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Have You Made Any of These Financial Mistakes?

As people move through different stages of life, there are new financial opportunities — and potential pitfalls — around every corner. Have you made any of these mistakes?

Your 50s and 60s

1. Raiding your home equity or retirement funds. It goes without saying that doing so will prolong your debt and/or reduce your nest egg.

2. Not quantifying your expected retirement income. As you near retirement, you should know how much money you (and your spouse, if applicable) can expect from three sources:

  • Your retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and IRAs
  • Pension income from your employer, if any
  • Social Security (at age 62, at your full retirement age, and at age 70)

3. Co-signing loans for adult children. Co-signing means you’re 100% on the hook if your child can’t pay, a less-than-ideal situation as you’re getting ready to retire.

4. Living an unhealthy lifestyle. Take steps now to improve your diet and fitness level. Not only will you feel better today, but you may reduce your health-care costs in the future.

Your 40s

1. Trying to keep up with the Joneses. Appearances can be deceptive. The nice lifestyle your friends, neighbors, or colleagues enjoy might look nice on the outside, but behind the scenes there may be a lot of debt supporting that lifestyle. Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to keep up with others.

2. Funding college over retirement. In your 40s, saving for your children’s college costs at the expense of your own retirement may be a mistake. If you have limited funds, consider setting aside a portion for college while earmarking the majority for retirement. Then sit down with your teenager and have a frank discussion about college options that won’t break the bank — for either of you.

3. Not having a will or an advance medical directive. No one likes to think about death or catastrophic injury, but these documents can help your loved ones immensely if something unexpected should happen to you.

Your 30s

1. Being house poor. Whether you’re buying your first home or trading up, think twice about buying a house you can’t afford, even if the bank says you can. Build in some wiggle room for a possible dip in household income that could result from leaving the workforce to raise a family or a job change or layoff.

2. Not saving for retirement. Maybe your 20s passed you by in a bit of a blur and retirement wasn’t even on your radar. But now that you’re in your 30s, it’s essential to start saving for retirement. Start now, and you still have 30 years or more to save. Wait much longer, and it can be very hard to catch up.

3. Not protecting yourself with life and disability insurance. Life is unpredictable. Consider what would happen if one day you were unable to work and earn a paycheck. Life and disability insurance can help protect you and your family. Though the cost and availability of life insurance will depend on several factors including your health, generally the younger you are when you buy life insurance, the lower your premiums will be.

Your 20s

1. Living beyond your means. It’s tempting to splurge on gadgets, entertainment, and travel, but if you can’t pay for most of your wants up front, then you need to rein in your lifestyle, especially if you have student loans to repay.

2. Not paying yourself first. Save a portion of every paycheck first and then spend what’s left over, not the other way around. And why not start saving for retirement, too? Earmark a portion of your annual pay now for retirement and your 67-year-old self will thank you.

3. Being financially illiterate. Learn as much as you can about saving, budgeting, and investing now and you could benefit from it for the rest of your life.

Building Confidence in Your Strategy for Retirement

Each year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducts its Retirement Confidence Survey to assess both worker and retiree confidence in financial aspects of retirement. In 2018, as in years past, retirees expressed a higher level of confidence than today’s workers (perhaps because “retirement” is less of an abstract concept to those actually living it). However, worker confidence seems to be on the rise, while retiree confidence is on the decline. A deeper dive into the research reveals lessons and tips that can help you build your own retirement planning confidence.

Create a foundation of predictable sources of income

Workers surveyed expect to rely less on traditional sources of guaranteed income — a defined benefit pension plan and Social Security — than today’s retirees. More than 40% of retirees say that a traditional pension plan provides them with a major source of income, and 66% say that Social Security is a primary source. Yet just one-third of today’s workers expect either a pension or Social Security to play a big role.

Understand how Social Security works. Although nearly half of today’s workers say they have considered how their Social Security claiming age could affect their benefit amount, the median age at which they plan to claim benefits is 65. Moreover, less than a quarter of respondents say they determined their future claiming age with benefit maximization in mind. Why does this matter? It’s because the vast majority of today’s workers won’t be able to collect their full Social Security retirement benefit until sometime between age 66 and 67, depending on their year of birth. Claiming earlier than that results in a permanently reduced benefit amount. To help ensure you make the most of your Social Security benefits, take the time to understand the ramifications of different claiming ages and strategies before making any final decisions.

