overall economy – but their influence might not be as negative as some perceive.

Why are rates rising?
You can cite three factors. The Federal Reserve is gradually reducing its monthly asset purchases. As that has happened, inflation expectations have grown, and perception can often become reality on Main Street and Wall Street. In addition, the economy has gained momentum, and interest rates tend to rise in better times.

The federal funds rate (the interest rate on loans by the Fed to the banks to meet reserve requirements) has been in the 0.0%-0.25% range since December 2008. Historically, it has averaged about 4%. It was at 4.25% when the recession hit in late 2007. Short-term fluctuations have also been the norm for the key interest rate. It was at 1.00% in June 2003 compared to 6.5% in May 2000. In December 1991, it was at 4.00% – but just 17 months earlier, it had been at 8.00%. Rates will rise, fall and rise again; what may happen as they rise?1,2

The effect on investments. Last September, an investment strategist named Rob Brown wrote an article for Financial Advisor Magazine noting how well stocks have performed as rates rise. Brown studied the 30 economic expansions that have occurred in the United States since 1865 (excepting our current one). He pinpointed a 10-month window within each expansion that saw the greatest gains in interest rates (referencing then-current yields on the 10-year Treasury). The median return on the S&P 500 for all of these 10-month windows was 7.93% and the index returned positive in 80% of these 10-month periods. Looking at such 10-month windows since 1919, the S&P’s median return was even better at 11.50% – and the index gained in 81% of said intervals.3

Lastly, Brown looked at the S&P 500’s return in the 12-month periods ending on October 31, 1994 and May 31, 2004. In the first 12-month stretch, the interest rate on the 10-year note rose 2.38% to 7.81% while the S&P gained only 3.87%. Across the 12 months ending on May 31, 2004, however, the index rose 18.33% even as the 10-year Treasury yield rose 1.29% to 4.66%.3

The effect on the housing market. Do costlier mortgages discourage home sales? Recent data backs up that presumption. Existing home sales were up 1.3% for April, but that was the first monthly gain recorded by the National Association of Realtors for 2014. Year-over-year, the decline was 6.8%. On the other hand, when the economy improves the labor market typically improves as well, and more hiring means less unemployment. Unemployment is an impediment to home sales; lessen it, and more homes might move even as mortgages grow more expensive.4

When the economy is well, home prices have every reason to appreciate even if interest rates go up. NAR says the median sale price of an existing home rose 5.2% in the past year – not the double-digit appreciation seen in 2013, but not bad. Cash buyers don’t care about interest rates, and according to RealtyTrac, 43% of buyers in Q1 bought without mortgages.4,5

Rates might not climb as fast as some think. Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley – whose voting in Fed policy meetings tends to correspond with that of Janet Yellen – thinks that the federal funds rate will stay below its historic average for some time. Why? In a May 20 speech, he noted three reasons. One, baby boomers are retiring, which implies less potential for economic growth across the next decade. Two, banks are asked to keep higher capital ratios these days, and that implies lower bank profits and less lending as more money is being held in reserves. Three, he believes households and businesses are still traumatized by the memory of the Great Recession. Many are reluctant to invest and spend, especially with college loan debt so endemic and the housing sector possibly cooling off.6

Emerging markets in particular may have been soothed by recent comments from Dudley and other Fed officials. They have seen less volatility this spring than in previous months, and the MSCI Emerging Markets index has outperformed the S&P 500 so far this year.2

Michael Moffitt may be reached at 1-641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
website: cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor.  Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

Economic forecast set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

The MSCI EM (Emerging Marketing) Europe, Middle East and Africa Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of the emerging market countries of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. As of May 27, 2010 the MSCI EM EMEA index consisted of the following 8 emerging market country indices: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa.

All indices referenced are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – newyorkfed.org/markets/statistics/dlyrates/fedrate.html [5/22/14]
2 – reuters.com/article/2014/05/21/saft-on-wealth-idUSL1N0NZ1GM20140521 [5/21/14]
3 – fa-mag.com/news/what-happens-to-stocks-when-interest-rates-rise-15468.html [9/17/13]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/existing-home-sales-fastest-in-four-months-2014-05-22 [5/22/14]
5 – marketwatch.com/story/43-of-2014-home-buyers-paid-all-cash-2014-05-08 [5/8/14]
6 – money.cnn.com/2014/05/20/investing/fed-low-interest-rates-dudley/index.html [5/20/14]

Coping With College Loans

Paying them down, managing their financial impact.

Are student loans holding our economy back? Certainly America has recovered from the last recession, but this is an interesting question nonetheless.

