Articles for October 2014

Fall Financial Reminders

The year is coming to a close. Have you thought about these financial ideas yet?

As every calendar year ends, the window slowly closes on a set of financial opportunities. Here are several you might want to explore before 2015 arrives.

Don’t forget that IRA RMD. If you own one or more traditional IRAs, you have to take your annual required minimum distribution (RMD) from one or more of those IRAs by December 31. If you are being asked to take your very first RMD, you actually have until April 15, 2015 to take it – but your 2015 income taxes may be substantially greater as a result. (Note: original owners of Roth IRAs never have to take RMDs from those accounts.)1

Did you recently inherit an IRA? If you have and you weren’t married to the person who started that IRA, you must take the first RMD from that IRA by December 31 of the year after the death of that original IRA owner. You have to do it whether the account is a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.1

Here’s another thing you might want to do with that newly inherited IRA before New Year’s Eve, though: you might want to divide it into multiple inherited IRAs, thereby promoting a lengthier payout schedule for younger inheritors of those assets. Otherwise, any co-beneficiaries receive distributions per the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary. If you want to make this move, it must be done by the end of the year that follows the year in which the original IRA owner died.1

Can you max out your contribution to your workplace retirement plan? Your employer likely sponsors a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, and you have until December 31 to boost your 2014 contribution. This year, the contribution limit on both plans is $17,500 for those under 50, $23,000 for those 50 and older.2,3

Can you do the same with your IRA? Again, December 31 is your deadline for tax year 2014. This year, the traditional and Roth IRA contribution limit is $5,500 for those under 50, $6,500 for those 50 and older. High earners may face a lower Roth IRA contribution ceiling per their adjusted gross income level – above $129,000 AGI, an individual filing as single or head of household can’t make a Roth contribution for 2014, and neither can joint filers with AGI exceeding $191,000.3

Ever looked into a Solo(k) or a SEP plan? If you have income from self-employment, you can save for the future using a self-directed retirement plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or a one-person 401(k), the so-called Solo(k). You don’t have to be exclusively self-employed to set one of these up – you can work full-time for someone else and contribute to one of these while also deferring some of your salary into the retirement plan sponsored by your employer.2

Contributions to SEPs and Solo(k)s are tax-deductible. December 31 is the deadline to set one up for 2014, and if you meet that deadline, you can make your contributions for 2014 as late as April 15, 2015 (or October 15, 2015 with a federal extension). You can contribute up to $52,000 to SEP for 2014, $57,500 if you are 50 or older. For a Solo(k), the same limits apply but they break down to $17,500 + up to 20% of your net self-employment income and $23,000 + 20% net self-employment income if you are 50 or older. If you contribute to a 401(k) at work, the sum of your employee salary deferrals plus your Solo(k) contributions can’t be greater than the aforementioned $17,500/$23,000 limits – but even so, you can still pour up to 20% of your net self-employment income into a Solo(k).1,2

Do you need to file IRS Form 706? A sad occasion leads to this – the death of a spouse. Form 706, which should be filed no later than nine months after his or her passing, notifies the IRS that some or all of a decedent’s estate tax exemption is being carried over to the surviving spouse per the portability allowance. If your spouse passed in 2011, 2012, or 2013, the IRS is allowing you until December 31, 2014 to file the pertinent Form 706, which will transfer that estate planning portability to your estate if your spouse was a U.S. citizen or resident.1

Are you feeling generous? You may want to donate appreciated securities to charity before the year ends (you may take a deduction amounting to their current market value at the time of the donation, and you can use it to counterbalance up to 30% of your AGI). Or, you may want to gift a child, relative or friend and take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion. An individual can gift up to $14,000 this year to as many other individuals as he or she desires; a couple may jointly gift up to $28,000 to as many individuals as you wish. Whether you choose to gift singly or jointly, you’ve probably got a long way to go before using up the current $5.34 million/$10.68 million lifetime exemption. Wealthy grandparents often fund 529 plans this way, so it is worth noting that December 31 is the 529 funding deadline for the 2014 tax year.1

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# (641) 782-5577 or 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 – forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2014/10/08/eight-key-financial-deadlines-to-keep-in-mind-this-fall/ [10/8/14]
2 – tinyurl.com/kjzzbw4 [10/9/14]
3 – irs.gov/uac/IRS-Announces-2014-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$17,500-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2014 [10/31/13]

Pullback Perspective

This latest stock market pullback has provided an unwelcome reminder that stocks do not always go up in a straight line. Even within powerful bull markets such as this one, pullbacks of 5 – 10% have been quite common and do not mean the bull market is nearing an end. In this week’s commentary, we attempt to put the pullback into perspective. We look beyond this latest bout of volatility and share our thoughts on the current bull market, compare it with prior bull markets at this stage, and discuss why we do not think it’s coming to an end.

