Articles for November 2014

Financial Considerations for 2015

Is it time to make a few alterations for the near future?

2015 is less than two months away. Fall is the time when investors look for ways to lower their taxes and make some financial changes. This is an ideal time to schedule a meeting with a financial, tax or estate planning professional.

How do economists see next year unfolding? Morningstar sees 2.0-2.5% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the U.S. for 2015, with housing, export growth, wage growth, very low interest rates and continuing vitality of energy-dependent industries as key support factors. It sees the jobless rate in a 5.4-5.7% range and annualized inflation running between 1.8-2.0%. Fitch is far more optimistic, envisioning U.S. GDP at 3.1% for 2015 compared to 1.3% for the eurozone and Japan. (Fitch projects China’s economy slowing to 6.8% growth next year as India’s GDP improves dramatically to 6.5%.)1,2

The Wall Street Journal’s Economic Forecasting Survey projects America’s GDP at 2.8% for both 2015 and 2016 and sees slightly higher inflation for 2015 than Morningstar (with the Consumer Price Index rising at an annualized 2.0-2.2%). The Journal has the jobless rate at 5.9% by the end of this year and at 5.5% by December 2015.3

The WSJ numbers roughly correspond to the Federal Reserve’s outlook: the Fed sees 2.6-3.0% growth and 5.4-5.6% unemployment next year. A National Association for Business Economics (NABE) poll projects 2015 GDP of 2.9% with the jobless rate at 5.6% by next December.4

What might happen with interest rates? In the Journal’s consensus forecast, the federal funds rate will hit 0.47% by June 2015 and 1.17% by December 2015. NABE’s forecast merely projects it at 0.845% as next year concludes. That contrasts with Fed officials, who see it in the range of 1.25-1.50% at the end of 2015.3,4

Speaking of interest rates, here is the WSJ consensus projection for the 10-year Treasury yield: 3.24% by next June, then 3.58% by the end of 2015. The latest WSJ survey also sees U.S. home prices rising 3.3% for 2015 and NYMEX crude at $93.67 a barrel by the end of next year.3

Can you put a little more into your IRA or workplace retirement plan? You may put up to $5,500 into a traditional or Roth IRA for 2014 and up to $6,500 if you are 50 or older this year, assuming your income levels allow you to do so. (Or you can spread that maximum contribution across more than one IRA.) Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible to varying degree. The contribution limit for participants in 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans is $17,500 for 2014, with a $5,500 catch-up contribution allowed for those 50 and older. (The IRS usually sets next year’s contribution levels for these plans in late October.)5

Should you go Roth in 2015? If you have a long time horizon to let your IRA grow, have the funds to pay the tax on the conversion, and want your heirs to inherit tax-free distributions from your IRA, it may be worth it.

Are you thinking about an IRA rollover? You should know about IRS Notice 2014-54, which lets taxpayers make “split” IRA rollovers of employer-sponsored retirement plan assets under more favorable tax conditions. If you have a workplace retirement account with a mix of pre-tax and after-tax dollars in it, you can now roll the pre-tax funds into a traditional IRA and the after-tax funds into a Roth IRA and have it all count as one distribution rather than two. Also, the IRS is dropping the pro rata tax treatment of such rollover amounts. (Under the old rules, if you were in a qualified retirement plan and rolled $80,000 in pre-tax dollars into a traditional IRA and $20,000 in after-tax dollars into a Roth IRA, 80% of the dollars going into the Roth would be taxed under the pro-rated formula.) The tax liability that previously went with such “split” distributions has been eliminated. The new rules on this take effect January 1, but IRS guidance indicates that taxpayers may apply the rules to rollovers made as early as September 18, 2014.6  

Can you harvest portfolio losses before 2015? Through tax loss harvesting – dumping the losers in your portfolio – you can claim losses equaling any capital gains recognized in a tax year, and you can claim up to $3,000 in additional losses beyond that, which can offset dividend, interest and wage income. If your losses exceed that limit, they can be carried over into future years. It is a good idea to do this before December, as that will give you the necessary 30 days to purchase any shares should you wish.7

Should you wait on a major financial move until 2015? Is there a chance that your 2014 taxable income could jump as a consequence of exercising a stock option, receiving a bonus at work, or accepting a lump sum payout? Are you thinking about buying new trucks or cars for your company, or a buying a building? The same caution applies to capital investments.

Look at tax efficiency in your portfolio. You may want to put income-producing investments inside an IRA, for example, and direct investments with lesser tax implications into brokerage accounts.

