Articles tagged with: IRA

Retirement Plan Trusts

These tools can shield inherited IRA assets from lawyers and creditors.

Inherited IRA assets are vulnerable in bankruptcy proceedings. Many older IRA owners and their beneficiaries do not realize this, but it is true.In Clark, et ux v. Rameker (2014), the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that inherited IRAs cannot be defined as “retirement funds” under federal bankruptcy law. They now lack the protection that retirement savings accounts commonly get in bankruptcy courts.1

So today, a longstanding estate planning dictum is being reevaluated. If you have non-spousal heirs who seem at risk for bankruptcy, you might want to leave your IRA to a trust.

 When IRA owners make this move, it is usually because they want a legal and financial firewall in place, i.e., the potential heir to the IRA is a minor or someone who is bad with money. Add protecting inherited IRA assets against creditors and lawyers to the list of objectives. Spouses can inherit IRA assets and receive creditor protection for those assets when they roll them into IRAs of their own, but federal tax law does not yet give other heirs that perk.2

Two types of retirement plan trusts exist to help shield inherited IRA assets. The first is the conduit trust. True to its name, the trust is a means to an end. The conduit trust is designated as the IRA beneficiary, and an individual is named as the beneficiary of the trust.2

When the original IRA owner passes away, the (inherited) IRA goes into the conduit trust, and a series of yearly Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) to the trust beneficiary begin. The trustee calculates and authorizes these RMDs; like other RMDs, they are characterized as regular income. The IRA assets held within the trust are protected from creditors, as the trust legally owns them (the RMDs out of the trust, however, are not).2

Do you want to stretch IRA assets out for future generations? Think about an accumulation trust. An accumulation trust requires no RMDs. It does require a separate trustee and beneficiary, just like a conduit trust does; the trustee can distribute the assets out of the trust as preferred. Those invested IRA assets can keep growing within the accumulation trust, but the trust will be taxed at the top marginal income tax rate if it earns more than $12,150 in a year.2

If the person in line to inherit your IRA faces a high risk of litigation or has poor financial habits, an accumulation trust may be worth exploring. As with a conduit trust, assets held inside an accumulation trust are out of reach of creditors and attorneys – and the trustee can hold back the money from being distributed until the lawyers disappear or the beneficiary is ready to handle it responsibly.2

IRA assets must be transferred into a retirement plan trust carefully. A trustee-to-trustee transfer (direct rollover) needs to be made, and the involved financial and legal professionals and IRA custodian all need to be on the same page.3

You should not attempt to create a retirement plan trust without an attorney’s help. As an example of what can go wrong for do-it-yourselfers, the 60-day rule applying to indirect rollovers of qualified retirement plan assets does not apply for inherited IRAs. If you make an indirect rollover of such assets and take possession of them on the way to setting up the trust, you will be considered to have received taxable income, even if you complete the rollover process within the 60-day window. To do this knowledgeably, seek those with the right knowledge.3 

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 – wealthmanagement.com/estate-planning/retirement-plan-trusts-headline-ira-forecast [7/15/14]

2 – nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/how-to-protect-inherited-ira-assets-from-creditors/ [1/26/16]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/dont-make-this-mistake-with-an-inherited-ira-2017-09-29/ [9/29/17]

These tools can shield inherited IRA assets from lawyers and creditors.

 

Congress Gives Some “Holiday Gifts” to Taxpayers

Some key federal tax breaks are made permanent…at last.

During the past few Decembers, taxpayers and tax preparers have waited anxiously for Congress to rescue expiring federal tax provisions. Usually, legislators pass an eleventh-hour bill to extend certain tax perks for another year and reinstate them for the current year.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, or PATH – just passed by Congress, just signed into law by President Obama – not only renews 52 expiring tax provisions but makes some permanent. You may be a taxpayer who benefits from its passage.1,2,

Would you like to make a tax-free transfer of IRA assets to a charity? PATH makes that opportunity permanently available to you. A traditional IRA owner at least 70½ years old may make a charitable gift from that IRA to a qualified charity and exclude the transferred amount from their gross income for the tax year in which the gift is made. This is a tax-efficient move for wealthy, older IRA owners who see their annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) as more of a tax issue than a necessity.3

