Articles tagged with: mike moffitt

The Anatomy of an Index

The S&P 500 represents a large portion of the value of the U.S. equity market.
Did you know that nearly $10 trillion in assets are benchmarked to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Index, including about $3.5 trillion in index assets?1

The S&P 500 is ubiquitous. It is constantly referenced in financial and non-financial media, and we may compare the return of our own investments to its performance. As the index represents approximately 80% of the value of the U.S. equity market (or about 80% of market capitalization), it may be worthwhile to gain a better understanding of its structure and workings.1

Breaking down the benchmark. The S&P 500, as we know it today, was introduced in March 1957. It tracks the market value of about 500 large firms that are listed on the Nasdaq Composite and the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P is structured to include companies from across the sectors of the business community, in an effort to represent the breadth of the U.S. economy.1,2

There are a number of criteria a company must meet to be considered for inclusion in the index. A firm must be a U.S. company publicly listed on a major equity market exchange, have a market capitalization of $6.1 billion or more, and have at least 250,000 of its shares traded in each of the six months prior to its consideration for index membership by Standard & Poor’s. A company must also be financially viable: the ratio of its annual dollar value traded to its float-adjusted market cap must be greater than 1.0.3

The S&P has changed over time. Companies have been gradually removed and added over the past 60-odd years. At the benchmark’s fiftieth anniversary in 2007, just 86 of the original components remained. Subsequent mergers and acquisitions have reduced that number further.3

Right now, about 20% of the weight of the S&P is held in ten companies, and the performance of tech shares influences the benchmark’s return, perhaps more than any other factor.3

The index has been altered through the years in response to changes in the economy. Across several decades, the makeup of the index’s various sectors has differed, along with their weightings. This leads to frequent updates for the equity funds that aim to replicate the index; in order to maintain that replication, they may quickly need to buy or sell shares of corporations that are being added or removed.3

Keep in mind that amounts in mutual funds and ETFs are subject to fluctuation in value and market risk. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Equity funds are sold only by prospectus, so please consider their charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

It should also be noted that investors cannot invest directly in an index. Also, index performance is not indicative of the past performance of a particular investment, and past performance does not guarantee future results. Investment choices designed to replicate any index may not perfectly track it, and their returns will be reduced by fees and expenses.

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

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.
1 – https://us.spindices.com/indices/equity/sp-500 [12/5/18]
2 – https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/041015/what-history-sp-500.asp [11/12/18]
3 – https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/07/10/7-fascinating-facts-about-the-broad-based-sp-500.aspx [7/10/18]

Traditional vs. Roth IRAs

Perhaps both traditional and Roth IRAs can play a part in your retirement plans.

IRAs can be an important tool in your retirement savings belt, and whichever you choose to open could have a significant impact on how those accounts might grow.

IRAs, or Individual Retirement Accounts, are investment vehicles used to help save money for retirement. There are two different types of IRAs: traditional and Roth. Traditional IRAs, created in 1974, are owned by roughly 35.1 million U.S. households. And Roth IRAs, created as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act in 1997, are owned by nearly 24.9 million households.1

Both kinds of IRAs share many similarities, and yet, each is quite different. Let’s take a closer look.

Up to certain limits, traditional IRAs allow individuals to make tax-deductible contributions into the retirement account. Distributions from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. For individuals covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction for a traditional IRA in 2019 has been phased out for incomes between $103,000 and $123,000 for married couples filing jointly and between $64,000 and $74,000 for single filers.2,3

Also, within certain limits, individuals can make contributions to a Roth IRA with after-tax dollars. To qualify for a tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½. Like a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are limited based on income. For 2019, contributions to a Roth IRA are phased out between $193,000 and $203,000 for married couples filing jointly and between $122,000 and $137,000 for single filers.2,3

In addition to contribution and distribution rules, there are limits on how much can be contributed to either IRA. In fact, these limits apply to any combination of IRAs; that is, workers cannot put more than $6,000 per year into their Roth and traditional IRAs combined. So, if a worker contributed $3,500 in a given year into a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA would be limited to $2,500 in that same year.4