Consider creating your own “pension” income. Eight in 10 workers in the EBRI survey hope to use their defined contribution plan assets [e.g., 401(k) or 403(b)] to purchase a product that will provide a guaranteed stream of income during retirement. Depending on individual circumstances, this could be a wise move. To help provide yourself with a steady stream of income, you might consider annuitizing a portion of your retirement plan assets or purchasing an immediate annuity, a contract that promises to pay you a steady stream of income for a fixed period of time or for life in exchange for a lump-sum payment.1

When combined with your Social Security benefits, the payments received from an immediate annuity can help ensure that your everyday “fixed” expenses are covered. Any additional assets can then be earmarked for future growth potental and “extras,” such as travel and entertainment.

Pay attention to your health — and health-care costs

Health. The EBRI survey revealed a correlation between health and retirement planning confidence. For example, 60% of today’s workers who are confident in their retirement prospects also report being in good or excellent health, while only a little more than a quarter of those who are not confident report similar levels of health. Moreover, 46% of retirees who say they are confident also say they are in good health, compared with just 14% of those who are not confident.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward: Healthy habits may pay off in healthy levels of confidence. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise, get enough sleep, and take steps to minimize stress. And don’t skip important preventive checkups and lab tests. Keep in mind that even the most diligent savings strategies can be thrown off track by unexpected medical costs.

Health-care costs. The percentage of retirees who are at least somewhat confident that they will have enough money to cover medical expenses in retirement has dropped from 77% in 2017 to 70% in 2018. And four out of 10 retirees say that health-care expenses are at least somewhat higher than they expected. However, retirees who have estimated their health-care costs (39% of respondents) are more likely to say their expenses are about what they expected them to be. On the other hand, just 19% of workers have calculated how much they will need to cover their health expenses in retirement.

If you have not yet thought about how much of your retirement income may be consumed by health-care costs, now may be the time to start doing so. Having at least a general idea of what your medical expenses might be will help you more accurately project your overall retirement savings goal.

Tax Benefits of Homeownership After Tax Reform

Buying a home can be a major expenditure. Fortunately, federal tax benefits are still available, even after recent tax reform legislation, to help make homeownership more affordable. There may also be tax benefits under state law.

Mortgage interest deduction

One of the most important tax benefits of owning a home is that you may be able to deduct the mortgage interest you pay. If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can deduct the interest on a loan secured by your home and used to buy, build, or substantially improve your home. For loans incurred before December 16, 2017, up to $1 million of such “home acquisition debt” ($500,000 if married filing separately) qualifies for the interest deduction. For loans incurred after December 15, 2017, the limit is $750,000 ($375,000 if married filing separately).

This interest deduction is also still available for home equity loans or lines of credit used to buy, build, or substantially improve your home. [Prior to 2018, a separate deduction was available for interest on home equity loans or lines of credit of up to $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately) used for any other purpose.]

Deduction for real estate property taxes

If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can generally deduct real estate taxes you pay on property that you own. However, for 2018 to 2025, you can deduct a total of only $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) of your state and local taxes each year (including income taxes and real estate taxes). For alternative minimum tax purposes, however, no deduction is allowed for state and local taxes, including property taxes.

Points and closing costs

When you take out a loan to buy a home, or when you refinance an existing loan on your home, you’ll probably be charged closing costs. These may include points, as well as attorney’s fees, recording fees, title search fees, appraisal fees, and loan or document preparation and processing fees. Points are typically charged to reduce the interest rate for the loan.

When you buy your main home, you may be able to deduct points in full in the year you pay them if you itemize deductions and meet certain requirements. You may even be able to deduct points that the seller pays for you.

Refinanced loans are treated differently. Generally, points that you pay on a refinanced loan are not deductible in full in the year you pay them. Instead, they’re deducted ratably over the life of the loan. In other words, you can deduct a certain portion of the points each year. If the loan is used to make improvements to your principal residence, however, you may be able to deduct the points in full in the year paid.

