Category

Financial Planning

Your Annual Financial To-Do List

By | Financial Planning

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 an excellent 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 2021, the contribution limit for a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA) is expected to remain 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. With a traditional IRA, you can contribute if you (or your spouse if filing jointly) have taxable compensation, but income limits are one factor in determining whether the contribution is tax-deductible.

Remember, 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 starting again in 2021 because the CARES Act ends December 31, 2020. Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½ to qualify for tax-exempt and penalty-free withdrawal. Tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals from Roth IRAs can also be taken under certain other circumstances, such as a result of the owner’s death.

Keep in mind, this article is for informational purposes only, and not a replacement for real-life advice. Also, tax rules are constantly changing, and there is no guarantee that the tax landscape will remain the same in years ahead.

 

Make a charitable gift. You can claim the deduction on your tax return, provided you follow the Internal Review Service (I.R.S.) guidelines and itemize your deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here. If you give cash, you should consider documenting it. Some contributions can 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 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.  You must write the check or make the gift using a credit card by the end of December.

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 record-keeping approach or your strategy for making charitable gifts.

 

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 write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to 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.

  

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 $3,600 contribution for 2021 if you are single; $7,200 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.

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 nonmedical expenses. HSA contributions are exempt from federal income tax; however, they are not exempt from state taxes in certain states.

 

Review your withholding status. Should it be adjusted due to any of the following factors?

* You tend to pay the federal or state government at the end of each year.

* You tend to get a federal tax refund each year.

* You recently married or divorced.

* You have a new job, and your earnings have been adjusted.

These are general guidelines and are not a replacement for real-life advice. Make certain to consult your tax, human resources, or accounting professional before modifying your withholding status.

 

Did you get married in 2020? If so, it may be an excellent time to consider reviewing the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and other assets. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you are preparing to have a new last name in 2021, you may want to get a new Social Security card. Additionally, retirement accounts may need to be revised or adjusted?

 

Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell any real estate this year? Are you starting a business? Might any commissions or bonuses come your way in 2021? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account?

 

If you are retired and in your 70s, remember your RMDs. In other words, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts. Under the SECURE ACT, in most circumstances, once you reach age 72, you must begin taking RMDs from most types of these accounts.

 

Vow to focus on your overall health and practice sound financial habits in 2021. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals who understand your individual situation. Give us a call if you would like to discuss. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in the Seattle area at 253.509.0395.

 

 

Sources:

https://thefinancebuff.com/401k-403b-ira-contribution-limits.html

https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/iras/articles/what-is-the-secure-act

https://www.irs.gov/publications/p590b

https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2020/11/22/these-tax-laws-charitable-donations-were-changed-help-pandemic/6295115002/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/tax/09/self-employed-tax-deductions.asp

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/082914/rules-having-health-savings-account-hsa.asp#:~:text=You%20can%20only%20open%20and,as%20a%20catch%2Dup%20contribution.

https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2020/11/29/10-tax-tips-to-take-by-year-end/

 

2021 Limits for IRAs, 401(k)s and More

By | Financial Planning, Tax Planning

Numbers to know for the new year.

On October 26, the Treasury Department released the 2021 adjusted figures for retirement account savings. Although these adjustments won’t bring any major changes, there are some minor elements to note.

 

401(k)s. The salary deferral amount for 401(k)s remains the same at $19,500, while the catch-up amount of $6,500 also remains unchanged.

However, the overall limit for these plans will increase from $57,000 to $58,000 in 2021. This limit applies if your employer allows after-tax contributions to your 401(k). It’s an overall cap, including your $19,500 (pretax or Roth in any combination) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions).

 

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). The limit on annual contributions remains at $6,000 for 2021, and the catch-up contribution limit is also unchanged at $1,000. This total includes traditional IRA (pre-tax) and Roth IRA accounts or a combination.

 

Deductible IRA Contributions. Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or his or her spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income.

For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $66,000 to $76,000, up from $65,000 to $75,000. For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $105,000 to $125,000, up from $104,000 to $124,000.

 

Roth IRAs. Roth IRA account holders will experience some slightly beneficial changes. In 2021, the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) phase-out range will be $198,000 to $208,000 for couples filing jointly. This will be an increase from the 2020 range of $196,000 to $206,000. For those who file as single or as head of household, the income phase-out range has also increased. The new range for 2021 will be $125,000 to $140,000, up from the current range of $124,000 to $139,000.

