Beneficiary

Annual Financial To-Do List

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds.

What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for the coming year? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to managing your taxes. You have plenty of choices. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  

Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2020, the contribution limit for a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA) remains at $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA: singles and heads of household with MAGI above $139,000 and joint filers with MAGI above $206,000 cannot make 2020 Roth contributions. 1 

 

Before making any changes, remember that withdrawals from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½.

 

Make a charitable gift. You can claim the deduction on your tax return, provided you itemize your deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here. 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 Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) does not equate a pledge with a donation. If you pledge $2,000 to a charity this year, but only end up gifting $500, you can only deduct $500. 1

 

These are hypothetical examples and are not a replacement for real-life advice. Make certain to consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional before modifying your strategy. 

 

See if you can take a home office deduction for your small business. If you are a small-business owner, you may want to investigate this. You may be able to legitimately write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to exclusively conduct your business. Using your home office as a business expense involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward, consider working with a professional who is familiar with home-based businesses. 3

  

Open an HSA. A Health Savings Account (HSA) works a bit like your workplace retirement account. There are also some HSA rules and limitations to consider. You are limited to a $3,550 contribution for 2020, if you are single; $7,100, if you have a spouse or family. Those limits jump by a $1,000 “catch-up” limit for each person in the household over age 55. 4

 

If you spend your HSA funds for non-medical expenses before age 65, you may be required to pay ordinary income tax as well as a 20% penalty. After age 65, you may be required to pay ordinary income taxes on HSA funds used for non-medical expenses. HSA contributions are exempt from federal income tax; however, they are not exempt from state taxes in certain states.

 

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

 

Before adjusting your asset location, consider working with an investment professional who is familiar with tax rules and regulations. 

 

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 and you are earning much more than you previously did. 

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

 

These are general guidelines and are not a replacement for real-life advice. So, make certain to speak with a professional who understands your situation before making any changes.

  

Are you marrying in 2020? If so, why not review the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and other assets? When considering 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 2020, you will need a new Social Security card. Additionally, the two of you may have retirement accounts 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 any employee health insurance is still there and revoke any power of attorney you may have granted to another person.

 

Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell any real estate this year? Are you starting a business? Do you think you might exercise a stock option? Might any large commissions or bonuses come your way in 2020? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account? 

   

If you are retired and older than 70½, remember your year-end RMD. Retirees over age 70½ must begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k), 403(b), and profit-sharing plans by December 31 of each year. The I.R.S. penalty for failing to take an RMD can be as much as 50% of the RMD amount that is not withdrawn. 5

  

Lastly, should you make 13 mortgage payments this year? If your house is underwater, this makes no sense – and you could argue that those 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 2020 mortgage payment in December 2019. If you have a fixed-rate loan, a lump-sum payment can reduce the principal and the total interest paid on it by that much more. 

 

If you’re considering making 13 payments, consider working with a tax, legal, or accounting professional who is familiar with your situation. 3

    

Vow to focus on being healthy and wealthy in 2020. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals who understand your individual situation.

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 - thefinancebuff.com/401k-403b-ira-contribution-limits.html [7/16/19]

2 - irs.gov/newsroom/charitable-contributions [6/28/19]

3 - nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/home-office-tax-deductions-small-business/ [1/22/19]

4 - cnbc.com/2019/06/03/these-are-the-new-hsa-limits-for-2020.html [6/4/19]

5 - forbes.com/sites/leonlabrecque/2019/04/09/bigger-iras-proposed-new-tax-law-may-let-you-build-a-bigger-ira-in-retirement/ [4/9/19]

 

Are Your Beneficiary Designations Up to Date?

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

Who should inherit your IRA or 401(k)? See that they do

Here’s a simple financial question: who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k) or annuity? You may be saying, “I’m not sure.” It is smart to periodically review your beneficiary designations.

Your choices may need to change with the times. When did you open your first IRA? When did you buy your life insurance policy? Was it back in the Nineties? Are you still living in the same home and working at the same job as you did back then? Have your priorities changed?

While your beneficiary choices may seem obvious and rock‐solid when you initially make them, time has a way of altering things. In a stretch of five or ten years, some major changes can occur in your life and may warrant changes in your beneficiary decisions.

In fact, you might want to review them annually. Here’s why: companies frequently change custodians when it comes to retirement plans and insurance policies. When a new custodian comes on board, a beneficiary designation can get lost in the paper shuffle. (It has happened.) If you don’t have a designated beneficiary on your retirement accounts, those assets may go to the “default” beneficiaries when you pass away, which might throw a wrench into your estate planning. An example: under ERISA, your spouse receives your 401(k) assets if you pass away. Your spouse must waive that privilege in writing for those assets to go to your children instead. 1

How your choices affect your loved ones. The beneficiary of your IRA, annuity, 401(k), or life insurance policy may be your spouse, your child, maybe another loved one, or maybe even an institution. Naming a beneficiary helps to keep these assets out of probate when you pass away.

Many people do not realize that beneficiary designations take priority over bequests made in a will or living trust. For example, if you long ago named a son or daughter who is now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she will receive the death benefit when you die, regardless of what your will states. 2

You may have even chosen the “smartest financial mind” in your family as your beneficiary, thinking that he or she has the knowledge to carry out your financial wishes in the event of your death. But what if this person passes away before you do? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed and are unable to communicate your intentions in time? And what if he or she inherits tax problems as a result of receiving your assets?

How your choices affect your estate. If you are naming your spouse as your beneficiary, the tax consequences are less thorny. Assets you inherit from your spouse aren’t subject to estate tax, as long as you are a U.S. citizen. 3

When the beneficiary isn’t your spouse, things get a little more complicated – for your estate and for your beneficiary’s estate. If you name, for example, your son or your sister as the beneficiary of your retirement plan assets, the amount of those assets will be included in the value of your taxable estate. (This might mean a higher estate tax bill for your heirs.) And the problem will persist: when your non‐spouse beneficiary inherits those retirement plan assets, those assets become part of their taxable estate, and their heirs might face higher estate taxes. Your non‐spouse heir might also have to take required income distributions from that retirement plan someday and pay the required taxes on that income. 4

If you properly designate a charity or other 501(c)(3) non‐profit organization as a beneficiary of your retirement account assets, the assets can pass to the charity without your estate being taxed, and the gift will be deductible for estate tax purposes. 5

Know someone who could use information like this? Please feel free to send us their contact information via phone or email. (Don’t worry – we’ll request their permission before adding them to our mailing list.)


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/ashleaebeling/2018/01/08/five‐retirement‐housekeeping‐moves‐for‐the‐new‐year/ [1/8/18]

2 ‐ thebalance.com/why‐beneficiary‐designations‐override‐your‐will‐2388824 [8/28/17]

3 ‐ nolo.com/legal‐encyclopedia/estate‐planning‐when‐you‐re‐married‐noncitizen.html [2/4/18]

4 ‐ corporate.findlaw.com/law‐library/who‐should‐be‐the‐beneficiary‐of‐your‐qualified‐retirement‐plan.html [2/4/18]

5 ‐ ameriprise.com/research‐market‐insights/financial‐articles/insurance‐estate‐planning/charitable‐giving/ [2/4/18]