Quantcast
WJBD - Investments

WJBD Radio

Images

 

Your Annual Financial To-Do List

Your Annual Financial To-Do List

Things you can do before & for 2015.

 

Provided by MidAmerica Financial Resources

                       

What financial, business or life priorities do you need to address for 2015? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives. Some year-end financial moves may prove crucial to the pursuit of those goals as well.

 

What can you do to lower your 2015 taxes? Before the year fades away, you have plenty of options. Here are a few that may prove convenient:

 

Make a charitable gift before New Year’s Day. You can claim the deduction on your 2014 return, provided you itemize your 2014 deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here.1

 

If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record, payroll deduction record, credit card statement, or written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the IRS does not equate a pledge with a donation. If you pledge $2,000 to a charity in December but only end up gifting $500 before 2014 ends, you can only deduct $500.1,2

 

Are you gifting appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and then donating the proceeds. (Of course, if your investment is a loser, then it might be better to sell it and donate the money so you can claim a loss on the sale and deduct a charitable contribution equivalent to the proceeds.)3

   

Does the value of your gift exceed $250? It may, and if you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you will need a receipt or a detailed verification form from the charity. You also have to file Form 8283 when your total deduction for non-cash contributions or property in a year exceeds $500.2

 

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

 

Contribute more to your retirement plan. If you haven’t turned 70½ this year and you participate in a traditional (i.e., non-Roth) qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can reduce your 2014 taxable income by the amount of your contribution. Should you be in the 25% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,375 in taxes this year by making a traditional IRA contribution of $5,500.5

 

If you are self-employed and don’t have a solo 401(k) or something similar, look into whether you can still establish and fund such a plan before the end of the year. For TY 2014, you can contribute up to $17,500 in a 401(k), 403(b) or profit-sharing plan, with a $5,500 catch-up contribution also allowed if you are age 50 or older. Your TY 2014 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as April 15, 2015; if you have a Keogh or SEP IRA and file Form 4868, you can wait until October 15, 2015. There is no merit in waiting, however, since delaying your contribution only delays the tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.4,5

 

See if you can take a home office deduction. If your income is high and you find yourself in one of the upper tax brackets, look into this. You may be able to legitimately write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to exclusively conduct your business. (The percentage of costs you may deduct depends on the percentage of the square footage of your residence you devote to your business activities.) If you qualify for this tax break, part of your rent, insurance, utilities, and even maid service expenses may be deductible.5

 

Open an HSA. If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may set up and fund a Health Savings Account in 2015. You can make fully tax-deductible HSA contributions of up to $3,350 (singles) or $6,650 (married couples); catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 are permitted for those 55 or older who aren’t yet enrolled in Medicare. Moreover, HSA assets grow untaxed and withdrawals from these accounts are tax-free if used to pay for qualified health care expenses. HSAs are sometimes referred to as “backdoor IRAs,” because once you reach age 65, you may use withdrawals out of them for any purpose, although withdrawals will be taxed if they aren’t used to pay for qualified medical expenses.6

 

Practice tax loss harvesting. You could sell underperforming stocks in your portfolio – enough to rack up at least $3,000 in capital losses. In fact, you can use this tactic to offset all of your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2015 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.7

 

Are there other major moves that you should consider? Here are some additional ideas with merit.

   

Can you contribute the maximum to your IRA on January 1, 2015? The rationale behind this is that the sooner you make your contribution, the more interest those assets will earn. In 2015 you can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA if you are age 49 or younger, and up to $6,500 if you are age 50 and older (though your MAGI may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA).4

    

What are the income limits on deducting traditional IRA contributions? If you participate in a workplace retirement plan, the 2015 MAGI phase-out ranges are $61,000-71,000 for singles and heads of households, $98,000-118,000 for married couples filing jointly when the spouse making IRA contributions is covered by a workplace retirement plan, and $183,000-193,000 for an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is married to someone who is.4

   

Should you go Roth before 2015 gets here? You might be considering that. If you are a high earner, you should know that MAGI phase-out limits affect Roth IRA contributions. For 2014, phase-outs kick in at $183,000 for joint filers and $116,000 for single filers. Should your MAGI prevent you from contributing to a Roth IRA at all, you always have the chance to contribute to a traditional IRA in 2014 and then convert it to a Roth.4

 

Incidentally, a footnote: distributions from Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs and qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s are not subject to the 3.8% Medicare surtax affecting single/joint filers with AGIs over $200,000/$250,000. Dividends, net investment income from taxable interest, passive rental income, annuity income, short-term and long-term capital gains and royalties are subject to that surtax if your AGI surpasses those respective thresholds.7

 

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

 

What else should you consider as 2014 turns into 2015? There are some other important things to note...