Individuals who reach age 50 or older by the end of the tax year can qualify for annual “catch-up” contributions of up to $1,000. So, for these IRA owners, the 2019 IRA contribution limit is $7,000.4

If you meet the income requirements, both traditional and Roth IRAs can play a part in your retirement plans. And once you’ve figured out which will work better for you, only one task remains: opening an account.
Mike Moffitt may be reached at 641-782-5577 or 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.
1 – https://www.ici.org/pdf/per23-10.pdf [12/17]
2 – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gearing-up-for-retirement-make-sure-you-understand-your-tax-obligations-2018-06-14 [6/14/18]
3 – https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/new-401-k-and-ira-limits [11/12/18]
4 – https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-ira-contribution-limits [11/2/18]

Your 2019 Financial To-Do List

Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds.
What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for 2019? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to lowering your taxes. You have plenty of options. Here are a few that might prove convenient.

Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2019, the yearly contribution limit for a Roth or traditional IRA rises to $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA: singles and heads of household with MAGI above $137,000 and joint filers with MAGI above $203,000 cannot make 2019 Roth contributions.1

For tax year 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. If you are self-employed, you may want to look into whether you can establish and fund a solo 401(k) before the end of 2019; as employer contributions may also be made to solo 401(k)s, you may direct up to $56,000 into one of those plans.1

Your retirement plan contribution could help your tax picture. If you won’t turn 70½ in 2019 and you participate in a traditional qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the new 24% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,440 in taxes as a byproduct of a $6,000 traditional IRA contribution.2

What are the income limits on deducting traditional IRA contributions? If you participate in a workplace retirement plan, the 2019 MAGI phase-out ranges are $64,000-$74,000 for singles and heads of households, $103,000-$123,000 for joint filers when the spouse making IRA contributions is covered by a workplace retirement plan, and $193,000-$203,000 for an IRA contributor not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but married to someone who is.1

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans are funded with after-tax dollars, so you may not take an immediate federal tax deduction for your contributions to them. The upside is that if you follow I.R.S. rules, the account assets may eventually be withdrawn tax free.3

Your tax year 2019 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as the 2020 federal tax deadline – and, for that matter, you can make a 2018 IRA contribution as late as April 15, 2019, which is the deadline for filing your 2018 federal return. There is no merit in waiting until April of the successive year, however, since delaying a contribution only delays tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.1,3

Should you go Roth in 2019? You might be considering that if you only have a traditional IRA. This is no snap decision; the Internal Revenue Service no longer gives you a chance to undo it, and the tax impact of the conversion must be weighed versus the potential future benefits. If you are a high earner, you should know that income phase-out limits may affect your chance to make Roth IRA contributions. For 2019, phase-outs kick in at $193,000 for joint filers and $122,000 for single filers and heads of household. Should your income prevent you from contributing to a Roth IRA at all, you still have the chance to contribute to a traditional IRA in 2019 and go Roth later.1,4

Incidentally, a footnote: distributions from certain qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, are not subject to the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) affecting single/joint filers with MAGIs over $200,000/$250,000. If your MAGI does surpass these thresholds, then dividends, royalties, the taxable part of non-qualified annuity income, taxable interest, passive income (such as partnership and rental income), and net capital gains from the sale of real estate and investments are subject to that surtax. (Please note that the NIIT threshold is just $125,000 for spouses who choose to file their federal taxes separately.)5

Consult a tax or financial professional before you make any IRA moves to see how those changes may affect your overall financial picture. If you have a large, traditional IRA, the projected tax resulting from a Roth conversion may make you think twice.

What else should you consider in 2019? There are other things you may want to do or review.

