What Are Your Odds of Being Audited?

They are low, unless you show the I.R.S. some conspicuous “red flags” on your return. 

Fewer than 1% of Americans have their federal taxes audited. The percentage has declined recently due to Internal Revenue Service budget cuts. In 2016, just 0.7% of individual returns were audited (1 of every 143). That compares to 1.1% of individual returns in 2010.1,2

The rich are more likely to be audited – and so are the poor. After all, an audit of a wealthy taxpayer could result in a “big score” for the I.R.S., and the agency simply cannot dismiss returns from low-income taxpayers that claim implausibly large credits and deductions.

Data compiled by the non-profit Tax Foundation shows that in 2015, just 0.47% of Americans with income of $50,000-75,000 were audited. Only 0.49% of taxpayers who made between $75,000-100,000 faced I.R.S. reviews. The percentage rose to 8.42% for taxpayers who earned $1-5 million. People with incomes of $1-25,000 faced a 1.01% chance of an audit; for those who declared no income at all, the chance was 3.78%.2

What “red flags” could prompt the I.R.S. to scrutinize your return? Abnormally large deductions may give the I.R.S. pause. As an example, suppose that you earned $95,000 in 2016 while claiming a $14,000 charitable deduction. Forbes estimates that the average charitable deduction for such a taxpayer last year was $3,529.3

Sometimes, the type of deduction arouses suspicion. Taking the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) without a penny of adjusted gross income, for example. Or, claiming a business expense for a service or good that seems irrelevant to your line of work. A home office deduction may be ruled specious if the “office” amounts to a room in your house that serves other purposes. Incongruous 1099 income can also trigger a review – did a brokerage disclose a big capital gain on your investment account to the I.R.S. that you did not?4

Self-employment can increase your audit potential. In 2015, for example, taxpayers who filed a Schedule C listing business income of $25,000-100,000 had a 2.4% chance of being audited.2

Some taxpayers illegitimately deduct hobby expenses and try to report them on Schedule C as business losses. A few years of this can wave a red flag. Is there a profit motive or profit expectation central to the activity, or is it simply a pastime offering an occasional chance for financial gain?

If you are retired, does your audit risk drop? Not necessarily. You may not be a high earner, but there is still the possibility that you could erroneously claim deductions and credits. If you claim large medical expenses, that might draw extra attention from the I.R.S. – but if you have proper documentation to back up your claims, you can be confident about them.

The I.R.S. does watch Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) closely. Failure to take an RMD will draw scrutiny. Retirees who neglect to withdraw required amounts from IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans can be subject to a penalty equal to 50% of the amount not withdrawn on time.1

The fastest way to invite an audit might be to file a paper return. TurboTax says that the error rate on hard copy returns is about 21%. For electronically filed returns, it falls to 0.5%. So, if you still drop your 1040 form off at the post office each year, you may want to try e-filing in the future.4

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

Website:  www.cfgiowa.com

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

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

Citations.

1 – kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T056-S011-9-irs-audit-red-flags-for-retirees/index.html [3/17]

2 – fool.com/retirement/2017/02/06/here-are-the-odds-of-an-irs-audit.aspx [2/6/17]

3 – forbes.com/sites/baldwin/2017/01/23/tax-guide-deductions-and-audit-risk/ [1/23/17]

4 – fool.com/retirement/2016/12/19/9-tax-audit-red-flags-for-the-irs.aspx [12/19/16]

 

Will You Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes?

Too many wealthy households commit these common blunders.
Many people plan their estates diligently, with input from legal, tax, and financial professionals. Others plan earnestly, but make mistakes that can potentially affect both the transfer and destiny of family wealth. Here are some common and not-so-common errors to avoid.

Doing it all yourself. While you could write your own will or create a will or trust from a template, it can be risky to do so. Sometimes simplicity has a price. Look at the example of Warren Burger. The former Chief Justice of the United States wrote his own will, and it was just 176 words long. It proved flawed – after he died in 1995, his heirs wound up paying over $450,000 in estate taxes and other fees, costs that likely could have been avoided with a lengthier and less informal will containing appropriate language.1

Failing to update your will or trust after a life event. Relatively few estate plans are reviewed over time. Any life event should prompt you to review your will, trust, or other estate planning documents. So should a life event affecting one of your beneficiaries.

