Articles for April 2018

Financing a College Education

A primer for parents and grandparents.

A university education can often require financing and assuming debt. If your student fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and does not qualify for a Pell Grant or other kinds of help, and has no scholarship offers, what do you do? You probably search for a student loan.

A federal loan may make much more sense than a private loan. Federal student loans tend to offer kinder repayment terms and lower interest rates than private loans, so for many students, they are a clear first choice. The interest rate on a standard federal direct loan is 4.45%. Subsidized direct loans, which undergraduates who demonstrate financial need can arrange, have no interest so long as the student maintains at least half-time college enrollment.1,2

Still, federal loans have borrowing limits, and those limits may seem too low. A freshman receiving financial support from parents may only borrow up to $5,500 via a federal student loan, and an undergrad getting no financial assistance may be lent a maximum of $57,500 before receiving a bachelor’s degree. (That ceiling falls to $23,000 for subsidized direct loans.) So, some families take out private loans as supplements to federal loans, even though it is hard to alter payment terms of private loans in a financial pinch.1,2

You can use a student loan calculator to gauge what the monthly payments may be. There are dozens of them available online. A standard college loan has a 10-year repayment period, meaning 120 monthly payments. A 10-year, $30,000 federal direct loan with a 4% interest rate presents your student with a monthly payment of $304 and eventual total payments of $36,448 given interest. The same loan, at a 6% interest rate, leaves your student with a $333 monthly payment and total payments of $39,967. (The minimum monthly payment on a standard student loan, if you are wondering, is typically $50.)3

When must your student start repaying the loan? Good question. Both federal and private student loans offer borrowers a 6-month grace period before the repayment phase begins. The grace period, however, does not necessarily start at graduation. If a student with a federal loan does not maintain at least half-time enrollment, the grace period for the loan will begin. (Perkins loans have a 9-month grace period; the grace period for Stafford loans resets once the student resumes half-time enrollment.) Grace periods on private loans begin once a student graduates or drops below half-time enrollment, with no reset permitted.

What if your student cannot pay the money back once the grace period ends? If you have a private student loan, you have a problem – and a very tough, and perhaps fruitless, negotiation ahead of you. If you have a federal student loan, you may have a chance to delay or lower those loan repayments.3

An unemployed borrower can request deferment of federal student loan payments. A borrower can also request forbearance, a deferral due to financial emergencies or hardships. Interest keeps building up on the loan balance during a forbearance, though.1

At the moment, federal student loans can be forgiven through two avenues. The first, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) program, requires at least 10 years of public service, government, or non-profit employment, or at least 120 student loan payments already made from the individual. The second avenue, income-driven repayment plans, first lowers the monthly payment and extends the payment timeline based on what the borrower earns. If the balance is finally forgiven, the loan forgiveness is seen by the Internal Revenue Service as taxable income. (If you have student loan debt forgiven via the PLSF, no taxes have to be paid on the amount.)1,3

Consult financial aid officers and high school guidance counselors before you borrow. Get to know them; request their knowledge and insight. They have helped other families through the process, and they are ready to try and help yours.

Lastly, avoid draining the Bank of Mom & Dad. If your student needs to finance a college education, remember that this financial need should come second to your need to save for retirement. Your student has a chance to arrange a college loan; you do not have a chance to arrange a retirement loan.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph#641-641-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

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.

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.

Citations.

1 – nbcnews.com/better/business/student-loan-debt-what-kids-their-parents-need-know-ncna865336 [4/12/18]

2 – www2.cuny.edu/financial-aid/student-loans/federal-direct-loans/ [4/19/18]

3 – credible.com/blog/refinance-student-loans/how-much-will-you-actually-pay-for-a-30k-student-loan/ [12/4/17]

4 – discover.com/student-loans/repayment/student-loans-semester-off.html [8/3/17]

Wills & Trusts

The foundation of your rock-solid estate plan.

For so many of us, family is paramount. You probably expect to use your wealth to take care of your family in the here and now—health care, travel, college tuition and the like. But chances are you haven’t thought nearly as much about positioning your assets so they’re ready and able to help the people you love after you’re gone. Even if you have made some headway in this area, your plan for your estate is probably a little—and maybe a lot—out of date.

If that describes your situation, don’t fret. Even if you have many moving parts to your finances, you can get on track by focusing on two main areas of estate planning: wills and trusts. Here’s how to do it.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Read this next sentence three times in a row: Everyone should have a will.

Got it? A will should be the basic foundation of every estate plan—the starting point for a well-conceived strategy to transfer assets at death.

A will identifies precisely what you want to have happen to your assets and estate. Dying without a will means you have decided that the state knows what’s best for you and your family. In addition, dying without a will means you want to make the settling of your estate as difficult, as costly and as public as possible.

