June 20, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for June 20, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Mid-Year Tax Planning – Why So Important in Retirement?

It’s important to look at the previous year’s tax situation because some things, like Roth conversions and qualified charitable distributions, need to be done before the end of the year in order to be reported on your tax returns.

Listen in to learn the importance of coming up with a good tax withholding strategy to avoid tax liabilities and bills during tax season. You will also learn about the tax benefits of donor-advised funds and qualified charitable distributions.

 

This Week’s Blog – Mid-Year Tax Planning – Why So Important?

Why are we talking about tax planning in the middle of the year? Mid-year tax planning allows you to get everything in order before the end of the year to lower your tax obligation as much as possible.

In June of 2023, we’re doing a lot of work to get ready for our tax planning and strategy meetings we’ll be having later this year. A lot of prep work goes into these meetings because it’s one of the most intense that we’ll have all year.

Mid-Year Tax Planning – Why is it So Important?

Why are we talking about tax planning in the middle of the year? Mid-year tax planning allows you to get everything in order before the end of the year to lower your tax obligation as much as possible.

Note: We are not giving specific advice. We’re talking in general terms and advise you to discuss your own tax planning with a professional who can recommend the best method to reduce your tax burden.

In our most recent podcast (listen to it here), we have two members of our team with us, Nick Hymanson, CFP® and Taylor Wolverton

In June of 2023, we’re doing a lot of work to get ready for our tax planning and strategy meetings we’ll be having later this year. A lot of prep work goes into these meetings because it’s one of the most intense that we’ll have all year.

Why Do We Do Tax Planning and Tax Strategy Before the Beginning of the Year?

First, we want to review your tax situation from last year so we can understand potential moves we can make before the end of this year.

For example, Roth conversions or qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) need to be made before the end of the year to be reported on your tax return. Changes to your contributions or account conversions must be completed before December 31st of the year to be claimed on your taxes.

Mid-year tax planning helps us get everything in order to have a discussion with our clients on which strategies we can employ to lower your tax burden.

How Financial Planning Ties into Tax Planning

Financial, tax, and retirement planning are all linked together, or they should be if they’re done professionally. We have clients who first retire and live on cash in the bank, and then they start taking money from an IRA or a required minimum distribution.

In our process, at the beginning of the year, we have a financial planning meeting to update where their income is coming in this year, and we review what happened in 2022 (or the year prior).

From an income perspective, we want to understand where your income came from last year. We want to understand any unique changes that may have transpired this year and your income last year.

During the year, you may have income coming in from multiple sources, and it’s crucial that you have a good tax withholding strategy in place.

Proper tax withholding will allow you to avoid any unexpected tax surprises the following year. Having conversations throughout the year allows us to position our clients to pay less taxes by making smart financial decisions.

For example, if you want to sell a highly appreciated stock, we may recommend holding off until the beginning of the coming year because there are tax advantages.

We perform a full software analysis of our clients’ past year taxes to look for:

  • Filing status
  • Social Security number accuracy
  • Sources of income (interest, dividends, etc)
  • Withholdings 

We look through all these figures with our clients to help you better understand the tax obligations of each form of income. If you want to adjust your withholdings or make income changes, we’ll walk you through this process.

For example, you may not want a refund at the end of the year and want to withhold just enough taxes to be tax-neutral. You won’t pay or receive anything at the end of the year from the IRS.

With a mid-year tax plan, we have a better understanding of the steps that must be taken to reach your goals in the coming year.

Things to Do Before December 31st

Retirees must do a few things before the end of the year by law. Here’s what you need to know:

Donor-advised Funds

Sometimes we learn from a tax return or through a conversation with our clients that they give $10,000 to charity per year. Can you itemize? Sure, but the standard deduction is so high that it often doesn’t make sense to do this.

What’s the Standard Deduction

For your reference, the standard deduction in 2023 is:

  • Single: $13,850
  • Married filing jointly: $27,700 (65+ goes up by $1,500 per spouse)

Itemization won’t make sense if you have less than the standard deduction amount in contributions.

If you do a donor-advised fund, you can stack charitable contributions and use the multi-year contributions as a deduction this year.

Let’s assume that you put $40,000 into a donor-advised fund. You can still make $10,000 contributions to your favorite charity, but you can then take a $40,000 deduction this year to negate your tax burden. Itemizing is the best course of action if you have more deductions than the current standard deduction amount.

We may recommend this strategy if you expect a very high tax burden and want to lower your tax obligation.

Opening a Donor-advised Fund

We use Charles Schwab for our funds, but you can use a custodian of your choosing. A donor-advised fund looks just like any other account held at Charles Schwab, except for a few differences. Checks are written directly to a Schwab charitable account and funds are held directly in this charitable account. You can assign contributions to charities of your choice.

Funds remain in the account and can be withdrawn and moved to the charities in the future. Once you put money into the fund, you cannot reclaim it in the future. You can decide annually on who you want to distribute contributions to.

However, it is very important that Charles Schwab has information on the charity that you want to disperse the money to and that everything is in order for the distribution to be made problem-free.

Qualified Charitable Distribution

Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) are another tactic that you can use if you’re over the age of 70-and-a-half. Age requirements and the time of your distribution are crucial and one of the reasons that people often work with a financial planner.

We can make sure that you’re making the QCD properly and get all the tax benefits that go along with it.

Note. If you have a required minimum distribution (RMD), you can set up the QCD to be taken directly from this. A key benefit is that if the RMD never hits your bank account, you don’t have to pay taxes on it.

Making Out Your QCD Check

In terms of Charles Schwab, we want to make sure that the QCD check is made out directly to the charity and not the account owner. If the check is written to the tax owner, it is considered taxable income.

