EagleStone Tax & Wealth Newsletter – April 2021

More People Delay Claiming Social Security

The average age for claiming Social Security retirement benefits has been steadily rising. Older Americans are working longer, in part because full retirement age is increasing incrementally from 66 to 67. A worker may begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but monthly benefits will be permanently reduced by as much as 30% if claimed before full retirement age — a strong incentive to wait.

Source: The Lancet, October 17, 2020

Should You Convert Your Term Life to Permanent Life Insurance?

Term life insurance provides life insurance coverage for a specific time period (the term). The face amount of the policy is paid if you die during the term of the policy. When you live longer than the term of coverage, nothing is paid, as there is no cash surrender value. Permanent life insurance provides protection for your entire life, regardless of your age or health, as long as you pay the premium to keep the policy in force.

Usually, term life insurance costs less than permanent life insurance for the same amount of death benefit. Term policies often offer the opportunity to convert to permanent insurance. Here are some reasons why you might consider converting your term life insurance to permanent life insurance.

Your Health Has Changed

Since term life insurance is temporary coverage that will end after a number of years, your circumstances may have changed, warranting life insurance coverage for the rest of your life. Converting term life insurance to permanent life insurance does not require additional underwriting. This allows you to extend your life insurance coverage for the rest of your life without going through a medical exam. This fact is particularly important if your health has changed since the time you purchased the term policy.

Your Financial Circumstances Have Changed

You may have purchased term life insurance because it fit better into your budget. Now you may be able to afford the higher premium cost of a permanent life insurance policy that better fits your insurance needs.

You May Want Cash Value

Most permanent life insurance provides for the accumulation of cash value. Part of the premium goes toward the cost of the death benefit and related policy costs; another part goes toward building cash value. The interest and earnings grow tax deferred until you withdraw the funds and may be part of the income-tax-free death benefit when you die. With most cash-value life insurance, you can borrow against or take withdrawals from your cash-value account, although policy loans and withdrawals can reduce the death benefit.

You Want Funds to Pay for Final Expenses

Final expenses of a last illness and memorial and funeral costs could take quite a bite out of your assets, or worse, the assets of the loved ones you leave behind. You may want to convert some or all of your term life insurance to permanent insurance that can be used to pay for final expenses.

Questions to Ask
If you’re thinking about converting your term life insurance to permanent, here are some questions to ask your insurer:

You Want to Leave a Legacy

The tax-free death benefit of a life insurance policy may be a cost-effective way to leave an inheritance to your loved ones. Permanent life insurance can be available no matter when you die, as long as you’ve kept up with the premium payments.

You May Owe Estate Taxes

Federal estate taxes are owed on estate assets that exceed the federal estate tax exclusion ($11.7 million in 2021). In addition, several states have their own separate estate taxes and exemptions. Those you leave behind can use the death benefit of your life insurance to pay some or all of any applicable estate taxes after your death.

The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Withdrawals of the accumulated cash value, up to the amount of the premiums paid, are not subject to income tax. Loans are also free of income tax as long as they are repaid. Loans and withdrawals from a permanent life insurance policy will reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, and could increase the chance that the policy will lapse, and might result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured. Additional out-of-pocket payments may be needed if actual dividends or investment returns decrease, if you withdraw policy cash values, or if current charges increase. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Real Estate for Income and Diversification

An estimated 145 million Americans own real estate investment trusts (REITs) in their retirement accounts and other investment funds.1 The primary appeal of REITs is the potential for a consistent income stream and greater portfolio diversification. Of course, like all investments, REITs also have risks and downsides.

Pooled Property Investments

An equity REIT — the most common type of REIT — is a company that uses the combined capital of a large number of investors to buy and manage residential, commercial, and industrial income properties. A REIT may focus on a specific type of property, but REIT properties in general might range from shopping malls, apartment buildings, and medical facilities to self-storage facilities, hotels, cell towers, and timberlands. Equity REITs derive most of their income from rents.