 

Review your withholding status. Should it be adjusted due to any of the following factors?

 

* You tend to pay a great deal of income tax each year.

* You tend to get a big federal tax refund each year.

* You recently married or divorced.

* A family member recently passed away.

* You have a new job at a much greater salary.

* You started a business venture or became self-employed.

 

If you are retired and older than 70½, remember your RMD. Retirees over age 70½ must take Required Minimum Distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k), 403(b) and profit-sharing plans by December 31. The IRS penalty for failing to take an RMD equals 50% of the RMD amount.8

 

If you have turned 70½ in 2014, you can postpone your first IRA RMD until April 1, 2015. The downside of that is that you will have to take two IRA RMDs next year, both taxable events – you will have to make your 2014 tax year withdrawal by April 1, 2015 and your 2015 tax year withdrawal by December 31, 2015.8

  

Plan your RMDs wisely. If you do so, you may end up limiting or avoiding possible taxes on your Social Security income. Some Social Security recipients don’t know about the “provisional income” rule – if your modified AGI plus 50% of your Social Security benefits surpasses a certain level, then a portion of your Social Security benefits become taxable. Social Security benefits start to be taxed at provisional income levels of $32,000 for joint filers and $25,000 for single filers.9

 

Consider the tax impact of 2014 transactions. Did you sell real property this year? Did you start a business? Have you exercised a stock option? Could any large commissions or bonuses come your way before January? Did you sell an investment held outside of a tax-deferred account? Any of this might significantly affect your 2014 taxes.

 

Would it be worth making a 13th mortgage payment this year? If your house is underwater, there’s no sense in doing it – and you could also argue that the dollars might be better off invested or put in your emergency fund. Those factors aside, however, there may be some merit to making a January mortgage payment in December. If you have a fixed-rate loan, a lump sum payment can reduce the principal and the total interest paid on it by that much more.

 

Are you marrying in 2015? If so, why not review the beneficiaries of your workplace retirement plan account, your IRA, and other assets? In light of your marriage, you may want to make changes to the relevant beneficiary forms. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you will have a new last name in 2015, you will need a new Social Security card. Additionally, you and your spouse no doubt have individually particular retirement saving and investment strategies. Will they need to be revised or adjusted with marriage?

 

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

 

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

 

MidAmerica Financial Resources may be reached at 618.548.4777 or greg.malan@natplan.com.

www.mid-america.us

 

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/mikepatton/2014/11/25/year-end-charitable-tax-tips/ [11/25/14]

2 - irs.gov/uac/Nine-Tips-for-Charitable-Taxpayers [1/16/14]

3 - philanthropy.com/article/Donors-Often-Overlook-Benefits/148561/ [8/29/14]

4 - irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Announces-2015-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$18,000-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2015 [10/23/14]

5 - turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Planning-and-Checklists/Tax-Tips-After-January-1--2015/INF12070.html [12/2/14]

6 - tinyurl.com/lqw4pkq [10/11/14]

7 - nbr.com/2014/11/12/6-ways-to-lower-your-2014-tax-bite/ [11/12/14]

8 - irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/RMD-Comparison-Chart-%28IRAs-vs.-Defined-Contribution-Plans%29 [4/30/14]

9 - socialsecurity.gov/planners/taxes.htm [12/2/14]

 


How Should Medical Residents Tackle Student Loan Debt?

An aggressive approach beats a lax one.

 

Provided by MidAmerica Financial Resources

 

Graduate medical school indebtedness averages about $140,000. For graduates of private medical schools, the mean is about $150,000. How do you best whittle that debt down? Should it be your first financial priority, or a lesser one?1

       

Attacking that debt now may be your best move. Look at the interest rates on checking and savings accounts today. Compare that with the interest on a college loan, usually around 5-6%. Those loans are costing you much more than your savings can earn. The takeaway here: ramping up your student loan payments today will effectively save you money over time. That doesn’t mean you have to live like a student until you hit 40, but it strengthens the argument for living on less than what you earn.