Appointing a co-trustee. Trust administration is not for everyone. Some people lack the interest, the time, or the understanding it requires, and others balk at the responsibility and potential liability involved. A co-trustee also introduces the potential for conflict.

Being too vague with your heirs about your estate plan. While you may not want to explicitly reveal who will get what prior to your passing, your heirs should have an understanding of the purpose and intentions at the heart of your estate planning. If you want to distribute more of your wealth to one child than another, write a letter to be presented after your death that explains your reasoning. Make a list of which heirs will receive particular collectibles or heirlooms. If your family has some issues, this may go a long way toward reducing squabbles and the possibility of legal costs eating up some of this or that heir’s inheritance.

Failing to consider what will happen if you & your partner are unmarried. The “marriage penalty” affecting joint filers aside, married couples receive distinct federal tax breaks in this country – estate tax breaks among them. This year, the lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion amount is $5.45 million for an individual, but $10.9 million for a married couple.1,2

If you live together and you are not married, it is worth considering how your unmarried status might affect your estate planning with regard to federal and state taxes. As Forbes mentioned last year, federal and state taxes claimed more than more than $15 million of the $35 million estate of Oscar-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He left 100% of his estate to his longtime partner, and since they had never married, she could not qualify for the marriage exemption on inherited assets. While the individual lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion protected a relatively small portion of Hoffman’s estate from death taxes, the much larger remainder was taxed at rates of up to 40% rather than being passed tax-free. Hoffman also lived in New York, a state which levies a 16% estate tax for non-spouses once estates exceed $1 million.1

Leaving a trust unfunded (or underfunded). Through a simple, one-sentence title change, a married couple can fund a revocable trust with their primary residence. As an example, if a couple retitles their home from “Heather and Michael Smith, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” to “Heather and Michael Smith, Trustees of the Smith Revocable Trust dated (month)(day), (year)”. They are free to retitle myriad other assets in the trust’s name.1

Ignoring a caregiver with ulterior motives. Very few people consider this possibility when creating a will or trust, but it does happen. A caregiver harboring a hidden agenda may exploit a loved one to the point where he or she revises estate planning documents for the caregiver’s financial benefit.

The best estate plans are clear in their language, clear in their intentions, and updated as life events demand. They are overseen through the years with care and scrutiny, reflecting the magnitude of the transfer of significant wealth.

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

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

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

Citations.
1 – raymondjames.com/pointofview/seven_estate_planning_mistakes_to_avoid [10/16/15]
2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2015/12/11/estate-planning-in-2016-heres-what-you-need-to-kno.aspx [12/11/15]

You Could Retire…But Should You?

It might be better to wait a bit longer.

Some people retire at first opportunity, only to wish they had waited longer. Thanks to Wall Street’s long bull run, many pre-retirees have seen their savings fully recover from the shock of the 2007-09 bear market to the point where they appear to have reached the “magic number.” You may be one of them – but just because you can retire does not necessarily mean that you should.

Retiring earlier may increase longevity risk. In shorthand, this is the chance of “outliving your money.” Bear markets, sudden medical expenses, savings shortfalls, and immoderate withdrawals from retirement accounts can all contribute to it. The downside of retiring at 55 or 60 is that you have that many more years of retirement to fund.

Staying employed longer means fewer years of depending on your assets and greater monthly Social Security income. A retiree who claims Social Security benefits at age 70 will receive monthly payments 76% greater than a retiree who claims them at age 62.1

There are also insurance issues to consider. If you trade the office for the golf course at age 60 or 62, do you really want to pay for a few years of private health insurance? Can you easily find such a policy? Medicare will not cover you until you turn 65; in the event of an illness, how would your finances hold up without its availability? While your employer may give you a year-and-a-half of COBRA coverage upon your exit, that could cost your household more than $1,000 a month.1,2

How is your cash position? If your early retirement happens to coincide with a severe market downturn or a business or health crisis, you will need an emergency fund – or at the very least enough liquidity to quickly address such issues.

Does your spouse want to retire later? If so, your desire to retire early might cause some conflicts and impact any shared retirement dreams you hold. If you have older children or other relatives living with you, how would your decision affect them?

