Articles for April 2016

Explaining the Basis of Inherited Real Estate

What is cost basis? Stepped-up basis? How does the home sale tax exclusion work?

At some point in our lives, we may inherit a home or another form of real property. In such instances, we need to understand some of the jargon involving inherited real estate. What does “cost basis” mean? What is a “step-up?” What is the home sale tax exclusion, and what kind of tax break does it offer?

Very few parents discuss these matters with their children before they pass away. Some prior knowledge of these terms may make things less confusing at a highly stressful time.

Cost basis is fairly easy to explain. It is the original purchase price of real estate plus certain expenses and fees incurred by the buyer, many of them detailed at closing. The purchase price is always the starting point for determining the cost basis; that is true whether the purchase is financed or all-cash. Title insurance costs, settlement fees, and property taxes owed by the seller that the buyer ends up paying can all become part of the cost basis.1

At the buyer’s death, the cost basis of the property is “stepped up” to its current fair market value. This step-up can cut into the profits of inheritors should they elect to sell. On the other hand, it can also reduce any income tax liability stemming from the transaction.2

Here is an illustration of stepped-up basis. Twenty years ago, Jane Smyth bought a home for $255,000. At purchase, the cost basis of the property was $260,000. Jane dies and her daughter Blair inherits the home. Its present fair market value is $459,000. That is Blair’s stepped-up basis. So if Blair sells the home and gets $470,000 for it, her complete taxable profit on the sale will be $11,000, not $210,000. If she sells the home for less than $459,000, she will take a loss; the loss will not be tax-deductible, as you cannot deduct a loss resulting from the sale of a personal residence.1

The step-up can reflect more than just simple property appreciation through the years. In fact, many factors can adjust it over time, including negative ones. Basis can be adjusted upward by the costs of home improvements and home additions (and even related tax credits received by the homeowner), rebuilding costs following a disaster, legal fees linked to property ownership, and expenses of linking utility lines to a home. Basis can be adjusted downward by property and casualty insurance payouts, allowable depreciation that comes from renting out part of a home or using part of a residence as a place of business, and any other developments that amount to a return of cost for the property owner.1

The Internal Revenue Code states that a step-up applies for real property “acquired by bequest, devise, or inheritance, or by the decedent’s estate from the decedent.” In plain English, that means the new owner of the property is eligible for the step-up whether the deceased property owner had a will or not.2

In a community property state, receipt of the step-up becomes a bit more complicated. If a married couple buys real estate in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin, each spouse is automatically considered to have a 50% ownership interest in said real property. (Alaska offers spouses the option of a community property agreement.) If a child or other party inherits that 50% ownership interest, that inheritor is usually entitled to a step-up. If at least half of the real estate in question is included in the decedent’s gross estate, the surviving spouse is also eligible for a step-up on his or her 50% ownership interest. Alternately, the person inheriting the ownership interest may choose to value the property six months after the date of the previous owner’s death (or the date of disposition of the property, if disposition occurred first).2,3

In recent years, there has been talk in Washington of curtailing the step-up. So far, such notions have not advanced toward legislation.4

What if a parent gifts real property to a child? The parent’s tax basis becomes the child’s tax basis. If the parent has owned that property for decades and the child cannot take advantage of the federal home sale tax exclusion, the capital gains tax could be enormous if the child sells the property.2

Who qualifies for the home sale tax exclusion? If individuals or married couples want to sell an inherited home, they can qualify for this big federal tax break once they have used that home as their primary residence for two years out of the five years preceding the sale. Upon qualifying, a single taxpayer may exclude as much as $250,000 of gain from the sale, with $500,000 being the limit for married homeowners filing jointly. If the home’s cost basis receives a step-up, the gain from the sale may be small, but this is still a nice tax perk to have.5

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 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/determining-your-homes-tax-basis.html [3/30/16]
2 – realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice1/item/34913-20150513-inherited-property-understanding-the-stepped-up-basis [5/13/15]
3 – irs.gov/irm/part25/irm_25-018-001.html
4 – blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2015/01/20/the-value-of-the-step-up-on-inherited-assets/ [1/20/15]
5 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/if-you-inherit-home-do-you-qualify-the-home-sale-tax-exclusion.html [3/31/16]

Could Social Security Really Go Away?

Just how gloomy does its future look?

Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? For years, Americans have been warned about that possibility. Those warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges.

Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1

Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees to working-age adults has changed. In 2010, the Census Bureau determined that there were about 21 seniors (people aged 65 or older) for every 100 workers. By 2030, the Bureau projects that there will be 35 seniors for every 100 workers.1

As payroll taxes fund Social Security, the program faces a major dilemma. Actually, it faces two.