 

QLACs. The dollar limit on the amount of your IRA or 401(k) you can invest in a qualified longevity annuity contract is still $135,000 for 2021.

 

Although these modest increases won’t impact many, it’s natural to have questions anytime the financial landscape changes. If you’re curious about any of the above, please call Bulwark Capital Management in the Seattle area at 253.509.0395.

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/income-ranges-for-determining-ira-eligibility-change-for-2021

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2020/10/26/irs-announces-2021-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/

 

10 Reasons You Need a Financial Plan

By | Financial Planning

October is Financial Planning Month which serves as a useful, annual checkpoint to make sure you are on track to meet your financial goals. A written, up-to-date financial plan encompasses not only investments, but risk management solutions, tax reduction strategies and estate planning.

10 Reasons You Need a Financial Plan

  1. To have one comprehensive document to address your finances.

Financial planning provides one summary location for everything related to your family’s financial life. From your budget, to your savings, to your investments, to your retirement, a financial plan helps you consider your finances in a holistic manner, and gives you one central place to see everything at a glance.

  1. To ensure your investments are in line with your current short- and long-term goals.

A financial plan includes short-term goals like buying a house and long-term goals like saving for retirement, as well as everything in between. As your goals change through time, your financial plan is a living document that should get updated with your advisor on at least an annual basis.

  1. To ensure you’re not spending too much money each month—to have adequate cash flow.

A realistic budget is very important to keeping you on track with your goals. This doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of little luxuries—it just means that those are already built into the plan so you don’t overspend.

  1. To ensure you’re saving enough money, in the right places, including adequate reserves.

As many of us have learned during the pandemic, having adequate emergency funds is important. That amount varies from person to person, and your advisor can help you define the amount you have saved for emergencies, and help you find the right strategies to use so that your savings are liquid and accessible when you need funds.

  1. To ensure your retirement is on track.

Making sure your retirement funds are invested for best performance while matching your risk tolerance and time horizon to retirement is one part of making sure your retirement is on track. Another part is making decisions about your desired retirement lifestyle and the corresponding monthly budget you will need later. These retirement lifestyle decisions can change throughout your working career, but should get more solid as you get from five to 10 years away from retiring.

  1. To put and keep adequate protection in place against risks—like health, disability, accidental death and liability.

Providing for your family’s financial security is an important part of the financial planning process, as is assessing other risks you may face such as liability from lawsuits. Having the proper insurance coverage in place can protect your whole family. And today’s policy designs mean you may be able to cover multiple risks with fewer policies—and may even be able to enjoy “living benefits” while providing death benefit protection for your family members.

  1. To address and have a plan in place for your estate.

Everyone needs an estate plan. A will allows you to spell out your final wishes, such as listing recipients of each of your possessions and designating minor children’s guardians. A trust can bypass probate court, saving money and keeping things private while easily transferring wealth. Health care directives and powers of attorney are critical should you become incapacitated. When creating your estate plan, your ideal team should include an estate attorney, your financial advisor and your tax professional.

  1. To help you manage changes.

A financial plan includes all its various parts and pieces so that you can quickly see what needs updating when life changes happen. Remember, the beneficiaries you list on your individual insurance policies and your retirement accounts (like 401(k)s) take precedence over what is in your estate planning documents. Too many people have had their ex-spouses receive money because they forgot to update all documents properly.

  1. To help you mitigate taxes.

It’s truly not how much you have; it’s how much you get to keep. Tax reduction strategies can help you annually, but your advisor can also help you look further ahead to reduce taxes later, such as during retirement. Remember, all the money you have saved in accounts like traditional 401(k)s are pre-tax dollars—you will have to pay ordinary income tax on that money when you withdraw it, which you have to do starting at age 72. Making a plan for taxation can help.

  1. To help enhance your peace of mind.

Reducing stress and sleeping more soundly may be the best reason of all to have a financial plan in place.

 

If you would like to create, update or review your financial plan, please call us. Contact Bulwark Capital Management in the Seattle area at 253.509.0395.

Zach Abraham Wall Street Journal

Zach Abraham Discusses Options for Cash in the Wall Street Journal

By | Financial Planning, In The Headlines, News

With interest rates so low, many consumers wonder where to find the best place for their savings. High-yield savings accounts are now paying around 0.6%, while the national average for traditional savings accounts is a meager 0.05% according to the FDIC.

Other options that offer more yield, however, often mean taking on more risk and sacrificing liquidity.