Does your business do any research or development? The federal R&D tax credit is now permanent – and in a sense, even sweeter. Any company with less than $50 million in gross receipts may use the R&D credit to counter the Alternative Minimum Tax next year and every year. Thanks to PATH, even some start-ups not yet facing income tax may be able to offset payroll taxes via this credit.2

Are you thinking about remodeling your restaurant or retail business? PATH preserves and makes permanent the 15-year period for depreciating remodeling and other improvements. No going back to the old 39-year period.3

Are you hoping those bigger Section 179 deduction limits will remain in place? They will. PATH preserves the current $500,000 immediate deduction limit of the cost of qualifying asset acquisitions, and the current phase-out starting at $2 million. Going forward, both of these thresholds will be inflation-indexed. In related news, PATH also keeps the 50% “bonus depreciation” provision in place through 2017 and extends it to restaurants and retail businesses that are owned as well as leased.2,3

Do you take advantage of the Child Tax Credit? In 2009, the CTC was enhanced to offer parents a $1,000 credit per qualifying child plus an additional (refundable) tax credit equal to 15% of any earned income over $3,000. This $3,000 threshold (which was set to return to the $10,000 level in 2017) becomes permanent thanks to PATH.2

Would you like to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit? If so, you will be pleased to know that this college education credit will not shrink to $1,800 in 2017. It will remain at $2,500 thanks to PATH. The current phase-out levels ($80,000 for single filers, $160,000 for joint filers) will also remain in place.2

Do you live where there are no state income taxes? PATH makes the itemized federal deduction for state and local sales taxes a permanent option for you.2

Are you a teacher who takes the above-the-line deduction for K-12 school supplies? PATH makes that deduction permanent as well and indexes it for inflation.2

Businesses get a 2-year reprieve from the Cadillac tax. Companies sponsoring high-priced health insurance plans will not have to face this tax until 2018 thanks to PATH.3

PATH suspends the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices for 2 years. This tax, which represents 2.3% of what importers and manufacturers pay on sales of certain healthcare equipment, will resurface in 2018.3

PATH extends some tax perks only through 2016. Most notably, it continues the tax exclusion on canceled home loan debt for another year. It also preserves the current $4,000 limit for the above-the-line tuition deduction for college education.2

Tax breaks rewarding homeowners, homebuilders, and contractors for energy efficiency are also preserved for another year by PATH. Builders and contractors may still take advantage of a credit as large as $2,000 for manufacturing energy-efficient residences, and the 179D deduction is still available for those who build green or make qualifying HVAC and lighting improvements to commercial properties. Home energy tax credits of up to $500 will still reward taxpayers who make energy-saving upgrades to their primary residence.2

PATH may be your route to some significant tax savings. You will have to act fast to claim them for 2015, but you have plenty of time to take advantage of these opportunities in 2016.

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 – thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/263889-tax-extenders-on-the-road-to-tax-reform [12/18/15]
2 – forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2015/12/16/permanent-rd-higher-section-179-expensing-highlight-tentative-deal-on-tax-extenders/ [12/16/15]
3 – accountingtoday.com/news/tax-practice/congress-makes-some-tax-extenders-permanent-76718-1.html [12/16/15]

Can an IRA Be a College Savings Vehicle?

You might be surprised at its potential.

An IRA is a retirement savings account, right? Indeed it is. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Arrangement. Even with that definition, however, there is no prohibition on using an IRA to save for other purposes, such as funding a college education.

Why would anyone choose an IRA as a college savings vehicle? At first glance it may seem strange, since there are a couple of types of investment accounts dedicated to that goal in the first place. On closer inspection, IRAs – especially Roth IRAs – present some features that may be quite attractive to the parent or grandparent seeking ways to build education savings.

Flexibility. Parents are urged to save for their children’s college educations as soon as possible … but what if their children end up spending little or no time in college? Some young adults do start careers or businesses without any college education. Some simply have no interest in going to school any longer. Another, more pleasant circumstance worth mentioning: what if a child ends up getting a significant college scholarship, even a full ride?