We need a few things when writing out the QCD check:

  • Name of charity
  • Charity’s tax ID
  • Charity address
  • QCD amount

One important thing to note is that there’s an option to send the check directly to the charity or to the account owner, who can then hand-deliver the check to the charity.

The most important thing is to have the check written to the charity itself with the tax ID.

What You Need to Gather for a Tax Planning Strategy Meeting

Whether you work with us or someone else on a tax planning strategy meeting, you’ll need a few documents to get started:

  • Last year’s tax returns
  • Income for the coming year
  • Changes to income in this year
  • Change to cost of living on Social Security

We really need to know your sources of income and if any changes to this income have occurred in the last year. Cost of living adjustments are a big one and will impact your taxes, but all of this is information necessary for a tax planning strategy meeting.

IRMAA is another thing that we want to consider, and we have a great guide on the topic, which you can read here: IRMAA Medicare Surcharges.

Medicare looks back two years to determine your surcharges, which is something we can plan for with enough time and a strategy in place. We want to manage your Medicare surcharges so that you don’t need to pay more than necessary for your Medicare.

Tax strategy can help you better prepare for your taxes and make strategic moves that will save you a lot of money in the future.

We have a team of people working with us to handle all these moving parts and walk our clients through the process.

Want to learn more about retirement planning?

Click here to view our latest book titled: Secure Your Retirement.

June 12, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for June 12, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – What If You Need Long-Term Care in Retirement?

If you want to know and understand what long-term care may cost you in the future, you must first understand the actual cost of long-term care.

Listen in to learn about assisted living services for long-term care that involve more than a nursing home. You will also learn about long-term care insurance methods/plans, how they work, plus the pros and cons of each.

 

This Week’s Blog – What If You Need Long-Term Care?

One of the biggest topics today is the policies people took out in their 40s and 50s are having their prices increase. When signing up for policies, insurers do mention that the rates for premiums can rise, and it’s something that we’re seeing happen right now. Many of our clients receive a notice in the mail that their premiums are rising 50% or more, but there’s usually a list of ways to offset these costs by cutting benefits.

What If You Need Long Term Care?

Long term care (LTC) is a part of retirement planning, but it’s surely not as fun and exciting as planning vacations or taking up hobbies. Twenty years or so ago, Radon worked exclusively with long term care policies.

Back then, people often asked:

  • What if I need long term care?
  • How do I pay for it?
  • What are my options?

One of the biggest topics today is the policies people took out in their 40s and 50s are having their prices increase. When signing up for policies, insurers do mention that the rates for premiums can rise, and it’s something that we’re seeing happen right now.

Many of our clients receive a notice in the mail that their premiums are rising 50% or more, but there’s usually a list of ways to offset these costs by cutting benefits.

Unfortunately, people who receive these notices are already in retirement and it’s just too costly to switch plans. The older you get, the more you’ll pay for this type of insurance, and it leads to a person feeling almost forced to pay the higher rates.

We also have people come into our office who mention long term care and do not want to go the typical insurance route because premiums are always rising.

The goal of this article (you can listen to the podcast here) is to:

  • Outline your options
  • Explain how long-term care works
  • Things to think about when considering LTC

If you’re trying to secure your retirement, you need to have something in place for your future long term care needs.

What are the Risks and Numbers Surrounding LTC?

LTC is costly, and it’s something you need to consider in the same way that you do a mortgage or car loan. You need to learn the numbers and care options that you have available so that you can feel more comfortable with the idea of long-term care.

As of June 2023, we know that:

  • 69.6 million baby boomers are alive right now
  • Around 70% of Americans 65+ will need some LTC

Considering these figures, there’s a good chance that you or your spouse will be in an LTC situation during your lifetime.

We know that the cost of insurance is high, and this is because LTC is expensive.

How expensive?

  • In 2021, the private-room nursing home costs were $108,405 annually
  • In 20 years, the costs are expected to be $195,791 annually

If you’re fit and healthy now, it’s difficult to imagine that one day you may need to cover these costs either through insurance or out of pocket.

The average LTC stay is 3.5 years, so just think about having to pay $379,000 – $685,000 to cover your care. Some people are in long term care for memory care, and they don’t have any other medical issues, so they can be in a care situation for even longer.

What is Long Term Care?

Go back 20 years and there was nursing home insurance. Then, home health care started to pop up. Long term care itself is more than staying in a nursing home. My mom right now is in assisted living because she’s able to do much of her everyday routine on her own.

However, she needs assistance in some of her Activities of Daily Living, which is something that falls into one or more of six main categories:

  1. Bathing
  2. Dressing
  3. Continence
  4. Eating
  5. Toileting
  6. Transferring (getting in and out of bed, etc.)

Insurance policies start to kick in when you need assistance with at least two of the activities of daily living. A doctor will determine that these activities are difficult for you, and you can go into long term care.

However, if you have a little issue with bathing and dressing, you may want to go into what’s known as assisted living.

Assisted living allows you to have someone close to you to help you with your activities of daily living and then progress to greater care in the future if you need it. Assisted living also allows you to maintain your independence for as long as you can.

Even assisted living is quite expensive.

Costs for homemaker services (someone who helps with food and bathing), and a home health aide both have different costs. Annual costs for these are:

  • Homemaker Services Home: $59,488/annually at 44 hours a week
  • Home Health Aide: $61,776/annually for 5 days a week
  • Adult Day Health Care: $20,280 per year
  • Assisted Living Facility: $54,000 per year (private room with one bed)
  • Nursing Home Semi-Private Room: $94,900/annually
  • Nursing Home Private Room: $108,405/annually

These are hefty numbers, but the super high expenses come from the nursing home part of long term care.

If you’re freaking out, let’s discuss your options for LTC.