“If you think you see something higher than 2%, with liquidity, be very careful—there’s no silver bullet here,” says Zach Abraham, Chief Investment Officer at Bulwark Capital Management.

Zach told the Wall Street Journal that he’s seen people think outside the traditional options, looking instead at accounts with transactional requirements such as balance thresholds or debit-card usage. He has spoken to some clients about moving cash to CDs that fit their timeline. As of October 2020, the national average for 2-year CDs is 0.23% according to the FDIC.

 

 

Read the whole article here:   (subscription to Wall Street Journal required) https://www.wsj.com/articles/stashing-cash-in-a-low-interest-world-11602149402 

Or Download the PDF.

 

 

UPDATE:

The Wall Street Journal article quickly went viral around the globe, reaching millions of readers:

 

QQ China 57,048,000 https://new.qq.com/omn/20201014/20201014A01EAY00.html

ADVFN – US USA 8,067,000 https://www.advfn.com/stock-market/stock-news/83450961/u-s-stocks-drop-as-earnings-season-begins

Morningstar USA 8,024,000 https://www.morningstar.com/news/dow-jones/202010138472/us-stocks-drop-as-earnings-season-begins

La Republica Colombia 2,092,000 https://www.larepublica.co/globoeconomia/las-acciones-estadounidenses-caen-a-medida-que-comienza-la-temporada-de-ganancias-3073156

Marketscreener USA 2,081,000 https://www.marketscreener.com/news/latest/U-S-Stocks-Drop-as-Earnings-Season-Begins–31533030/

ADVFN – UK UK 2,084,000 https://uk.advfn.com/stock-market/stock-news/83452201/u-s-stocks-end-lower-as-earnings-season-begins

Beursduivel Belgium 1,054,000 https://www.beursduivel.be/Beursnieuws/601995/Wall-Street-op-verlies.aspx

Beursgorilla Netherland 729,038 https://www.beursgorilla.nl/beursnieuws/601995/Wall-Street-op-verlies.aspx

Beleggen Netherlands 455,046 https://www.beleggen.nl/financieel_nieuws/602011/Wall-Street-sluit-lager.aspx

ADVFN – Australia Australia 1,879 https://au.advfn.com/p.php?pid=nmona&article=83452201

7 Money Moves to Consider This July

By | Financial Planning

The coronavirus has given us all a lot of stress, as well as a lot of free time to think. If you’re postponing your summer vacation plans, now may be the perfect time to implement some financial planning “to-do’s” that could enhance your personal wealth and financial well-being.

Here are seven things to consider:

  1. Is there too much risk in your portfolio?

If you’re younger, you may have been told to just wait out the volatile stock market, and indeed that may be best for you. But some people—no matter what their age—are more risk-averse than others, and that’s where working with a qualified financial professional comes in. They can help make sure your portfolio matches your individual tolerance for market risk.

As a general rule of thumb, every year as you get older, your financial advisor should ensure that your portfolio contains less and less risk, as asset preservation and protection from market risk becomes more critical with a shorter timeline to retirement.

  1. Does your portfolio contain a lot of bonds or bond funds?

Some financial advisors only have one tool in their toolbox when it comes to lowering risk in your portfolio as you get older—bonds or bond funds. But with today’s low interest rates, and bond yields tied to those interest rates, bonds or bond funds may not be your best option. And with some public figures1 asking that the Fed consider negative interest rates (like they have in seven other countries), bonds could offer you less than ever in the future.

There are financial instruments like annuities which are not correlated to the stock market and offer guaranteed returns regardless of interest rates. Annuities are not investments, they are complex contracts with insurance companies. The guarantees they offer are based on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company, some of which have been around for more than a century. Some annuities offer potential for market growth along with protection from stock market risk, or even lifetime retirement income. Examining the options and clauses for various annuity contracts which might (or might not) work for you requires expertise from a qualified financial professional.

Make sure your financial advisor isn’t a “one-trick pony” and has more than just bonds or bond funds to recommend to you for the fixed, or safer part of your portfolio. You deserve access to other options.

  1. Do Roth conversions make sense for you this year?

Roth IRA accounts have many long-term tax advantages, including tax-free earnings with no RMDs (required minimum distributions) due in retirement—meaning you never have to withdraw any money if you don’t want to. Additionally, you can leave Roth IRAs to your heirs tax-free.

If you roll money over to a tax-free Roth from a taxable retirement account like a traditional IRA, you will pay ordinary income taxes on the amount rolled over in the year that the rollover is completed. This year may be ideal if you’ve earned less and will therefore be in a lower tax bracket already. Or if your traditional IRA account is down in value, you could withdraw some of that money and reinvest it inside a Roth IRA. That way, when the stock market rebounds, those earnings could be tax-free.