As with any decision, there are both positives and negatives to a will. That said, we strongly believe the benefits of writing a will far outweigh the drawbacks.

Is a trust for you?

  1. Are your beneficiaries unwilling or unable to handle the responsibilities of an outright gift (investing the assets, spending the gift wisely, etc.)?
  2. Do you want to keep the amount and the ways your assets are distributed to heirs a secret?
  3. Do you want to delay or restrict the ownership of the assets by the beneficiary?
  4. Do you need to provide protection from your and/or your beneficiary’s creditors and plaintiffs?
  5. Do you want to lower your estate taxes?

 If you answered “yes” to any of the five questions, you may find it beneficial to set up a trust.

Advantages:

  • You decide on the disposition of your hard-earned wealth.
  • Estate taxes are mitigated—especially when the will is part of a broader estate plan.
  • You specify who the fiduciaries will be.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to accept that one day—far in the future—you just might die.
  • There is a legal cost associated with writing up a will and with estate planning.

Trust in trusts

The second component of a smart estate plan is often a trust. A trust is nothing more than a means of transferring property to a third party—the trust. Specifically, a trust lets you transfer title of your assets to trustees for the benefit of the people you want to take care of—aka your selected beneficiaries. The trustee will carry out your wishes on behalf of your beneficiaries.

WILLS AND TRUSTS COMPARED 

Broadly speaking, there are two types of trusts: living (established while you are alive) and testamentary (created by your will after you’ve passed). Living trusts are becoming more and more popular to avoid the cost of probate. In the probate process, your representatives “prove” the validity of your will. The probate process also gives any creditors the opportunity to collect their due before your estate is passed to your heirs. There may be a long delay in settling your estate as it goes through probate. To add salt to the wound, probate can be costly. 

A living trust can avoid or mitigate the effects of probate. It is a revocable trust that you establish and of which you are also typically the sole trustee. The assets in your living trust avoid probate at death, and are instead distributed to your heirs according to your wishes.

Living trusts are sometimes said to be superior to a will, but that is certainly not the case for everyone. It’s important that you understand how they compare.

Comparing Wills and Living Trusts

Wills Living Trusts
Are viable only at death. Can have uses while you’re alive.
Are public. Are private.
Are not very good when you’re dealing with more than one state. Are good in every state and not encumbered by states.
Must go through probate. Can generally avoid probate.
Are less expensive to put in place. Are more expensive to put in place and administer.

Is a living trust for you? It depends on your particular situation. Nevertheless, you should certainly consider it in consultation with your legal advisor or wealth manager.

Your next move

We recommend that your estate plan be reviewed every year or two. The review should be conducted by a high-caliber wealth manager or tax professional—one who takes the time to learn what’s changed since you put your solutions in place, assess how those changes might impact your strategy, and make recommendations for getting your solutions current and in accordance with your wishes.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the BSW Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2017 by AES Nation, LLC.

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 article is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice.

 

 

Avoid These Life Insurance Missteps

Shop wisely when you look for coverage.

Are you about to buy life insurance? Shop carefully. Make your choice with insight from an insurance professional, as it may help you avoid some of these all-too-common missteps.

Buying the first policy you see. Anyone interested in life insurance should take the time to compare a few plans – not only their rates, but also their coverage terms. Supply each insurer you are considering with a quote containing the exact same information about yourself.1

Buying only on price. Inexpensive life insurance is not necessarily great life insurance. If your household budget prompts you to shop for a bargain, be careful – you could end up buying less coverage than your household really needs.1  

Buying a term policy when a permanent one might be better (and vice versa). A term policy (which essentially offers life insurance coverage for 5-30 years) may make sense if you just want to address some basic insurance needs. If you see life insurance as a potential estate planning tool or a vehicle for building wealth over time, a permanent life policy might suit those ambitions.1  

Failing to inform heirs that you have a policy. Believe it or not, some people buy life insurance policies and never manage to tell their beneficiaries about them. If a policy is small and was sold many years ago to an association or credit union member (i.e., burial insurance), it may be forgotten with time.2

Did you know that more than $7 billion in life insurance death benefits have yet to be claimed? That figure may not shrink much in the future, because insurers have many things to do other than search for “lost” policies on behalf of beneficiaries. To avoid such a predicament, be sure to give your beneficiaries a copy of your policy.2

Failing to name a beneficiary at all. Designating a beneficiary upon buying a life insurance policy accomplishes two things: it tells the insurer where you want the death benefit to go, and it directs that death benefit away from your taxable estate after your passing.3 

Waiting too long to buy coverage. Later in life, you may learn you have a serious medical condition or illness. You can certainly buy life insurance with a pre-existing health condition, but the policy premiums may be much larger than you would prefer. The insurer might also cap the policy amount at a level you find unsatisfactory. If you purchase a guaranteed acceptance policy, keep in mind that it will probably take 2-3 years before that policy is in full force. Should you pass away in the interim, your beneficiaries will probably not collect the policy’s death benefit; instead, they may receive the equivalent of the premiums you have paid plus interest.3