In a November 2013 address before the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Assistant Director Rohit Chopra expressed that college loan debt “may prove to be one of the more painful aftershocks of the Great Recession.” In fact, outstanding education debt in America doubled from 2007 to 2013, topping $1 trillion.1

More than 60% of this debt is held by people over the age of 30 and about 15% is carried by people older than 50. The housing sector feels the strain: in a November National Association of Realtors survey, 54% of the first-time homebuyers who had difficulty saving up a down payment cited their college loan expenses as the main obstacle. The ProgressNow think tank believes that education debt siphons $6 billion of new car purchasing power out of the economy per year.2,3

As the Detroit Free Press notes, the average 2012 college graduate is burdened with $29,400 in education loans. If you carry five-figure (or greater) education debt, what do you do to pay it down faster?4

How can you overcome student loans to move forward financially? If you are young (or not so young), budgeting is key. Even if you get a second job, a promotion, or an inheritance, you won’t be able to erase any debt if your expenses consistently exceed your income. Smartphone apps and other online budget tools can help you live within your budget day to day, or even at the point of purchase for goods and services.

After that first step, you can use a few different strategies to whittle away at college loans.

*The local economy permitting, a couple can live on one salary and use the wages of the other earner to pay off the loan balance(s).
*You could use your tax refund to attack the debt.
*You can hold off on a major purchase or two. (Yes, this is a sad effect of college debt, but backhandedly it could also help you reduce it by freeing up more cash to apply to the loan.)
*You can sell something of significant value – a car or truck, a motorbike, jewelry, collectibles – and turn the cash on the debt.

Now in the big picture of your budget, you could try the “snowball method” where you focus on paying off your smallest debt first, then the next smallest, etc. on to the largest. Or, you could try the “debt ladder” tactic, where you attack the debt(s) with the highest interest rate(s) to start. That will permit you to gradually devote more and more money toward the goal of wiping out that existing student loan balance.

Even just paying more than the minimum each month on your loan will help. Making payments every two weeks rather than every month can also have a big impact.

If the lender presents you with a choice of repayment plans, weigh the one you currently use against the others; the others might be better. Signing up for automatic payments can help, too. You avoid the risk of penalty for late payment, and student loan issuers commonly reward the move: many will lower the interest rate on a loan by a quarter-point or so in thanks.5

What if you have multiple outstanding college loans? Should one of those loans have a variable interest rate (about 15% of education loans do), try addressing that debt first. Why? Think about what could happen with interest rates as this decade progresses. They are already rising.5

Also, how about combining multiple federal student loan balances into one? If you graduated college before July 1, 2006, the interest rate you’ll lock in on the single balance will be lower than that paid on each separate federal education loan.5

Maybe your boss could pay down the loan. Don’t laugh: there are college grads who manage to negotiate just such agreements. In fact, there are small and mid-sized businesses that offer them simply to be competitive today. They can’t offer a young hire what the Fortune 500 can when it comes to salary, so they pitch another perk: a lump sum that the new employee can use to reduce a college loan.5

To reduce your student debt, live within your means and use your financial creativity. It may disappear faster than you think.

Michael Moffitt may be reached at phone# 1-800-827-5577 or email mikem@cfgiowa.com
website: www.CFGIowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/student-loan-ombudsman-rohit-chopra-before-the-federal-reserve-bank-of-st-louis/ [11/18/13]
2 – forbes.com/sites/halahtouryalai/2013/06/26/backlash-student-loans-keep-borrowers-from-buying-homes-cars/ [6/26/13]
3 – realtor.org/news-releases/2013/11/home-buyers-and-sellers-survey-shows-lingering-impact-of-tight-credit [11/13]
4 – tinyurl.com/nouty3k [4/19/14]
5 – tinyurl.com/k29m48y [5/1/14]

Dollar on the Verge?

As has been the case since late 2008 when the Federal Reserve (Fed) began its quantitative easing (QE) program, there has been a great deal of concern lately among some market participants that the dollar is on the verge of collapse, but is that a likely scenario?

Corporate America More Concerned with Rising, Not Falling Dollar

455 of the 500 corporations in the S&P 500 Index have reported results for the first quarter of 2014 and, in many cases, have also provided guidance on their operations in the current quarter and for the remainder of the year. As always, when discussing the business environments, corporate management cited swings in the value of the dollar versus the currencies of the nations in which they do business, but none sounded the alarm about an imminent collapse in the dollar. Indeed, many were more concerned about the value of the dollar rising. Why? Because a rising dollar makes U.S. goods and services more expensive to foreign buyers.