Make charitable gifts. The individual standard deduction rises to $12,000 in 2019, so there will be less incentive to itemize deductions for many taxpayers – but charitable donations are still deductible if they are itemized. If you plan to gift more than $12,000 to qualified charities and non-profits in 2019, remember that the paper trail is important.6

If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record or a written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the I.R.S. does not equate a pledge with a donation. You must contribute to a qualified charity to claim a federal charitable tax deduction. Incidentally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lifted the ceiling on the amount of cash you can give to a charity per year – you can now gift up to 60% of your adjusted gross income in cash per year, rather than 50%.6,7

What if you gift appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and donating the proceeds. The non-profit organization gets the full amount of the gift, and you can claim a deduction of up to 30% of your adjusted gross income.8

Does the value of your gift exceed $250? It may, and if you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you should ask that charity or non-profit group for a receipt. You should always request a receipt for a cash gift, no matter how large or small the amount.8

If you aren’t sure if an organization is eligible to receive charitable gifts, check it out at irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check.

Open an HSA. If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may set up and fund a Health Savings Account in 2019. You can make fully tax-deductible HSA contributions of up to $3,500 (singles) or $7,000 (families); catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 are permitted for those 55 or older. HSA assets grow tax deferred, and withdrawals from these accounts are tax free if used to pay for qualified health care expenses.9

Practice tax-loss harvesting. By selling depreciated shares in a taxable investment account, you can offset capital gains or up to $3,000 in regular income ($1,500 is the annual limit for married couples who file separately). In fact, you may use this tactic to offset all your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2020 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.10

Pay attention to asset location. Tax-efficient asset location is an ignored fundamental of investing. Broadly speaking, your least tax-efficient securities should go in pre-tax accounts, and your most tax-efficient securities should be held in taxable accounts.

Review your withholding status. You may have updated it last year when the I.R.S. introduced new withholding tables; you may want to adjust for 2019 due to any of the following factors.

* You tend to pay a great deal of income tax each year.
* You tend to get a big federal tax refund each year.
* You recently married or divorced.
* A family member recently passed away.
* You have a new job, and you are earning much more than you previously did.
* You started a business venture or became self-employed.

Are you marrying in 2019? If so, why not review the beneficiaries of your workplace retirement plan account, your IRA, and other assets? In light of your marriage, you may want to make changes to the relevant beneficiary forms. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you will have a new last name in 2019, you will need a new Social Security card. Additionally, the two of you, no doubt, have individual retirement saving and investment strategies. Will they need to be revised or adjusted once you are married?

Are you coming home from active duty? If so, go ahead and check the status of your credit and the state of any tax and legal proceedings that might have been preempted by your orders. Make sure any employee health insurance is still in place. Revoke any power of attorney you may have granted to another person.

Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell (or buy) real estate next year? How about a business? Do you think you might exercise a stock option in the coming months? Might any large commissions or bonuses come your way in 2019? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account? Any of these actions might significantly impact your 2019 taxes.

If you are retired and older than 70½, remember your year-end RMD. Retirees over age 70½ must begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs by December 31 of each year. The I.R.S. penalty for failing to take an RMD equals 50% of the RMD amount that is not withdrawn.4,11

If you turned 70½ in 2018, you can postpone your initial RMD from an account until April 1, 2019. All subsequent RMDs must be taken by December 31 of the calendar year to which the RMD applies. The downside of delaying your 2018 RMD into 2019 is that you will have to take two RMDs in 2019, with both RMDs being taxable events. You will have to make your 2018 tax year RMD by April 1, 2019, and then take your 2019 tax year RMD by December 31, 2019.11

Plan your RMDs wisely. If you do so, you may end up limiting or avoiding possible taxes on your Social Security income. Some Social Security recipients don’t know about the “provisional income” rule – if your adjusted gross income, plus any non-taxable interest income you earn, plus 50% of your Social Security benefits surpasses a certain level, then some Social Security benefits become taxable. Social Security benefits start to be taxed at provisional income levels of $32,000 for joint filers and $25,000 for single filers.11

Lastly, should you make 13 mortgage payments in 2019? There may be some merit to making a January 2020 mortgage payment in December 2019. If you have a fixed-rate loan, a lump-sum payment can reduce the principal and the total interest paid on it by that much more.

Talk with a qualified financial or tax professional today. Vow to focus on being healthy and wealthy in 2019.