Long Term Care Options

LTC is expensive and a major concern when you’re trying to secure your retirement. You can opt to:

Self-insure

If you have the assets, you can self-insure, where you pay for these costs out of your own pocket. This may bring about some anxiety for you and there are pros and cons to consider:

  • Pros: You’re not transferring assets to an insurer and can avoid premium rate hikes.
  • Cons: You’re taking on the risk of not knowing what LTC will look like for you or how long you’ll need it. Can you afford to self-insure?

Self-insuring changes drastically, as you’ve seen from the 20-year projection. We help our clients visualize by using questions and scenarios where we determine how much the LTC will cost and how much will be left for your survivors.

Many people do not want to deplete their assets to the point that their survivors will struggle.

Medicare

Medicare does not provide what is known as “long term care insurance.” However, the first 20 days of a stay in a rehab facility are covered. For example, if you fall and need rehab, the first 20 days will fall into this category.

Day 21 – 100, the coverage will require an expensive copay.

After the 100-day mark, there is no coverage available.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a government program for low-income folks or people without assets. If you fall into this category, the pros are that you can get the care you need. Any money that you do make will go to the facility, but anything above what you make in “income” will be paid by Medicaid.

For example, if you receive Social Security, your check will go to the facility to cover as much of the bill as possible.

The total assets that you can have on Medicaid are very low.

Qualifications for Medicaid vary from state to state, and there’s not an easy way to get into the program. You can get assets out of your name to qualify, but you can’t just give everything to your kids or play the system in this way.

Traditional Long Term Care Insurance

Traditional LTC insurance is the one that most people are familiar with. You pay for insurance and if you don’t use it, you lose it. You pay an annual premium that is put towards a policy that will kick in if you need help with two or more activities of daily living.

Insurance will reimburse you daily based on the amount that you built your plan around.

Perhaps you receive $300 or $400 a day to cover costs. The plan may:

  • Increase based on inflation
  • Limit the length of coverage

If you transfer more risk to the insurer, you can be confident that you’ll pay more for your long-term care premiums.

LTC does take the risk out of the hands of the 70% of adults who will end up in this long-term care plan. You’ll pay for this insurance, and you may never need it, which is a concern. We’re also seeing annual increases in LTC, meaning that premiums will jump substantially.

Underwriting and qualifications are required to be approved for your insurance.

Much like your homeowner’s insurance, if you never use your long term care insurance, the money you put into it is never returned. This brings us to the next couple of categories and things to consider.

Asset-based LTC Insurance or a Life Insurance Policy Combined With LTC

One of our favorite options is the combination of life insurance and long term care insurance. 

Why?

It allows you to:

  • Take money from the policy if you need care
  • Leave the remaining balance as life insurance to the beneficiaries

Your premiums go into an account of sorts. You can use the money for your LTC, and your premiums do not disappear. Premiums are fixed and will not go up. You can pay in cash and fund the premium in one lump sum.

Some plans also allow a 10- or 15-year pay period to fund the account.

Underwriting is necessary to qualify for these plans, but with just a few questions, we can help you understand if you qualify for this type of insurance or not.

Riders

There are long term care riders you can attach to your life insurance.

When you add a rider, it adds an option to have LTC insurance and your premiums for the rider are fixed. The drawback of a rider is that premiums are not tax-deductible, and you’ll need to pay more on top of your life insurance premium for the rider.

Chronic Illness Rider

A chronic illness rider is very similar to a normal rider, but it’s for chronic illnesses. You can use your benefit payments for things limited to chronic illness, or a non-recoverable illness that you have.

Asset-based Long-term Care Through an Annuity

With this LTC option, you’ll attach the long term care benefit to an annuity that you have. This is a special annuity that can double or triple. For example, you put $100,000 into an annuity and it will add $200,000 or $300,000 for your care needs.

You have leverage and do not need to pay premiums because you fund it upfront.

If you want, you can even take money out of the annuity, although it will reduce the amount of money that you have for LTC if you ever need it.

We find that it is convenient for our clients who are above 68 years of age because there is baseline underwriting, but it’s not as strict. You also don’t need to worry about premiums rising, which is perfect for anyone who is in retirement and on a fixed income.

Income-based Annuities Asset Doubler

The final option for long term care on our list involves income-based annuities. A doubler kicks in when you can’t perform two of the six activities of daily living and will double your income for a certain number of years.

You don’t need to qualify for a doubler and it will provide you with additional cash flow for a certain period of time.

We do have a great resource available that breaks down everything we’ve just talked about and goes a bit further into the pros and cons of each option that we mentioned.

Please reach out to us if you would like us to send you this document.

Click here to request our document covering all of this information in greater detail or schedule a call with us if you want help going through your own long term care options.

June 5, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for June 5, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Does The Rule 100 Work in Retirement?

The conversation around risk is extremely important for you to have an investment structure you’re comfortable with.

Listen in to learn why investment risk is subjective and should be looked at as an individual. You will also hear us perform an exercise to help you understand our numerically driven system that measures risk comfort.

 

This Week’s Blog – Does The Rule 100 Work in Retirement?

A rule of thumb around risk is the “Rule of 100.”  If you haven’t heard of this rule before, we’ll outline everything for you below so that you have a better understanding of it. Keep in mind that risk in investing is somewhat subjective, and needs to be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

We have people ask, “What is my risk based on my age?” And this isn’t something that we really recommend. The “Rule of 100” is the rule of risk based on age.

Does The Rule of 100 Work in Retirement?

A rule of thumb around risk is the “Rule of 100.”  If you haven’t heard of this rule before, we’ll outline everything for you below so that you have a better understanding of it. Keep in mind that risk in investing is somewhat subjective, and needs to be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

We have people ask, “What is my risk based on my age?” And this isn’t something that we really recommend. The “Rule of 100” is the rule of risk based on age.

What in the World is the “Rule of 100?”