 

Do you have a spouse or a partner? Medical residents sometimes have highly educated significant others with large student loan debts of their own. If the two of you are both contending with monster college loans, the argument to try and live on 50-60% of what you collectively make becomes even more compelling.

  

If the payments are just too much right now, what options do you have? If you are a recent college graduate with outstanding federal college loans, look into income-based repayment, or IBR (find out more at ibrinfo.org). Through the IBR option, the federal government gives you the chance to limit the amount of your monthly payment to a realistic percentage of your income. IBR also effectively limits the term of your federal student loan to 25 years of payments – after 25 years under IBR, any debt remaining is forgiven. If you work for a 501(c)(3) non-profit or work in government, your student loans could be forgiven after just 10 years.2

 

Volunteering can be a path to drastically cutting down old college debts. If you make a 2-year commitment to serving a medically underserved community through the National Health Service Corps, up to $50,000 in student loan repayments are available to you. Each year you volunteer with NHSC beyond that, up to $35,000 in loan repayments are available. (This parallels the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, which picks up 60% of student loan debt for RNs who volunteer to work in a community underserved by nurses.) If you go into the Peace Corps, you can wipe out as much as 70% of Perkins loan debt after four years of service; AmeriCorps currently provides education awards of $4,725 per year of service. Lastly, if you can work 10 years as a public service professional (i.e., public health and safety), you have the chance to wipe out all remaining college loan debt after those 10 years if you make unbroken loan payments during that time (thanks to the College Cost Reduction & Access Act).3

 

Don’t adopt a psychology that promotes letting debt linger. Basic math suggests that it may take you 20 or 30 years to pay off those student loans, but beware of succumbing to the expectation that it will take 20 or 30 years to do so. If you tell yourself that it will take that long to wipe out that debt, guess what – it might, even if you gain the ability to pay it down faster.

 

Beware the “richly deserved” mentality. You likely graduated from medical school with the presumption of living well – not immediately, but eventually. Luxuries and status symbols beckon as rewards for your excellence and effort – hot cars, designer clothes, and so on. Resisting such temptations is financially wise, however – you’re just tacking on credit card debt, or “bad debt,” to the “good debt” you spent on your education.

 

Practice debt reduction before you explore buying a practice. If your goal is to go into private practice, do you really want to assume a practice loan on top of outstanding college loans? Instead of assuming that double burden, see if you can throw $2,000-3,000 per month at the student loans and cut that debt to zero or close first. And just as you don’t want student loan debt coincidental with practice loan debt, you don’t want practice loan debt coincidental with home loan debt. Avoiding these coincidences – if at all possible – can provide great psychological and financial relief to you and your household.

        

Consider waiting to start a family. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (yes, the USDA – go figure) projected that a middle-income couple would spend $241,080 to raise a child born in 2012 to age 18. Families in the urban northeast with a combined income of $105,000 or higher were projected to shell out $446,100 per child across those 18 years. (Those figures don’t include college tuition.) To financially test if you could afford to be parents, you and your spouse or partner could try living on, say, $1,200-1,400 less per month for a month or two.2,4

      

Remember that you can invest & pay off debt at the same time. Scraping up some funds to invest may pose a challenge, but you should strive to invest for your future. The power of compounding, regular contributions to your investment accounts and getting an early start may help you build wealth sooner than you now anticipate. The less debt you have to pay down, the more money you can devote to investing and saving for retirement. The big-picture goal should be building your net worth with input from a capable financial professional. 

         

MidAmerica Financial Resources may be reached at 618.548.4777 or greg.malan@natplan.com.

www.mid-america.us

 

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 - sls.downstate.edu/financial_aid/AverageDebtofMedicalSchoolGraduates.html [2/27/14]

2 - ibrinfo.org/ [10/21/14]

3 - credit.com/loans/student-loans/student-articles/student-loan-forgiveness-programs/ [5/8/14]

4 - money.cnn.com/2013/08/14/pf/cost-children/ [8/14/13]





Welcome to Our New Website

Same WJBD but with more content than ever before. We will have more features up and running in no time.


Follow Us At

 
 

This Site logo