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

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.
1 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/11/01/irs-announces-2019-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more [11/1/18]
2 – irs.com/articles/2018-federal-tax-rates-personal-exemptions-and-standard-deductions [11/2/17]
3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [7/10/18]
4 – forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2018/10/26/7-ira-strategies-for-year-end-2018/ [10/26/18]
5 – irs.gov/newsroom/questions-and-answers-on-the-net-investment-income-tax [6/18/18]
6 – crainsdetroit.com/philanthropy/what-donors-need-know-about-tax-reform [10/21/18]
7 – thebalance.com/tax-deduction-for-charity-donations-3192983 [7/25/18]
8 – schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/charitable-donations-the-basics-of-giving [7/2/18]
9 – kiplinger.com/article/insurance/T027-C001-S003-health-savings-account-limits-for-2019.html [8/28/18]
10 – schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/reap-benefits-tax-loss-harvesting-to-lower-your-tax-bill [10/7/18]
11 – fool.com/retirement/2018/01/29/5-things-to-consider-before-tapping-your-retiremen.aspx [1/29/18]

Seasons Greetings and a Quick Market Update

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and holiday season and all of us at Cornerstone Financial Group wish you a Happy New Year in 2019!

I thought it would be important to reach out to give a quick update on some of the facts regarding what’s been going on in the stock and bond markets recently as we approach the end of 2018 and look into 2019. I’ll try to make this short but concise, and stick with what we know and what we don’t!
In an earlier letter to all clients at the end of September, I mentioned we were overdue for a bear market, which is defined by Investopedia as decline of 20% or more.1 As I write this the day after Christmas, the S&P 500 index has now officially declined 20% from it’s high on September 21. The Dow Jones 30 Industrials index is not quite there, but very close. The NASDAQ 100 index is down more than 20%. Google is down about 23%, Apple down about 37% and Netflix down over 40%. So it’s safe to say we’ve achieved bear market status.

Bear markets typically happen about every 3.5 years. Doing a little research, I found the average bear market decline was 35.4%.2 This could indicate the current bear market has a while yet to run. The average bear market lasts about 10 months – we’re just over 3 months into this one. It’s easy to say that investors should get out at the top of the market and back in at the bottom, right? In reality, this is quite hard to do since we only know the high and the low in hindsight. So how do we manage risk in client portfolios?

There are multiple ways to handle risk. Many investors and advisors build diversified portfolios that hold assets other than stocks, such as bonds. Earlier in the year as interest rates worked higher (often bonds drop in value as interest rates rise) our bond portfolios were a drag on performance but we always anticipated that when we finally saw the larger correction the bonds would help us manage through it. This has proved accurate as the bond holdings now are helping protect capital. During the last couple of years, we also recommended and invested in FDIC-insured market-linked Certificates of Deposit for clients wishing to protect a portion of their portfolios. While these are priced somewhat in relationship to the value of their underlying holdings, which have been generally lower, they do have FDIC insurance protection at maturity so we feel comfortable that these will protect capital. As a result of these actions, for those people who have completed risk tolerance surveys we believe their portfolios should be pretty well aligned with their stated risk tolerance.

Other options we have used include traditional CDs, fixed index annuities, high quality (or insured) bonds that you can hold to maturity, or buying put options (a little more complicated strategy). But in general, our plan through corrections (and I’ve lived through 5 of them in my career) is to help you build portfolios that can potentially help you keep risk within your comfort level. If your risk comfort level is high, it’s true that stocks have outperformed many alternatives and based on an NYU study has vastly outperformed government-guaranteed United States treasury bills and bonds.3
What is ahead? Most likely uncertainty. A weak or slowing economy may bring on a bear market — the signs of a weak or slowing economy are typically low employment, low disposable income, weak productivity and a drop in business profits. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now, however. In addition, any intervention by the government in the economy may also trigger a bear market. We may be seeing that with the China tariff situation. A drop in investor confidence may also signal the onset of a bear market.