The Rule of 100 takes your age and subtracts it to help you determine how much risk you can take when investing. For example, let’s assume that you’re 50. The equation would be: 100 – 50 = 50.

In this case, “50” is how much risk you can take.

So, based on this figure, you should keep 50% of your money at risk. If you’re like many 50-year-olds who feel like they have plenty of years left, it doesn’t make sense to stop 50% of your money from its growth potential. You can still have good risk control and keep this 50% of your money growing with relatively little risk.

Now, imagine you hit 70. You take 100 – 70 = 30, so 30% of your money can be at risk and in the market. For some people, this formula works well, but there are many people who want more risk.

You can have two people who earn the same money, accrued the same debts, and are the same age but have different risk tolerance based on their individual situations. One person may be fine with 4% growth per year, while another wants to achieve 12% growth and invest in riskier investments because they want to pay for their grandkids’ education.

What’s right for you?

We’ve adopted our own method of risk calculation that looks at the bigger picture to help you better understand your goals and what risks you must take to reach them.

Walking Through Our Conversation on Risk with Our Clients

Retirement planning is truly unique to each person. You may want to travel the world, while another person wants to spend their golden years tending to their garden. The goals and aspirations that you have for life in retirement must, in our belief, be a major contributing factor to your risk tolerance.

Our system is numerically driven and asks:

  • How do you feel about risk in a six-month window?
  • Say you have $1 million and lose 10%. Are you comfortable losing $100,000 in six months?

Many people believe that they’re comfortable with losing 10% of their investments until they see the hard figure in front of them. Let’s walk through an example of how we help our clients understand and determine their risks.

$1 million Retirement Roleplay

In this example, Radon has $1 million and has just walked into our office. 

Murs

Radon, you have $1 million to work with. We want to set you up for your retirement. We want to take risks and earn you money, but we want to create a portfolio that allows you to sleep well at night. We need to understand what that number is for you because everyone is different. 

If you look at the screen, Radon, we’ve put your million dollars here and have a slide rule in place that allows us to adjust your investment risks.

The slide starts in the middle here, and the middle is 14%. At this percentage, you have a risk of losing $140,000, but you can also have a nice gain, too.

Radon, I am going to move the slide all the way to the left, which is –4%, or $40,000. What I want you to do is, as I start moving the slider to the right, tell me where you think you feel uncomfortable with your losses.

We’re at 7%, or around $68,000 of loss. We’re now at 10%, or a $100,000 loss.”

Note

What we find happens during this example is that the client starts to talk to themselves. For example, they may say that they didn’t feel good about losing 20% in 2022. The person then weighs their risk on what happened last year.

We recommend trying to look forward because the losses last year may never happen again. We often see clients tend to stop at 10% because losing $100,000 is tough to swallow. However, most people realize they need to let the market breathe a bit and can sleep at night with a 10% loss.

We’ve established our baseline at 10% because that’s our initial gut reaction, where we become uncomfortable with any further losses. The screen that is in front of the client will have the 10% in the middle and then have numbers on the left and right, which show lower and higher risk figures.

Now, let’s get back to our example discussion from above.

Radon

Radon, during this discussion, determines that he’s comfortable with a 10% loss on his $1 million, and this is the figure he doesn’t want to pass. 

Murs

Radon, you told me 10% on the downside is your limit, but what if we can improve that? Let me tell you. It’s different for different families. 

  • One person may receive the same reward of 10% while only having a 6% loss potential, or $60,000. This would be the left side.
  • One person may be comfortable with a 10% loss, but what if I can increase my gain potential to 16%? This would be the right side.

Radon, what looks better to you?

Radon

In this case, I think I am comfortable with the risk. I feel confident with a 10% risk, and if I had more reward, I would move to the right.

Note

This exercise is thought-provoking because some people are comfortable with going to the right to have more reward, but others find it a no-brainer to lower their risk.

Keep in mind that Radon wouldn’t mind earning a little more at 10% risk. The software shows us that we can stay where we are at –10% downside, or we can go 16% – 19% growth. However, this would mean a 12% risk, or $120,000 potential loss.

Murs

Radon, which one looks better to you? Would you like to stay in the middle or take a little more risk for a lot more potential?

Radon

The rationale that I’m looking at right now is that I get quite a bit more upside for a little more risk, which is kind of in my comfortable range. Again, I am kind of nervous, but I think I can take it a little higher to make up for some of the losses in 2022. I don’t want to miss out on the potential that’s coming.

Let’s take it up one notch and see what happens.

Murs

Great. Pushing it up one notch, we’ve moved from a –10% to a –12% comfort level. Now, the last one is, what if we can earn better by going to –14% downside in a 6-month window?

Radon

I was already pushing it with the 12% risk, so I think I feel most comfortable staying in this range and not pushing my downside any higher.

Summing Up

These few questions and scenarios show a client the hard figures, which makes it possible to really identify their risk tolerance and the losses they feel most comfortable with in their portfolios.

Using these figures, we can create an investment plan that is within a risk category and create a growth plan that doesn’t exceed the client’s risk tolerance.

We will then use our bucket strategy to allocate all the clients’ funds to help them achieve the growth they want from their retirement accounts. The three buckets include: cash, income and safety, and then a growth bucket.

Risk tolerance allows us to create a one-page investment strategy that we give to our clients that helps them understand exactly how their portfolio will look.

We find that using this type of risk tolerance assessment works much better than saying a “moderately conservative” plan that may be losses of 10% or 20%. Moderately conservative is a subjective term, and we take the subjectiveness out of the equation with the assessment we create.

Click here to schedule a call with us to help you better understand your retirement risk tolerance.

May 30, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for May 30, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – How To Manage Risk in Volatile Markets

Learn how we use data/numbers to identify and align with the best asset classes to be invested in. You will also learn why an active asset management strategy allows you to make a decent rate of return, not lose a bunch of money, and have peace of mind in your retirement.