Social Security maintains two trust funds. When you read a sentence stating that “Social Security could run out of money by 2035,” that statement refers to the projected shortfall of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust. The OASDI is the main reservoir of Social Security benefits, from which monthly payments are made to seniors. The latest Social Security Trustees report indeed concludes that the OASDI Trust could be exhausted by 2035 from years of cash outflows exceeding cash inflows.2,3

Congress just put a patch on Social Security’s other, arguably more pressing problem. Social Security’s Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund risked being unable to pay out 100% of scheduled benefits to SSDI recipients this year, but the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 directed a slightly greater proportion of payroll taxes funding Social Security into the DI trust for the short term. This should give the DI Trust enough revenue to pay out 100% of benefits through 2022. Funding it adequately after 2022 remains an issue.4

If the OASDI Trust is exhausted in 2035, what would happen to retirement benefits? They would decrease. Imagine Social Security payments shrinking 21%. If Congress does not act to remedy Social Security’s cash flow situation before then, Social Security Trustees forecast that a 21% cut may be necessary in 2035 to ensure payment of benefits through 2087.3

No one wants to see that happen, so what might Congress do to address the crisis? Three ideas in particular have gathered support.

*Raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, employers and employees each pay a 6.2% payroll tax to fund Social Security (the self-employed pay 12.4% of their earnings into the program). The earnings cap on the tax in 2016 is $118,500, so any earned income above that level is not subject to payroll tax. Lifting (or even abolishing) that cap would bring Social Security more payroll tax revenue, specifically from higher-income Americans.3

*Adjust the full retirement age. Should it be raised to 68? How about 70? Some people see merit in this, as many baby boomers may work and live longer than their parents did. In theory, it could promote longer careers and shorter retirements, and thereby lessen demand for Social Security benefits. Healthier and wealthier baby boomers might find the idea acceptable, but poorer and less healthy boomers might not.3

*Calculate COLAs differently. Social Security uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in figuring cost-of-living adjustments. Many senior advocates argue that the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) should be used instead. The CPI-E often gives more weight to health care expenses and housing costs than the CPI-W. Not only that, the CPI-E only considers the cost of living for people 62 and older. That last feature may also be its biggest drawback. Since it only includes some of the American population in its calculations, its detractors argue that it may not measure inflation as well as the broader CPI-W.3

Social Security could still face a shortfall even if all of these ideas were adopted. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that if all of these “fixes” were put into play today, the OASDI Trust would still face a revenue shortage in 2035.3

In future decades, Social Security may not be able to offer retirees what it does now, unless dramatic moves are made on Capitol Hill. In the worst-case scenario, monthly benefits would be cut to keep the program solvent. A depressing thought, but one worth remembering as you plan for the future.

Michael 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 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/06/16/the-youngest-baby-boomers-turn-50 [6/16/14]
2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/20/the-most-important-social-security-chart-youll-eve.aspx [3/20/16]
3 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/19/1-big-problem-with-the-3-most-popular-social-secur.aspx [3/19/16]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/crisis-in-social-security-disability-insurance-averted-but-not-gone-2015-11-30 [11/30/15]

Terrorism & the Financial Markets

Wall Street has the potential to recover quickly from geopolitical shocks.

In the past few months, the world has seen several high-profile terrorist attacks. Incidents in the U.S., Belgium, Pakistan, Lebanon, Russia, and France have claimed more than 500 lives and injured approximately 1,000 people. Beyond these incidents, many other deaths and injuries have been caused by terrorist bombings that garnered less media attention.1,2

As an anxious world worries about the ongoing threat posed by ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terror groups, there is also concern about the effect of such incidents on global financial markets. Wall Street, which has had a trying first quarter, hopes that such shocks will not prompt downturns. Even in such instances, history suggests that any damage to global shares might be temporary.

While geopolitical shocks tend to scare bulls, the effect is usually short-term. On September 11, 2001, the attack on America occurred roughly at the beginning of the market day. U.S. financial markets immediately closed (as they were a potential target) and remained shuttered the rest of that trading week. When Wall Street reopened, stocks fell sharply; the S&P 500 lost 11.6% and the Nasdaq Composite 16.1% in the week of September 17-21, 2001. Even so, the market rebounded. By October 11, the S&P had returned to the level it was at prior to the tragedy, and it continued to rise for the next few months.3,4

In the U.S., investors seemed only momentarily concerned by the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings. The S&P 500 fell 17.11 on that day, as part of a descent that had begun earlier in the month; just a few trading days later, it had gained back what it had lost.5

Perhaps you recall the London Underground bombing of July 7, 2005. That terror attack occurred on a trading day, but U.K. investors were not rattled; the FTSE 100 closed higher on July 8 and gained 21% for the year.4

Wall Street is remarkably resilient. Institutional investors ride through many of these disruptions with remarkable assurance. Investors (especially overseas investors) have acknowledged the threat of terrorism for decades, also realizing that it does not ordinarily impact whole economies or alter market climates for any sustained length of time.

