Articles tagged with: west des moines

Mid-Life Money Errors

If you are between 40 & 60, beware of these financial blunders & assumptions.

Between the ages of 40 and 60, many people increase their commitment to investing and retirement saving. At the same time, many fall prey to some common money blunders and harbor financial assumptions that may be inaccurate.

These errors and suppositions are worth examining, as you do not want to succumb to them. See if you notice any of these behaviors or assumptions creeping into your financial life.

Do you think you need to invest with more risk? If you are behind on retirement saving, you may find yourself wishing for a “silver bullet” investment or wishing you could allocate more of your portfolio to today’s hottest sectors or asset classes so you can catch up. This impulse could backfire. The closer you get to retirement age, the fewer years you have to recoup investment losses. As you age, the argument for diversification and dialing down risk in your portfolio gets stronger and stronger. In the long run, the consistency of your retirement saving effort should help your nest egg grow more than any other factor.

Are you only focusing on building wealth rather than protecting it? Many people begin investing in their twenties or thirties with the idea of making money and a tendency to play the market in one direction – up. As taxes lurk and markets suffer occasional downturns, moving from mere investing to an actual strategy is crucial. At this point, you need to play defense as well as offense.

Have you made saving for retirement a secondary priority? It should be a top priority, even if it becomes secondary for a while due to fate or bad luck. Some families put saving for college first, saving for mom and dad’s retirement second. Remember that college students can apply for financial aid, but retirees cannot. Building college savings ahead of your own retirement savings may leave your young adult children well-funded for the near future, but they may end up taking you in later in life if you outlive your money.

Has paying off your home loan taken precedence over paying off other debts? Owning your home free and clear is a great goal, but if that is what being debt-free means to you, you may end up saddled with crippling consumer debt on the way toward that long-term objective. In June 2015, the average American household carried more than $15,000 in credit card debt alone. It is usually better to attack credit card debt first, thereby freeing up money you can use to invest, save for retirement, build a rainy day fund – and yes, pay the mortgage.1

Have you taken a loan from your workplace retirement plan? Hopefully not, for this is a bad idea for several reasons. One, you are drawing down your retirement savings – invested assets that would otherwise have the capability to grow and compound. Two, you will probably repay the loan via deductions from your paycheck, cutting into your take-home pay. Three, you will probably have to repay the full amount within five years – a term that may not be long as you would like. Four, if you are fired or quit the entire loan amount will likely have to be paid back within 90 days. Five, if you cannot pay the entire amount back and you are younger than 59½, the IRS will characterize the unsettled portion of the loan as a premature distribution from a qualified retirement plan – fully taxable income subject to early withdrawal penalties.2

Do you assume that your peak earning years are straight ahead? Conventional wisdom says that your yearly earnings reach a peak sometime in your mid-fifties or late fifties, but this is not always the case. Those who work in physically rigorous occupations may see their earnings plateau after age 50 – or even age 40. In addition, some industries are shrinking and offer middle-aged workers much less job security than other career fields.

Is your emergency fund now too small? It should be growing gradually to suit your household, and your household may need much greater cash reserves today in a crisis than it once did. If you have no real emergency fund, do what you can now to build one so you don’t have to turn to some predatory lender for expensive money.

Insurance could also give your household some financial stability in an emergency. Disability insurance can help you out if you find yourself unable to work. Life insurance – all the way from a simple final expense policy to a permanent policy that builds cash value – offers another form of financial support in trying times. Keep in mind; insurance policies contain exclusions, limitations, reductions of benefits, and terms for keeping them in force. Your financial professional can provide you with costs and complete details.

Watch out for these mid-life money errors & assumptions. Some are all too casually made. A review of your investment and retirement savings effort may help you recognize or steer clear of them.

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.

There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. The purchase of certain securities may be required to affect some of the strategies. Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.

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 – nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/ [6/25/15]

2 – tinyurl.com/oalk4fx [9/14/14]

 

 

4 Money Blunders That Could Leave You Poorer

A “not-to-do” list

How are your money habits? Are you getting ahead financially, or does it feel like you are running in place?