 

This Week’s Blog – How To Manage Risk in Volatile Markets

Growing your money to secure your retirement is something that everyone should do as part of their retirement planning. Active management, which is what we do, is something that clients come to us for because they want us to manage their portfolios.

How To Manage Risk in Volatile Markets

Growing your money to secure your retirement is something that everyone should do as part of their retirement planning. Active management, which is what we do, is something that clients come to us for because they want us to manage their portfolios.

If you wanted a very low-risk investment you could keep your money in treasury bonds, CDs, or a savings account. However, growth opportunities with these types of investments are very limited. You might put some of your money in these accounts, but not 100%, because the potential to grow your money falls too much with a conservative investment portfolio.

Managing risks, especially in a volatile market, is more difficult for many investors because if you put all your money into an S&P 500 index, you take on all the associated risks in the process.

In the years 2000–2002, the S&P 500 was down 50%, meaning many retirees had their portfolios cut in half. Imagine if you’re withdrawing money from this portfolio at the time of a major decline, causing a compounded problem in the process.

Now, you could take 60% of your money and put it in the market and the other 40% into bonds. Come 2021 and 2022, and the bond market goes into a crisis, causing a lot of people to lose the money that they thought was very low risk.

Active Management to Lower Portfolio Risks

Managing your account actively helps negate these risks because we move within the market and take a very hands-on approach to growing your money.

Metrics and data points are used to help a person maximize their money within their own risk threshold. For example, hedge fund managers often try and make their clients the most money possible. The issue is that big returns also come with larger risks.

In an active management strategy like ours, our clients want safety and security and aren’t chasing the homerun gains that some of the other managers strive for with their clients. Instead, our active management approach maximizes returns while keeping risk at a minimum.

Many people are 10 years from retirement and have been through 2008 and 2020-2021, when the markets took a nosedive, and they don’t want to shoulder large risks any longer. As you get closer to retirement, earning and income potential begins to fall. At this point, you need to mitigate risks as well as you can.

When you have an active management strategy, the goal is to put your money into the best investment vehicles at the time.

Data allows an active management strategy to take place because we focus more about what the data is telling us and less about specific news on inflation and the debt ceiling.

Investing comes with pros and cons, but if you pick an investment strategy that works well for you, it can also help you secure your retirement.

Example from an Industry Podcast

Recently, on an industry podcast, they had a few financial advisors as guests to speak about how they manage their clients’ money. There was one response that stood out the most. This individual used to take part of the clients’ money and invest it actively, as we discussed above, and mentioned that the logistics of the approach were too complex and resource-intensive. Ultimately, they transitioned into a buy-and-hold strategy for their clients. The manager wasn’t set up for the trading involved in an active management environment, and a buy-and-hold strategy is easier to manage. 

With a buy-and-hold strategy, the most that needs to be done is balancing the portfolio on a monthly or quarterly basis. Technology makes this a touch-of-a-button scenario. Simply put in the wanted parameters, tap a few buttons, and rebalance a portfolio.

Instead, when we actively manage a portfolio, we check risk daily and will readjust a portfolio regularly. It’s unlikely that we need to perform a readjustment every day, but we’re ready to when it’s necessary.

At Peace of Mind Wealth Management, we like to manage our clients’ money in the same way that we invest our money: actively.

We find that an actively managed portfolio reduces risk greatly, which in turn reduces immense emotional tolls from portfolio losses.

Imagine losing 10% of your portfolio, realizing you lost $100,000 or $200,000. It doesn’t feel good. You can have a portion of your retirement savings in the market and another portion in safer investments that still offer plenty of opportunities.

This is why active management in a portfolio can be a powerful tool in retirement planning.

Asset Classes in a Portfolio

During any given year, some asset classes in a portfolio may be working and others are not. Asset classes can be a lot of things, such as:

  • Large-cap stocks
  • Mid-cap stocks
  • Small cap stocks
  • International markets
  • Emerging market investments
  • REITs
  • Investment bonds
  • Treasuries
  • Cash

Year-over-year asset classes move around, just like we saw in 2022 when the S&P 500 was down nearly 20%. Cash and treasuries were the leaders of asset classes in 2022 because they provided some level of return.

In 2021-2022, the 60/40 flaws started to show because a lot of the investment bond yields were down 11% – 13%. Bonds, for some people, were down as much as their market investments. At the time, many people thought it wasn’t possible to lose money in bonds.

Monitoring asset class movements and structuring a portfolio is how we like to invest our clients’ money. Monthly and quarterly data analysis and restructuring of asset allocation empower us to put investments in what’s performing well right now.

If the upswing and downswing of the market don’t bother you, then a buy-and-hold investment strategy may be better for you.

However, a lot of clients of ours love making a good return with minimal risk. Clients may sleep better at night and have peace of mind that they won’t wake up with a portfolio loss of 20%. This is what an actively managed portfolio provides.

Click here to schedule a 15-minute complimentary call with us to learn how your investment portfolio can be actively managed.

May 15, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for May 15, 2023

This Week’s Podcast -Why do You Need a HIPAA Authorization?

Listen in to learn how your HIPAA Authorization can connect with your living will or health care power of attorney for information to be shared. You will also learn about the medical information that can be released to an authorized person per HIPAA standards.

 

This Week’s Blog – Why do You Need a HIPAA Authorization?

Estate plan packages are something we advise all of our clients to think about, and it often starts with a discussion of a will, power of attorney, and if the person needs a trust. However, there’s one element that should never be overlooked: HIPAA authorization forms.

Why You Need a HIPAA Authorization

Estate plan packages are something we advise all of our clients to think about, and it often starts with a discussion of a will, power of attorney, and if the person needs a trust. However, there’s one element that should never be overlooked: HIPAA authorization forms.