Pullbacks Don’t Mean the End of the Bull Market

Pullbacks such as this one, which has reached 5%, have been normal. Sometimes stocks get ahead of themselves. When they do, investor concerns can be magnified and profit taking might take stocks down more than might be justified by the fundamental news. We see this latest pullback as normal within the context of an ongoing and powerful bull market and do not see its causes (European and Chinese growth concerns, the rise of Islamic State militants, Ebola, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, etc.) as justifying something much bigger.

The S&P 500 has now experienced 19 pullbacks during this 5.5-year-old bull market, during which the index has risen by 182% (cumulative return of 217% including dividends). The 1990s bull market included 13 pullbacks; there were 12 during the 2002 – 2007 bull market. At an average of three to four pullbacks per year, we are in-line with history. We understand the nervousness out there, but what we have just experienced looks pretty normal at this point.

When volatility has been so low for so long, normal volatility does not feel normal. Investors have become unaccustomed to what we would characterize as normal volatility. While most of the 5% drop came in a short period of time last week (October 6 –10), the level of volatility experienced last week is not at all uncommon within an ongoing economic expansion and bull market. Volatility tends to pick up as the business cycle passes its midpoint, which we believe it has. Reaching this stage just took longer than many had expected during the current cycle.

Also, keep in mind that the 335 drop in the Dow Jones Industrials that we experienced on Thursday, October 9, 2014, is not as dramatic as it once was. That loss was less than 2%, with the Dow near 17,000 when it occurred, compared with 3 – 4% losses associated with that number of points on the Dow earlier in the recovery.

These pullbacks do not mean the end of the bull market is near, nor does the fact that we have not had a 10% or more correction since 2011. In fact, most bull markets since World War II included only one correction of 10% or more, and the current bull has already had two (2010 and 2011). We do not believe the current economic and financial market backdrop has sufficiently deteriorated for the pullback to turn into a bear market, as we discuss below.

Why This Pullback Is Unlikely to Get Much Worse

So why do we think this pullback is unlikely to turn into a bear market? There are number of reasons:

• The economic backdrop in the United States remains healthy. Gross domestic product (GDP) is growing at above its long-term average, providing support for continued earnings growth; the U.S. labor market has created 2 million jobs over the past year; and the drop in oil prices may support stronger consumer spending.
• Our favorite leading indicators, including the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI), the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Index, and the yield curve, suggest that the bull market may likely continue into 2015 and beyond, with a recession unlikely on the immediate horizon.
• The European Central Bank (ECB) is likely to add a dose of monetary stimulus to spark growth in Europe, the source of much of the global growth fears that have driven recent stock market weakness. China stands ready to invigorate its economy as well.
• Interest rates, and therefore borrowing costs for corporations, remain low. The Federal Reserve (Fed) is in no hurry to raise interest rates.
• Valuations have become more attractive. Price-to-earnings ratios (PE) have not reached levels that suggest the end of the bull market is forthcoming, based on history. We view PEs, which have fallen about 0.5 points from their recent peak, as reasonable given growing earnings and low interest rates.
• The S&P 500 is marginally above its 200-day moving average at 1905. Historically, this level has proven to be strong support. Although the index may dip slightly below this level in the near term, we expect the range around that level (1900 – 1910) to provide strong support for the index again and would not expect it to stay below that range for very long.

Bull Markets Don’t Die of Old Age

The current bull market is one of the most powerful ever at this stage, just over 5.5 years in. Since March 9, 2009, when the current bull market began, the S&P 500 has risen 182% (total cumulative return of 217%), topping all other bull markets since World War II at this stage. The 1949 and 1982 bull markets were close, with gains of 170% and 163% (respectively) at this stage, but were not quite as strong.

So does that mean that this bull market is too old and should end? We don’t think so. Bull markets die of excesses, not old age, and we do not see the excesses that characterize an impending bear market. The labor markets are not strong enough yet to generate significant upward pressure on wages to drive inflation. U.S. factories have excess capacity. As a result, the Fed is unlikely to start hiking interest rates until the middle of 2015, and rate hikes are likely to be gradual. It will likely take numerous hikes to slow the U.S. economy enough to tip it into recession (and invert the yield curve), which is unlikely to come until at least 2016. We do not see stock valuations or broad investor sentiment as excessive. We expect this bull market to complete its sixth year in March 2015 and believe there is a strong likelihood that it continues well beyond that date.