It may come down to behavior. Some financial behaviors promote wealth creation, while others lead to frustration. Certainly other factors come into play when determining a household’s financial situation, but behavior and attitudes toward money rank pretty high on the list.

How many households are focusing on the fundamentals? Late in 2014, the Denver-based National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) surveyed 2,000 adults from the 10 largest U.S. metro areas and found that 64% wanted to make at least one financial resolution for 2015. The top three financial goals for the new year: building retirement savings, setting a budget, and creating a plan to pay off debt.1

All well and good, but the respondents didn’t feel so good about their financial situations. About one-third of them said the quality of their financial life was “worse than they expected it to be.” In fact, 48% told NEFE they were living paycheck-to-paycheck and 63% reported facing a sudden and major expense last year.1

Fate and lackluster wage growth aside, good money habits might help to reduce those percentages in 2015. There are certain habits that tend to improve household finances, and other habits that tend to harm them. As a cautionary note for 2015, here is a “not-to-do” list – a list of key money blunders that could make you much poorer if repeated over time.

Money Blunder #1: Spend every dollar that comes through your hands. Maybe we should ban the phrase “disposable income.” Too many households are disposing of money that they could save or invest. Or, they are spending money that they don’t actually have (through credit cards).

You have to have creature comforts, and you can’t live on pocket change. Even so, you can vow to put aside a certain number of dollars per month to spend on something really important: YOU. That 24-hour sale where everything is 50% off? It probably isn’t a “once in a lifetime” event; for all you know, it may happen again next weekend. It is nothing special compared to your future.

Money Blunder #2: Pay others before you pay yourself. Our economy is consumer-driven and service-oriented. Every day brings us chances to take on additional consumer debt. That works against wealth. How many bills do you pay a month, and how much money is left when you are done? Less debt equals more money to pay yourself with – money that you can save or invest on behalf of your future and your dreams and priorities.

Money Blunder #3: Don’t save anything. Paying yourself first also means building an emergency fund and a strong cash position. With the middle class making very little economic progress in this generation (at least based on wages versus inflation), this may seem hard to accomplish. It may very well be, but it will be even harder to face an unexpected financial burden with minimal cash on hand.

The U.S. personal savings rate has averaged about 5% recently. Not great, but better than the low of 2.6% measured in 2007. Saving 5% of your disposable income may seem like a challenge, but the challenge is relative: the personal savings rate in China is 50%.2

Money Blunder #4: Invest impulsively. Buying what’s hot, chasing the return, investing in what you don’t fully understand – these are all variations of the same bad habit, which is investing emotionally and trying to time the market. The impulse is to “make money,” with too little attention paid to diversification, risk tolerance and other critical factors along the way. Money may be made, but it may not be retained.

Make 2015 the year of good money habits. You may be doing all the right things right now and if so, you may be making financial strides. If you find yourself doing things that are halting your financial progress, remember the old saying: change is good. A change in financial behavior may be rewarding.

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 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 – denverpost.com/smart/ci_27275294/financial-resolutions-2015-four-ways-help-yourself-keep [1/7/15]

2 – tennessean.com/story/money/2014/12/31/tips-getting-financially-fit/21119049/ [12/31/14]

An Alert for People Who Use CDs for Their IRAs

A recent tax court ruling now limits the frequency of IRA rollovers.

Do you like to shop around online for the best CD rates? Do you have a habit of moving certificates of deposit from bank to bank in pursuit of better yields? If you do, you should be aware of an obscure but important IRS decision, one that could directly impact any IRA CDs you own.

Pay attention to the new, tighter restrictions on 60-day IRA rollovers. This is when you take possession of some or all of the assets from a traditional IRA you own and deposit them into another traditional IRA (or for that matter, the same traditional IRA) within 60 days. By making this tax-savvy move, you exclude the amount of the IRA distribution from your gross income.1

For decades, the IRS had a rule prohibiting multiple tax-free rollovers from the same traditional IRA within a 12-month period. For example, an individual couldn’t make an IRA-to-IRA rollover in November and then do another one in March of the following year using the same IRA.1