As part of your retirement planning, you must think about the future and what will happen to you if there’s a medical emergency in your life.

What is a HIPAA Form and What Does It Stand For?

When you’re in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, it’s not uncommon to come across a HIPAA form. You’ll need to sign one of these forms, and it’s not always 100% clear as to what you’re signing. 

HIPAA is short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and it transformed healthcare. A few things to know are:

  • The HIPAA law protects your information so that all medical issues are kept between you and the doctor
  • A HIPAA form allows for the release of the information to certain parties, such as a spouse or children 

Many people assume that if they’re in the hospital, the hospital will have to call and inform somebody. Unfortunately, this is not accurate and that is why we recommend filling out a HIPAA authorization form.

What is a HIPAA Authorization?

There are two different types of HIPAA authorization forms. The first is when you’re switching health insurance providers and need to release your medical information from one provider to the next.

However, we’re going to be discussing the second type of authorization.

The second type of authorization prevents your doctor from divulging information about your medical condition to someone else. You may incorrectly assume that if you’re in the hospital, you can talk to your doctor and your doctor will be able to release your medical information to specific loved ones.

You can connect your Estate Plan and your HIPAA forms. If you cannot communicate and someone needs to carry out your wishes as outlined in your estate plan, they’ll likely need medical information from your doctor. Asking someone to carry out your wishes will place a huge burden on them, and you don’t want them to be unable to obtain information on your current medical condition and prognosis.

Connecting your HIPAA forms to an estate plan can resolve this problem.

Example of Why HIPAA Forms Are Important

In the last year, we’ve had a few “reminders” of why filling out these forms is crucial in 2023.  We had one couple who was fine one day and then the next, the husband had a massive stroke. He could not communicate or make any facial movements.

The doctors stated that the person had the mental capacity to communicate their wishes, but they were unable to physically communicate.

The wife was left with the burden of communicating with the doctors about what she thought her husband’s wishes were. She had to guess what her husband’s wishes were because he didn’t have any of the appropriate documents in place that stated his desires.

A healthcare power of attorney allows you to list one or more people to make medical decisions. The person in our example has adult children, and the wife was extremely stressed out in this situation. 

A power of attorney, living will and HIPAA form that are all connected would have allowed the husband’s information to be shared with the wife and children. Her children could have taken on some of the burden of making decisions if all of these documents were connected.

I have another example of my own. I was talking to an estate planning attorney and had a son who was turning 18 at the time. My attorney reminded me that once my son reached adulthood, I would only receive limited information from doctors. 

If my son had been in a medical emergency, the hospital would not have been able to share certain medical information with me.

My attorney advised me to have my son sign a HIPAA form that authorizes my wife and I to speak with doctors and have them release information to us on his medical condition. We also have a daughter who will be turning 18 shortly and will need her to sign a HIPAA form as well.

Imagine being a parent and not having the ability to speak to the doctors about your child’s medical condition. It’s a scary prospect that also applies to your parents, spouse or anyone who would want you to know about their medical condition.

What Information is Shared When a HIPAA Authorization Form is Signed?

HIPAA forms authorize medical professionals to give your medical information to those listed on the form. The person listed on the form also has a right to request any information from the medical professional.

Is every piece of information shared?

No.

Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information are protected. Medical professionals must also act within the HIPAA standard of minimum necessary. These professionals only need to provide you with the bare minimum of information.

Medical professionals do not need to go through all of your medical history. Instead, they need to provide you with enough information to make a decision on the person’s health.

On the HIPAA authorization, there is no need for a notary or witness. You only need to have the person’s signature and the name of the people they are authorizing information to be released to in the event they’re in the hospital.

The form requires:

  • Signature 
  • Date
  • How you want the form to be used
  • Names of who you want to access your information
  • Form timeframe (length of authorization)
  • Ability to revoke authorization

On the HIPAA form, you just state your medical wishes and who will receive information on your behalf. These forms authorize the individual to receive just the minimum info necessary to make a medical decision if you are unable to make it yourself.

If you name someone who you decide you no longer want on the form, you can revoke the authorization, too.

We truly believe everyone needs a HIPPA form. 

Anyone who wants to sign HIPAA forms can contact us and we’ll walk you through the process.  We do not charge for this. You can also consult with your estate planning attorney to have them fill out these forms with you.

May 8, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for May 8, 2023

This Week’s Podcast -What Issues Should You Consider Before You Retire?

Listen in to learn the importance of understanding your cash flow needs and budget and building some type of plan for your retirement. You will also learn the importance of budgeting for health insurance if you retire earlier than age 65 and the options to consider for long-term care planning.

 

This Week’s Blog – What Issues Should You Consider Before You Retire?

Are you considering retiring? After working your entire life, you’ve come to this beautiful ending where you’ve hit all your milestones to secure your retirement and can pursue the things that you truly love to do. Many companies offer early retirement options to their employees, it’s an important time to consider a few things before retirement.

What Issues Should You Consider Before You Retire?

Are you considering retiring? After working your entire life, you’ve come to this beautiful ending where you’ve hit all your milestones to secure your retirement and can pursue the things that you truly love to do.

Many companies offer early retirement options to their employees, it’s an important time to consider a few things before retirement.

In our most recent podcast, we go through all the things we think you should consider before retirement. Even if you’ve spent decades on retirement planning, these are things that you need to sit down and think about before transitioning into retirement.

Want a sneak peek at what we’ll be talking about?

  • Cash flow
  • Healthcare
  • Assets and debts
  • Tax planning issues
  • Long-term care

If you’re not considering all these points already, you need to go through them for yourself to better understand each one.

5 Issues to Consider Before Retirement

1. Cash Flow

Cash flow from your own financial perspective will change a lot when you retire. You’ve spent a lifetime working, receiving a check, and enjoying steady cash flow as a result. When you close out your life chapter of working, your cash flow will change.