But at these levels, many stocks are fairly priced based on their historical price/earnings ratios. It’s a little like a sale at a department store. When you see a sale where an item is 20% off, you know that is a better price than it used to be. But what you don’t know is if that item might be marked down further – which would represent a better deal! While there are in general no guarantees in investing, I’m as confident there will be a rally next year as I was earlier this year that there was a correction coming around the corner. So I do not believe this is a good time to be a seller. It’s probably a better time to be a buyer but the “mark downs” might not be done yet, either. Patience is the best virtue to have here. If you believe your risk tolerance is changing as you watch the market move, we should use the next rally as an opportunity to shift your portfolio to a more conservative mix.
Feel free to give me a call if you wish to discuss this further.

Sincerely,
Mike

Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal advice or accounting 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations
1 – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bearmarket.asp
2 – https://www.gold-eagle.com/article/history-us-bear-bull-markets-1929
3 – http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/New_Home_Page/datafile/histretSP.html

Putting a Price Tag on Your Health

Being healthy not only makes you feel good, it may also help you financially.

We constantly hear how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That is not always easy, especially in the face of temptation or the easy option of procrastination. For some, the monetary benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle may provide an incentive.

Being healthy not only makes you feel good, it may also help you financially. For example, a recent Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study determined that a 40-year-old who simply moves from being obese to overweight could save an average of $18,262 in health care costs over the rest of his or her lifetime. If that person maintains a healthy weight, the average potential savings increase to $31,447.1

If you’re wondering how your health habits might be affecting your bottom line, consider the following:

Regular preventative care can help reduce potential health care costs. Even minor illnesses can lead to missed work, missed opportunities, and potentially lost wages. Serious illnesses often involve major costs like hospital stays, medical equipment, and doctor’s fees. Preventative dentistry may help you reduce dental costs as well.

In a way, staying healthy helps our potential to save for retirement. If your health declines to the point where you cannot work, that hurts your income and your ability to contribute to retirement accounts. The threat is real: the Social Security Administration notes that a quarter of us will become disabled at some point during our working years.2

Overweight workers may be subjected to wage discrimination. A LinkedIn study of almost 4,000 full-time and part-time workers found that the workers whose weights were greater than normal earned an average of $2,512 less annually than the others.3

Higher weight seems to be a factor in overall health care costs for many. Ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC notes that per-year health care expenses are about 41% higher ($4,870) for an obese individual than for a person of normal weight ($3,400). The biggest factor in this difference: prescription drug costs.4

Some habits that lead to poor health can be expensive in themselves. Smoking is the classic example. A pack of cigarettes costs anywhere from $5-14, which means ballpark expenses of $2,000-5,000 or more a year in expenses for a pack-a-day smoker. Smokers also pay higher premiums for health, disability, and life insurance.5

By focusing on your health, eliminating harmful habits, and employing preventative care, you may be able to improve your self-confidence and quality of life. You may also be able to reduce expenses, enjoy more of your money, and boost your overall financial health.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at 641-782-5577 or 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.
1 – https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/healthier-lifestyle-can-save-you-money/ [9/25/18]
2 – https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/11/protect-yourself-from-a-career-derailment-that-trips-up-1-in-4-workers.html [11/11/18]
3 – https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/employers-pay-overweight-workers-less-new-study-reveals [11/5/18]
4 – https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=8184975&page=1 [7/28/18]
5 – https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/the-real-cost-of-smoking [11/20/18]

Why Do You Need a Will?

It may not sound enticing, but creating a will puts power in your hands.According to the global analytics firm Gallup, only about 44% of Americans have created a will. This finding may not surprise you. After all, no one wants to be reminded of their mortality or dwell on what might happen upon their death, so writing a last will and testament is seldom prioritized on the to-do list of a Millennial or Gen Xer. What may surprise you, though, is the statistic cited by personal finance website The Balance: around 35% of Americans aged 65 and older lack wills.1,2

A will is an instrument of power. By creating one, you gain control over the distribution of your assets. If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property, with no regard to your priorities.