Under the federal tax code, a qualified REIT must pay at least 90% of its taxable income each year in the form of shareholder dividends. Unlike many companies, REITs generally do not retain earnings, so they may provide higher yields than some other investments, which might be especially appealing in the current low-interest environment. In January 2021, equity REITs paid an average dividend of 3.55%, more than double the 1.55% average dividend paid by stocks in the S&P 500 index.2-3

You can buy shares in individual REITs, just as you might buy shares in any publicly traded company, or you can invest through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Income vs. Volatility

Equity REITs are effective income-generating assets, but share prices can be sensitive to interest rates, partly because companies often depend on debt to acquire rent-producing properties, and interest rates can affect real estate values. Also, as rates rise, REIT dividends may appear less appealing to investors relative to the stability of bonds offering similar yields.

For buy-and-hold investors, the income from REIT dividends may be more important than short-term share-price volatility. Moreover, REIT share prices do not always follow the stock or bond markets, making them a helpful diversification tool (see chart).

While REITs are traded on the stock market, they are in some respects a unique asset class with characteristics of both stocks and bonds. So holding REITs not only may diversify your stock holdings but might also broaden your approach to asset allocation. Diversification and asset allocation are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

A Class of Their Own
Over the last decade, equity REITs have performed very differently than stocks and bonds. REITs were slower than stocks to recover from the early 2020 bear market, which could make their lower valuations and higher yields appealing for long-term investors.

Sources: Nareit, 2021; S&P Dow Jones Indices, 2021; Morningstar, 2021. Equity REITs are represented by the FTSE Nareit All Equity REIT index, U.S. stocks by the S&P 500 total return index, and bonds by the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond TR index. The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific security. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Actual results will vary.

Real Estate Risks

There are inherent risks associated with real estate investments and the real estate industry that could adversely affect the financial performance and value of a real estate investment. Some of these risks include a deterioration in national, regional, and local economies; tenant defaults; local real estate conditions, such as an oversupply of, or a reduction in demand for, rental space; property mismanagement; changes in operating costs and expenses, including increasing insurance costs, energy prices, real estate taxes, and the costs of compliance with laws, regulations, and government policies.

The return and principal value of all investments, including REIT shares, fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk.

Mutual funds and ETFs are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

1–2) Nareit, 2021 (2019 data for REIT ownership)
3) S&P Dow Jones Indices, 2021

Is Your Home Office Also a Tax Shelter?

The pandemic ushered in the age of video meetings, providing a glimpse into many kinds of home workspaces. For many workers, a dedicated home office became more important than ever in 2020, though not everyone will get a tax break for having one.

A Perk for Business Owners

Only self-employed workers, independent contractors, and partners in certain pass-through businesses may claim the home office deduction on their personal tax returns.

To qualify, a home office must be the taxpayer’s principal place of business and be used regularly and exclusively for work — not to manage personal matters or pursue a hobby. It must be a separately identifiable space, but not necessarily an entire room.

Prior to 2018, employees receiving a W-2 form and corporate business owners who were required to work at home could claim the home office deduction as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. However, this deduction was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for years 2018 through 2025.

Companies may reimburse employees for some home office expenses and take a deduction on corporate tax returns.

One Way or Another

Taxpayers who operate a trade or business out of a qualifying home office can choose between two different calculation methods, one of which could result in a larger deduction.

Under the original method, eligible taxpayers can write off a percentage of home office expenses such as depreciation, rent, property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and repairs. The percentage is based on the square footage of the space used by the business relative to the total size of the home.

A newer, simplified option allows taxpayers to claim a flat $5 per square foot of the office, up to 300 square feet. Thus, the deductible amount is capped at $1,500. This simple formula doesn’t take home office expenses into account, so it’s easier to figure out and generally lightens the recordkeeping burden. However, business owners with relatively high home expenses may be able to claim more than $1,500 for a home office if they use the more complex calculation method.

Sole proprietors and independent contractors take the home office deduction as a business expense on Schedule C, and partners use Schedule E. Either way, small-business owners may want their tax professional to help determine eligibility and evaluate the potential tax savings.


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 2021


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