Fed Influence

Similarly, in the five press conferences held by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and current Fed Chair Janet Yellen since early 2013 following Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) mettings, the value of the dollar was not mentioned once. The last time the dollar came up at a Fed Chair’s post-FOMC press conference was in December 2012, when then-Fed Chairman Bernanke was asked if the size of the Fed’s balance sheet following QE threatened the credibility of the dollar as the world’s leading currency.

Bernanke’s response: “We’re not the only central bank that has increased the size of its balance sheet. The Japanses, the Europeans, the British have all done the same, and very much more or less to the same extent in terms of the fraction of GDP, and I think the sophisticated market players and the public understand that this is part of a collective need, a need to provide additional accommodation to weak economies and not an accommodation of fiscal policy.”

Bernanke was pointing out here tht the value of the dollar is set in global markets, and that other central banks were pursuing the same policies as the Fed, in some respects cancelling out the impact of the Fed’s QE program on the value of the dollar.

The Key Drivers

Aside from two periods in the early 1980s and late 1990s, the US dollar has been declining since it went off the gold standard in the early 1970s. As Bernanke noted in late 2012, the value of the dollar is set in the open market, although the Fed, Congress, and the President can have an impact on the dollar. Of the three, the Fed probably has the most direct impact on the value of the dollar, as it sets short-term interest rates, which often have a big influence on the value of a nation’s currency. The Fed’s QE program, which is winding down and set to conclude by year-end 2014, has increased the number of dollars in the global economy. The law of supply and demand suggests that the greater the supply of an item, the lower the price, so at the margin, QE has put downward pressure on the dollar.

The value of the dollar has declined 8% relative to the currencies of our major developed market trading partners (the Eurozone, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, and Sweden) since the onset of the first round of QE in November 2008. The 8% drop in the 5.5 years since the onset of QE1 (about 1.5% per year) is about double the 0.75% pace of annual depreciation seen in the dollar between the early 1970s and late 2008, when the first round of QE began. The weaker dollar
has, at the margin, made our exports more attractive, pushed up the costs of goods we import, and, most importantly, pushed the prices of globally traded commodities higher. It has not eroded global market participants’ appetite for Treasury notes and bonds however. As of May 9, 2014, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was near 2.65%. At the start of QE, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was near 3.25%. As the Fed begins to wind up QE, and begins to debate when to begin raising rates, the influence of QE on the dollar should begin to fade, and, at minimum, the pace of the dollar’s depreciation should return to its pre-2008 pace of around 0.7% per year. But what about our major trading partners, whose monetary policies Fed Chairman Bernanke cited in late 2012?

Global Monetary Policy Influence

The monetary policy of nations outside the United States may also have an influence on the value of the dollar in world markets. As we noted in our Weekly Economic Commentary: Central Bank Pulse (May 5, 2014), global central bank policies have diverged in recent years, after mainly moving in the same direction — easier policy — between 2007 and 2011. Among our largest trading partners, both the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan (BOJ) are easing and poised to do more, while the Bank of England (BOE) is likely the next major central bank to consider exiting QE and beginning the process of normalizing rates. The Bank of Canada — the central bank of our largest trading partner — looks to be on hold for the foreseeable future. The dynamics of central bank actions also suggests a slower pace of depreciation in the dollar (and even some possible appreciation) in the period ahead, not a collapse in the value of the dollar as some may fear.

Foreign Selling?

Another concern often raised by those predicting an imminent collapse in the dollar is that countries with large holdings of Treasuries (and dollars) like China, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, Russia, will suddenly sell all of these holdings in the open market all at once for either political reasons (disagreements with the U.S.) or economic reasons (loss of confidence in the U.S. economy, the Fed, Congress etc.). Our view remains that a major shift in China’s or Japan’s or even Russia’s holdings of dollars and Treasuries is unlikely anytime soon given the tight trade linkages between the countries. China and Russia depend on U.S. goods and services to help advance their own economies, making it difficult for them to operate their economies efficiently without dollar holdings to fund purchases of
goods and services. Over time (years and decades, not days and weeks), economies outside the U.S. are likely to continue to move away from the dollar and Treasuries — a trend that has already been in place for some time now — but a move out of dollar holdings all at once would not be in the best economic interest of the selling country.

“Twin Deficit” Influence

Trade policy, broad economic policy, and even foreign policy — set by Congress and/or the President — can also have an impact on the value of the dollar. Our “twin deficits” (trade and budget) have put downward pressure on the dollar over the past several decades. However, both the budget and trade deficit are narrowing, the budget deficit since 2009 and the trade deficit since mid-2005. Should these trends persist, they will tend to support the value of the dollar, suggesting, at minimum,
a slowdown in the rate of dollar depreciation that we have seen since the start of the QE era in 2008.