In the event that these things happen, parents or grandparents who long ago opened a conventional college savings account may face a financial dilemma. Withdrawals from these conventional college savings plans are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified educational expenses, but if the funds are withdrawn other purposes, the distribution is regarded as fully taxable income (and the account gains are subject to a 10% penalty). Sometimes you can transfer assets in one of these conventional college plans to another family member, but some families do not have that choice.1

As an IRA can be used to build retirement savings as well as a college fund, it offers a family flexibility in the face of such uncertainty. If the assets saved and invested for college end up being nice but not really necessary, those invested assets can serve as retirement funds.

Tax-deferred growth & the possibility of a tax-free withdrawal. You probably know the basic distinction between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA: the former permits tax-deductible contributions as a tradeoff for eventual taxable withdrawals, while the latter offers no tax deduction on contributions in exchange for tax-free withdrawals later (provided an investor follows IRS rules). Either IRA gives you tax-deferred growth of the invested assets.2

Now, can you open a Roth IRA, own it for five years or more and withdraw its assets tax-free even if you use the money for something other than your retirement? If that something is your child’s college education, the answer is (a qualified) yes.3

Withdrawals from Roth (and for that matter, traditional) IRAs face no withdrawal penalties if the money withdrawn is used for qualified educational expenses. Does this mean you can take $100K out of a Roth IRA today and use it to pay for your child’s college education? Probably not that large an amount, as some restrictions apply.3

Roth IRA withdrawals are regarded by the IRS as a return of contribution first, with account earnings coming out next. If you own a Roth IRA and are younger than 59½, or are older than 59½ but have owned your Roth IRA for less than five years, your Roth IRA’s earnings are ordinary, taxable income if withdrawn. Roth IRA contributions may be withdrawn tax-free at any age. So if you have contributed, say, $45,000 to a Roth IRA, as much as $45,000 from that Roth could be taken out tax-free and used for qualified educational expenses.3

One other note about taxes that pertains to all this: eight states offer no tax deduction on funds contributed to a conventional college savings plan. If you live in one of those eight states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California among them), then idea of withdrawing Roth IRA contributions tax-free at some point for education purposes may seem more attractive.3

Not considered an asset on the FAFSA. When students apply for college aid, they routinely fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps the federal government figure out the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or the degree of college costs the family finances can handle. Conventional college savings accounts are counted as assets on the FAFSA in determining the EFC, but IRAs and other retirement accounts are not.1

What are the shortcomings of building college savings with an IRA? First, this idea may not work for retirees, as you must have “taxable compensation” to make Roth IRA contributions and you cannot make traditional IRA contributions past age 70½. Phase-outs on for high earners may reduce or even prohibit annual Roth IRA contributions for some. Lastly, some of the conventional college savings vehicles have no annual contribution limits, while the annual contribution limit for Roth and traditional IRAs is currently set at $5,500 ($6,500 if catch-up contributions are included). Even so, families who seek more flexibility in their college savings options may see an IRA, particularly a Roth IRA, as an intriguing potential college savings vehicle.2,3

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 – marketwatch.com/story/3-reasons-to-use-a-roth-ira-to-save-for-college-2015-03-25 [3/25/15]

2 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [3/18/15]

3 – cnbc.com/2014/02/03/roth-iras-can-be-a-better-way-to-save-pay-for-higher-education-costs.html [2/3/14]

An Estate Planning Checklist

Things to check & double-check as you prepare. 

Estate planning is a task that people tend to put off, as any discussion of “the end” tends to be off-putting. However, those who die without their financial affairs in good order risk leaving their heirs some significant problems along with their legacies.

No matter what your age, here are some things you may want to accomplish this year with regard to estate planning.

Create a will if you don’t have one. It is startling how many people never get around to this, even to the point of buying a will-in-a-box at a stationery store or setting one up online.

How many Americans lack wills? The budget legal service website RocketLawyer conducts an annual survey on this topic, and its 2014 survey determined that 51% of Americans aged 55-64 and 62% of Americans aged 45-54 don’t have them in place.1

A solid will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney may cost you more than a will-in-a-box. It may prove to be some of the best money you ever spend. A valid will may save your heirs from some expensive headaches linked to probate and ambiguity.