This didn’t present much of a dilemma for people who owned more than one IRA, of course. If they owned five traditional IRAs, they could potentially make five such tax-free rollovers in a 12-month period, one per each IRA. Internal Revenue Code Section 408(d)(3) allowed that.1,2

Those days are over. Thanks to a 2014 U.S. Tax Court ruling (Bobrow v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2014-21), the once-a-year rollover restriction will apply to all IRAs owned by an individual starting January 1, 2015. This year, you’ll be able to make a maximum of one tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover, regardless of how many IRAs you own.1

If you have multiple IRA CDs maturing, you could risk breaking the new IRS rule. When a CD matures, what happens? Your bank cuts you a check, and you reinvest or redeposit the money.

When this happens with an IRA CD, your goal is to make that tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover within 60 days. In accepting the check from the bank, you touch those IRA assets. If you fail to roll them over by the 60-day deadline, those IRA assets in your possession constitute taxable income.3

So if the new rules say you can only make one tax-free IRA-to-IRA rollover every 12 months, what happens if you have three IRA CDs maturing in 2015? What happens with the two IRA CDs where you can’t make a tax-exempt rollover?

Here is how things could play out for you. You could end up with much more taxable income than you anticipate: the money leaving the two other IRA CDs would constitute IRA distributions and be included in your gross income. If you are not yet age 59½, you could also be hit with the 10% penalty on early IRA withdrawals.3,4

Is there a way out of this dilemma? Yes. This new IRS rule doesn’t apply to trustee-to-trustee transfers of IRA assets. A trustee-to-trustee transfer is when the financial company hosting your IRA arranges a payment directly from your IRA to either another IRA or another type of retirement plan. So as long as the bank (or brokerage) serving as the custodian of your IRA CD arranges such a transfer, no taxable event will occur.3

Speaking of things that won’t change in 2015, two very nice allowances will remain in place for IRA owners. You will still be able to make an unlimited amount of trustee-to-trustee transfers between IRAs in a year, as well as an unlimited number of Roth IRA conversions per year.1

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.

Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion form a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.

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/IRA-One-Rollover-Per-Year-Rule [5/14/14]

2 – bna.com/announcement-clarifies-inconsistency-b17179889881/ [4/24/14]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Rollovers-of-Retirement-Plan-and-IRA-Distributions [4/21/14]

4 – bankrate.com/financing/cd-rates/cd-ira-owners-beware-of-new-rule/ [9/2/14]

 

 

 

 

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]

Mike’s Chili

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

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

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

How is Health Care Reform Affecting the Federal Deficit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph. (641)-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

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

Fall Financial Reminders

The year is coming to a close. Have you thought about these financial ideas yet?

As every calendar year ends, the window slowly closes on a set of financial opportunities. Here are several you might want to explore before 2015 arrives.

Don’t forget that IRA RMD. If you own one or more traditional IRAs, you have to take your annual required minimum distribution (RMD) from one or more of those IRAs by December 31. If you are being asked to take your very first RMD, you actually have until April 15, 2015 to take it – but your 2015 income taxes may be substantially greater as a result. (Note: original owners of Roth IRAs never have to take RMDs from those accounts.)1

Did you recently inherit an IRA? If you have and you weren’t married to the person who started that IRA, you must take the first RMD from that IRA by December 31 of the year after the death of that original IRA owner. You have to do it whether the account is a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.1

Here’s another thing you might want to do with that newly inherited IRA before New Year’s Eve, though: you might want to divide it into multiple inherited IRAs, thereby promoting a lengthier payout schedule for younger inheritors of those assets. Otherwise, any co-beneficiaries receive distributions per the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary. If you want to make this move, it must be done by the end of the year that follows the year in which the original IRA owner died.1

Can you max out your contribution to your workplace retirement plan? Your employer likely sponsors a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, and you have until December 31 to boost your 2014 contribution. This year, the contribution limit on both plans is $17,500 for those under 50, $23,000 for those 50 and older.2,3

Can you do the same with your IRA? Again, December 31 is your deadline for tax year 2014. This year, the traditional and Roth IRA contribution limit is $5,500 for those under 50, $6,500 for those 50 and older. High earners may face a lower Roth IRA contribution ceiling per their adjusted gross income level – above $129,000 AGI, an individual filing as single or head of household can’t make a Roth contribution for 2014, and neither can joint filers with AGI exceeding $191,000.3