Since the United States is the world’s largest economy, most global trade is denominated in dollars, making the dollar the world’s “reserve currency.” As noted above, central banks and governments of most nations outside the United States hold reserves in dollars, although the rise of China’s economy
and the sheer size of the Eurozone’s economy has eroded the dollar’s “reserve currency” status in recent years. Still, the dollar is still viewed as a “safe haven” currency, as are U.S. Treasury notes and bonds, which, of course, are denominated in dollars. In times of economic and political uncertainty around the globe, the dollar normally rises in value, as investors must use dollars to purchase Treasuries, the ultimate “safe haven” asset.

While our “twin deficits” and the Fed’s actions to stimulate the economy have put downward pressure on the dollar, the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, and the United States’ position as the world’s largest economy and largest exporter, with its diversified and dynamic economy and labor force, suggests that a sudden sharp decline in the value of the dollar is unlikely. The recent ramp up in energy production in the U.S., sometimes referred to as the “energy renaissance,” has aided in reducing
our dependence on foreign oil and helped to reduce our trade deficit as well.

In the next few months and quarters, the dollar may appreciate as the economy accelerates and the Fed moves closer to ending its quantitative easing program and begins to raise rates. In the longer term, however, we continue to believe the dollar will slowly depreciate over time — continuing the trend that has been in place since the early 1970s, but at a pace that will not undermine the nation’s health or its role as a global economic power.

Michael Moffitt may be reached at 1-800-827-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance reference is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial.
To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity.

Not FDIC/NCUA Insured | Not Bank/Credit Union Guaranteed | May Lose Value | Not Guaranteed by any Government Agency | Not a Bank/Credit Union Deposit

Women, Longevity Risk & Retirement Saving

Statistics point out the need to save early, save consistently & stay invested.
Will you live to be 100? If you’re a woman, your odds of becoming a centenarian are seemingly better than those of men. In the 2010 U.S. Census, over 80% of Americans aged 100 or older were women.1

Will you eventually live alone? According to the Administration on Aging (a division of the federal government’s Department of Health & Human Services), about 47% of women aged 75 or older lived alone in 2010. If that prospect seems troubling, there is another statistic that also may: while 6.7% of men age 65 and older lived in poverty in 2010, 10.7% of women in that age demographic did.2,3

Statistics like these carry a message: women need to pay themselves first. A phrase has emerged to describe all this: longevity risk. As so many women outlive their spouses by several years or more, a woman may need several years more worth of retirement income. So there is a need to consider income sources – and investment strategies – for the years after a spouse passes away.

What does this mean for the here and now? It means contributing as much as your budget allows to your retirement accounts. Procrastination is your enemy and compound interest is your friend. It means accepting some investment risk – growth investing for the long run is looking more and more like a necessity.

You will need steady income, and you will need to keep growing your savings. In 2012, Social Security income represented 50.4% of the average annual income for unmarried and widowed woman aged 65 and older. Having a monthly check is certainly comforting, but that check may not be as large as you would like. The average woman 65 or older received but $12,520 in Social Security benefits in 2012.4

You will likely need multiple streams of income in retirement, and fortunately forms of investment, housing decisions and inherited assets can potentially lead to additional income sources. A chat with a financial professional may help you determine which options are sensible to pursue.

Your income and your savings must also keep up with inflation. Even mild inflation can exact a toll on your purchasing power over time.

Risk-averse investing may come with a price. In 2013, the investment giant Allianz surveyed Americans with more than $200,000 in investable assets and unsurprisingly learned that their #1 priority was retirement savings protection. What did surprise some analysts was their penchant for conservative investing during a banner year for stocks.5

Memories of the 2008-09 bear market were apparently hard to dispel: 76% of those surveyed indicated that given the choice between an investment offering a 4% return with protection of principal and an investment offering an 8% return but lacked principal protection, they would take the one with the 4% return.5

A substandard return shouldn’t seem so attractive. If your portfolio yields 4% a year and inflation is running at 1% a year (as it is now), you can live with it. Your investments aren’t earning much, but the Consumer Price Index isn’t gaining on you. If consumer prices rise 3.3% annually (which was what yearly inflation averaged across 2004-07), you are barely making headway. You actually may be losing ground against certain consumer costs. If inflation tops 4% (and it might, if interest rates take off later in this decade), you would have a real problem.6

Cumulative inflation can really eat into things, as a check of a simple inflation calculator reveals. An $18.99 steak dinner at a nice restaurant in 2000 would cost you $24.54 today given the ongoing tame-to-moderate inflation over the last 14 years. That’s 36.3% more.7

As much as we would like to park our retirement money and avoid risk, fixed-income investments may not always offer much reward these days. Retirees can feel like they are being punished by low interest rates, as they can see prices rising faster around them at the grocery store and for assorted services and goods. Interest rates will rise, but equity investments have traditionally offered the potential for greater returns than fixed-income investments.