A will is a legal document by which an individual or a couple (known as “testator”) identifies their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after death. A will can typically be broken down into four parts:

*Executors: Most wills begin by naming an executor. Executors are responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in a will. This involves assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts (if necessary), and distributing assets among beneficiaries. It is recommended that you name an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to fulfill the obligation. Some families name multiple children as co-executors, with the intention of thwarting sibling discord, but this can introduce a logistical headache, as all the executors must act unanimously.2,3
*Guardians: A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. The designated guardian you appoint must be able to assume the responsibility. For many people, this is the most important part of a will. If you die without naming a guardian, the courts will decide who takes care of your children.
*Gifts: This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as jewelry or a car. You can also specify conditional gifts, such as a sum of money to a young daughter, but only when she reaches a certain age.
*Estate: Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash, and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest of your estate in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages. For example, you may decide to give 45% each to two children and the remaining 10% to your sibling.

A do-it-yourself will may be acceptable, but it may not be advisable. The law does not require a will to be drawn up by a professional, so you could create your own will, with or without using a template. If you make a mistake, however, you will not be around to correct it. When you draft a will, consider enlisting the help of a legal, tax, or financial professional who could offer you additional insight, especially if you have a large estate or a complex family situation.

Remember, a will puts power in your hands. You have worked hard to create a legacy for your loved ones. You deserve to decide how that legacy is sustained.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at 641-782-5577 or 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Tax Considerations for Retirees

Are you aware of them?
The federal government offers some major tax breaks for older Americans. Some of these perks deserve more publicity than they receive.

If you are 65 or older, your standard deduction is $1,300 larger. Make that $1,600 if you are unmarried. Thanks to the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, the 2018 standard deduction for an individual taxpayer at least 65 years of age is a whopping $13,600, more than double what it was in 2017. (If you are someone else’s dependent, your standard deduction is much less.)1

You may be able to write off some medical costs. This year, the Internal Revenue Service will let you deduct qualifying medical expenses once they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. In 2019, the threshold will return to 10% of AGI, unless Congress acts to preserve the 7.5% baseline. The I.R.S. list of eligible expenses is long. Beyond out-of-pocket costs paid to doctors and other health care professionals, it also includes things like long-term care insurance premiums, travel costs linked to medical appointments, and payments for durable medical equipment, such as dentures and hearing aids.2

Are you thinking about selling your home? Many retirees consider this. If you have lived in your current residence for at least two of the five years preceding a sale, you can exclude as much as $250,000 in gains from federal taxation (a married couple can shield up to $500,000). These limits, established in 1997, have never been indexed to inflation. The Department of the Treasury has been studying whether it has the power to adjust them. If modified for inflation, they would approach $400,000 for singles and $800,000 for married couples.3,4

Low-income seniors may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. This incentive, intended for people 65 and older (and younger people who have retired due to permanent and total disability), can be as large as $7,500 based on your filing status. You must have very low AGI and nontaxable income to claim it, though. It is basically designed for those living wholly or mostly on Social Security benefits.5

Affluent IRA owners may want to make a charitable IRA gift. If you are well off and have a large traditional IRA, you may not need your yearly Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for living expenses. If you are 70½ or older, you have an option: you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) with IRA assets. You can donate up to $100,000 of IRA assets to a qualified charity in a single year this way, and the amount donated counts toward your annual RMD. (A married couple gets to donate up to $200,000 per year.) Even more importantly, the amount of the QCD is excluded from your taxable income for the year of the donation.6

Some states also give seniors tax breaks. For example, the following 11 states do not tax federal, state, or local pension income: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight states (and the District of Columbia) refrain from taxing Social Security income.7

Unfortunately, your Social Security benefits could be partly or fully taxable. They could be taxed at both the federal and state level, depending on how much you earn and where you happen to live. Whether you feel this is reasonable or not, you may have the potential to claim some of the tax breaks mentioned above as you pursue the goal of tax efficiency.5,7

Mike Moffitt may be reached at 641-782-5577 or 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.
1 – fool.com/taxes/2018/04/15/2018-standard-deduction-how-much-it-is-and-why-you.aspx [4/15/18]
2 – aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2018/medical-deductions-irs-fd.html [1/12/18]
3 – loans.usnews.com/what-are-the-tax-benefits-of-buying-a-house [10/17/18]
4 – cnbc.com/2018/08/02/some-home-sellers-would-see-huge-savings-under-treasury-tax-cut-plan.html [8/2/18]
5 – fool.com/taxes/2017/12/31/living-on-social-security-heres-a-tax-credit-just.aspx [12/31/17]
6 – tinyurl.com/y8slf8et [1/3/18]
7 – thebalance.com/state-income-taxes-in-retirement-3193297 ml [8/15/18]

Making a Charitable Gift from Your IRA

Follow the rules, and you might get a big federal tax break.