Working a little longer might be good for your mind & body. Some retirees end up missing the intellectual demands of the workplace and the socialization with friends and co-workers. They find no ready equivalent once they end their careers.

Staying employed longer might also help baby boomers ward off some significant health risks. Worldwide, suicide rates are highest for those 70 and older according to the World Health Organization. Additionally, INSERM (France’s national health agency) tracked 429,000 retirees and pre-retirees for several years and concluded that those who left the workforce at age 60 were at 15% greater risk of developing dementia than those who stopped working at 65.3

It seems that the more affluent you are, the more likely you are to keep working. Last year, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch and Age Wave surveyed wealthy retirees and found that 29% of respondents with more than $5 million in invested assets were still working. That held true for 33% of respondents with invested assets in the $1-5 million range. Most of these millionaires said they were working by choice, and about half were working in new careers.1

Ideally, you retire with adequate savings and a plan to stay physically and mentally active and socially engaged. Waiting a bit longer to retire might be good for your wealth and health.

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 – tinyurl.com/o8lf6z2 [8/1/14]

2 – money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2015/02/05/6-reasons-you-shouldnt-retire-early [2/5/15]

3 – newsweek.com/2015/03/20/retiring-too-early-can-kill-you-312092.html [3/20/15]

The ABCs of IRAs

This popular retirement savings vehicle comes in several varieties.

What don’t you know? Many Americans know about Roth and traditional IRAs … but there are other types of IRAs. Here’s a quick look:

Traditional IRA (or deductible IRA) is an individual savings plan for anyone who receives taxable compensation. IRA assets may be invested in any number of vehicles, and contributions may be tax-deductible. Earnings in a traditional IRA grow tax-deferred until withdrawal, but will be taxed when withdrawal begins – and withdrawals must begin by the time the IRA owner reaches age 70½.

Roth IRA offers you tax-free compounding, tax-free withdrawals if you are older than age 59½ and have owned your account for at least five years, and the potential to make contributions to your IRA after age 70½ without having to take RMDs.

SIMPLE IRAs are qualified retirement plans for businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. These traditional IRAs are set up by an employer for employees and funded by employer contributions only.

Spousal IRA is actually a rule that lets a working spouse make traditional or Roth IRA contributions on behalf of a non-working or retired spouse.

Inherited IRA is a Roth or traditional IRA inherited by a non-spousal beneficiary.

Group IRA is simply a traditional IRA offered by employers, unions, and other employee associations to their employees, administered through a retirement trust.

Rollover IRA. Assets distributed from a qualified retirement plan may be rolled over into a traditional IRA, which may be converted later to a Roth IRA.

Education IRA (Coverdell ESA) provides a vehicle to help middle-class investors save for a child’s education.

Consult a qualified financial advisor regarding your IRA options. There are many choices available, and it is vital that you understand how your choice could affect your financial situation. No one IRA is the “right” IRA for everyone, so do your homework and seek advice before you proceed.

Traditional IRAs are accounts funded with tax deductible contributions in which any earnings are tax deferred until withdrawn. Unless certain criteria are met, IRS penalties, restrictions, and income taxes may apply on any withdrawals taken prior to age 59 1/2. Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

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

Website:  www.cfgiowa.com

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

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.

 

 

 

Are You Retiring Within the Next 5 Years?

What should you focus on as the transition approaches?

You can prepare for your retirement transition years before it occurs. In doing so, you can do your best to avoid the kind of financial surprises that tend to upset an unsuspecting new retiree.

How much monthly income will you need? Look at your monthly expenses and add them up. (Consider also the trips, adventures and pursuits you have in mind in the near term.) You may end up living on less; that may be acceptable, as your monthly expenses may decline. If your retirement income strategy was conceived a few years ago, revisit it to see if it needs adjusting. As a test, you can even try living on your projected monthly income for 2-3 months prior to retiring.