Not realizing that permanent life insurance policies expire. Have you read stories about seniors “outliving” their life insurance coverage? It can happen. Living to be 90 or 100 is not so extraordinary as it once was.3

Permanent life insurance products come with maturity dates, and for years, 85 was a common maturity date. If you live long enough, you could outlive your policy. The upside of doing so is that you will receive a payout from the insurer, which may correspond to the policy’s cash value at the maturity date. The downside of outliving your policy? If you want further insurance coverage, it may not be obtainable – or it could be staggeringly expensive.3

Take your time when you look for life insurance, and compare your options. The more insight you can draw on, the more informed the choice you may make.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com           

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.

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.

     Citations.

1 – smartasset.com/life-insurance/5-mistakes-to-avoid-when-buying-life-insurance [4/11/18]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/saving/T063-C032-S014-could-unclaimed-money-be-yours.html [10/13/17]

3 – nasdaq.com/article/4-errors-to-avoid-with-your-life-insurance-cm868133 [10/30/17]

 

Annuities for Retirement Income

What prospective annuity holders should consider.

Imagine an income stream you cannot outlive. This may be an appealing benefit for most annuities. If you are interested in steady retirement income (and the potential to defer taxes), you might want to look at the potential offered by annuities. Before making the leap, however, you should understand how they work.

Just what is an annuity? It is an income contract you arrange with an insurance company. You provide a lump sum or continuing contributions to fund the contract; in return, the insurer agrees to pay you a specific amount of money in the future, usually per month. If you are uncomfortable developing an income plan on your own or do not have time, annuities may appear very attractive options. While there are different kinds of annuities available with a myriad of riders and options that can be attached, the basic annuity choices are easily explained.2

Annuities can be either immediate or deferred. With an immediate annuity, payments to you begin shortly after the inception of the income contract. With a deferred annuity, you make regular contributions to the annuity, which accumulate on a tax-deferred basis for a set number of years (called the accumulation phase) before the payments to you begin.1,2

Annuities can be fixed or variable. Fixed annuities pay out a fixed amount on a recurring basis. With variable annuities, the payment can vary: these investments do essentially have a toe in the stock market. The insurer places some of the money that you direct into the annuity into suitable investments, attempting to capture some of the upside of the market, while promising to preserve your capital. Some variable annuities come with a guaranteed income benefit option: a pledge from the insurer to provide at least a certain level of income to you.1,3

In addition, some annuities are indexed. These annuities can be either fixed or variable; they track the performance of a stock index (often, the S&P 500), and receive a credit linked to its performance. For example, if the linked index gains 8% in a year, the indexed annuity may return 4%. Why is the return less than the actual index return? It is because the insurer usually makes you a trade-off: it promises contractually that you will get at least a minimum guaranteed return during the early years of the annuity contract.3

Annuities require a long-term commitment. Insurance companies expect annuity contracts to last for decades; they have built their business models with this presumption in mind. So, if you change your mind and decide to cancel an annuity contract a few years after it begins, you may have to pay a surrender charge – in effect, a penalty. (Most insurance companies will let you withdraw 10-15% of the money in your annuity without penalty in an emergency.) Federal tax law also discourages you from withdrawing money from an annuity – if the withdrawal happens before you are 59½, you are looking at a 10% early withdrawal penalty just like the ones for traditional IRAs and workplace retirement accounts.1,3

Annuities can have all kinds of “bells and whistles.” Some offer options to help you pay for long-term are. Some set the length of the annuity contract, with a provision that if you die before the contract ends, the balance remaining in your annuity will go to your estate. In fact, some annuities work like joint-and-survivor pensions: when an annuity owner dies, payments continue to his or her spouse. (Generally, the more guarantees, riders, and options you attach to an annuity, the lower your income payments may be.)1

Deferred annuities offer you the potential for great tax savings. The younger you are when you arrange a deferred annuity contract, the greater the possible tax savings. A deferred annuity has the quality of a tax shelter: its earnings grow without being taxed, they are only taxable once you draw an income stream from the annuity. If you start directing money into a deferred annuity when you are relatively young, that money can potentially enjoy many years of tax-free compounding. Also, your contributions to an annuity may lower your taxable income for the year(s) in which you make them. While annuity income is regular taxable income, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket in retirement than when you worked.1

Please note that annuities come with minimums and fees. The fee to create an annuity contract is often high when compared to the fees for establishing investment accounts – sometimes as high as 5-6%. Annuities typically call for a minimum investment of at least $5,000; realistically, an immediate annuity demands a five- or six-figure initial investment.3

No investment is risk free, but an annuity may offer an intriguing investment choice for the risk averse. If you are seeking an income-producing investment that attempts to either limit or minimize risk, annuities may be worth considering.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com           

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.