Is your annual IRA withdrawal a bother? If you are an affluent retiree, that might be the case. The income is always nice, but the taxes that come with it? Not so much.

If only you could satisfy your yearly IRA withdrawal requirement minus the attached taxes. Guess what: there might be a way.

If you gift traditional IRA assets to charity, you could see some big tax savings. The Internal Revenue Service calls this a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), and you may want to explore its potential. Some criteria must be met: you need to be at least 70½ years old in the year of the donation, the donation must take the form of a direct transfer of assets from the IRA custodian to the charity, and the charity must be “qualified” in the eyes of the I.R.S. Any 501(c)(3) non-profit organization meets the I.R.S. qualification, as do houses of worship.1

The amount you gift can be applied toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for the year, and you may exclude it from your taxable income. If you are retired and well-to-do, a charitable IRA gift could be a highly tax-efficient move.1,2

Just how much could you save? That depends on two factors: how much you gift, and your federal income tax bracket. As an example, say you are in the 35% federal income tax bracket, and you donate $40,000 from your traditional IRA to a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. That $40,000 will be gone from your taxable income, and the donation will cut your federal tax bill for the year by $14,000 (as 35% of $40,000 is $14,000). Yes, the savings could be significant.2

You can donate as much as $100,000 to a qualified charity this way in a single year. That limit is per IRA owner; if you are married, and you and your spouse both have traditional IRAs, you can each donate up to $100,000.1,2

What about the fine print? There is plenty of that, and it is all worth reading. You may be curious if you can make a QCD from a SIMPLE or SEP-IRA; the answer is no. You can make a QCD from a Roth IRA, but there is little point in it: Roth IRA withdrawals are commonly tax-free.1

Regarding the asset transfer, the critical detail is that you cannot touch the money. The distribution must be payable directly to the non-profit organization or charity, not to you. (Income tax does not need to be withheld from the distribution since the amount withdrawn will not count as taxable income.) In addition, your tax preparer must identify the distribution as a QCD on your federal tax return. This is crucial and must not be overlooked, because the custodian of your IRA will probably report your QCD as a normal IRA distribution.2

If you itemize your deductions, you should know that a charitable IRA gift does not count as a deductible charitable contribution. (That would amount to a double tax break.) Of course, fewer taxpayers have incentive to itemize now, since the standard deduction is so large, thanks to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.1,2   

If you want to make a charitable IRA gift, start the process before the year ends. If you try to make the gift in late December, your IRA custodian might not be able to move fast enough for you, and the asset transfer may occur later than you would like (i.e., after December 31). Talk with a tax or financial professional before the year ends, so that you can plan a charitable IRA donation with some time to spare.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at 641-782-5577 or 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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – thebalance.com/qualified-charitable-distributions-3192883 [1/15/18]

2 – marketwatch.com/story/how-retirees-can-save-on-charitable-donations-under-the-new-tax-bill-2018-03-02 [3/2/18]

 

Social Security Gets Its Biggest Boost in Years

Seniors will see their retirement benefits increase by an average of 2.8% in 2019.