Should you try to go Roth? Many pre-retirees have amassed substantial retirement savings in tax-deferred retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and traditional IRAs. Distributions from these accounts are taxed as ordinary income. This reality makes some pre-retirees weigh the pros and cons of a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) conversion for some or all of those assets. You may want to consider the “Roth tradeoff” – being taxed on the amount of retirement savings you convert today in exchange for the ability to take tax-free withdrawals from the Roth IRA or 401(k) tomorrow. (You must be 59½ and have owned that Roth account for at least five years to take tax-free distributions.)1

Should you downsize or relocate? Moving to another state may lessen your tax burden. Moving into a smaller home may reduce your monthly expenses. In a perfect world, you would retire without any mortgage debt. If you will still be paying off your home loan in retirement, realize that your monthly income might be lower as you do so. You may want to investigate a refi, but consider that the cost of a refi can offset the potential savings down the line.

How conservative should your portfolio be? Even if your retirement savings are substantial, growth investing gives your portfolio the potential to keep pace with or keep ahead of rising consumer prices. Mere gradual inflation has the capability to erode your purchasing power over time. As an example, at 3% inflation what costs $10,000 today will cost more than $24,000 in 2045.2

In planning for retirement, the top priority is to build savings; within retirement, the top priority is generating consistent, sufficient income. With that in mind, portfolio assets may be adjusted or reallocated with respect to time: it may be wise to have some risk-averse investments that can provide income in the next few years as well as growth investments geared to income or savings objectives on the long-term horizon.

How will you live? There are people who wrap up their careers without much idea of what their day-to-day life will be like once they retire. Some picture an endless Saturday. Others wonder if they will lose their sense of purpose (and self) away from work. Remember that retirement is a beginning. Ask yourself what you would like to begin doing. Think about how to structure your days to do it, and how your day-to-day life could change for the better with the gift of more free time.

Many retirees find that their expenses “out of the gate” are larger than they anticipated – more travel and leisure means more money spent. Even so, no business owner or professional wants to enter retirement pinching pennies. If you want to live it up a little yet are worried about drawing down your retirement savings too fast, consider slimming transportation costs (car and gasoline expenses; maybe you could even live car-free), landscaping costs, or other monthly costs that amount to discretionary spending better suited to youth or mid-life.

How will you take care of yourself? What kind of health insurance do you have right now? If your company sponsors a group health plan, you may as well get the most out of it (in terms of doctor, dentist and optometrist visits) before you leave the office.

If you retire prior to age 65, Medicare will not be there for you. Check and see if your group health plan will extend certain benefits to you when you retire; it may or may not. If you can stay enrolled in it, great; if not, you may have to find new coverage at presumably higher premiums.

Even if you retire at 65 or later, Medicare is no panacea. Your out-of-pocket health care expenses could still be substantial with Medicare in place. Long term care is another consideration – if you think you (or your spouse) will need it, should it be funded through existing assets or some form of LTC insurance?

Give your retirement strategy a second look as the transition approaches. Review it in the company of the financial professional who helped you create and refine it. An adjustment or two before retirement may be necessary due to life or financial events.

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 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Retirement/The-Tax-Benefits-of-Your-401-k–Plan/INF22614.html [5/7/15]

2 – investopedia.com/articles/markets/042215/best-etfs-inflationary-worries.asp [4/22/15]

 

The Strong Dollar: Good or Bad?

What is dollar strength and who invests in it?

You may have heard that the dollar is “strong” right now. You may have also heard that a strong dollar amounts to a headwind against commodities and stocks.

While there is some truth to that, there is more to the story. A strong dollar does not necessarily rein in the bulls, and dollar strength can work for the economy and the markets.

The U.S. Dollar Index has soared lately. Across July 2014-February 2015, the USDX (which measures the value of the greenback against key foreign currencies) rose an eyebrow-raising 19.44%.1

On March 9, the European Central Bank initiated its quantitative easing program. The dollar hit a 12-year high against the euro a day later, with the USDX jumping north more than 3% in five trading days ending March 10. Remarkable, yes, but the USDX has the potential to climb even higher.2,3

Before this dollar bull market, we had a weak dollar for some time. A dollar bear market occurred from 2001-11, partly resulting from the monetary policy that the Federal Reserve adopted in the Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke years. As U.S. interest rates descended to historic lows in the late 2000s, the dollar became more attractive as a funding currency and demand for dollar-denominated debt increased.4