Instead of cash being given to you for the hours you put in every week, you’ll take money out of the retirement accounts you’ve built up.

You’ll need to consider:

  • Your cash flow needs.
  • Where will the money come from- Social Security, pensions (we’re seeing far fewer of these), retirement accounts, etc.

Often, many of our clients have income from their careers, but do not have a strict budget in place. You need to spend time learning what your true cash flow needs are every month so that you can determine whether retirement is even a possibility.

If you’re lucky enough to have a pension, be sure to know your options:

  • Single life is often the highest payout
  • Spouse benefits

Are you retiring early? Social Security defines retirement as around 67, but there are benefit implications to retiring “early”. If you retire before 59.5, you are penalized on your IRA withdrawals. There are a lot of things to work through to understand what retiring early truly means.

For example, if you retire early, there is an income limit for Social Security that you need to consider. The limit is $21,240 (currently). If you hit full retirement age, the income limit is bumped up to $56,520.

Keep in mind:

  • Retiring before 55 comes with an IRA penalty
  • Retiring at 55 with a 401(k) doesn’t have a penalty

If you’re married, you also need to consider what that means for you and your spouse. You want to consider that one spouse likely has a higher income than the other. If you have a higher Social Security amount, your spouse will get credit if you’re married for 10 years or longer. The spouse, if they never worked, can receive up to 50% of the Social Security benefits that you have. However, if the person did work and their own benefits were higher, then they will receive the benefits they earned.

We recently had a client who didn’t know this and was shocked when they found out that their spouse would also get benefits. Even if you are now divorced but had been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years, there may be some benefit there for you in Social Security.

Healthcare is the next big point to consider.

2. Healthcare 

At 65, you qualify automatically for Medicare. Retiring before this age means that you must put a lot of thought into your healthcare because healthcare is very expensive. Medicare will save you a ton of money, but you need to bridge the few years between retirement and Medicare.

We’re seeing costs from $1,000 to $1,500 for people at 62 or so to get private health coverage. That figure is for a single individual and not a couple.

Employers cover your healthcare while you’re working, but when you retire, you’ll need to consider:

  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Healthcare

If you are contributing to an HSA, you will want to think about using this account, too. At age 65, you still need to take IRMAA into account, which is a Medicare surcharge for someone making over a certain threshold. We have a whole episode on this very topic, which you can listen to here or read here

3. Asset and debts 

Many of our clients have the majority of their money in an IRA or 401(k). One of the first things we are asked is, “Should I pay off my house?” If you need to take the funds from a 401(k), the answer is likely going to be: no. You need to pay taxes on your 401(k) withdrawals, and paying off your home can have a significant impact on the money you’ve saved. Instead, small distributions to make an extra payment often work better.

Low mortgage rates, such as 2.8 percent, can often be left because you may make more money with the cash in a brokerage account.

Let’s say that you have $100,000 left on your mortgage and your principal and interest payment is $1,200. If you had this $100,000 in a savings account, it might only net you $600 a month. In this scenario, paying off the house is a wise choice.

Bump your mortgage balance to $300,000, and it may not be beneficial to pay off your mortgage.

Beyond mortgage, you also need to consider risk exposure.

Transitioning to retirement means that you need income for 30-something years from the asset accounts that you have. When you retire, you want to have as little risk exposure as you can with your assets because you don’t want to experience a situation like we did in 2020 when some indexes fell 20% – 30%.

Reevaluating your investments and how you’re invested in the market will help you to limit your risk exposure.

4. Tax planning issues 

If you retire prior to 72 or 73, tax planning can save you a lot of money. 

Imagine retiring at 62 and you have $1 million in assets in your IRA growing at a little over 7% per year. By the time you’re 72, you’ll have $2 million and need to take a required minimum distribution of $80,000 or so per year. If you have Social Security and a pension, these distributions can push you into a higher tax bracket.

We can take a strategic approach to retirement by looking at a Roth conversion. We had a client who retired, had cash in the bank and lived on these funds to allow for significant Roth conversions at a low tax bracket.

5. Long-term care

The least fun part of retirement planning is long-term care planning. You never want to think about yourself in a long-term care situation, but it’s a reality that all of us are at risk of being in at some point.

And long-term care is not cheap.

You need to have a scenario in place where you are prepared to pay for this care. We’re seeing a lot of people pay $8,000 a month for long-term care, with durations being 4 or 5 years. This form of care can cost you $400,000 to $500,000 in total.

Can you afford to take on this financial burden?

You can pay insurance premiums out of pocket, or you can go with an asset-based plan. We’re seeing premiums soaring 50% to 70%, causing many people to be unable to pay for their long-term care.

Instead, you can put $100,000 in a long-term care annuity that grows to $300,000 and can be used for your long-term care. You still have access to this money if you need it and can also name beneficiaries on the account. A beneficiary will receive the total of the account if you pass and never use it, or they may receive any unused funds in the account.

If you pay insurance premiums on long-term care insurance, you will not receive any of these funds back. An annuity can be a great option because if you don’t need to use the funds in the account, they aren’t just going to an insurance company.

We also recommend that you have a will in place or review your will and beneficiaries on all accounts before you retire. If you don’t have all of your estate planning documents in place, you are putting a major burden on your family. You want to go as far as confirming all your beneficiaries and loved ones know the types of documents you have and where these documents are just in case you are ever unable to show them.

P.S. We are working off our own internal checklist titled “2023: What issues should I consider before I retire?” Call the office or email us if you would like a copy of this checklist. We also have a checklist for anyone who is updating their estate plan so that you don’t miss any key points along the way.

Click here to schedule a 15-minute call with us to discuss the things to consider before retirement.