Finally, do you need to change your withholding status? If major change has come to your personal or financial life, it might be time. If you have married or divorced, if a family member has passed away, if you are self-employed now or have landed a much higher-salaried job, or if you either pay a lot of tax or get unusually large IRS or state refunds, review your current withholding with your tax preparer.

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.

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

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 – news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=666682&SR=Yahoo  [9/29/14]

2 – 247wallst.com/economy/2014/09/30/downside-risks-to-global-gdp-growth/ [9/30/14]

3 – projects.wsj.com/econforecast [9/30/14]

4 – blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/09/29/business-economists-see-lower-interest-rates-than-the-fed-sees-in-late-2015/ [9/29/14]

5 – shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/2014-irs-401k-contribution-limits.aspx [11/1/13]

6 – lifehealthpro.com/2014/09/30/irs-blesses-split-401k-rollovers [9/30/14]

7 – dailyfinance.com/2013/09/09/tax-loss-selling-dont-wait-december-dump-losers/ [9/9/13]

Mike’s Chili

Here’s a special recipe from Mike Moffitt himself to help ward off this cold weather.  Prepare for your family and friends, then enjoy!

1 can red kidney beans                           1 large baked, peeled & diced potato
1 can red beans                                      ¼ tsp. garlic
1 can chili beans                                     2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ lbs. hamburger (browned/drained)  1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato soup                                  ¼ tsp. MSG
1 can vegetable soup                             ¼ tsp. dry mustard
2 T. chili powder                                     1/3 C. ketchup
1 bay leaf                                               1 T. lemon juice
1 T. salt                                                  1/3 C. brown sugar
1 C. onion (chopped)                             1 C. (or more) water

Blend all ingredients in a Dutch oven and simmer several hours. (You can also substitute macaroni in place of the potato.)

IRS Raises Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

Roth & traditional IRAs won’t get 2015 COLAs, but other plans will.

A little inflation means a little adjustment. As the Consumer Price Index is up 1.7% over the last 12 months, the federal government is giving Social Security benefits a 1.7% boost for 2015 and lifting annual contribution limits on key pension plans as well.1

401(k), 403(b), 457 & TSP annual contribution limits increase by $500. You will be able to defer up to $18,000 into these plans in 2015. The catch-up contribution limit will also rise by $500 to $6,000 next year, so if you are 50 or older in 2015 you are eligible to contribute up to $24,000 to these retirement savings vehicles. (The above adjustments do not apply to all 457 plans.)2

SIMPLE IRAs get a similar COLA. Their base contribution and catch-up contribution limits also go up $500 for 2015. The limit for the base contribution will be $12,500 next year, and the catch-up limit rises to $3,000.3

Limits also rise for SEP-IRAs and Solo(k)s. Small business owners will want to take note of the new maximum deferral amount of $53,000 for 2015, a $1,000 increase. As for the compensation limit factored into the savings calculation, that limit will be $265,000 next year, $5,000 more than the 2014 limit. A side note: the threshold for an employee to be included in a SEP plan goes up $50 to $600 next year (i.e., that worker has to receive $550 or more in compensation from your business in 2015).2,3

Take note of the slightly higher phase-out range for Roth IRA contributions. Next year, you won’t be able to make a Roth IRA contribution if your AGI exceeds $193,000 as a married couple filing jointly, or $131,000 should you be a single filer or head of household. Those figures are $2,000 above the 2014 eligibility thresholds. Joint filers with AGI of $183,001-193,000 and singles and heads of household with AGI of $116,001-131,000 will be able to make a partial rather than full Roth IRA contribution next year.3     

Phase-out ranges on the deduction of regular IRA contributions have also been altered. Here are the 2015 adjustments to these thresholds (this gets pretty involved). If you are a single filer or file as a head of household and you contribute to a traditional IRA and you are also covered by a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out range for you is $1,000 higher next year ($61,001-71,000). If you file jointly and contribute to a traditional IRA and are also covered by a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out range is $98,001-118,000. Above the high end of those phase-out ranges, you can’t claim a deduction for traditional IRA contributions.2

If you contribute to a traditional IRA and your employer doesn’t sponsor a retirement plan, yet your spouse contributes to a workplace retirement plan, the AGI phase-out on deductions of traditional IRA contributions strikes when your combined AGI ranges from $183,001-193,000.2

And if you are married, filing separately and covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range on deductions of traditional IRA contributions is $0-$10,000 (this never receives a COLA).2,3