NOTE: Rollovers can’t be undone, so it’s best to work with an advisor to do this.

  1. Do you have enough money in your emergency fund?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unprecedented. Now is the time to make sure you’ve set aside adequate liquid funds for emergencies. A rule of thumb is three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

  1. Do you have an estate plan in place?

If there is one thing we all hate thinking about, it’s passing away from this earth. But in today’s crazy world, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have everything in place to make things as smooth as possible for your loved ones should the worst happen to you.

Some people think they don’t have enough money to need an estate plan, or they think they are too young, but pretty much everyone needs one to protect their family members. Estate planning includes a will containing your final wishes, possibly a trust which can bypass probate, a health care directive and a power of attorney should you become incapacitated, and other documents depending on your state of residence.

Don’t put this off. And don’t leave your financial advisor out of the process, either, they often have real-life experience and knowledge about what happens to families in cases of death and can help you and your estate attorney address issues you may not have considered.

  1. Do you understand the basics behind filing for Social Security and Medicare?

The age that you file for Social Security—at age 62 when you are able to file, at your full retirement age of 66 or so depending on your month and year of birth, or at age 70 when your Social Security benefit stops growing—is pretty much your only decision if you are single. But if you are married, widowed or are divorced but had been married for 10 years, getting advice on filing to optimize your Social Security benefits is critical.

Similarly, some people don’t understand that Medicare is not free; it is usually deducted from your Social Security check. If you fail to file for Medicare by age 65, you could have higher premiums for the rest of your life. Get the facts well in advance, and know that co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket health care expenses can really add up even when you’re on Medicare.

  1. Do you have a plan for long-term care?

People still believe that Medicare covers long-term care (LTC). It does not. Medicaid can cover long-term care if you or your spouse needs a nursing care facility, but in order to qualify for it, you have to spend down all of your assets leaving your spouse and/or heirs with nothing.

It’s very important to have LTC coverage in place. The good news is that the traditional long-term care insurance model has been upgraded to plans that can pay for LTC if you need it, but pay other benefits if you don’t.

We are here for you as a sounding board on these and many other issues. Call us. Contact Bulwark Capital Management in the Seattle area at 253.509.0395.

 

 

This article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide any financial, legal or tax advice. Before making any financial decisions, you are strongly advised to consult with proper legal or tax professionals to determine any tax or other potential consequences you might encounter related to your specific situation. Insurance products like annuities contain fees, such as mortality and expense charges, and may contain restrictions such as surrender periods.

Source:

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/10/heres-what-negative-interest-rates-from-fed-would-mean-for-you.html

How a Furlough (or Layoff) Affects Your Finances…and Retirement

By | Financial Planning, In The Headlines

Here are six things you need to know if you or a family member has been furloughed—or laid off—from their job

 

A furlough is an unpaid leave of absence. You don’t report to work, you don’t get paid, and you may lose some of your benefits. Getting fired or laid off is different because it is permanent; whereas, being furloughed means your employer wants you back as soon as things get back to normal, typically at the same position and income level as before the furlough. Here are six things you should know:

 

  1. Filing for unemployment

Whether furloughed or laid off, you should file for unemployment as soon as possible because the CARES Act adds to the amount your state provides weekly, but only through July 31. For instance, the average benefit among the 50 states is $215 per week—the CARES Act adds an additional $600 per week through the end of July. Self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers, who typically are not allowed to file for unemployment, can also apply. Learn more here.

  1. Healthcare insurance

If you are furloughed, you may still be able to keep your healthcare insurance. Be sure to check with your employer about how to arrange to pay your contribution amount, if any. If you are laid off, you can continue benefits through COBRA, or you may find a cheaper option through the exchange http://healthcare.gov website—if your state has chosen to open up enrollment due to the pandemic.

  1. Bills and debts

There is a provision for mortgage forbearance if you have a single-family residence mortgage loan backed by the federal government, and renters can avoid eviction for more than 120 days if their landlord has a government loan on the property rented. Learn more here. Student loans held by the federal government will not require payment and will not accrue interest through September 30.

In any case, it is recommended that you call creditors to discuss your situation. Ask them what they have to offer people who are experiencing a temporary reduction in income, and take notes and ask about any fees, additional interest, and whether they report any postponed payments to credit bureaus.