In Q1 2015, private sector dollar-denominated debt hit $9 trillion globally. Asian corporations have relied notably on foreign currency borrowing, though their domestic currency borrowing is also significant; Morgan Stanley recently researched 625 of these firms and found that dollar-denominated debt amounted to 28% of their total debt.4,5

So why has the dollar strengthened? The quick, easy explanation is twofold. One, the Fed is poised to tighten while other central banks have eased, promoting expectations of a mightier U.S. currency. Two, our economy is healthy versus those of many other nations. The greenback gained on every other major currency in 2014 – a development unseen since the 1980s.4

This explanation for dollar strength aside, attention must also be paid to two other critical factors emerging which could stoke the dollar bull market to even greater degree.

At some point, liabilities will increase for the issuers of all that dollar-denominated debt. That will ramp up demand for dollars, because they will want to hedge.

Will the dollar supply meet the demand? The account deficit has been slimming for the U.S., and the slimmer it gets, the fewer new dollars become available. It could take a few years to unwind $9 trillion of dollar-denominated debt, and when you factor in a probable rate hike from our central bank, things get really interesting. The dollar bull may be just getting started.

If the dollar keeps rallying, what happens to stocks & commodities? Earnings could be hurt, meaning bad news for Wall Street. A strong dollar can curb profits for multinational corporations and lower demand for U.S. exports, as it makes them more expensive. U.S. firms with the bulk of their business centered in America tend to cope better with a strong dollar than firms that are major exporters. Fixed-income investments invested in dollar-denominated assets (as is usually the case) may fare better in such an environment than those invested in other currencies. As dollar strength reduces the lure of gold, oil and other commodities mainly traded in dollars, they face a real headwind. So do the economies of countries that are big commodities producers, such as Brazil and South Africa.6

The economic upside is that U.S. households gain more purchasing power when the dollar strengthens, with prices of imported goods falling. Improved consumer spending could also give the Fed grounds to extend its accommodative monetary policy.6

How are people investing in the dollar? U.S. investors have dollar exposure now as an effect of being invested in the U.S. equities market. Those who want more exposure to the rally can turn to investment vehicles specifically oriented toward dollar investing. European investors are responding to the stronger greenback (and the strong probability of the Fed raising interest rates in the near future) by snapping up Treasuries and corporate bonds with longer maturities.

Stocks can still rally when the dollar is strong. As research from Charles Schwab indicates, the average annualized return for U.S. stocks when the dollar rises has been 12.8% since 1970. For bonds, it has been 8.5% in the years since 1976. A dollar rally amounts to a thumbs-up global vote for the U.S. economy, and that can certainly encourage and sustain a bull market.7

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.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

There is a potential for fast price swings in commodities and currencies that will result in significant volatility in an investor’s holdings.

Citations.

1 – wsj.com/mdc/public/npage/2_3050.html?mod=mdc_curr_dtabnk&symb=DXY [3/9/15]

2 – reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/us-markets-stocks-idUSKBN0M612A20150310 [3/10/15]

3 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/03/10/u-s-equities-hammered-on-dollar-strength-and-oil-weakness/ [3/10/15]

4 – valuewalk.com/2015/02/us-dollar-bull-market/ [2/4/15]

5 – tinyurl.com/ptpolga [2/25/15]

6 – blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2014/12/24/how-a-strong-dollar-affects-investors-at-a-glance/ [12/24/14]

7 – time.com/money/3541584/dollar-rally-global-currencies/ [2/13/15]

 

2015 IRA Deadlines Are Approaching

Here is what you need to know. 

Financially, many of us associate April with taxes – but we should also associate April with important IRA deadlines.

*April 1 is the absolute deadline to take your first Required Mandatory Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA(s).

*April 15 is the deadline for making annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.1

Let’s discuss the contribution deadline first, and then the deadline for that first RMD (which affects only those IRA owners who turned 70½ last year).

The earlier you make your annual IRA contribution, the better. You can make a yearly Roth or traditional IRA contribution anytime between January 1 of the current year and April 15 of the next year. So the contribution window for 2014 is January 1, 2014- April 15, 2015. You can make your IRA contribution for 2015 anytime from January 1, 2015-April 15, 2016.2

You have more than 15 months to make your IRA contribution for a given year, but why wait? Savvy IRA owners contribute as early as they can to give those dollars more months to grow and compound. (After all, who wants less time to amass retirement savings?)