Complement your will with related documents. Depending on your estate planning needs, this could include some kind of trust (or multiple trusts), durable financial and medical powers of attorney, a living will and other items.

You should know that a living will is not the same thing as a durable medical power of attorney. A living will makes your wishes known when it comes to life-prolonging medical treatments. A durable medical power of attorney authorizes another party to make medical decisions for you (including end-of-life decisions) if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions. Estate planning attorneys usually recommend that you have both on hand.2

Review your beneficiary designations. Who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k)? How about your annuity or life insurance policy? If your answer is along the lines of “It’s been a while,” then be sure to check the documents and verify who the designated beneficiary is.

You need to make sure that your beneficiary decisions agree with your will. Many people don’t know that beneficiary designations take priority over will bequests when it comes to retirement accounts, life insurance, and other “non-probate” assets. As an example, if you named a child now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she is in line to receive that death benefit when you die, even if your will requests that it go to someone else.3

Time has a way of altering our beneficiary decisions. This is why some estate planners recommend that you review your beneficiaries every two years.

In some states, you can authorize transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designations for certain assets or accounts. This is a tactic against probate: a TOD designation can arrange the transfer of ownership of an account or assets immediately to a designated beneficiary at your death.3

If you don’t want the beneficiary designation you have made to control the transfer of a particular non-probate asset, you can change the beneficiary designation or select one of two other options, neither of which may be wise from a tax standpoint.

One, you can remove the beneficiary designation on the account or asset. Then its disposition will be governed by your will, as it will pass to your estate when you die.3

Two, you can make your estate the beneficiary of the account or asset. If your estate inherits a tax-deferred retirement account, it will have to be probated, and if you pass away before age 70½, it will have to be emptied within five years. If you name your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, you open the door to “creditors and predators” – they have the opportunity to lay claim to the death benefit.3,4

Create asset and debt lists. Does this sound like a lot of work? It may not be. You should provide your heirs with an asset and debt “map” they can follow should you pass away, so that they will be aware of the little details of your wealth.

One list should detail your real property and personal property assets. It should list any real estate you own, and its worth; it should also list personal property items in your home, garage, backyard, warehouse, storage unit or small business that have notable monetary worth.

Another list should detail your bank and brokerage accounts, your retirement accounts, and any other forms of investment plus any insurance policies.

A third list should detail your credit card debts, your mortgage and/or HELOC, and any other outstanding consumer loans.

Consider gifting to reduce the size of your taxable estate. The lifetime individual federal gift, estate and generation-skipping tax exclusion amount is now unified and set at $5.34 million for 2014. This means an individual can transfer up to $5.34 million during or after his or her life tax-free (and that amount will rise as the years go by). For a married couple, the unified credit is currently set at $10.68 million.5

Think about consolidating your “stray” IRAs and bank accounts. This could make one of your lists a little shorter. Consolidation means fewer account statements, less paperwork for your heirs and fewer administrative fees to bear.

Let your heirs know the causes and charities that mean the most to you. Have you ever seen the phrase, “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to…” Well, perhaps you would like to suggest donations to this or that charity when you pass. Write down the associations you belong to and the organizations you support. Some non-profits do offer accidental life insurance benefits to heirs of members.

Select a reliable executor. Who have you chosen to administer your estate when the time comes? The choice may seem obvious, but consider a few factors. Is there a stark possibility that your named executor might die before you do? How well does he or she comprehend financial matters or the basic principles of estate law? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed – can you easily communicate those wishes to that person?

Your executor should have copies of your will, forms of power of attorney, any kind of healthcare proxy or living will, and any trusts you create. In fact, any of your loved ones referenced in these documents should also receive copies of them.

Talk to the professionals. Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended, especially if your estate is complex enough to trigger financial, legal, and emotional issues among your heirs upon your passing.

Many people have the idea that they don’t need an estate plan because their net worth is less than the lifetime unified credit. Keep in mind, money isn’t the only reason for an estate plan. You may not be a multimillionaire yet, but if you own a business, have a blended family, have kids with special needs, worry about dementia, or can’t stand the thought of probate delays plus probate fees whittling away at assets you have amassed… well, these are all good reasons to create and maintain an estate planning strategy.