  1. 401(k) or similar retirement plan – contributions

If you are furloughed, your 401(k) accounts should remain in place, but your contributions and matching contributions won’t happen during the furlough unless your employer chooses to make a discretionary contribution. If you are not yet fully vested, there is a scenario that could happen if you are furloughed for an extended amount of time or ultimately laid off. If an employer terminates 20% or more of its workforce, a “partial plan termination” could be triggered, in which case the IRS could decide that all affected employees would become 100% vested.

If you are let go, you can leave your money in the company’s 401(k) plan if you have more than $5,000 in it, although you can’t add additional money to the account. If you have $5,000 or less, your employer has the option of removing you and distributing the funds, so be sure to ask what they intend to do. See some of your other options below.

  1. 401(k) – loans

If you are furloughed, or laid off but leaving your 401(k) with the company, you may be able to take a loan or withdrawal from your 401(k) due to the coronavirus outbreak, depending upon your company plan rules—be sure to check with your plan administrator.

If so, the CARES Act allows up to $100,000 to be taken without penalty, although you will have to either repay the money or pay taxes on the amount withdrawn over the next three years. NOTE: You can do this even if you are under the age of 59-1/2, there will be no 10% penalty, and there will be no mandated 20% withheld by the 401(k) administrator for taxes. In order to meet the eligibility provisions of the CARES Act, you, your spouse or dependent/s must have contracted COVID-19, or must have experienced adverse financial consequences as a result of quarantine, furlough, lack of childcare or closed or reduced hours of business.

If you already have an outstanding 401(k) loan, your repayments will stop while you are furloughed, since those are typically held out from your paycheck. Ask your employer about how you can make repayments or get the loan repayments suspended temporarily.

Taking 401(k) loans or cashing out should be a last option for most people since it can jeopardize your retirement nest egg and your future. After the 2008 financial crisis, most people who stayed in the market experienced financial recovery from their losses.

  1. 401(k) – rollovers

If you are laid off, you do have the option of rolling over your 401(k) money into your own self-directed IRA account. This offers many options, since an IRA can be a mutual fund, annuity, ETF, CD or almost any other type of financial instrument.

You need to choose between a tax-deferred traditional IRA, or pay taxes on the money you roll over and start a Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you will have to begin withdrawing a certain amount out every year starting at age 72 and pay ordinary income taxes on the money withdrawn. (These are called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)—which are not due in 2020 per the CARES Act.)

With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes up front. You don’t have to withdraw money during retirement, but if you do, it is usually tax- and penalty-free after you’ve owned the account for five years. Your kids can inherit the money tax-free as well.

It’s usually best to work with a financial advisor who can outline some of the tax ramifications, rules and timing requirements so you don’t miss any rollover deadlines or get hit with any penalties or taxes you weren’t expecting. They can fill you in on other options, such as, if you are age 59-1/2 and still working, you may be able to do an “in-service rollover” with part of your 401(k), moving that portion into your own IRA, potentially helping you avoid market risk as you get closer to retirement.

 

If you have any questions, please call us. Contact Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395. We look forward to speaking with you!

 

This article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide any financial, legal or tax advice. Before making any financial decisions, you are strongly advised to consult with proper legal or tax professionals to determine any tax or other potential consequences you might encounter related to your specific situation.

 

Sources:
https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/04/23/how-a-furlough-affects-your-401k.aspx
https://www.immediateannuities.com/roll-over-ira-or-401k/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/03/unemployed-coronavirus-faq/?arc404=true
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/furlough-versus-layoff-unemployment-aid-coronavirus/
https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/401ks/articles/what-to-do-with-your-401-k-if-you-get-laid-off
https://www.businessinsider.com/what-you-need-from-your-job-get-laid-off-furloughed-2020-4#if-you-have-no-other-choice-but-to-withdraw-from-your-retirement-funds-know-the-new-cares-act-updates-8
https://www.thestreet.com/how-to/how-to-roll-your-401k-into-an-ira-while-you-re-still-working-14379206
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/092214/guide-401k-and-ira-rollovers.asp

Financial Vows for Money-Savvy Couples

By | Financial Planning, Lifestyle | No Comments

February is a good time to celebrate your relationship with your significant other—and renew your commitment to your mutual financial success. Here are some ideas to say “I do” to this month.

  • Vow to protect yourselves from emergencies

During the government shutdown early this year we learned that 40% of Americans don’t have enough money set aside to handle even a $400 emergency. Whether you determine you want an amount equal to six months’ or 12 months’ worth of living expenses, vow to set aside an emergency fund in liquid, readily-accessible accounts so that you have adequate cash on hand should you need it.