You cut your income tax bill by contributing to a deductible traditional IRA. That’s because you are funding it with after-tax dollars. To get the full tax deduction for your 2015 traditional IRA contribution, you have to meet one or more of these financial conditions:

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan.

*You are eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but you are a single filer or head of household with modified adjusted gross income of $61,000 or less. (Or if you file jointly with your spouse, your combined MAGI is $98,000 or less.)

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but your spouse is eligible and your combined 2015 gross income is $183,000 or less.3

If you are the original owner of a traditional IRA, by law you must stop contributing to it starting in the year you turn 70½. If you are the initial owner of a Roth IRA, you can contribute to it as long as you live provided you have taxable compensation and MAGI below a certain level (see below).1,3

If you are making a 2014 IRA contribution in early 2015, be aware of this fact. You must tell the investment company hosting the IRA account what year the contribution is for. If you fail to indicate the tax year that the contribution applies to, the custodian firm may make a default assumption that the contribution is for the current year (and note exactly that to the IRS).4

So, write “2015 IRA contribution” or “2014 IRA contribution” as applicable in the memo area of your check, plainly and simply. Be sure to write your account number on the check. Should you make your contribution electronically, double-check that these details are communicated.

How much can you put into an IRA this year? You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for the 2015 tax year, $6,500 if you will be 50 or older this year. (The same applies for the 2014 tax year). If you have multiple IRAs, you can contribute up to a total of $5,500/$6,500 across the various accounts. Should you make an IRA contribution exceeding these limits, you will not be rewarded for it: you will have until the following April 15 to correct the contribution with the help of an IRS form, and if you don’t, the amount of the excess contribution will be taxed at 6% each year the correction is avoided.1,4

If you earn a lot of money, your maximum contribution to a Roth IRA may be reduced because of MAGI phase-outs, which kick in as follows.3

2014 Tax Year                                                                2015 Tax Year

Single/head of household: $114,000 – $129,000          Single/head of household: $116,000 – $131,000

Married filing jointly: $181,000 – $191,000                   Married filing jointly: $183,000 – $193,000

Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000                        Married filing jointly: $0 – $10,000

If your MAGI falls within the applicable phase-out range, you may make a partial contribution.3

A last-chance RMD deadline rolls around on April 1. If you turned 70½ in 2014, the IRS gave you a choice: you could a) take your first Required Minimum Distribution from your traditional IRA before December 31, 2014, or b) postpone it until as late as April 1, 2015.1

If you chose b), you will have to take two RMDs this year – one by April 1, 2014 and another by December 31, 2014. (For subsequent years, your annual RMD deadline will be December 31.) The investment firm hosting your IRA should have already notified you of this consequence, and the RMD amount(s) – in fact, they have probably calculated the RMD(s) for you.5

Original owners of Roth IRAs will never face this issue – they are not required to take RMDs.1

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

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

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

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

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [11/3/14]

2 – dailyfinance.com/2014/12/06/time-running-out-end-year-retirement-planning/ [12/6/14]

3 – asppa.org/News/Browse-Topics/Sales-Marketing/Article/ArticleID/3594 [10/23/14]

4 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/021505.asp [1/21/15]

5 – schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/IRA-Tax-Traps [6/6/14]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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]

CFGIowa Weekly Economic Update November 11, 2013

SHUTDOWN DOESN’T DETER HIRING

The Labor Department’s delayed October employment report showed the economy adding 204,000 new jobs last month. Analysts polled by Reuters had only expected a gain of 125,000. The unemployment rate actually rose to 7.3%, as those analysts had predicted. This was a nice Friday surprise for Wall Street, and it also made investors wonder if the tapering of QE3 (Quantitative Easing) could come before the end of the year. A solid November employment report could offer further grounds for that move.1

FIRST Q3 GDP ESTIMATE TOPS EXPECTATIONS

In another nice surprise for Wall Street, the Bureau of Economic Analysis put third quarter growth at 2.8%, whereas economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected a reading of 2.3%. In related news, a federal report showed factory orders up 1.7% in September, and the Institute for Supply Management’s service sector PMI (Purchasing Manager’s Index) rose a full point in October to 55.4.2,3