Growth investing is a possible response to longevity risk. After all, you don’t want to risk outliving your retirement savings. Keeping part of your portfolio in the stock market offers you the potential to keep growing your retirement money, thereby offering you the chance have a larger retirement fund from which to withdraw proportionate income.

Michael Moffitt may be reached at 1-800-827-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com.
website: cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by the urban consumers for a market basket of consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-239.html [12/10/12]
2 – aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/6.aspx [4/10/14]
3 – aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/10.aspx [4/10/14]
4 – ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/women.htm [3/14]
5 – foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/10/24/wall-streets-rallying-so-why-are-boomers-so-scared/ [10/24/13]
6 – usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/ [4/10/14]
7 – usinflationcalculator.com/ [4/10/14]

Section 105 Plans

Medical reimbursement plans to benefit the smallest businesses.

Some businesses start small and stay small, by design. You may own such a business. Perhaps things begin and end with you, or maybe you employ one other person – your spouse. If this is the case, you should know about Section 105 plans.

Being self-employed, you already know that you can deduct 100% of your healthcare premiums from your federal and state taxes. The tax savings needn’t stop there. A properly structured Section 105 plan may let you deduct 100% of your family’s out-of-pocket medical expenses from federal, state and FICA/Medicare taxes.1,2

That’s right – all of them. TASC, a major provider of microbusiness employee benefits administration services, estimates that a Section 105 plan saves a family an average of $5,000 in taxes a year.2

How does this work? Section 105 of the Internal Revenue Code permits a self-employed person to set up a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) for tax-free repayment of major qualified medical expenses not covered under a health plan. Alternately, that self-employed individual may hire a salaried employee (read: his/her spouse) and offer that employee an HRA.1,3

If the latter choice is made, the benefits offered will not only cover the employee, but also his/her spouse and dependents. So if the new hire is the business owner’s spouse, what results is effectively a family healthcare expense account.1

Most solopreneurs need to hire someone to get this perk. Can you set up a Section 105 plan without hiring an employee? Yes, if your business is a C-corp, an S-corp, or an LLC that files its federal tax return as a corporation. In a corporate structure, the corporation is defined as the employer and the business owner is defined as a salaried employee.1,3

Otherwise, hiring an employee is a precondition to implementing a Section 105 plan. You don’t necessarily have to hire your spouse – the new hire could be your son or daughter, a more distant relative, or even someone to whom you aren’t related.1

Did the Affordable Care Act restrict the implementation of these plans? Not for microbusinesses. When the IRS issued Notice 2013-54 as a follow-up to the Affordable Care Act, most businesses lost the chance to offer a discrete medical reimbursement plan. One-employee HRAs are still allowed under Section 105 using group or individual insurance coverage.2

Look at all you can potentially deduct. A properly designed Section 105 plan allows eligible employee(s) and their family/families to deduct all health and dental insurance premiums, all life and disability insurance premiums, all premiums for qualified long term care coverage, all Medicare Part A and Medigap premiums, all out-of-pocket medical, dental, and vision care expenses, psychiatric care, orthodontics … anything stipulated as a qualified medical expense in Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 105 plans can even be structured so that if an employee doesn’t max out his/her yearly deduction, the unused portion can be carried over to subsequent years.1 

To keep up the plan, keep the paper trail going. A business owner and a financial or tax professional should collaborate to put a Section 105 plan into play. The IRS does look closely at these plans to check that the other spouse is legitimately employed – salaried, working a set schedule of hours, and hired per a written agreement. In addition, appropriate tax forms must be filed with the IRS, including Form 940 if the employee is unrelated to the business owner.1

If you want to lessen your tax liability and create an expense account to meet unanticipated medical costs, consider doing what other microbusiness owners have done: set up a Section 105 plan.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at 1-800-827-5577or email mikem@cfgiowa.com

website  cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor.  Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – tasconline.com/products/agriplan/section-105-plan-2/ [4/15/14]

2 – theihcc.com/en/communities/hsa_hra_fsa_admin_finance/hras-are-still-a-viable-tax-savings-device-for-sma_hsnc3u8t.html [3/10/14]

3 – smallbusiness.chron.com/can-business-owners-reimburse-themselves-taxfree-health-insurance-38718.html [4/15/14]