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 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/04/09/americans-ostrich-approach-to-estate-planning/ [4/9/14]

2 – ksbar.org/?living_wills [9/10/14]

3 – nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/12/biz_brain_beneficiary_designat.html [12/9/13]

4 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/naming-non-spouse-beneficiary-retirement-accounts.html [9/10/14]

5 – forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/11/01/the-2013-limits-on-tax-free-gifts-what-you-need-to-know/ [11/1/13]

 

 

 

Pension Plans & Derisking

Corporations are transferring pension liabilities to third parties.  Where does this leave retirees?

A new phrase has made its way into the contemporary financial jargon: derisking. Anyone with assets in an old-school pension plan should know what that phrase signifies.

The derisking trend began in 2012. In that year, Ford Motor Co. made a controversial offer to its retirees and ex-employees: it asked them if they wanted to take their pensions as lump sums rather than monthly payments. Basically, Ford realized it could someday owe these former workers more than its pension plan could pay out. The move was clearly motivated by the bottom line, and other corporations quickly imitated it.1

If you work for a major employer that sponsors a pension plan, you may soon face this choice if you haven’t already. By handing over longstanding pension liabilities to a third party (i.e., a major insurance company), the pension plan sponsor unloads a risky financial obligation.

In theory, retired employees tended this kind of offer gain added flexibility when it comes to their pension: a lot of money now, or monthly payments from the insurer for years to come. Does the lump sum constitute a sweet deal for the retiree? Not necessarily.

If you are offered a lump sum pension payment, should you accept it? Making this kind of pension decision is akin to deciding when to claim Social Security – you’ve got to look at many variables beforehand. Whatever choice you make will likely be irrevocable.2

What’s the case for rejecting a lump sum offer? You can express it in three words: lifetime income stream. Do you really want to forego decades of scheduled pension payments to take (potentially) less money now? You could possibly create an income stream off of the lump sum, of course – but why go through the rigmarole of that if you’re already getting monthly checks to begin with?

As American longevity is increasing, you may spend 20, 30, or even 40 years retired. If you are risk-averse and healthy, turning down decades of consistent income may have little appeal. Moreover, if you are female you have a decent chance of living into your nineties – and an income stream intended to last as long as you do sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? If you are single or your spouse has very little in the way of assets, this too reinforces the argument for keeping the payment stream in place.

Also, maybe you just like the way things are going. If you don’t want the responsibility that goes with reinvesting a huge sum of money, you aren’t alone.

What’s the argument for taking a lump sum? Sometimes a salaried retiree is in poor health or facing a money problem. If this is your situation, then it may make sense to claim more of your pension dollars now.

On the other hand, you may elect to take the lump sum out of opportunity. You may base your choice on timing rather than time.

If you want to build more retirement savings, taking the lump sum might be instrumental. Pension payments are rarely inflation-adjusted; maybe you would like to invest your pension money so it can potentially grow and compound for more years before being withdrawn. Maybe your spouse gets significant pension income, or you are so affluent that the pension income you get is nice but not necessary; if so, perhaps you want to redirect that lump sum toward some other financial objective. Maybe you don’t want regular income payments this year or next because that money would put you into a higher tax bracket.3

The key is to avoid taking possession of the lump sum yourself. If you do that, your former employer has to withhold 20% of the lump sum (per IRS regulations) and you risk a taxable event. Instead, you may want to arrange a direct rollover, or trustee-to-trustee transfer, of the assets to avoid withholding and a huge tax bill. Through this move, the funds can be transferred to an IRA for reinvestment. In most cases, you need to leave your job (i.e., retire) before you can roll money out of a pension plan.4

Consult a financial professional about your options. If you do feel you should take the lump sum, talk to someone before you make your move. If the move makes sense, that professional may offer to help you invest the money in a way that makes sense for your near-term and long-term objectives, your risk tolerance, your estate and your income taxes. If you feel monthly payments from the usual joint-and-survivor pension might be the better choice, ask if some model scenarios might be might presented for you.

 Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph. 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cgfiowa.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 – tinyurl.com/nucxdss [11/23/14]

2 – forbes.com/sites/mikehelveston/2014/04/10/the-big-pension-decision-should-you-choose-a-lump-sum-or-monthly-annuity-payments/ [4/10/14]

3 – consumerreports.org/cro/2014/03/best-pension-payout-option/index.htm [3/14]

4 – nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/2014/rollover-ira/ [9/7/14]

 

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]

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 Right Beneficiary

Who should inherit your IRA or 401(k)? See that they do.

Here’s a simple financial question: who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k), life insurance policy, or annuity? You may be able to answer such a question quickly and easily. Or you may be saying, “You know … I’m not totally sure.” Whatever your answer, it is smart to periodically review your beneficiary designations.

Your choices may need to change with the times. When did you open your first IRA? When did you buy your life insurance policy? Was it back in the Eighties? Are you still living in the same home and working at the same job as you did back then? Have your priorities changed a bit – perhaps more than a bit?

While your beneficiary choices may seem obvious and rock-solid when you initially make them, time has a way of altering things. In a stretch of five or ten years, some major changes can occur in your life – and they may warrant changes in your beneficiary decisions.
In fact, you might want to review them annually. Here’s why: companies frequently change custodians when it comes to retirement plans and insurance policies. When a new custodian comes on board, a beneficiary designation can get lost in the paper shuffle. (It has happened.) If you don’t have a designated beneficiary on your 401(k), the assets may go to the “default” beneficiary when you pass away, which might throw a wrench into your estate planning.

How your choices affect your loved ones. The beneficiary of your IRA, annuity, 401(k) or life insurance policy may be your spouse, your child, maybe another loved one or maybe even an institution. Naming a beneficiary helps to keep these assets out of probate when you pass away.

Beneficiary designations commonly take priority over bequests made in a will or living trust. For example, if you long ago named a son or daughter who is now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she is in line to receive the death benefit when you die, regardless of what your will states. Beneficiary designations allow life insurance proceeds to transfer automatically to heirs; these assets do not have go through probate.1,2

You may have even chosen the “smartest financial mind” in your family as your beneficiary, thinking that he or she has the knowledge to carry out your financial wishes in the event of your death. But what if this person passes away before you do? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed, and are unable to communicate your intentions in time? And what if he or she inherits tax problems as a result of receiving your assets? (See below.)
How your choices affect your estate. Virtually any inheritance carries a tax consequence. (Of course, through careful estate planning, you can try to defer or even eliminate that consequence.)

If you are simply naming your spouse as your beneficiary, the tax consequences are less thorny. Assets you inherit from your spouse aren’t subject to estate tax, as long as you are a U.S. citizen.3

When the beneficiary isn’t your spouse, things get a little more complicated for your estate, and for your beneficiary’s estate. If you name, for example, your son or your sister as the beneficiary of your retirement plan assets, the amount of those assets will be included in the value of your taxable estate. (This might mean a higher estate tax bill for your heirs.) And the problem will persist: when your non-spouse beneficiary inherits those retirement plan assets, those assets become part of his or her taxable estate, and his or her heirs might face higher estate taxes. Your non-spouse heir might also have to take required income distributions from that retirement plan someday, and pay the required taxes on that income.4

If you designate a charity or other 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as a beneficiary, the assets involved can pass to the charity without being taxed, and your estate can qualify for a charitable deduction.5

Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Make sure your assets are set to transfer to the people or institutions you prefer. Let’s check up and make sure your beneficiary choices make sense for the future. Just give me a call or send me an e-mail – I’m happy to help you.

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 MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. 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 – smartmoney.com/taxes/estate/how-to-choose-a-beneficiary-1304670957977/ [6/10/11]
2 – www.dummies.com/how-to/content/bypassing-probate-with-beneficiary-designations.html [1/30/13]
3 – www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-when-you-re-married-noncitizen.html [1/30/13]
4 – individual.troweprice.com/staticFiles/Retail/Shared/PDFs/beneGuide.pdf [9/10]
5 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Frequently-Asked-Questions-on-Estate-Taxes [8/1/12]