  • Vow to protect your family finances by shifting risk

Along the same lines as an emergency fund, work with a financial advisor to determine how much risk you both face from other potentially life-altering events. What would happen if one of you suddenly became unable to work or function due to a disability? What if you required nursing care? What if one of you suddenly passed away?

Insurance companies offer policies designed to shift many of life’s unexpected financial risks away from your family. Be sure to compare policies offered by multiple highly-rated insurance companies to help ensure you get the best coverage for your premium dollar.

  • Vow to put an estate plan in place (or update your current plan)

If one or both of you have children from a previous marriage, make sure all of your documents are in order so that family squabbling is reduced to a minimum if one of you predeceases the other. Most experts say that you should have at least some of your assets transfer immediately lest one of you remarries or other circumstances change and money that you expected would pass to your biological children gets spent by an unintended party.

Similarly, did you know that the beneficiaries you designate on retirement accounts and insurance policies and similar accounts take precedence over your wills and/or trusts? If you haven’t looked at that old 401(k) for decades, chances are that your ex-spouse might inherit that money regardless of your true wishes or life circumstances at the time of your death.

All of your documents need to be reviewed on a regular basis—let’s get together as soon as possible.

  • Vow to make saving and retirement planning a priority for you both

Even though retirement accounts are held separately, it’s important to have a shared vision about your retirement together. Be sure to meet with your retirement planner or financial advisor to discuss your future goals and time horizon. Other financial goals should also be prioritized so that you’re both on the same page, like saving up for the kids’ college expenses or the daughters’ weddings.

  • Vow not to keep secrets about money and keep the communication flowing

Hopefully you’ve been honest from the beginning of your relationship about your level of debt, how you handle sticking to a budget, or whether or not you have a low credit score. Understanding each other’s financial position and money habits is the first part of being able to take control of your finances together in order to achieve mutual goals as a couple.

And remember that it’s important that both of you understands your overall combined financial picture, even if one of you pays the bills or the other takes the lead role in investing. Don’t delegate this, make it a point to stay in the loop with financial decisions. Even if you have separate bank accounts to handle the day-to-day finances, you both need to understand where you’re at and where you’re headed when it comes to your financial future as a couple, especially your plan for retirement.

Even if it doesn’t seem exactly romantic, talking about money can make your relationship a more perfect union for the long-term. Aiming “for richer” rather than “for poorer” together can strengthen your matrimonial bonds.

We’re here to help. Call us at Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395.

 

Sources:
CNN, “40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense.” https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/22/pf/emergency-expenses-household-finances/index.html (accessed February 11, 2019).
Forbes, “6 Financial Vows Couples Should Take To Heart.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/judithward/2019/01/23/6-financial-vows-couples-should-take-to-heart/?ss=personalfinance#1a8149385241 (accessed February 11, 2019).

 

5 Tips for Setting Better New Year’s Resolutions

By | Financial Planning, Lifestyle | No Comments

If you typically give up on your goals by March, you’re not alone. Try these tips for 2019.

  1. Go ahead and set them again.

Even if you’re one of the majority of people who have set New Year’s Resolutions in the past but gave up on them within a few weeks, try again. Because there is good news about setting goals, even if you haven’t quite mastered the follow-through.

According to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, people who set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to actually change their behavior than people who don’t make these yearly goals. Tony Robbins says, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” So go ahead and write down your objectives for 2019.

  1. Make sure you actually want what you say you want.

Some of the most common resolutions include losing weight, making better financial choices, and eating healthier. All of these sound great—if they’re what you really want. For instance, make sure losing weight is your desire, not something you read about—or a photo you compared yourself to—in a magazine.

If you typically set goals for things you think you should want, instead of what you really do want, you will not succeed because you’re not really motivated. (And frankly, who cares, because you didn’t want that stuff anyway.) Dig deep this year to try to find out what your deepest desires are, and why.

  1. Replace a bad habit with a good habit.

At the end of the day, goals are one thing, but day-to-day habits are another. An article in Psychology Today puts it this way:

“A lot of New Year’s resolutions have to do with making new habits or changing existing ones. If your resolutions are around things like eating healthier, exercising more, drinking less, quitting smoking, texting less, spending more time ‘unplugged’ or any number of other ‘automatic’ behaviors then we are talking about changing existing habits or making new habits. Habits are automatic, ‘conditioned’ responses. You get up in the morning and stop at Starbucks for a pastry and a latte. You go home at the end of work and plop down in front of the TV.”