HOUSEHOLD INCOMES OUTPACE SPENDING

The September consumer spending report was a bit of a disappointment. Personal spending increased 0.2% (economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% rise) while personal incomes rose 0.5%, suggesting that households saved more and spent less of what they earned. November’s initial University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 72.0, down from the final October mark of 73.2.3

DOW CLOSES AT NEW PEAK

Rising 1.08% on the day and 0.94% on the week, the DJIA settled at a new all-time peak of 15,761.78 Friday. The S&P 500 rose 0.51% across five days to settle at 1,770.61 at week’s end, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ lost 0.07% in the same stretch, closing Friday at 3,919.23. Incidentally, the S&P is now riding a 5-week win streak, its longest since mid-February.1,4

THIS WEEK: Earnings season is winding down, but it should still take center stage this week with light data coming out of Washington. Monday is Veterans Day, a federal holiday; bond markets are closed, but the stock market is open and NewsCorp, American Apparel, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Trend Micro will present Q3 results. Tuesday brings earnings from Dish Network, DR Horton, Dean Foods and Pandora. Wednesday offers Q3 results from Cisco and Macy’s. On Thursday, earnings reports from Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Williams Sonoma, Vodafone, Viacom and Agilent arrive along with new initial claims figures. Reports on October industrial output and September wholesale inventories appear Friday.

% CHANGE

Y-T-D

1-YR CHG

5-YR AVG

10-YR AVG

DJIA

+20.28

+23.03

+15.25

+6.07

NASDAQ

+29.80

+35.35

+27.58

+9.89

S&P 500

+24.15

+28.54

+18.04

+6.81

REAL YIELD

11/8 RATE

1 YR AGO

5 YRS AGO

10 YRS AGO

10 YR TIPS

0.59%

-0.85%

2.86%

2.10%

Sources: usatoday.com, bigcharts.com, treasury.gov – 11/8/135,6,7,8

Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.

These returns do not include dividends.


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«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Quantitative Easing is a government monetary policy occasionally used to increase the money supply by buying government securities or other securities from the market. Quantitative easing increases the money supply by flooding financial institutions with capital in an effort to promote increased lending and liquidity.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) index is based on surveys of more than 300 manufacturing firms by the Institute of Supply Management. The ISM Manufacturing Index monitors employment, production inventories, new orders, and supplier deliveries.  A composite diffusion index is created that monitors conditions in national manufacturing based on the data from these surveys.

The Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (MCSI) is a survey of consumer confidence conducted by the University of Michigan. The MCSI uses telephone surveys to gather information on consumer expectations regarding the overall economy.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. Marketing Library.Net Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. 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.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks.

The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

NYSE Group, Inc. (NYSE:NYX) operates two securities exchanges: the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and NYSE Arca (formerly known as the Archipelago Exchange, or ArcaEx®, and the Pacific Exchange). NYSE Group is a leading provider of securities listing, trading and market data products and services.

The New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (NYMEX) is the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange and the preeminent trading forum for energy and precious metals, with trading conducted through two divisions – the NYMEX Division, home to the energy, platinum, and palladium markets, and the COMEX Division, on which all other metals trade.

Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic instability and differences in accounting standards. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested.

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results. Market indices discussed are unmanaged. Investors cannot invest in unmanaged indices. 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.

Citations.

1 – tinyurl.com/kvl7fbr [11/8/13]
2 – usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/11/07/third-quarter-gdp-report/3452547/ [11/7/13]
3 – marketwatch.com/Economy-Politics/Calendars/Economic [11/8/13]
4 – google.com/finance?q=INDEXDJX%3A.DJI&ei=oHF9Usj8IoOeiQLiKA [11/8/13]
5 – usatoday.com/money/markets/overview/ [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=11%2F8%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=11%2F8%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=11%2F8%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=11%2F7%2F08&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=11%2F7%2F08&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=11%2F7%2F08&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=11%2F7%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=11%2F7%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
6 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=11%2F7%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/8/13]
7 – treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyield [11/8/13]
8 – treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [11/8/13]