Otherwise, closing costs are nondeductible. But they can increase the tax basis of your home, which in turn can lower your taxable gain when you sell the property.

Home improvements

Home improvements (unless medically required) are nondeductible. Improvements, though, can increase the tax basis of your home, which in turn can lower your taxable gain when you sell the property.

Capital gain exclusion

If you sell your principal residence at a loss, you can’t deduct the loss on your tax return. If you sell your principal residence at a gain, you may be able to exclude some or all of the gain from federal income tax.

Capital gain (or loss) on the sale of your principal residence equals the sale price of your home minus your adjusted basis in the property. Your adjusted basis is typically the cost of the property (i.e., what you paid for it initially) plus amounts paid for capital improvements.

If you meet all requirements, you can exclude from federal income tax up to $250,000 ($500,000 if you’re married and file a joint return) of any capital gain that results from the sale of your principal residence. Anything over those limits may be subject to tax (at favorable long-term capital gains tax rates). In general, this exclusion can be used only once every two years. To qualify for the exclusion, you must have owned and used the home as your principal residence for a total of two out of the five years before the sale.

What if you fail to meet the two-out-of-five-year rule or you used the capital gain exclusion within the past two years with respect to a different principal residence? You may still be able to exclude part of your gain if your home sale was due to a change in place of employment, health reasons, or certain other unforeseen circumstances. In such a case, exclusion of the gain may be prorated.

Other considerations

It’s important to note that special rules apply in a number of circumstances, including situations in which you maintain a home office for tax purposes or otherwise use your home for business or rental purposes.

What is the federal funds rate?

The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other from their deposits at the Federal Reserve (the Fed), usually overnight, in order to meet federally mandated reserve requirements. Basically, if a bank is unable to meet its reserve requirements at the end of the day, it borrows money from a bank with extra reserves. The federal funds rate is what banks charge each other for overnight loans. This rate is referred to as the federal funds effective rate and is negotiated between borrowing and lending banks.

The Federal Open Market Committee sets a target for the federal funds rate. The Fed does not directly control consumer savings or credit rates directly; it can’t require that banks use the federal funds rate for loans. Instead, the Fed lowers the federal funds rate by buying government-backed securities (usually U.S. Treasuries) from banks, which adds to the banks’ reserves. Having excess reserves, banks will lower their lending rates for overnight loans in order to make some interest on the excess reserves. To raise rates, the Fed sells securities to banks, decreasing the banks’ reserves. If enough banks need to borrow to meet overnight reserve requirements, banks with extra reserves will raise their lending rates.

The federal funds rate serves as a benchmark for many short-term rates, such as savings accounts, money market accounts, and short-term bonds. Banks also base the prime rate on the federal funds rate. Banks often use the prime rate as the basis for interest rates on deposits, bank loans, credit cards, and mortgages.

What is gross domestic product, and why is it important to investors?

GDP, or gross domestic product, measures the value of goods and services produced by a nation’s economy less the value of goods and services used in production. In essence, GDP is a broad measure of the nation’s overall economic activity and serves as a gauge of the country’s economic health. Countries with the largest GDP are the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

GDP generally provides economic information on a quarterly basis and is calculated for most of the world’s countries, allowing for comparisons among various economies. Important information that can be gleaned from GDP includes:

  • A measure of the prices paid for goods and services purchased by, or on behalf of, consumers (personal consumption expenditures), including durable goods (such as cars and appliances), nondurable goods (food and clothing), and services (transportation, education, and banking)
  • Personal (pre-tax) and disposable (after-tax) income and personal savings
  • Residential (purchases of private housing) and nonresidential investment (purchases of both nonresidential structures and business equipment and software, as well as changes in inventories)
  • Net exports (the sum of exports less imports
  • Government spending on goods and services

GDP can offer valuable information to investors, including whether the economy is expanding or contracting, trends in consumer spending, the status of residential and business investing, and whether prices for goods and services are rising or falling. A strong economy is usually good for corporations and their profits, which may boost stock prices. Increasing prices for goods and services may indicate advancing inflation, which can impact bond prices and yields. In short, GDP provides a snapshot of the strength of the economy over a specific period and can play a role when making financial decisions. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.e & Medicaid Services

 

IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matter addressed herein.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018