Conclusion
We do not believe the volatility seen in recent weeks, which is in-line with historical trends, is an early signal of a recession or bear market. Nor do we think the age of this bull market means it should end, given the favorable economic backdrop, central bank support, and reasonable valuations. Although we will continue to watch our favorite leading indicators for warning signs of something bigger, we think this latest bout of volatility is nothing more than a normal, though unwelcome, interruption within a long-term bull market. We maintain our positive outlook for stocks for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015.

Mike Moffit may be reached at phone# 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.

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. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Price-to-earnings ratio is a valuation ratio of a company’s current share price compared to its per-share earnings.
INDEX DESCRIPTIONS
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.

That First RMD from Your IRA

What you need to know.

When you reach age 70½, the IRS instructs you to start making withdrawals from your Traditional IRA(s). These IRA withdrawals are also called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). You will make them annually from now on.1

If you fail to take your annual RMD or take out less than what is required, the IRS will notice. You will not only owe income taxes on the amount not withdrawn, you will owe 50% more. (The 50% penalty can be waived if you can show the IRS that the shortfall resulted from a “reasonable error” instead of negligence.)1

Many IRA owners have questions about the options and rules related to their initial RMDs, so let’s answer a few.

How does the IRS define age 70½? Its definition is pretty straightforward. If your 70th birthday occurs in the first half of a year, you turn 70½ within that calendar year. If your 70th birthday occurs in the second half of a year, you turn 70½ during the subsequent calendar year.2

Your initial RMD has to be taken by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. All the RMDs you take in subsequent years must be taken by December 31 of each year.3

So, if you turned 70 during the first six months of 2014, you will be 70½ by the end of 2014 and you must take your first RMD by April 1, 2015. If you turn 70 in the second half of 2014, then you will be 70½ in 2015 and you don’t need to take that initial RMD until April 1, 2016.2

Is waiting until April 1 of the following year to take my first RMD a bad idea? The IRS allows you three extra months to take your first RMD, but it isn’t necessarily doing you a favor. Your initial RMD is taxable in the year it is taken. If you postpone it into the following year, then the taxable portions of both your first RMD and your second RMD must be reported as income on your federal tax return for that following year.2

An example: James and his wife Stephanie file jointly, and they earn $73,800 in 2014 (the upper limit of the 15% federal tax bracket). James turns 70½ in 2014, but he decides to put off his first RMD until April 1, 2015. Bad idea: this means that he will have to take two RMDs before 2015 ends. So his taxable income jumps in 2015 as a result of the dual RMDs, and it pushes them into a higher tax bracket for 2015. The lesson: if you will be 70½ by the time 2014 ends, take your initial RMD by the end of 2014 – it might save you thousands in taxes to do so.4

How do I calculate my first RMD? IRS Publication 590 is your resource. You calculate it using IRS life expectancy tables and your IRA balance on December 31 of the previous year. For that matter, if you Google “how to calculate your RMD” you will see links to RMD worksheets at irs.gov and free RMD calculators provided by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Kiplinger, Bankrate and others.2,5

If your spouse is at least 10 years younger than you and happens to be designated as the sole beneficiary for one or more IRAs you own, you should refer to Publication 590 instead of a calculator; the calculator may tell you that the RMD is larger than it actually is.6

If you have your IRA with one of the big investment firms, it might calculate your RMD for you and offer to route the amount into another account that you specify. Unless you state otherwise, it will withhold taxes on the amount of the RMD as required by law and give you and the IRS a 1099-R form recording the income distribution.2,5

When I take my RMD, do I have to withdraw the whole amount? No. You can also take it in smaller, successive withdrawals. Your IRA custodian may be able to schedule them for you.3

What if I have multiple traditional IRAs?
You then figure out your total RMD by adding up the total of all of your traditional IRA balances on December 31 of the prior year. This total is the basis for the RMD calculation. You can take your RMD from a single IRA or multiple IRAs.1

What if I have a Roth IRA? If you are the original owner of that Roth IRA, you don’t have to take any RMDs. Only inherited Roth IRAs require RMDs.2

It doesn’t pay to wait. At the end of 2013, Fidelity Investments found that 14% of IRA owners required to take their first RMD hadn’t yet done so – they were putting it off until early 2014. Another 40% had withdrawn less than the required amount by December 31. Avoid their behaviors, if you can: when it comes to your initial RMD, procrastination can invite higher-than-normal taxes and a risk of forgetting the deadline.2

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 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 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Required-Minimum-Distributions [7/3/14]
2 – tinyurl.com/ktabwnv [3/30/14]
3 – schwab.com/public/schwab/investing/retirement_and_planning/understanding_iras/withdrawals_and_distributions/age_70_and_a_half_and_over [9/11/14]
4 – bankrate.com/finance/taxes/tax-brackets.aspx [9/11/14]
5 – google.com/search?q=how+to+calculate+your+RMD&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb [9/11/14]
6 – kiplinger.com/tool/retirement/T032-S000-minimum-ira-distribution-calculator-what-is-my-min/ [1/14]

The A, B, C, & D of Medicare

Breaking down the basics & what each part covers.