AGI limits for the Saver’s Credit increase. Americans saving for retirement on modest incomes will be eligible for the credit next year if their AGI falls underneath certain thresholds: single filers and marrieds filing separately, adjusted gross income of $30,500 or less; heads of household, AGI of $45,750 or less; joint filers, $61,000 or less.3

Contribution limits for profit-sharing plans rise as per limits for 401(k)s. A participant in such a plan is looking at a 2015 elective deferral limit of $18,000 ($24,000 if s

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 or mikem@cfgiowa.com or 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 – tinyurl.com/lxbv6rq [10/21/14]

2 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Announces-2015-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$18,000-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2015 [10/23/14]

3 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/10/23/irs-announces-2015-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/ [10/23/14]

4 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/COLA-Increases-for-Dollar-Limitations-on-Benefits-and-Contributions [10/23/14]

he or he is old enough to make catch-up contributions). The yearly compensation limit on such plans will be $5,000 higher in 2015 at $265,000.4

 

How is Health Care Reform Affecting the Federal Deficit?

Some analysts think it is helping reduce the deficit; but others wholeheartedly disagree.

Has the Affordable Care Act actually cut Medicare spending? The numbers from the Congressional Budget Office make a pretty good argument for that, and suggest that the ACA has had a distinct hand in the recent drop in the federal deficit. Detractors of the ACA say that statistical argument doesn’t tell the whole story.

Medicare has been a major factor in the deficit’s expansion. Its cumulative cash flow deficits came to $1.5 trillion in the first decade of this century, according to the Congressional Budget Office; across the current decade, those cumulative cash flow deficits are projected to hit $6.2 trillion as more and more baby boomers become eligible.1

Admirers of the ACA contend that its technical changes (reductions in payments to some providers, simplified payment systems geared to holistic care, discouragement of hospital readmissions and greater use of generic drugs) are holding Medicare costs in check. These changes have led the CBO to hack 12% off its estimate for Medicare spending across 2011-20. In 2014 dollars, the federal government spent about $12,700 on Medicare per recipient in 2010; the CBO sees that declining to about $11,300 in 2019.2

In the big picture, the savings projects to $95 billion in Medicare’s 2019 budget. That is more than the projected 2019 federal outlay for welfare, unemployment insurance and Amtrak combined. It also means Medicare’s trust fund will now last until at least 2030 according to the Medicare Trustees.1,3

Does the ACA deserve all the credit? Not really, say its detractors. They argue that while health care spending and Medicare spending have slowed in the past few years, it isn’t because of the ACA’s changes. The counterargument posits that Medicare spending lessened as a consequence of the recession (and the shallow recovery that followed) and higher-deductible health plans that meant greater out-of-pocket costs for consumers.1

Another contention: lawmakers could have done much more to reduce Medicare spending all along, but backed off of that opportunity. When Congress passed the Balanced Budget Agreement in 1997, it authorized cuts in federal payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. These cuts (which would have significantly reduced Medicare spending) were supposed to occur in 2003, but Congress has postponed them 17 times since that date.1

Hasn’t the federal deficit declined anyway? It has, and it is also about to grow again. By the CBO’s estimate, the federal deficit for the current fiscal year will be $506 billion, equivalent to 2.9% of U.S. gross domestic product. At the turn of the decade, the deficit was above $1 trillion, corresponding to 9.8% of GDP. The CBO thinks that the deficit will rise again in two years, however, as an effect of increasing federal spending. As for the federal debt held by the public, it has risen 103% during the current administration.4

The deficit aside, the self-insured may pay cheaper premiums in 2015.
Preliminary research from the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the mean premium on “silver” plans (the popular and second-cheapest choice among standard plans) will decline 0.8% next year. The KFF’s per-city projections vary greatly, though. For example, it forecasts “silver” plan premiums dropping 15.6% in Denver next year and rising 8.7% in Nashville.4

Bottom line, the CBO sees less Medicare spending ahead. That will contribute to a reduction in the federal deficit, and whether the projected decline is attributable to economic or demographic factors or the changes stemming from the ACA, that is a good thing.

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 – forbes.com/sites/gracemarieturner/2014/10/07/its-time-to-end-the-doc-fix-dance-and-move-on-to-real-reform/ [10/7/14]
2 – nytimes.com/2014/08/28/upshot/medicare-not-such-a-budget-buster-anymore.html [8/28/14]
3 – washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/08/27/yes-obamacare-is-cutting-the-deficit/ [8/27/14]
4 – msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obama%E2%80%99s-numbers-october-2014-update/ar-BB7PQFw [10/6/14]