*Fixed and Variable annuities are suitable for long-term investing, such as retirement investing. Gains from tax deferred investments are taxable as ordinary income upon withdrawal. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company. Withdrawals made prior to age 59 ½ are subject to a 10% IRS penalty tax and surrender charges may apply. Variable annuities are subject to market risk and may lose value.

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.    

Citations.

1 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/063005.asp [1/2/18]

2 – forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2018/01/04/annuities-explained-in-plain-english/#626afc215bd6 [1/4/18]

3 – apps.suzeorman.com/igsbase/igstemplate.cfm?SRC=MD012&SRCN=aoedetails&GnavID=20&SnavID=29&TnavID&AreasofExpertiseID=107 [3/6/18]

 

 

When Gadgets Get on Your Nerves

How tech can make retirement harder for some couples.

In some retiree households, technology can cause friction. Maybe one spouse or partner is tech-savvy, while the other is not. Maybe one spouse or partner overshares on social media, to the other’s dismay. Or, one or both parties use their phones, tablets, or computers as distractions from relationship issues. According to a new Oxford University study, couples that frequently used five or more electronic communication channels reported 14% less satisfaction in their relationships than couples less reliant on them.

If too much tech is making your retired life harder instead of easier, think about these steps. Set aside some unplugged time – no screens at dinner, for example. Talk to your spouse or partner in person rather than via text. Affirm your spouse or partner in what you post, instead of merely including him or her. A lack of face-to-face engagement can make someone feel lonely and detached, but a good and open conversation can bring couples closer.2

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

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.

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.

CITATIONS

2 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/03/08/how-tech-can-make-retirement-harder-for-couples/ [3/8/18]

What Should You Keep?

Even with less itemizing, there are still tax documents you want to retain for years to come.

Fewer taxpayers are itemizing in the wake of federal tax reforms. You may be one of them, and you may be wondering how many receipts, forms, and records you need to hold onto for the future. Is it okay to shred more of them? Maybe not.

The Internal Revenue Service has not changed its viewpoint. It still wants you to keep a copy of this year’s 1040 form (and the supporting documents) for at least three years. If you somehow fail to report some income, or file a claim for a loss related to worthless securities or bad debt deduction, make that six years or longer. (It also wants you to keep employment tax records for at least four years.)1

Insurers or creditors may want you to keep records around longer than the I.R.S. recommends – especially if they concern property transactions. For the record, the I.R.S. advises you to keep documents linked to a property acquisition until the year when you sell the property, so you can do the math necessary to figure capital gains or losses and depreciation, amortization, and depletion deductions.1

Can you scan documents for future reference and cut down the clutter? Yes. The I.R.S. says that legibly scanned documents are acceptable to its auditors. It wants to you keep digitized versions of paper records for as long as you would keep the hard-copy equivalents. Assuming you back them up, digital records may be more durable than hard copies; after all, ink on receipts frequently fades with time.2

While many itemized deductions are gone, many records are worth keeping. Take the records related to investment transactions. It is true that since 2011, U.S. brokerage firms have routinely tracked the cost basis of equity investments purchased by their clients, to help their clients figure capital gains. Some of the biggest investment providers, like Fidelity and Vanguard, have records for brokerage transactions going back to the 1990s. Even so, errors are occasionally made. Why not save your year-end account statement (or digital trading notifications) to be safe? In addition, you will certainly want to keep any records related to Roth IRA conversions (which as of the 2018 tax year can no longer be recharacterized).3,4,5

The paper trail pertaining to health care should also be retained. In 2018, you can deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (the threshold is scheduled to rise to 10% in 2019).4,5

Some records really should be kept for decades. Documentation for mortgages, education loans, loans from a retirement plan at work, and loans from an insurance policy should be retained even after the loan is paid back. Documentation pertaining to a divorce should probably be kept for the rest of your life, along with paperwork related to life insurance. You should also keep copies of property and casualty insurance policies, receipts of expenses for home repair or upgrades, and inventories of valuable and moderately valuable items at your home or business.

The big picture of personal financial recordkeeping has not changed much. It is still wise to keep records pertaining to financial, health care, insurance, and real estate matters for at least a few years, and perhaps much longer.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

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.

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.

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-long-should-i-keep-records [2/23/18]

2 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/tax-planning-and-checklists/keeping-good-tax-records/L61fGcXtc [3/15/18]

3 – nytimes.com/2018/02/23/your-money/financial-documents-you-should-keep.html [2/23/18]

4- turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/health-care/can-i-claim-medical-expenses-on-my-taxes/L1htkVqq9 [3/15/18]

5- irs.gov/retirement-plans/ira-faqs-recharacterization-of-ira-contributions [1/23/18]