Ever looked into a Solo(k) or a SEP plan? If you have income from self-employment, you can save for the future using a self-directed retirement plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or a one-person 401(k), the so-called Solo(k). You don’t have to be exclusively self-employed to set one of these up – you can work full-time for someone else and contribute to one of these while also deferring some of your salary into the retirement plan sponsored by your employer.2

Contributions to SEPs and Solo(k)s are tax-deductible. December 31 is the deadline to set one up for 2014, and if you meet that deadline, you can make your contributions for 2014 as late as April 15, 2015 (or October 15, 2015 with a federal extension). You can contribute up to $52,000 to SEP for 2014, $57,500 if you are 50 or older. For a Solo(k), the same limits apply but they break down to $17,500 + up to 20% of your net self-employment income and $23,000 + 20% net self-employment income if you are 50 or older. If you contribute to a 401(k) at work, the sum of your employee salary deferrals plus your Solo(k) contributions can’t be greater than the aforementioned $17,500/$23,000 limits – but even so, you can still pour up to 20% of your net self-employment income into a Solo(k).1,2

Do you need to file IRS Form 706? A sad occasion leads to this – the death of a spouse. Form 706, which should be filed no later than nine months after his or her passing, notifies the IRS that some or all of a decedent’s estate tax exemption is being carried over to the surviving spouse per the portability allowance. If your spouse passed in 2011, 2012, or 2013, the IRS is allowing you until December 31, 2014 to file the pertinent Form 706, which will transfer that estate planning portability to your estate if your spouse was a U.S. citizen or resident.1

Are you feeling generous? You may want to donate appreciated securities to charity before the year ends (you may take a deduction amounting to their current market value at the time of the donation, and you can use it to counterbalance up to 30% of your AGI). Or, you may want to gift a child, relative or friend and take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion. An individual can gift up to $14,000 this year to as many other individuals as he or she desires; a couple may jointly gift up to $28,000 to as many individuals as you wish. Whether you choose to gift singly or jointly, you’ve probably got a long way to go before using up the current $5.34 million/$10.68 million lifetime exemption. Wealthy grandparents often fund 529 plans this way, so it is worth noting that December 31 is the 529 funding deadline for the 2014 tax year.1

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.
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/deborahljacobs/2014/10/08/eight-key-financial-deadlines-to-keep-in-mind-this-fall/ [10/8/14]
2 – tinyurl.com/kjzzbw4 [10/9/14]
3 – irs.gov/uac/IRS-Announces-2014-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$17,500-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2014 [10/31/13]

Pullback Perspective

This latest stock market pullback has provided an unwelcome reminder that stocks do not always go up in a straight line. Even within powerful bull markets such as this one, pullbacks of 5 – 10% have been quite common and do not mean the bull market is nearing an end. In this week’s commentary, we attempt to put the pullback into perspective. We look beyond this latest bout of volatility and share our thoughts on the current bull market, compare it with prior bull markets at this stage, and discuss why we do not think it’s coming to an end.

Pullbacks Don’t Mean the End of the Bull Market

Pullbacks such as this one, which has reached 5%, have been normal. Sometimes stocks get ahead of themselves. When they do, investor concerns can be magnified and profit taking might take stocks down more than might be justified by the fundamental news. We see this latest pullback as normal within the context of an ongoing and powerful bull market and do not see its causes (European and Chinese growth concerns, the rise of Islamic State militants, Ebola, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, etc.) as justifying something much bigger.

The S&P 500 has now experienced 19 pullbacks during this 5.5-year-old bull market, during which the index has risen by 182% (cumulative return of 217% including dividends). The 1990s bull market included 13 pullbacks; there were 12 during the 2002 – 2007 bull market. At an average of three to four pullbacks per year, we are in-line with history. We understand the nervousness out there, but what we have just experienced looks pretty normal at this point.