According to the article, there are three facets necessary to changing habits. You must choose a small action, attach it to an existing habit, and make it easy to do for three to seven days in a row.

For example, “Get more exercise” is not small. “Take the stairs each morning to get to my office, not the elevator” is a small, actionable, better resolution to make. Your existing habit of walking to the elevator can be changed to walking to the stairs, and it will become a new habit within just a week of practice.

  1. Create a new “story” about yourself.

“The best (and some would say the only) way to get a large and long-term behavior change, is by changing your self-story,” according to science.

Whether you realize it or not, you make decisions based on staying true to your unconscious self-stories, and you strive to be consistent. If you have a story about yourself that you are “realistic” because of things that have knocked you down in the past, you may have a story about yourself that keeps you in a state of cynicism about your life.

You can rewrite any story you have about yourself that might be holding you back. It’s kind of like writing a script for your own movie—you are the lead character, and the movie is your life unfolding. Instead of Mr. Cynic, moping along chained to his past, you are now your own hero, Mr. Positive, who takes new actions every day to improve the lives of others based on his experiences.

“The technique of story-editing is so simple that it doesn’t seem possible that it can result in such deep and profound change. But the research shows that one re-written self-story can make all the difference.”

  1. Tell people—or not.

For some people, telling their friends and family members keeps them on-track, holding them more accountable on the path to achieving their resolutions. But if you have friends and relatives who tend to shoot holes in your dreams, or sabotage your goals in subtle or obvious ways, keep your goals to yourself.

Consider surrounding yourself with supportive people for the year, limiting communication to “small talk” with people who aren’t on board. Take notice of people who drain your energy instead of energize you, and make choices accordingly. You have the perfect right to say “no” or “yes” more often to the activities you decide to engage in, and the people you elect to spend time with.

Have we scheduled your annual review? Let’s meet and review your financial plan in light of next year’s short- and long-term objectives. Please call Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395 or email us at invest@bulwarkcapitalmgmt.com.

Resist Tapping Into Your 401(k), Employer-Sponsored Plan If You Can

By | Financial Planning, Retirement

‘Leakage’ can erode assets and negatively impact your retirement wealth

If you find it difficult to save or pay for big financial emergencies when they arise, tapping into a pot of money can be tempting – even if it’s your 401(k)-style employer-sponsored plan.

But if you’re able to resist, rewards do come from the power of compounding. The problem, though, is that a small percentage of Americans take early withdrawals and withdrawals after age 59½ from their 401(k)s each year or cash out of their plan when they switch jobs.

A large percentage – typically about 20% of plan participants – have loans outstanding. They’ve used loans from their 401(k) to, among other things, pay down high interest credit card debt, make home improvements, buy a home or refinance a mortgage, or pay outstanding bills. Some don’t repay the outstanding loans they’ve taken, however.

This “leakage” – as the industry refers to it – has financial consequences. For example, the remaining balance of policy loans that aren’t repaid because of a job loss or default may be treated as a lump sum distribution and subject to income taxes and the 10% penalty tax. Moreover, a lower account balance due to leakage means less money in retirement.

An analysis by Alicia H. Munnell and Anthony Webb at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research compared some scenarios. They found that the 401(k) wealth of a 60-year-old plan participant who began contributing at age 30 could be reduced by about 25% because of leakage compared to a participant who didn’t withdraw, cash out or fail to repay loans. The reduction in plan wealth was similar – 23% – for an individual who rolls over money from a 401(k) plan three times during his or her career with the initial rollover into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at age 30.  (The research, published in 2015, includes a few assumptions such as contribution rates, employer match and annual investment return rates. You can find more details here 1.)

The good news is that employers are focusing on decreasing leakage and many are turning to financial wellness programs to improve employee financial behaviors, according to Fidelity Investments. And loan usage has been trending lower in recent years, according to Fidelity’s second quarter analysis of retirement plan accounts.

That analysis found that the percentage of employees with a 401(k) loan fell to 20.5%, its lowest percentage since 2009’s second quarter when it was 19.9%. Among Gen X workers, who historically have the highest outstanding loan rate, the percentage dropped for the third straight quarter to 26.4%. The data is based on Fidelity’s analysis of 22,600 corporate defined contribution (DC) plans and 16.1 million participants as of June 30 2.

