Inflation Cuts into Wage Gains
Driven by labor shortages, median hourly wages increased at an annual rate of 5.2% in December 2021, the highest level since June 2001. However, inflation cuts into buying power, and real wages — adjusted for inflation — actually dropped as inflation spiked in 2021. By contrast, negative inflation (deflation) during the Great Recession sent real wages skyrocketing temporarily even as non-adjusted wage growth declined.
Sources: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 2022, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022, data 1/2001 to 12/2021. (Wage growth is calculated by comparing the median percentage change in wages reported by individuals 12 months apart; real wage growth is calculated by subtracting CPI-U inflation from wage growth.)
What's the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid?
It’s easy to confuse Medicare and Medicaid, because they have similar names and are both government programs that pay for health care. But there are important differences between the programs. Medicare is generally for older people, while Medicaid is for people with limited income and resources.
What Is Medicare?
Medicare is a fee-for-service federal health insurance program that provides reasonably priced health insurance for retired individuals, regardless of their medical condition, and for certain disabled individuals, regardless of age. It is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
What Is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a health insurance assistance program that is jointly administered by state and federal governments. Medicaid serves financially needy individuals who are also elderly, disabled, blind, or parents of minor children.
Who Is Eligible for Medicare?
You are eligible for premium-free Part A (hospital insurance) if you are age 65 or older and you (or your spouse) worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If you (or your spouse) did not pay Medicare taxes while you worked, and you are age 65 or older and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, you may be able to buy Part A. Medicare coverage also may be available for disabled individuals and people with end-stage renal disease.
While most people do not have to pay a premium for Part A, everyone must pay for Part B if they want it. This monthly premium is deducted from your Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Civil Service Retirement benefit.
Who Is Eligible for Medicaid?
Each state has different rules about eligibility and applying for Medicaid. To qualify, you must be a resident of the state in which you are applying and a U.S. citizen (or have qualified immigration status). While eligibility varies by state, federal law requires states to cover certain groups of individuals. Low-income families, qualified pregnant women and children, and individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are examples of mandatory eligibility groups. In addition, a financial eligibility requirement must be met. The individual must be financially needy, which is determined by income and asset limitation tests.
What Does Medicare Cover?
Currently, Medicare consists of four parts: Original Medicare Part A helps cover costs related to inpatient care in a hospital, a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and home health care. Original Medicare Part B helps cover services from doctors and other health-care providers, outpatient care, ambulance services, lab tests, physical therapy, durable medical equipment (like wheelchairs, walkers, and hospital beds), and many preventive services such as screenings and vaccines. Medicare Advantage (Part C) replaces Parts A and B and enables beneficiaries to receive health care through managed care plans such as health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations. Medicare Part D helps cover the costs of prescription drugs.
What Does Medicaid Cover?
Each state administers its own Medicaid program within broad federal guidelines. Thus, states determine the amount, duration, and types of benefits that Medicaid will provide. Typical Medicaid programs cover inpatient and outpatient hospital services; physician and surgical services; lab tests and X-rays; family planning services, preventive care, including immunizations, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other needed care; mental health care; and services for pregnant women. There are also numerous optional benefits that states may offer.
Key Retirement and Tax Numbers for 2022
Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans and various tax deduction, exclusion, exemption, and threshold amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2022.
Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax
- The annual gift tax exclusion (and annual generation-skipping transfer tax exclusion) for 2022 is $16,000, up from $15,000 in 2021.
- The gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount (and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption) for 2022 is $12,060,000, up from $11,700,000 in 2021.
Taxpayers can generally choose to itemize certain deductions or claim a standard deduction on their federal income tax returns. In 2022, the standard deduction is:
- $12,950 (up from $12,550 in 2021) for single filers or married individuals filing separate returns
- $25,900 (up from $25,100 in 2021) for married joint filers
- $19,400 (up from $18,800 in 2021) for heads of household
The additional standard deduction amount for the blind and those age 65 or older in 2022 is:
- $1,750 (up from $1,700 in 2021) for single filers and heads of household
- $1,400 (up from $1,350 in 2021) for all other filing statuses
Special rules apply for those who can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
The combined annual limit on contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs is $6,000 in 2022 (the same as in 2021), with individuals age 50 or older able to contribute an additional $1,000. The limit on contributions to a Roth IRA phases out for certain modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) ranges (see chart). For individuals who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA also phases out for certain MAGI ranges (see chart). The limit on nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA is not subject to phaseout based on MAGI.
Employer Retirement Plans
- Employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans can defer up to $20,500 in compensation in 2022 (up from $19,500 in 2021); employees age 50 or older can defer up to an additional $6,500 in 2022 (the same as in 2021).
- Employees participating in a SIMPLE retirement plan can defer up to $14,000 in 2022 (up from $13,500 in 2021), and employees age 50 or older can defer up to an additional $3,000 in 2022 (the same as in 2021).
Kiddie Tax: Child’s Unearned Income
Under the kiddie tax, a child’s unearned income above $2,300 in 2022 (up from $2,200 in 2021) is taxed using the parents’ tax rates.
Splurge or Save? Making the Most of Your Income Tax Refund
The IRS issued more than 128 million income tax refunds for the 2020 filing season, putting $355.3 billion into the hands of U.S. consumers.1 For most recipients, such a sudden influx of cash prompts an important question: What’s the best way to use the money?
Last year, 27% of consumers said they planned to spend their refund on everyday expenses, whereas equal numbers (8%) planned to either “splurge” or take a vacation.2 But what about your other options?
Though spending your tax refund is tempting, most people surveyed said they planned to save their tax refund and/or pay down debt.3 While reducing debt can be the cornerstone of an effective financial strategy, it’s essential to avoid making choices that could set you back in the long run. For example, a home mortgage is often the largest debt taxpayers carry, and making extra mortgage payments can reduce your principal balance and shorten the term of the loan, allowing you to accumulate equity faster.
However, using a refund to cut down mortgage debt ahead of schedule could have counterproductive consequences, including losing the ability to claim the home mortgage interest deduction when filing your income taxes. In addition, the reduction in your overall liquidity may limit your ability to make new purchases or investments that you hadn’t anticipated.
With that in mind, it may be better to pay off higher-interest, nondeductible debt first, such as credit-card bills and car loans. Although that strategy may still limit your potential to pursue additional financial opportunities in the short term, your long-term savings may be significant.
Using your refund to potentially bring retirement goals closer to reality might be prudent. IRA contributions (up to $6,000 in 2022; $7,000 if age 50 or older) may be deductible, depending on your income and the type of IRA you choose. The 2022 cap on contributions to 401(k) and 403(b) workplace retirement plans is $20,500 ($27,000 if age 50 or older). If you aren’t yet contributing the maximum, using this year’s refund to finance some routine household expenses could help you allocate more of your income to a workplace retirement account. As an added potential benefit, the amount of any matching employer contributions may increase as a result.
Of course, you might want to use this year’s refund for another purpose. Be sure to speak with your financial professional for guidance about the best way to proceed. There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results.
1) Internal Revenue Service, 2021
2-3) National Retail Federation, 2021
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 Advisor Solutions Copyright 2022.