When volatility has been so low for so long, normal volatility does not feel normal. Investors have become unaccustomed to what we would characterize as normal volatility. While most of the 5% drop came in a short period of time last week (October 6 –10), the level of volatility experienced last week is not at all uncommon within an ongoing economic expansion and bull market. Volatility tends to pick up as the business cycle passes its midpoint, which we believe it has. Reaching this stage just took longer than many had expected during the current cycle.

Also, keep in mind that the 335 drop in the Dow Jones Industrials that we experienced on Thursday, October 9, 2014, is not as dramatic as it once was. That loss was less than 2%, with the Dow near 17,000 when it occurred, compared with 3 – 4% losses associated with that number of points on the Dow earlier in the recovery.

These pullbacks do not mean the end of the bull market is near, nor does the fact that we have not had a 10% or more correction since 2011. In fact, most bull markets since World War II included only one correction of 10% or more, and the current bull has already had two (2010 and 2011). We do not believe the current economic and financial market backdrop has sufficiently deteriorated for the pullback to turn into a bear market, as we discuss below.

Why This Pullback Is Unlikely to Get Much Worse

So why do we think this pullback is unlikely to turn into a bear market? There are number of reasons:

• The economic backdrop in the United States remains healthy. Gross domestic product (GDP) is growing at above its long-term average, providing support for continued earnings growth; the U.S. labor market has created 2 million jobs over the past year; and the drop in oil prices may support stronger consumer spending.
• Our favorite leading indicators, including the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI), the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Index, and the yield curve, suggest that the bull market may likely continue into 2015 and beyond, with a recession unlikely on the immediate horizon.
• The European Central Bank (ECB) is likely to add a dose of monetary stimulus to spark growth in Europe, the source of much of the global growth fears that have driven recent stock market weakness. China stands ready to invigorate its economy as well.
• Interest rates, and therefore borrowing costs for corporations, remain low. The Federal Reserve (Fed) is in no hurry to raise interest rates.
• Valuations have become more attractive. Price-to-earnings ratios (PE) have not reached levels that suggest the end of the bull market is forthcoming, based on history. We view PEs, which have fallen about 0.5 points from their recent peak, as reasonable given growing earnings and low interest rates.
• The S&P 500 is marginally above its 200-day moving average at 1905. Historically, this level has proven to be strong support. Although the index may dip slightly below this level in the near term, we expect the range around that level (1900 – 1910) to provide strong support for the index again and would not expect it to stay below that range for very long.

Bull Markets Don’t Die of Old Age

The current bull market is one of the most powerful ever at this stage, just over 5.5 years in. Since March 9, 2009, when the current bull market began, the S&P 500 has risen 182% (total cumulative return of 217%), topping all other bull markets since World War II at this stage. The 1949 and 1982 bull markets were close, with gains of 170% and 163% (respectively) at this stage, but were not quite as strong.

So does that mean that this bull market is too old and should end? We don’t think so. Bull markets die of excesses, not old age, and we do not see the excesses that characterize an impending bear market. The labor markets are not strong enough yet to generate significant upward pressure on wages to drive inflation. U.S. factories have excess capacity. As a result, the Fed is unlikely to start hiking interest rates until the middle of 2015, and rate hikes are likely to be gradual. It will likely take numerous hikes to slow the U.S. economy enough to tip it into recession (and invert the yield curve), which is unlikely to come until at least 2016. We do not see stock valuations or broad investor sentiment as excessive. We expect this bull market to complete its sixth year in March 2015 and believe there is a strong likelihood that it continues well beyond that date.

Conclusion
We do not believe the volatility seen in recent weeks, which is in-line with historical trends, is an early signal of a recession or bear market. Nor do we think the age of this bull market means it should end, given the favorable economic backdrop, central bank support, and reasonable valuations. Although we will continue to watch our favorite leading indicators for warning signs of something bigger, we think this latest bout of volatility is nothing more than a normal, though unwelcome, interruption within a long-term bull market. We maintain our positive outlook for stocks for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015.

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

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance reference is historical and is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Price-to-earnings ratio is a valuation ratio of a company’s current share price compared to its per-share earnings.
INDEX DESCRIPTIONS
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure
performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

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]