May 1, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for May 1, 2023

This Week’s Podcast -Maximizing Tax Benefits by “Bunching” Charitable Contributions

Listen in to learn how to bunch your charitable contributions into one year using the donor-advised fund. You will also learn why the donor-advised fund is the most flexible version of giving through the bunching strategy.

 

This Week’s Blog – Maximizing Tax Benefits by “Bunching” Charitable Contributions

Taxes are something very few people are excited to talk about. We know that it’s far more exciting to talk about maximizing tax benefits when trying to secure your retirement. And that’s what this entire blog post is about: saving money by bunching your charitable contributions.?

Maximizing Tax Benefits by “Bunching” Charitable Contributions

Taxes are something very few people are excited to talk about. We know that it’s far more exciting to talk about maximizing tax benefits when trying to secure your retirement. And that’s what this entire blog post is about: saving money by bunching your charitable contributions.

Note: We have a podcast on this very topic, which you can find here.

Why Should I Consider Charitable Contribution Bunching?

If you’re charitably inclined, you can save a lot of money by bunching your charitable contributions together. In the current tax code, whether you’re single or married, you receive what is known as a “standard deduction.”

Before this deduction, people would itemize all of their deductions one item at a time. The IRS decided that instead of itemization, people should have a standard deduction that doesn’t require them to list all of their deductions and saves the IRS time, too.

In 2023, the standard deduction is:

  • Single person: $13,850
  • Married: $27,700

When you take this deduction, you cannot itemize. Anyone who is giving money to charity will not be able to deduct their donation unless it is itemized, which really only makes sense if the figure is higher than the two listed above.

Bunching charitable contributions is one way to use deductions to maximize tax benefits.

Examples of Standard Deduction vs Itemizing Your Deductions

Today, the standard deduction has changed so much from 2017. In 2017, a married couple filing jointly would have a standard deduction of $12,500. With the figure being $27,700 in 2023, it becomes much more difficult to reach the amount of itemized deductions to justify not taking a standard deduction.

For example, let’s assume someone is charitably inclined and gives $10,000 in a calendar year.  The person also has $13,000 in other deductions, bringing their total deduction to $23,000. Since this figure is lower than the standard deduction, it doesn’t make sense to itemize.

However, people like getting tax benefits from giving their money away, and this is where bunching comes into play. A donor-advised fund is the perfect way to leverage bunching, and we’ll be talking about this type of fund more in the next few paragraphs.

Let’s assume that every year, you give $10,000 to charity.

In 2022 and 2023, instead of giving $10,000 each year, why not “bunch” it into an account that allows you to deduct $20,000 in 2022? You don’t even need to give all of the money out in 2022.

When you do this, you can deduct:

  • $20,000 in contributions
  • $13,000 in the other deductions that you have

Adding up all of these figures, you can deduct $33,000 in expenses, which is much higher than the standard deduction. You’ll deduct more from your taxes in 2022 using this strategy and can still take the $27,700 deduction in 2023.

  • How can you bunch all of your charitable contributions into a single year?
  • Do you need to give the full $20,000 in a single year?

For many people giving money to charity, they make a commitment to give a certain amount of money each year. Your church may need $10,000 a year and a lump sum of $20,000 may not be beneficial for them.

Donor-advised Funds and Bunching Charitable Contributions

Donor-advised funds allow you to do a few things:

  • Group deductions in one year
  • Give the funds to the account and not the church (like in the example above)

Charles Schwab, Vanguard and similar custodians will have a donor-advised fund. You will write a check to one of these funds for $20,000 and it will sit in these accounts. If you don’t want to write a check, you can also put stock in the account. Any money in the account can also be invested, which is a nice way to give even more money to charity.

When you put money into the fund, it’s an irrevocable gift to the charitable fund, but you’re in complete control over how to use this fund.

If you want, you can gift $10,000 a year to your church as long as it’s an approved charitable organization. You can log into your fund and request a check sent to the church from your fund.

However, you can bunch your charitable donations every few years by putting the funds into an account that you can control.

You can even decide to:

  • Reduce contributions
  • Give money to other charities

You don’t need to decide who gets the money when you create the fund. Once the money is in the account, you can direct the money as you see fit. Perhaps you want to let the $20,000 sit in the account for a few years and then give $2,000 of it away for 10 years. You have this option.

The only thing that you cannot do is give the funds back to yourself. After all, you’ve been given a tax break and the IRS won’t allow you to take the funds back.

Bunching can be done for two, three or more years. There are strategies around bunching that can save you more money. Typically, two to three years of bunching is what we see with our clients because it helps with maximizing tax benefits.

When you use bunching, you:

  • Save money on taxes
  • Still maintain full control over who gets the money

Donor-advised funds are available from most custodians. We work with Schwab, and they allow us to create one of these funds right online for our clients. Different custodians may have different setup requirements, but they all make it rather easy to set up your donor-advised fund. The process of setting up a donor-advised fund is as easy as opening a checking account.

 You can transfer money or stock into the account, too.

Our clients who are focused on retirement planning save a few thousand dollars by bunching their charitable contributions. If you are committed to donating a certain amount to charity each year, it makes sense to give bunching a try for yourself.

Do you want to learn more about bunching and donor-advised funds?

Click here to schedule a call with us to discuss charitable bunching with a member of our team.

April 24, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for April 24, 2023

This Week’s Podcast -2023 1st Quarter Economic Update

Learn why you shouldn’t worry about the US debt ceiling and its impact from a market standpoint. You will also learn why inflation might last longer and cause a recession if the federal reserve doesn’t prioritize the inflation fight.

 

This Week’s Blog – 2023 1st Quarter Economic Update

Andrew Opdyke was our special guest on this past week’s podcast. If you’ve read through our blog or listened to our podcast before, you know that Andrew is who we rely on to gain insight into the economy. In December 2022, we asked him how is the economy doing right now?