While participants may have good intentions for what those 401(k) loans are earmarked for, the loans could hold back participants from fully achieving their financial retirement goals. That’s because participants with outstanding loans might reduce their plan-saving amounts to pay off the loans, or stop saving altogether until the loan is paid off and they recommit to deferring some of their salary to their 401(k)s.

Kevin Barry, Fidelity’s president of workplace investing, noted that the stock market’s performance over the past several years has “definitely” helped retirement savers. But now would be a good time for investors to take a moment and make sure they’re doing their part to meet their retirement goals.

“Markets may go up and down, but there are a number of steps individuals can take, such as considering a Roth IRA, increasing your savings rate and avoiding 401(k) loans, which can play an important role in their long-term savings success,” Barry said, in a news release.

Now, indeed, is as good a time as any to connect with your retirement goals. Call us for a detailed financial and retirement income strategy session or overview that fits with your needs and goals.

We’re here to help you stay on track!  Call Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395 or email us at invest@bulwarkcapitalmgmt.com.

 

 

Sources:
1 “The Impact Of Leakages On 401(k)/IRA Assets,” Alicia H. Munnell and Anthony Webb. Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, February 2015. http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/IB_15-2.pdf
2 “Fidelity Q2 Retirement Analysis: Account Balances Rebound, While Auto Enrollment Continues to Drive Positive Savings Behavior,” Fidelity Investments, August 16, 2018. https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/employer-services/fidelity-q2-retirement-analysis-account-balances-rebound

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month

By | Financial Planning, Life Insurance | No Comments

 

Risk Management Is About More Than Your Investments

A lot of financial services professionals talk about “risk” when it comes to your stock market investments. But risk can encompass more than your investment risk tolerance. The broader definition of financial risk is the possibility of loss from any unexpected life event.

For instance, what will happen to your family’s income if one spouse passes away, becomes disabled or unable to work, or needs long-term care? What happens to your kids’ education fund, or your retirement? Risk management in this case means shifting risk of financial loss from adverse events to an insurance company in order to protect your family’s assets and lifestyle.

New Innovations in Life Insurance

First and foremost, life insurance offers financial protection to your family by helping mitigate the risks that you face from life’s unexpected tragedies, as it has done for hundreds of years. But in the last decade, life products have expanded and improved to offer much more.

Many new types of insurance policies and policy rider innovations have come about in order to answer the needs of Baby Boomers–10,000 of whom are turning 65 every day and will continue to do so until 2030.1

Life insurance companies are now covering a whole host of pre-retiree and retiree risks with permanent universal insurance policies and fixed annuities which offer features like:

1) Lifetime income in retirement

2) Spousal survivorship benefits

3) Long-term care coverage if needed

4) Disability coverage if needed

5) Income tax advantages

6) Tax-advantaged wealth transfer or death benefit

Universal Life Insurance or Fixed Annuities as Part of the Retirement Portfolio

In addition to the many retirement risks they can help address, new types of life insurance policies and fixed annuities may have other attractive advantages. Some of the newest policies offer the chance for growth by earning interest linked to market performance. And this potential growth comes with guaranteed* principal backed by the financial strength of the insurance carrier.

These are just some of the reasons more and more financial advisors are including permanent life insurance and/or annuities as part of the retirement portfolio itself.

Let’s Talk About Your Family

Call Bulwark Capital Management in Silverdale, Washington at 253.509.0395 or email us at invest@bulwarkcapitalmgmt.com.

1 Pew Research Center “Baby Boomers Retire.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2010/12/29/baby-boomers-retire/ (accessed September 10, 2018).

 

 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any recommendations or tax or legal advice. We encourage you to discuss your tax and legal needs with a qualified tax and/or legal professional.

*Guarantees and protections for fixed or fixed indexed annuities and/or universal or indexed universal life policies are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. These policies are contracts purchased from a life insurance company. They are designed for long-term retirement goals, and also intended for someone with sufficient cash and liquid assets for living expenses and unexpected financial emergencies, including, for example, medical expenses. Depending on the product, they may include surrender charges, rider charges, life insurance premium charges and/or other fees as detailed in the individual contract.

An indexed annuity or indexed life insurance product is not a registered security or stock market investment. As such, it does not directly participate in any stock, equity or bond investments, or index. Gains on indexed accounts are based on participation rates and other conditions offered by the issuing insurance company. Depending on the nature of funds used to purchase annuities, withdrawals may be subject to income tax and withdrawals before age 59½ may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal federal tax penalty.