Whether your 65th birthday is on the horizon or decades away, you should understand the parts of Medicare – what they cover, and where they come from.

Parts A & B: Original Medicare. America created a national health insurance program for seniors in 1965 with two components. Part A is hospital insurance. It provides coverage for inpatient stays at medical facilities. It can also help cover the costs of hospice care, home health care and nursing home care – but not for long, and only under certain parameters.1

Seniors are frequently warned that Medicare will only pay for a maximum of 100 days of nursing home care (provided certain conditions are met). Part A is the part that does so. Under current rules, you pay $0 for days 1-20 of skilled nursing facility (SNF) care under Part A. During days 21-100, a $152 daily coinsurance payment may be required of you.3

If you stop receiving SNF care for 30 days, you need a new 3-day hospital stay to qualify for further nursing home care under Part A. If you can go 60 days in a row without SNF care, the clock resets: you are once again eligible for up to 100 days of SNF benefits via Part A.3

If you have had Medicare taxes withheld from your paycheck for at least 40 calendar quarters during your lifetime, you will get Part A coverage for free.1

Part B is medical insurance and helps pick up some of the tab for outpatient care, physician services, expenses for durable medical equipment (scooters, wheelchairs), and other medical services such as lab tests and varieties of health screenings.1,2

Part B isn’t free. You pay monthly premiums to get it and a yearly deductible (plus 20% of costs). The premiums vary according to the Medicare recipient’s income level; in 2014, most Medicare recipients pay $104.90 a month for their Part B coverage. The current yearly deductible is $147. Some people automatically get Part B, but others have to sign up for it.2,4

Part C: Medicare Advantage plans. Insurance companies offer these Medicare-approved plans. Part C plans offer seniors all the benefits of Part A and Part B and a great deal more: most feature prescription drug coverage and many include hearing, vision, dental, and fitness benefits. To enroll in a Part C plan, you need have Part A and Part B coverage in place. To keep up your Part C coverage, you must keep up your payment of Part B premiums as well as your Part C premiums.2

To say not all Part C plans are alike is an understatement. Provider networks, premiums, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket spending limits can all vary widely, so shopping around is wise. During Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7), seniors can choose to switch out of Original Medicare to a Part C plan or vice versa, although any such move is much wiser with a Medigap policy already in place.5

How does a Medigap plan differ from a Part C plan? Medigap plans (also called Medicare Supplement plans) emerged to address the gaps in Part A and Part B coverage. If you have Part A and Part B already in place, a Medigap policy can pick up some copayments, coinsurance and deductibles for you. Some Medigap policies can even help you pay for medical care outside the United States. You have to pay Part B premiums in addition to Medigap plan premiums to keep a Medigap policy in effect.6

Medigap plans now look like poor cousins of Part C plans. In fact, seniors haven’t been able to buy a Medigap policy offering prescription drug coverage since 2005.6

Part D: prescription drug plans. While Part C plans commonly offer prescription drug coverage, insurers also sell Part D plans as a standalone product to those with Original Medicare. As per Medigap and Part C coverage, you need to keep paying Part B premiums in addition to premiums for the drug plan to keep Part D coverage going.1,2

Every Part D plan has a formulary, a list of medications covered under the plan. Most Part D plans rank approved drugs into tiers by cost. The good news is that Medicare’s website will determine the best Part D plan for you. Go to medicare.gov/find-a-plan to start your search; enter your medications and the website will do the legwork for you.7

Part C & Part D plans are assigned ratings. Medicare annually rates these plans (one star being worst, five stars being best) according to member satisfaction, provider network(s) and quality of coverage. As you search for a plan at medicare.gov, you also have a chance to check out the rankings.8

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 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 – dailyfinance.com/2013/05/14/medicare-explained-part-a-b-c-d/ [5/14/13]
2 – info.tuftsmedicarepreferred.org/medicare-matters-blog/bid/74844/Medicare-Part-A-B-C-and-D-What-does-it-all-mean [10/1/13]
3 – medicare.gov/coverage/skilled-nursing-facility-care.html [9/17/14]
4 – medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-costs.html [9/17/14]
5 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan.html#collapse-3192 [9/17/14]
6 – medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/medigap/whats-medigap.html [9/17/14]
7 – medicare.gov/part-d/coverage/part-d-coverage.html [9/17/14]
8 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/five-star-enrollment/5-star-enrollment-period.html [9/17/14]