Social Security will soon give seniors their largest “raise” since 2012. In view of inflation, the Social Security Administration has authorized a 2.8% increase for retirement benefits in 2019.1

This is especially welcome, as annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, have been irregular in recent years. There were no COLAs at all in 2010, 2011, and 2016, and the 2017 COLA was 0.3%. This marks the second year in a row in which the COLA has been at least 2%.2

Not every retiree will see their benefits grow 2.8% next year. While affluent seniors will probably get the full COLA, more than 5 million comparatively poorer seniors may not, according to the Senior Citizens League, a lobbying group active in the nation’s capital.1

Why, exactly? It has to do with Medicare’s “hold harmless” provision, which held down the cost of Part B premiums for select Medicare recipients earlier in this decade. That rule prevents Medicare Part B premiums, which are automatically deducted from monthly Social Security benefits, from increasing more than a Social Security COLA in a given year. (Without this provision in place, some retirees might see their Social Security benefits effectively shrink from one year to the next.)1

After years of Part B premium inflation being held in check, the “hold harmless” provision is likely fading for the above-mentioned 5+ million Social Security recipients. They may not see much of the 2019 COLA at all.1

Even so, the average Social Security beneficiary will see a difference. The increase will take the average individual monthly Social Security payment from $1,422 to $1,461, meaning $468 more in retirement benefits for the year. An average couple receiving Social Security is projected to receive $2,448 per month, which will give them $804 more for 2019 than they would get without the COLA. How about a widower living alone? The average monthly benefit is set to rise $38 per month to $1,386, which implies an improvement of $456 in total benefits for 2019.1

Lastly, it should be noted that some disabled workers also receive Social Security benefits. Payments to their households will also grow larger next year. Right now, the average disabled worker enrolled in Social Security gets $1,200 per month in benefits. That will rise to $1,234 per month in 2019. The increase for the year will be $408.1

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

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – fool.com/retirement/2018/10/26/heres-what-the-average-social-security-beneficiary.aspx [10/26/18]

2 – tinyurl.com/y9spspqe [8/31/18]

 

How Medigap Choices Are Changing

Plan F is fading away, and Plan G may become the most selected option.                   

Soon, the most popular Medigap policy will no longer be sold. Seniors will lose the chance to buy Plan F in 2020 as well as the less popular Plan C.1,2

These policies cover Medicare’s Part B deductible, which is currently $183. A new federal law prevents the sale of any Medigap policies that cover this deductible once the 2020s begin.2

Be assured, if you already have Plan F (or Plan C) coverage, you can stick with it after 2020. You just cannot buy a new Plan F (or C) policy after that date.2

What does this mean if you are considering a Plan F policy? The short answer is that if you want to buy Plan F coverage, you have until the end of 2019 to do so. That said, you could be better off with Plan G in the next decade, barring a big jump in Medigap premiums.1,2

Why do people like Plan F? It is basically a “Cadillac plan”: it lets you see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare patients, and the upfront cost is the total cost. With Plan F, you are not surprised by subsequent requests to pay a deductible, a copayment, or coinsurance.1

How does Plan G differ from Plan F? While both plans provide similar coverage, the major differences are about dollars and cents. Plan G asks you for the $183 Part B deductible; Plan F does not. Premiums also differ notably. Coming into the fourth quarter of 2018, monthly payments on a Plan F policy averaged $185.96. Average monthly premiums on a Plan G policy? Just $155.70.1,2

Plan G appears to be gaining popularity. CSG Actuarial, a firm that provides data to insurance companies, reports that 37% of new Medigap enrollees are choosing Plan G (although 53% still choose Plan F).1

What will happen to Plan F and Plan G premiums in the 2020s is hard to say. Plan F premiums may jump because the supply of 65-year-olds buying Plan F will be abruptly cut, leaving an older and less healthy population to cover. Plan G premiums could rise also because a Medigap plan must accept new enrollees by the terms of Medicare regardless of how healthy or ill they may be. The current $183 Plan G deductible might significantly increase as well.1

Do you think you might switch out of one Medigap policy to another? That move may be harder to make once 2020 rolls around. If it has been more than six months since you enrolled in Medicare Part B and you want to switch Medigap plans or supplement traditional Medicare with one, some Medigap insurers in certain states may exercise their right to charge you more in view of pre-existing health conditions and even turn you down. It is possible that states may intervene and pass new regulations to prevent this in the coming years.1,2

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

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – reuters.com/article/us-column-marksjarvis-medigap/medicare-supplement-plans-are-changing-what-you-need-to-know-idUSKCN1LZ18F [9/19/18]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T039-C001-S001-two-medigap-plans-to-be-phased-out.html [8/10/18]