You could argue that the events of fall 2008 panicked U.S. investors perhaps more than any geopolitical event in this century: the credit crisis, the collapse of Lehman Bros. and the troubles of Fannie, Freddie, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns snowballed to encourage the worst bear market in recent times.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, truly devastating New Orleans and impacting the whole Gulf Coast, it was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the nation. It did $108 billion in damage and took more than 1,200 lives. Yet on the day it slammed ashore, U.S. stocks rose 0.6% while global stocks were flat.4,6

The recent terror attacks in Belgium, Pakistan, and France have stunned us. Attacks like these can stun the financial markets as well, but the markets are capable of rebounding from their initial reaction.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at p# 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 – nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/25/world/map-isis-attacks-around-the-world.html [3/25/16]
2 – latimes.com/world/afghanistan-pakistan/la-fg-pakistan-lahore-children-20160328-story.html [3/28/16]
3 – tinyurl.com/pzwzrmb [11/14/15]
4 – moneyobserver.com/opinion/terrorism-terrorises-stocks-fishers-financial-mythbusters [10/22/15]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=3%2F11%2F04&x=34&y=18 [11/14/15]
6 – cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/ [8/23/15]

Retirement Now vs. Retirement Then

Today’s retirees must be more self-reliant than their predecessors.

Decades ago, retirement was fairly predictable: Social Security and a pension provided much of your income, you moved to the Sun Belt, played tennis or golf, and you lived to age 70 or 75.

To varying degrees, this was the American retirement experience during the last few decades of the previous century. Those days are gone; retirees must now assume greater degrees of financial self-reliance.

There is no private-pension safety net today. At one time, when Social Security was paired with a pension from a lifelong employer, a retiree could potentially enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. In January, the average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,341. The highest possible monthly benefit for someone retiring at Social Security’s full retirement age in 2016 is $2,787.80, or $33,453.60 a year. So in many areas of this country, living only on Social Security does not afford you the same lifestyle you may have had when you were working. Elders who thought they could rely on Social Security to get by have learned a bitter truth, one we should note. We must supplement Social Security with other income streams or sources.1,2,3,4

We carry more debt than our parents and grandparents did. It is much easier to borrow money (and live on margin) than it was decades ago. Some people face the prospect of retiring with outstanding student loans, car loans, and business loans, in addition to home loans.3

Some of us are retiring unmarried. With the divorce rate being where it is, some baby boomers will retire alone. Perhaps they will share a residence with a sibling, child, or friends; that may give them something of an economic cushion in terms of meeting daily living costs. Then again, some married households were single-income households in the 1970s and 1980s, but retirees managed.3 

We will probably live longer than our parents did. In 1985, the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old man in this country was 79; the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old woman was 84. Today, the average 65-year-old man is projected to live to 91, the average 65-year-old woman to 94. Our parents could depend on the combination of Social Security, pension income, and fixed-income vehicles for a 10-year or 15-year retirement. In contrast, many of us will have to try some growth investing to keep our money growing across a probable 20-year or 30-year retirement.4

We will likely have to insure ourselves if we retire before age 65. The national average retirement age (according to a SmartAsset study of Census Bureau data) is now 63. With private health insurance becoming the new normal, that means many of us will have to find some kind of private health coverage if we retire too young to be eligible for Medicare. Furthermore, the cost of many out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by Medicare is certainly greater than it once was.5

We must rise to the financial challenge retirement presents. During the 1980s, more than 40% of U.S. private sector employees participated in a pension plan designed to bring them eventual retirement income. In the middle of that decade, Social Security accounted for 65% of U.S. retiree income. Right now, 19% of private firms offer traditional pension plan programs and Social Security represents but 27% of retiree income.4

Our retirement will differ from that of our parents. It will likely be longer and arguably feature a better quality of life. Every aspect of our later years may become more comfortable, more bearable for ourselves and our loved ones. Retirement planning is one of the most valuable tools to assist you in realizing that goal.

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 – faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3736/What-is-the-average-monthly-benefit-for-a-retired-worker [2/17/16]

2 – faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3735/What-is-the-maximum-Social-Security-retirement-benefit-payable [2/18/16]

3 – blog.nsbank.com/retirement-planning-3/ [12/14/15]

4 – marketwatch.com/story/how-retirement-has-changed-in-the-last-30-years-2016-02-16 [2/16/16]

5 – smartasset.com/retirement/average-retirement-age-in-every-state [10/28/15]